The first-of-its-kind parade of beauties happened in the Philippines when the Association of Transgender People in the Philippines (ATP) and TransMan Pilipinas (TMP) mounted “Trans-Santacruzan” recently in Quezon City. Santacruzan is traditionally held in the month of May to express the Marian devotion of Christians in the Philippines, with this version adding the call for acceptance of LGBTQ people. The event also marked the annual celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), held every 17th of May to mark the date when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of diseases.
The event was not the first Santacruzan to feature transgender people, but it was the first trans-led such gathering.
“The purpose of this event is to highlight LGBT rights and gender equality. The theme for this year, coinciding with the international celebration, is ‘Freedom of expression in all public spaces’,” ATP’s Dindi Tan said. “We would like to show people that trans people should be respected in terms of how we express ourselves in public spaces.”
Several transgender and LGBT organizations from all over the country participated in the event, including: Alcaraz Beauties, Bellissimo Filipinas, Bermudez Beauties, Betera’s Powerhouse of Beauties, Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, TransDeaf Philippines, GANDA (Gender and Development Advocates) Filipinas, LGBT Pinoy, Miss Gay Philippines winners, Sytangco Beauties, Transpinay of Antipolo Organization, and Trippers Philippines-TWC.
For Shane Madigal, president of TAO, participation in the gathering was a show of solid support. “In our city, in Antipolo, the local government is giving enough support to transpinays, not just in our organization. It’s a big impact that we are now being recognized and that there were a lot of changes that have been happening. I hope that other local government units (LGUs) would mirror the practices in Antipolo and in Quezon City when it comes to promoting LGBT rights.”
The Trans-Santacruzan passed by parts of the Elliptical Road, and the stretch of Philcoa before it concluded in the Quezon Memorial Circle. Although the parade wasn’t that organized in terms of marshalling the participants, particularly as they neared Philcoa, the message that called for equality was delivered loud and clear as they walked along the busy highway.
“This is a historic moment, for the first time we’re all together fighting for our rights. I’m happy to be here with my friends and everyone who joined this parade,” Filipino transgender model Geena Rocero, who joined the event, said. “I think organizations like ATP and TMP are doing an amazing work but we need to start a conversation, and that’s how we start. People now are more aware of what we need, and that’s why we’re here.”
Rocero, who is based in the US, came out as a transgender during TED Talks’ annual conference last March. She now devotes most of her time in joining LGBTQ-related activities, particularly those that promote transgender rights. She arrived in the Philippines last May 17 to participate in the IDAHOT 2014 celebration in the Philippines, and to meet with LGBTQ organizations to “inspire them to continue fighting for equal rights”.
“We all have to stick together. I think… that we all have to fight together, and to advocate for our name and gender recognition, that would allow us to change our name and gender marker in our documents without being forced to undergo surgeries. I think we all have to come together as a community so we can succeed,” Rocero added.
If anything, the Trans-Santacruzan was another landmark for the LGBTQ community in the Philippines for getting the attention of the spectators, thereby awakening the senses of the haters, for them to accept and treat equally members of the LGBTQ community.