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.”
Van Sanchez, 25 years old from Baguio City, realized she’s trans when she was 15. This wasn’t… surprising for her, since “there are other LGBTQIA people in (my) clan,” she said. “There are 11 of us brothers and sisters. Two of us are ‘bakla’. We also have one sibling who’s a lesbian. So we’re totally complete in the family – we have lesbian and gay members.”
Perhaps it is this that made her family more accepting of her, since when Van’s parents found out she’s trans, “they didn’t react badly… They still fully support us.”
This isn’t to say Van’s life was always easy.
“Yes, I also experienced discrimination,” she said. “A lot of people in society still can’t accept people like us.”
This is why “I’m here advocating for gender equality.”
Van was elected to be part of Sangguniang Kabataan in 2018, she said “representing the LGBTQIA community.” She also won as the vice president of the Baguio City Federation of the Sangguniang Kabataan.
For Van, “it’s not difficult to be a public official. It’s not difficult even for me who’s part of the LGBTQIA community as a trans woman. The work you do is the same.”
Van thinks that being LGBTQIA is somewhat easier in a city like Baguio.
“Here in Baguio City, it’s not that hard to live as a trans person. Particularly now that there are people like us who advocate for gender equality in the city. I have yet to see locals discriminate against people like us,” she said.
She noted – and acknowledged – though that “perhaps they just don’t discriminate as much. It’s not bad to be trans here because people know about us… and they somehow accept us already.”
Van believes “fighting” starts within.
While completing a degree in education, “I was never intimidated while schooling. They cut my hair; they made me change how I presented myself,” she recalled. But she said she never let this stop her.
“I also don’t believe in these when teaching. What matters more is how you teach your students; that you share your knowledge to them. Teaching should not be premised on the physical appearance of people; and even in the acquisition of knowledge/education,” Van said.
Now, “if I have a message to younger LGBTQIA people, it’s for them to be strong. Follow your dreams. Stand up for what you feel in your heart; and be proud of this,” Van said, adding that “trans people and LGBTQIA community members should be united in fighting for our human rights.”
And to those who discriminate against LGBTQIA people, Van said: “Good luck. We’re already here, and there’s nothing you can do about that. We’re here standing in front of you, and we’re here standing up for our rights. In the end, we’re all humans, and we’re equals in the eyes of God.”