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.”
Aya Anda – 29 from the Province of Marinduque – used to think that to be transgender, one has to undergo body modifications. Many from her circle, in fact, think this; and so for a while, she used to identify as “bakla” (gay). Knowing better, she now identifies as trans because “I really want to be a woman.”
She was young when she realized she’d different. “I used to like a male classmate. He didn’t want to leave my side. I palpitated when with him. That’s when I asked myself: What am I? Why do I like boys? Am I gay?”
When Aya went to college, “I started preferring to wear women’s clothes. I wore short shorts, sando shirts, bra tops, skinny jeans, high-waist pants, and so on. That’s when the transition started for me; when I thought: This is me, I want to be a woman.”
RAINBOW IN THE FAMILY
In a way, Aya was “luckier” – at least at home.
Her parents separated; her Mom raised her (and three other siblings) on her own as a single mother. All of them have been supportive of Aya, who recalled with a laugh that when buying clothes, her Mom even bought her female underwear since it’s what she preferred using.
Aya knows, though, that there may be family members not accepting of LGBTQIA kids.
“For parents or siblings who can’t accept LGBTQIA family members, for me, if you can’t accept them, just treat them as humans; or just let them do what they want to do. You don’t have to show them you oppose what they’re doing. Who knows, they may excel in doing what you don’t support. And you may regret not being supportive because it’s what will bring him/her success in the future; you’ll regret not supporting this,” she said.
She believes, nonetheless, that “LGBTQIA kids should not be afraid to voice out what they are. But these kids should still obey their parents. They’d eventually accept you because you’re their child. So just tell them what you really want, even while obeying them. For example, you want to be feminine and they don’t like this, maybe we can start with the first step. Obey them for now because, at the end of the day, they’d still accept you.”
DEALING WITH HATE
“I experienced discrimination in high school,” Aya recalled. “In 3rd to 4th years in high school, I was bullied. This can’t be avoided because of school bullies.”
Obviously, “it pained me because I’m also human, I also have feelings.”
Aya went to the school officials who talked to the bullies; but she doesn’t know if anyone was really sanctioned for the bullying.
The other coping mechanism was to hang out with her female friends. “I had female friends then who comforted me when I cried,” she said. “That’s where I poured my emotions – to my female friends.”
In college, Aya thinks she was a stronger person.
“If people called me ‘Faggot!’, I already fought back, I retaliated. If they teased me, I’d yell back at them.”
In hindsight: “Is it hard to grow up LGBTQIA in the Province of Marinduque? For me, it’s not. Yes, discrimination against us is there, but this is a happy place. I found friends here who accept me, and I have a supportive family here.”
Besides, “the living conditions here aren’t harsh; it’s easy to adjust.”
MAKING A LIVING
Aya finished Hotel and Restaurant Management. After schooling, she applied for work in Manila. But “I returned to Marinduque after quitting my job in Manila. I was exhausted there; Manila was stressful.”
Aya is a freelance worker now – e.g. as part of a team when doing photoshoots, as well as when offering catering services. But she also has a small sari-sari store at home, so that “this way, even if I’m just at home, I’m earning something.”
Aya is single.
“For me, it’s wrong to have a relationship because one paid for the other to be in it. If your partner is only with you because he/she needs something from you, then that’s not love.”
For Aya, “I can’t say that finding love here is difficult. I have a trans friend, and she’s in a relationship for six years now. Another has many suitors.”
She added, smirking: “I don’t know why it’s me who has none. Maybe I’m not likable. Maybe having a boyfriend is not meant for me.”
“For me, having LGBTQIA organizations in communities is important,” Aya said. “We have many issues.”
As an example, one LGBTQIA person may be accused of molesting. “If this isn’t true, then at least you’d have a group that can help you, tell you what to do.”
At the same time, for Aya, LGBTQIA people are often approached by others. Like when they need help in catering services, and so on. It’s mostly gay people who help out, who do make-up, etc.”
The big issue that the local LGBTQIA community is facing, said Aya, is still discrimination.
“There are still people who can’t accept what we are. But so far, majority of the people are now okay with us. Only few do not accept us; though it’s still discrimination that’s an issue here.”
“To those who discriminate LGBTQIA people like me, instead of taunting us, or speaking ill of us, why not try looking for a job, or think of yourself? Make yourself better, or best (sic). Grow what you have now; better yourself. This way, society and your family can benefit from you. Instead of just taunting people like me. Taunting me won’t help me; or even you. This doesn’t help either of us. So why taunt? Why discriminate people?”
And to young LGBTQIA people, “do what you want to do. If you want to express yourself that way, fight for it; nothing wrong with that. Whatever profession you want to pursue, continue pursuing. There shouldn’t be any problem. Do what you excel at. Ignore discriminatory acts; they don’t help. Focus on bettering yourself because in the future, you’d benefit from what you nurtured in yourself. Do what you want to do, what makes you happy. The LGBTQIA community and your families are behind you.”