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Ysang Bacasmas: Learning from a violent past

Ysang Semacio Bacasmas shares her painful past growing up as a gender non-conformist, including being locked up in a chicken coop, and made to kneel on rock salts until her skin broke. Bacasmas eventually formed Ladlad Caraga Inc., which is pioneering the development of anti-discrimination ordinances in various places in southern Philippines.

During the public hearing of the anti-discrimination ordinance ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF YSANG SEMACIO BACASMAS, LADLAD CARAGA INC.

By Ysang Semacio Bacasmas

Nagsugod to sa dihang five years old ko. Dili jud nako makalimtan nga gebutang ko sa sulod sa tangkalan sa manok; mga 8:00 PM. Kay dili lage mosugot akoa amahan nga bayot ko.

Naa mga panahon palohoron ko sa iyaha atubangan og sa mga iyaan, oyoan og iya mama, papa nga ang tuhod napuno og asin. Sakit labi na masamad; unya imo duha ka kamot naka arms sideward.

Genakulata, gedala sa sabungan sa manokan kay aron makakat-on nga laki jud ko. Samot pag mapildi ang manok, makadawat ko og punishment, masumbagan, usahay dukdukon ako-a ulo, malipong usahay kay sakit. Gepabantay og gepaalaga sa akoa ang mga manok pangsabong during my high school years. Genakulata labi na kung mapansin nga nangniwang o nagluya ang mga manok pangsabong.

Naundang lang sa dihang nag-college na ko og mengtubag na ko sa iyaha. Ge-bantaan ko nga putlan ang buhok kung magpataas. Apan sa dihang nakatrabaho na ko og nakabarog na, naundang na ang pang-abusar.

Sa dihang nag-college ko, ang AMA CLC Butuan naningkamot mahawa ko as SSG president and a student sa skol kay ako mosulod sa skol nga naka pambabae og uniform, naka make-up, naka high heel sandals, et cetera. Sige ko nila bantaan og padalhan notice ipatawag sa dean of student affairs og school director pero nahuman na lang akoa termino gepaglaban nako ang katungod kay mismo ako nangusog nga dili na pwde kay violation sa human rights og students right.

(It all started when I was five years old. I will never forget that I was placed/locked inside a chicken coop at 8:00 PM. My father did not agree that I am gay.

There were times when he made me kneel on rock sea salts in front of my aunts, uncles, grandmother and grandfather. It was very painful especially when the salt would break my skin; and then I had to raise my hands sidewards.

He beat me up. He would bring me to the cockfighting arena so that I would learn how to become a man. When his bet rooster would lose, I would be punished. He would sometimes punch me, and then pound me in the head that I become dizzy from the pain. He made me watch over and take care of his roosters for cockfighting until my high school years. He would beat me again if he would notice that the roosters for fighting became thin or weak.

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It all stopped when I went to college and I started to talk back to him. He threatened to cut my hair if I grew it long. When I started to work, I was able to stand on my own and the abuse ended.

In college, I went to school in a woman’s uniform, wore high heels, put on facial make-up, et cetera. The college I went to, AMA CLC Butuan, tried to oust me as supreme student government president and expel me from the school. My teachers constantly threatened me and sent me a notice to see our dean of student affairs and school director. Nothing happened until I finished my term as president because I stood strong that it was a violation of both my student and human rights.)

This is the speech delivered by Ysang Semacio Bacasmas at the regional dialogue on LGBTI rights and health in Asia and the Pacific, held in Bangkok, Thailand. Bacasmas established Ladlad Caraga Inc. in 2009.

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