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.”
Ella Baguio, 29, knew she’s trans in high school.
“At that time, a teacher discussed where in the LGBTQIA community I fell under,” she recalled. And since she was close to her teachers, “I asked them. They told me about the differences about transgender, bisexual, transsexual…” And the rest, as the cliché goes, is history.
Looking back, “I didn’t have a hard time accepting I’m different. I knew already even when I was a child that I belonged in this community. I liked it so much. It’s fun being different, being a member of the LGBTQIA community,” Ella said.
This is not to say that her life in Manticao, Misamis Oriental was always easy.
“From primary school until I reached college, I know there were people who mocked me because of my gender identity,” she said.
She tries to stay positive, though.
“But that’s okay. There’s nothing we can do. We can’t force people to accept us fully,” she said.
Ella added: “You should look at yourself first before mocking others. You have to know people first. The world is round; you don’t know if that person you discriminate will end up helping you out.”
CARING FOR THE FAMILY
Ella has six siblings; she’s the youngest. “At first they thought there was something wrong with me in elementary school,” she recalled. “But they saw my school card and I had no failing grades. That made it okay. As long as I studied well.”
Though she’s a licensed caregiver, Ella works as a virtual assistant.
And much of what she earns reverts back to her family.
In fact, “I don’t have a boyfriend now; my focus is my work. Life is hard now. I’m the breadwinner of the family. So I really need to work hard.”
Ella thinks it’s just fair that she looks after her family.
“I don’t regret being the breadwinner. For me it’s a blessing from God. I think we were placed on Earth for a reason. That’s why we’re here to help our families, especially those who have nothing,” she said.
BEING LGBTQIA IN MANTICAO
For Ella, it’s not hard to be LGBTQIA in Manticao.
“Here, there are many older LGBTQIA people. Sometimes I visit them to ask for advice. I want to know about their experiences. Older LGBTQIA people tell me about their love lives, sources of income… and how they faced discrimination because of their gender. I learn a lot from them,” she said.
Things have also been changing for them.
“LGBTQIA people weren’t fully accepted in the past. Perhaps only 25% of the population accepted LGBTQIA people. Now perhaps 80% accept us,” Ella said. “We still can’t say everyone is accepting of LGBTQIA people. There will always be people who aren’t accepting. Particularly religious people.”
Having a local LGBTQIA organization helps.
“Members of a group of people of the same gender understand each other. If it’s non-LGBTQIA, sometimes they don’t know our situation. We have members who have nowhere else to go to. So having (an organization) is good because it’s like having a family,” she said.
The roles imposed on LGBTQIA people may be problematic for some in Manticao.
For instance, when finding love, at times it becomes transactional. “Here in Manticao, if you really want a partner, you can easily have one. This is particularly true to moneyed people. Some people in relationships are just practical. That’s what they say,” Ella said.
She doesn’t see this as necessarily a bad thing though.
“I can’t blame them. That’s life.”
For Ella, a bigger issue for trans people in Manticao is related to hormone therapy.
“We… have not been given education on this. We’ve been educated about condom use, and stuff like that. But on trans-specific issues (like this), we have no information,” she said.
In fact, when she was 14 years old, Ella herself self-medicated, going to the barangay to get pills since these were given out for free there.
“But when I already started working, I started buying my own pills. Until I started injecting hormones,” she said.
LGBTQIA people persevere, she said, including in self-medicating. “But now, I get nervous. It’s really different if a professional injects hormones.”
LOVE THOSE WHO CARE FOR YOU
In retrospect, “most of the LGBTQIA people (here) end up helping their families. This is true when the parents grow old and can no longer work. These LGBTQIA people become the breadwinners. Just like me,” Ella said.
This is why for her, “parents who can’t accept their LGBTQIA children, don’t be like that. They are your children. Who knows, that child you reprimand and mock will be the one who will help you when you grow old,” Ella ended.