We hear a good number of coming out stories from people in the LGBTQ+ community. Revealing who you identify as to the whole world is a pivotal, beautiful, and empowering moment in one’s life. But for transgenders like Janlee Dungca, that definitive moment happens more than once.
Janlee first came out as gay to friends and family. This was 11 years ago, when she was in high school at the Ateneo. The boys in her class didn’t seem to mind, going so far as to only (lightly) tease her about it. Still, being gay is different from being transgender, in so far as sexual orientation is different from gender identity. And it would take a college lecture for her to realize this.
A year before graduation, the then-Ateneo AB Psychology student had taken a one-session class on gender psychology. In it, her professor explained that gender and sexuality are fluid and how there is a spectrum to both. “That was the first time I encountered the term ‘transgender’,” she admits. “Prior to that, I thought I was [just] a flamboyant, feminine gay. So, upon internalizing and reflecting, it dawned on me that I am not a gay guy; I’m a transgender woman!”
[related: In Focus: Transwoman Janlee Dungca On Refusing To Be Defined By Gender Alone]
While Janlee was relieved to have a better understanding of who she was, the same couldn’t be said for her parents…at least not right away. “My parents were the last to know,” she recounts. “I had to make it formal, so I invited them to dinner and told them that I’m not a gay guy, but a transgender woman. At first they were very confused—like, ‘what’s the difference’? They couldn’t really grasp the reality.” After explaining it to them, in the end, their love and support proved unconditional. They “learned to accept me”—something which she’s very proud of to this day.
Embracing who she is didn’t just affect her personal life. It’s extended to her work, too. Today, Janlee sits as the PR Director of Castro Communications, with over five years of experience under her belt. She’s also in the process of transitioning, complete with medically supervised hormone replacement therapy. By finally living life as the woman she is, she has, in her words, “become more productive.” Says Janlee, “I think me being happy with who I am manifests. It’s easy for me to work with and relate to other people, which is very important in the industry.”
The knowledge she’s gained on SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression) also inspired her to raise awareness on other related advocacies. Much of her free time goes into volunteering for Love Yourself, an HIV-AIDS non-profit awareness, testing, prevention, and treatment organization. “I’m trained under the Department of Health to do the counseling and pricking aspect. I also do PR for (them); I invite media to fundraising events and I send out press releases,” she says.
Janlee has come a long way at just 27. And although her story is far from over, it’s one that any LGBTQ+ person can look up to. Her advice to transgenders who are still figuring out their lives? “Realizing who you are doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process. But if you’re 101-percent sure you’re a trans, then go for it. It won’t be easy but it’s going to be worth it. Do your homework if you decide to transition—what is hormone replacement? What hormone pills should you take? Avoid self-medication and consult with an endocrinologist. Read up on the whole concept of transgenderism, so you’re educated and you’re able to spread awareness. It can be scary but you really want to do it, then you can pass the fear, go after what you want, and live life as you are. You’re doing this for yourself.”
ALSO READ: In Focus: After Coming Out At Her Own Fashion Show, Designer Kaye Morales Lives Fab And Free
Produced by Angela Sy, Mels Timan, & Barry Viloria | Photographs by Vyn Radovan | Cinematography by Jana Jimenez & Gio Vibar | Grooming by Julia Arenas & Jeffrey Caballro of Vivere Salon | Hair by Sam Corbillon of Triple Luck Brow & Nail Salon & Shella Casiano of Vivere Salon | Styling by Barry Viloria | Special thanks to Ogie Rodriguez, Arvin Amaron of Vivere Salon, Guess, Straightforward PH