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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, March 12, 2018
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Embracing transgenders

The 3-day Rotary District Conference of District 3850 hosted by District Governor, Dr. Enigardo “Jundad” Legislador, came to a close last Saturday at L’Fisher Hotel with more than 600 Rotarians from all over Negros, Panay and parts of Mindanao.

Apart from the fellowship nights, that Rotarians always look forward to, there was the talk of Rep. Geraldine Roman ( Bataan, 1st District), the first transgender woman elected to Congress.

Although I’ve seen pictures of Roman during the campaign period as her candidacy then merited national news, she was more breath-taking in person and carries herself with such elegance that undoubtedly with one look, you would know she came from a privileged background.

The entire ballroom was silent when she took over the podium. Each word, spoken in a soft tone, cuts through one’s prejudices and was perhaps the reason why her SOGIE bill (an act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression) sailed through Congress without any opposition.

Oftentimes, we visualize the gays with those we see in the entertainment or fashion world, and many of them are loud, comical, gregarious, and many bordering on scandalizing your moral fabric. We usually make fun of them or laugh at them as many of them also like to make fun of themselves, perhaps as a way to gain acceptance, or perhaps, it’s simply their fun-spirited self.

But Roman was from a different sphere. The moment she stepped into the room, she commanded respect and just left everyone in awe.

I know that she did not convert everyone in that room to start embracing trangenders, but it was more than enough that she sent a strong message out that we should look at them as people, outside of their gender orientation or preference.

Roman was not abrasive about her advocacy, neither was she begging for acceptance or even understanding. She was simply stating the fact that they are people and should be treated as people, not frowned upon.

She talked about her childhood life, knowing from the start that she was a transgender and was accepted wholeheartedly by her parents. Coming from a political clan, Roman said she came out very early in life and her family never hid that fact, thus she was embraced by their community.

Still, nothing prepared her for the insults and discrimination she got when she decided to run for politics and more so now with the SOGIE bill up for deliberation at the Senate where she is expecting strong opposition from Senators Joel Villanueva and Tito Sotto.

I can understand Villanueva as the son of a pastor but even then, he should know that this bill is intended for a group of people that clearly gets discriminated and also the very people that he swore to serve as a sitting senator. After all, he was voted into the Senate seat not on account of his religious beliefs.

Worse with Senator Sotto who comes from the entertainment world and continues to host a noontime show which rakes in money for coming up with gay contests. Ah, but reviewing Sotto’s public remarks about the reproductive health act and his latest faux pas on former Social Services’ Sec. Judy Taguiwalo’s status as a single mom makes it less surprising.

I dread the day when a debate on the matter will take place and we will get to hear expected distasteful remarks from Villanueva and Sotto and maybe also from Manny Pacquiao who turned saintly after his conversion to whatever religion he is into.

But I am very confident, too, that Roman and the other sponsors to the bill will be able to stand their ground and hopefully erase the bigotry from our national leaders.

Roman said there is a strong lobby right now to have the bill junked at the senate level after its unsuccessful attempt at the lower house. Most of the lobbyists come from the religious sector including the Catholic Church.

The very institutions that preach love and acceptance are now waging an all-out-war against this group of people whom they categorized as a transgression, an abomination. I hope they looked into their ranks first and find acceptance for those ‘men in cloth’ before they cast the first stone.

Over the weekend, I was tagged in a video of a former colleague in Bayanihan, Jay Loyola, who has migrated to San Francisco, USA and who was invited to speak on finding his identity through dance. Jay who is now legally, Sydney Loyola, was in a very different circumstance from Roman as he had to hide the fact from his parents while growing up.

It was only after his parents’ death that he finally found the courage to work on bringing his identity out, going through sexual reassignment, finally legalizing her womanhood through a civil rite.

As Sydney, she got a standing ovation after her talk which she ended with, “I am Sydney Loyola, a kick-ass woman who used to be a man.”

I guess that says it all and my salute to Geraldine and Sydney for publicly championing these causes.

Kick ass woman who used to be a man.*

 

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