Of the many struggles that we go through in our youth, finding one’s gender identity is one that deserves to be shed more light on in the LGBT community. Janlee Dungca, a proud transgender woman, recalls how she found out that she wasn’t “gay,” saying, “I was in my senior year in college when I took a one-session gender psychology class, and the professor talked about how gender is fluid. It’s not just black and white, or in our vernacular, ‘girl, boy, bakla, tomboy.’ It’s actually a huge spectrum.”
From that realization, Janlee further researched on transgenderism, talked to other women who have transitioned, and consulted with an endocrinologist. “It was a journey. And when I felt that I was ready emotionally, psychologically, and financially, I started my transition through hormone replacement therapy,” she shares.
While her family was understanding (“It was like my ‘seconding coming out’ to them, and fortunately they were supportive of what I was going through,”) Janlee knew that the outside world wasn’t going to be as accepting. “The challenge [of my transition] was my fear of how my friends or society in general would respond. I was sure that not everyone would accept me,” she says. But, in the end, Janlee’s desire to be her truest self overpowered her doubts. “Despite the struggles, I wanted to be happy, and living my truth is what makes me happy.”
But even now that Janlee is free to own her identity, it still isn’t a walk through the park. “Now that I’m a woman, I’m prone to the struggles that every woman faces,” she opens up. “I feel how the society is very patriarchal, how the male privilege is evident. Before I transitioned, of course, I lived my life as a man, and I didn’t think much of it. But now, I see the disparity between men and women in terms of how the society perceives them and their roles.” Janlee also counts being catcalled as one of the struggles she encounters in her everyday life.
As much as Janlee is a proud advocate of her LGBT family, she also says that she doesn’t want to be limited by her gender. “It’s empowering when people see me beyond my gender identity, because my gender is just one aspect of who I am.”
Yes, she isn’t simply the poster child of the trans community. Janlee has also built a career worthy of recognition. From being once shut down for a position in the academe, she is now the PR Director of CASTRO Communications and has debunked the stereotypes surrounding the LGBT community. She relates, “CASTRO is a gender positive company, and everyone in the management and administrative committee is an LGBT individual. We’re very open to working and collaborating with members of the community. As much as we can, we try to support them and employ them. Our strength lies in our diversity, and that’s our source of pride.”
Proving her commitment to her community, Janlee is also a volunteer of Love Yourself, an HIV awareness organization that cultivates education and provides health assistance. “I believe that sexual health is as important as any. So whenever I have time, I do counselling for people who get tested and, of course, do PR, pro bono, whenever we have fundraising events or campaigns.”
Here we have a new-age pride advocate who’s basking in the light of her truth and at the same time empowers us to go beyond.
Photographed by Andrea Beldua
Creative Direction by Madel Asuncion
Art Direction by Mikka Caronan
Styled by Samantha Tidalgo
Makeup by Janell Capuchino
Hair by Darwin Sinel
Video By Spotlight Creatives
Janlee wears: Jumpsuit from Tryst, Earrings from Heyjow, Slip Dress by Karimadon
ALSO READ: In Focus: Things Every Girl Needs To Know About Business According To These Entrepreneurs