This is part of #KaraniwangLGBTQIA, which Outrage Magazine officially launched on July 26, 2015 to offer vignettes of LGBT people/living, particularly in the Philippines, to give so-called “everyday people” – in this case, the common LGBTQIA people – that chance to share their stories.
As Outrage Magazine editor Michael David C. Tan says: “All our stories are valid – not just the stories of the ‘big shots’. And it’s high time we start telling all our stories.”
Barbie C. Bardon, 35, was young when she discovered she was “different”. In high school, she recalled encountering transgender women, though “at that time, the term ‘transgender’ was not as popular as these days,” she recalled. “But I knew from that time… or even when I was younger that I wasn’t meant to be a masculine guy, you know.”
Barbie transitoned at 19, but she said she didn’t have to come out to her family. “They just understood since they knew since I was little that I was soft and I was different compared to the boys in the neighborhood.”
Not that everything was easy.
“The difficulty in my situation was dealing with my father because I was supposed to be the only son in the family. So the expectations were high coming from him. When you have a son, I believe in our culture he will carry on the family name. You’re expected to have your family, and then your family name or whatever will be passed on to your children. I think that was the hardest part for me to deal with,” Barbie said.
Fortunately, as far as her father is concerned, “my father is okay with this now.”
From the community, life also threw challenges – e.g. relatives who refused to honor her gender pronouns; and actual discrimination, such as that time she was asked to not access the female toilet of a local mall, and then when she elevated this issue to the management of this mall, she was just ignored.
Barbie knows that Cebu has an anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO), which is supposed to protect the human rights of LGBTQIA people, including in accessing facilities (such as that toilet she was barred from using). But she also knows “there’s more that needs to be done when it comes to implementation of the ADO”, particularly in stressing that people can get away with not following the law.
But Barbie is optimistic.
“I would say that in the past 10 years, I’m glad that the society in Cebu City – though I’m only speaking from my experience – is slowly tolerating, and the younger generation is more accepting,” she said.
LOOKING FOR LOVE
Finding love as LGBTQIA is challenging, she said.
“I’ve been seeing this guy for, I’d say, almost two months now. But I don’t consider him a boyfriend… truly,” Barbie said. “I believe we are the second choice, you know. So it’s quite hard to find someone who is committed and who has good intentions. Here in the Philippines, the culture is: If a gay person, including trans women, if they get into a relationship with a heterosexual guy, people assume he’s just getting money from you.”
Again, even in love, Barbie is optimistic.
“I’m happy that the younger generation, I can say based on my personal experience, they are more accepting. I now see younger couples involving trans and straight people, or two straight-presenting individuals, and this makes me happy,” she said.
FACING TRANS ISSUES
The trans community in Cebu still has various issues to face, said Barbie.
- Safe transitioning is an issue, considering the lack of services specifically dealing with this and related needs.
- Lack of available clinics or health providers that do not discriminate trans people.
- Third is the discrimination of members of the trans community in a few cases in Cebu City.
“I think representation is essential,” Barbie said, as it allows trans people to bring up their issues, and be given solutions befitting them.
Yet again, she knows times are changing, so she’s hopeful.
To younger trans people, she said: “Younger trans people are very lucky because you’re growing up in a society that is more tolerant and accepting. You have more access to hormones compared to the older generations. Please seek guidance in transitioning. Express yourself, and make sure you are kind to everyone. That way people will still respect you. And when I say (respectable), you know how to behave properly in public.”
In the end, “all people should look at persons from a perspective of ‘they’re still human’. So do not isolate members of your family/clan because he or she is different. Accept the person, and look at it from the angle of love and kindness. Don’t look at the person as someone with defect. Because an LGBTQIA person is as talented as anyone,” Barbie said.
Besides, and really, “mind your own business, I guess. Because in the Philippines, there are lots of gossipmongers, right? A lot of people want to comment on, and influence your life. Even if – in fact – you don’t owe anyone an explanation,” Barbie ended.