We’ve always talked about inspiring women. Now, let’s talk about empowering transwomen. You know those people, whom by definition, transitioned from male to female; but by which we prefer to say, those who have so courageously transcended gender to honor their true self.
In this Trans Series, we interview three transwomen and know more about their everyday plights—what the dating field is like, and just how it is to live as a transgender in today’s generation.
Janlee Dungca, a Public Relations professional, takes us to how it began for her to fully living the life she’s always wanted now.
‘I’m not gay’
For Janlee, she has first encountered the concept of transgenderism when she was in fourth year college. “There was a gender psychology class. That’s when I realized that I’m not gay all this time, I just thought I was more of a flamboyant, more feminine gay guy. So after that class, it was my Eureka moment. ‘Omg, I’m not a gay guy. I’m a transgender woman…’ that’s when I transitioned, that’s when I started identifying as a transgender woman,” she says.
Two years after having joined the workforce gave Janlee ample time to be ready emotionally and financially before she would go on her formal transition, her hormonal replacement therapy. Despite her concern then about coming out to her family, she began consulting with her other friends who’ve already transitioned as well as with an endocrinologist.
She shares, “I was on my way to Boracay. My story was, I didn’t want to go to the beach wearing board shorts, parang nag ki-cringe na ko. That was the turning point. I bought all my pills na before my flight to Boracay. I’ve been doing it for three years now non-stop and I’m so happy. And it’s the best decision I’ve done in my life so far.”
As for her family, it took explaining and then some to finally lay everything on the table. “I always tell people, most members of the LGBT family come out once. Well unfortunately for me, I had to come out twice. First, as a gay guy because ‘yon nga, I thought I’m a gay guy… so ultimately, I had to come out as a woman, a transgender woman,” Janlee admits.
“It was a decision I had to take to really bridge the gap how I looked back then and how I feel inside. So yeah, eventually they accepted naman,” she happily reveals. “So right now, no more problems, I’m very open to them and they’re very accepting and loving. “
More to work on
No, we don’t mean more surgeries or physical enhancements. But ‘more to work on’ as in educating people about transsexuality. While Janlee agrees that there has been progress in terms of awareness and treatment of the general public as compared before, she still believes that more can be done.
“Right now kasi, a lot of transgender women figures have been coming out especially in media like Caitlyn [Jenner], even here in the Philippines sina Gina Rocero. So that’s definitely something to be happy about. Filipinos particularly, are getting more aware about transgender women but at the same time I believe there’s still more to work on… very shallow and very superficial pa lang ngayon.”
And if in case you’re wondering, yes, they’re to be addressed as a ‘She’. “We accept naman na as much as we’re transitioning, they’re also transitioning in relation to us. Ako personally, I try not to be too sensitive about it. Kasi syempre talo ka at the end of the day, so just educate people and explain to them kasi I’m sure maiintindihan din naman nila eventually,” Janlee says.
Of daily struggles and dating
“Our daily struggles don’t just involve stuff about being transgender, just like any other people, we deal with normal problems.”
When asked, however, how it is like to date as a transgender, Janlee boldy answers, “Ako personally, I don’t really date. Very few lang. Most of the men who are attracted to the transgender women openly, meaning those who can publicly date transgender women are foreign men. Kasi Filipinos, based on how I see it, are very protective of their image, very image-conscious. I’m sure there are men who are attracted to transgender women but can’t openly date them. I mean we’ve met those Filipino men so that’s one problem. And second, foreign men who are usually abroad. So ako naman I don’t wanna date men who aren’t in the country.”
She offers these universal tips though, for those who have yet to find their love match:
1. “Take care of your heart. Don't be too naive and don't fall in love too easily. Get to know the guy first and don't be too quick to assume on anything.”
2. “Make sure you like the guy and not the idea of the guy."
3. “Work on loving and investing on yourself first. Make sure you are happy with yourself because how can you love and be happy with someone if you can't do and be the same with yourself?”
4. “Know your worth and I hope you know you're worth thiiiiisss much.”
5. “Never settle for anyone less than what you're worth. Look for that consuming kind of love!”
In parting, Janlee would like you to know: “Being a transwoman isn't as different as other people think it is. We are just like any other woman or person for that matter. We lead normal lives and have dreams we would like to reach. The best way to treat us is to see us as normal and equals. Gender is just one aspect of ourselves and we are not defined by it… I am a transwoman and a whole lot more!”
ALSO READ: In Focus: Transwoman G3 San Diego on Being Her Own Ferocious Person With a Heart Right With God
Photographs by Vyn Radovan