How do you feel about Lesbian, Gay, bi-sexual, transgender, Queer, Asexual+ (LGBTQA+) community? What do you think of LGBTQA+ community? Some people have a say against them. While some of them despise them just because the world taught us that we are only allowed to love the opposite sex. Others support them; be it a straight or part of the community.
Some see them as an entertainment and ideal for beauty such as Vice Ganda, Bretman Rock and many more icons. Well for other people they just don’t care, for them they are just human and a part of the society– they will not treat them any differently.
Growing up, I have been curious about the LGBTQA+ community. I have been surrounded by these people since my birth. They live with us everywhere. They could be our family, friends, or they could be you. There is much more into this community that has been long closed in my black and white book which I haven’t fully read yet. With a rainbow ink, a transgender man colored my achromatic book giving me a clearer and deeper knowledge. Opening a portal for me to this colorful universe.
Rainelle Allison Canlas or Raine ,(19), as his friends call him, is one of the few transgender students in Holy Angel University (HAU) who shared his rainbow-after-the-rain-story. He heard about transgender people before, but he settled from what he learned as a kid. That there are only three existing gender identities which are gay, lesbian and straight. He was also young when he first discovered how different his feelings were. Which sometimes got him pondering upon the question – “What if in another world I was a man?” However, much to his knowledge, he brushed off the thought until, in his 5th grade, he started to like girls. He knew when he had relationships with girls – there were much more than he was feeling back then.
Raine started to learn more about the community in his seventh grade, “I have given it a lot of research; and first, I thought I was bisexual but that didn’t really click with me enough. So, I researched more and more, then eventually I got my first haircut and I got more comfortable with myself. So, I label myself as a lesbian but I was more comfortable with the term gay.” he said in an interview.
His strong feeling makes him more uncomfortable as if there was still something missing in him. He felt like he was not showing his true self enough and felt bothered with it. When he was going out with his ex-girlfriend at the time people have called him “sir” and he was fine with it. That’s when he realized that he could be a transgender. He kept looking for the truth about him online. Sometimes he finds himself lying on the bed searching for videos in YouTube about the transgender community. He kept looking for answers for 3 years until he learned that he is a transgender but that didn’t come out right away.
He was forced to keep it inside him doubtful if anyone would support him. However, he managed to step out of his closet and came out last year to his dad.
He said, “During that time I explain to him everything, like how I am a transgender. I want to change hormones, there’s this thing called gender dysphoria wherein transgender people feel. This is where we feel constant dissatisfaction and discomfort because our gender identity didn’t match our biological sex. I explain that to them, everything. It’s hard in a country like this to be accepted in a community. Because we’re Trans people some of us want to transition, though it is hard to explain that because they think it’s a choice but it’s not really ours to do so.”
Gender Dysphoria is a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender. People with dysphoria tend be very uncomfortable with their biological sex. They often experience significant distress between the way they feel and think of themselves. According to Endocrine society (ENDO, 2020), research found that depression and suicidal thoughts are common among transgender teen. The study found 78.5% had a mental health condition, with depression the most common (66.5%). Suicidal thoughts were more common among affirmed males (70%) than among affirmed females (49%). In addition, self-injuring (cutting) was more common among affirmed males (56%) than among affirmed females (25.5%). People with dysphoria express their gender in different ways; some cross-dress, others socially transition or medically transition. This may occur in early age but mostly develop at puberty.
Despite the hardships and health risks awaiting him in medically transitioning himself to who he really wants, he said no matter what they may decide; it would be the only way he could be true himself. Even if it takes his life, he would still go through it. And now he is a man he truly wants himself.
Discrimination in the Pride Community
However, Raine along with the other LGBTQA+ students still experienced discrimination as being part of the community. Despite transitioning to a male, the university doesn’t allow cross-dressing, with this he tried to keep his personal life from the admins and the university. Thus, some of the people who knew him have no idea of his gender identity. Even, some of the students discriminate and share jokes about the LGBTQA+ community. The community has a new existing organization called Bahagri HAU chapter that advocates a fight for the LGBTQA+ community’s rights and all other forms of expression.
Raine said that he experienced various abuses such as verbal abuse, and harassment because of his gender identity – which I must say, a lot from the LGBTQA+ community still experience the same discrimination, some of them worse. From United Nation News back in 2012, a gay man from Chile was tortured and killed by group of Neo-Nazis, the reason for attacked was provoked by homophobia and hate crimes. A transgender woman from Pangasinan, Jessa Remiendo, was hacked to death. Jake Zyrus, the first celebrity transgender man, also received a backlash from netizens after he opened up about his gender identity; this includes his family – in his autobiography “I am Jake”, he shared his experience of transitioning into a man and how he suffered from depression during this battle. Jennifer Laude, a Filipina transgender from Olongapo City, Zambales was also killed by United States (US) military, who had been unaware of her gender. From a human right watch, Patrick (not his real name) from De La Salle University was bullied for being feminine as a child. Raine also shared how traumatizing and painful it is for him. Especially, the first time he experienced a discrimination against his first girlfriend’s religous parents that cursed him for his gender identity. This haunts him almost until today.
He shared his sentiments, “Any right that actually protects the community and guarantees our basic human rights. It is sad for me to know that people against it are the privileged people, and keeping a blind eye on it. Basically the community is only asking for equal rights and the rights that have been long deprived of.”
Which up until now, the LGBTQA+ community are continuously deprived of their rights. In fact, last year 2019 the sexual orientation gender identity and expression (SOGIE) bill was filed to petition in court. However, President Rodrigo Duterte has no plans of certifying the SOGIE bill as urgent and that he favors the anti-discrimination law instead. SOGIE bill protects LGBT persons from discrimination and promotes program for non-discrimination. It gives equal access to LGBT people to employment, education and social services. The bill provides programs to protect LGBT children in schools and penalize who discriminates LGBT people. All in all, it extends equal rights to all persons regardless of their gender identity.
Raine expressed his thoughts that too many people from the LGBTQA+ community suffered from abuse and worse. The community is often deprived of self-care and just how many people do we have to lose in order to attain the basic human rights they all deserved.
Rainelle Allison Canlas was just a person who hid from the raging storm keeping all his things intact inside him but now we can say that he is a rainbow full of brightness and truth. For the last time, his voice was a free bird saying, “I think it’s important to remember that pride is a protest we would not have the pride we would have now, if like the transwomen, queer full of color like Marsha P. Johnson and many more who have fought bravely and raised our rights even if it cost them their lives.”
Up until now, there are more stories like Raine waiting for its wings to be spread and hidden in the closet waiting to be told out in the open; more flags that have been waiting to be waved around . And there are stories even worse than he could experience. Many LGBTQ members in the Philippines still receive backlash from their fellow Filipinos with lots of discriminating jokes sometimes foreshadowing as banter. Even the government itself still prohibits the rights of these good souls. There are still countries that still fight for what they love, raising their flags and shouting their rights. With this, I hope that one day we can all walk in the same path holding our RIGHTful flags without hiding our skin.
Art by Marienel Calma