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Transgender and Tausug

Meet Fatima Bantuhan, a #Tausug #transgender man from Tawi-Tawi, who is trying to make a life with his partner in #Zamboanga City. Still not fully accepted, he wants #LGBTQIA people to not be afraid. “Just follow what’s in your heart.”

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.”

Fatima Jawani Bantuhan – 36 years old and originally from Tawi-Tawi in Mindanao – was still young, in elementary school, when he noted he was already into women. As the second of three kids, “even when I was still small, my parents already noticed my non-normative behavior. They let me be, saying I’d eventually change.” And yet when he did not change, “eventually they started limiting my movements. They became strict. But no matter how strict they got, this is already who I am.”

It was not easy for Fatima to live as a transgender man of Islamic faith.

“Yes, I am a Muslim. From Tawi-Tawi. Tausug is my tribe. And for LGBTQIA Tausug, it can be hard because there are lots of limits. Our parents are often against us. In the past, when I first came out, I was also beaten. But I’m always gonna be like this,” he said.

This is why now, Fatima asks Tausug people in particular to “accept LGBTQIA people. We are all the same, humans. We all feel things. We all get hurt. Hopefully people don’t pass judgment anymore. That’s it; we’re all the same.”

“And for LGBTQIA Tausug, it can be hard because there are lots of limits.”

FINDING LOVE

Fatima eventually moved out of Tawi-Tawi, and is now based in Zamboanga City, where he’s making a life with Soraya M. Nasing.

“I have a partner now, yes. We’ve been together for eight years. Last January 8, that’s our 8th anniversary. At first it was a long distance relationship. She was in Saudi Arabia, and I was here, in the Philippines. That’s how it started… we texted each other, made calls. Until we saw each other,” he recalled.

Fatima admitted that even now, making their relationship accepted by family members remains challenging.

“At first our families didn’t like it. For Muslims, this is not allowed. But now my father cares… it’s now okay to them. But they still can’t accept we’re a couple. Just as friends,” he said.

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But this is also why – exactly – they opted to be in Zamboanga City.

“At first our families didn’t like it. For Muslims, this is not allowed. But now my father cares… it’s now okay to them. But they still can’t accept we’re a couple. Just as friends,” he said.

MAKING A LIVING

Fatima studied college, but failed to complete a degree (“I studied until college. But you know young people, they like skipping classes. And so I didn’t complete my studies.”). And yet now, “even if I didn’t finish studying, we have a small business. We sell drinks, lemonades here in Zamboanga,” he said.

The business with Soraya – called MITAYAROS – does okay. “We get by even if we don’t earn much.”

Fatima recalled that “we only had a small capital. At first we even borrowed money, and we have yet to fully pay that. We’re still new, and the business just started.”

For him, “it’s not difficult for LGBTQIA people to open a business, and it’s the same as with non-LGBTQIA people. You just have to work hard. As long as you earn in a good way, your business will be okay.”

This is why for Fatima, LGBTQIA people should consider opening their own venture.

“To LGBTQIA people who want to do business, if you have the patience to work hard, then you’d get what you want. Stop thinking, ‘Oh, I’m losing money’. At first it’s hard, but if you are persistent, everything will be okay,” he said.

For him, “it’s not difficult for LGBTQIA people to open a business, and it’s the same as with non-LGBTQIA people. You just have to work hard. As long as you earn in a good way, your business will be okay.”

And persistence is what Fatimas wants Tausug LGBTQIA people to learn.

“Be yourself. Don’t be afraid to follow what’s in your heart. Don’t fear what people may say. Just follow what’s in your heart,” he ended.

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The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan completed BA Communication Studies from University of Newcastle in NSW, Australia; and Master of Development Communication from the University of the Philippines-Open University. He grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City), but he "really came out in Sydney" so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing, and a developed world". Conversant in Filipino Sign Language, Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, and research (with pioneering studies under his belt). He authored "Being LGBT in Asia: Philippines Country Report", and "Red Lives" that creatively retells stories from the local HIV community. Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism, and Art that Matters - Literature from Amnesty Int'l Philippines in 2020. Cross his path is the dare (guarantee: It won't be boring).

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