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.
Lui Castaneda, a Public Relations professional, shares her journey of bringing whatever she felt inside on out.
You, more than anyone else
Most transwomen would echo the same sentiments: They were unhappy with what they see when they look in the mirror that almost often triggers the choice to transition. Lui’s situation was no different. She says, “It takes strong personal conviction to transition. I was no longer happy with the way I presented myself. I had to match my physical looks to how I felt inside.”
Unlike other transgender women though, she didn’t feel the need to formally come out and just went on being the way she is. “At the end of day,” she believes, “it’s about making yourself more happy and not doing it for the sake of other people.”
And if you’re wondering how she deals with people she comes across with who don’t seem to get it, she understands that patience plays a very crucial role. Lui says, “I choose my battles. There’s a fine line between someone who wants to learn about it and someone who just fakes concern. Kasi there are really people who are stubborn about it. So knowing how to identify, to choose people na lang to align with, just choose and patience talaga.”
The Philippines, despite being a Catholic country and what others would like to believe a conservative one at that, has still proven to be accepting and open of the transgender community. While Lui thinks that at this point, it’s still one-sided and limited, she notes how there’s been positive progress in the way the community receives them.
“The awareness of the Filipinos right now is still very limited. It’s very heteronormative, meaning it’s very limited to what straight women look like when in fact, there’s more to it than just the looks. Sometimes kasi sa case ng transgenderism, kung “passable” if mukha kang babae or mukha kang lalake so nagiging limited siya in a sense na parang looks lang… when in fact it’s about gender identity. So definitely there’s a lot of things to be worked on pero in general, the past one year and a half, has been very noisy for the community. So it’s good progress naman,” Lui shares.
There are still cases, however, when some people find it hard to make sense out of it all. “Meron pa rin people na kahit sinabihan mo ng ‘ah, address mo naman na she, or this is the way I preferred to be addressed’, parang ini-impose padin nila na ‘hindi, lalake ka so I’ll call you he’ or mag bibingi-bingihan or sasabihin ‘sir, sir or he padin’. So parang for me, meron padin palang mga ganung small-minded people,” Lui reveals.
She optimistically accepts though that you can’t please everyone and while she’s become resolute of the life she wants to live, she admits, “It’s not something you can impose on other people and not everyone would acknowledge that.”
No more closets
Dating can be hard on its own, and perhaps more so if you’re a transwoman playing the dating field. Lui agrees that locals aren’t as open-minded while most foreigners are passers by, so she instead relies heavily on online dating. “But the distance can be a problem. So it’s a really frustrating scenario,” she shares.
Here are some of her dating takeaways though from which other transwomen can relate to:
1. “Don’t allow a guy to be embarrassed to be seen with you. You’ve worked hard to come out of your shell and be a better person of yourself. Don’t let him put you back in the closet.”
2. “Dating and meeting a great guy is never a guarantee even if you transition and become super feminine. The struggle is real! Haha!”
3. “When in doubt, always remind yourself of the positive results of your transitioned self. Draw strength from your struggle and journey.”
Lastly but most importantly, Lui says, “I am a transwoman... and I want to let everyone know that I am as a woman as any cisgender woman. We may have been born in different circumstances but that doesn’t make me less of a woman; and I deserve to be treated no less.”
ALSO READ: In Focus: Transwoman Janlee Dungca on Refusing to Be Defined by Gender Alone
Photographs by Vyn Radovan