BY: JUSEPH ELAS
In a region where patriarchal paradigm stands towering its counterpart and where culture, traditions and religions remain as our sole doctrine of instruction to operate as individuals, being gay face parallel struggles – no matter what they do and what they accomplish.
Homosexuality takes a lot of form; gay, transgender, transsexual, and bisexual, to name some. No matter what you call it, it constitutes to the never-ending and relentless discrimination that hinders members of the third sex community, known as the Lesbian, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders (LGBTs), to take part in whatever legal perks straight males and females enjoy.
Add to that the societal roles they have to fulfill and what we label them; like labels even matter for an individual to operate in a society that is immature enough to accept changes in the status quo.
I met Mimi Maroe when I was in second year college at Western Mindanao State University (WMSU). However, prior to me meeting her, I can already see her sashaying on the hallways of our college. At first glance, one can really mistake her for a beautiful young woman. However, a closer look will reveal that Mimi is a transgender.
Mimi is not a foreigner to discrimination and society’s cruelty towards people like her. She knew that she was different at the age of six and didn’t plan to hide her identity. As a kid, she enjoyed playing paper dolls, Chinese garter and luto-lutuan (playing with kitchen set toys) with her cousins. And when town festival would come, she would sneak and watch gay beauty pageants as she enjoys such activities.
“I also put up make up whenever my parents were not around,” she said, recounting her early memories living as a homosexual kid.
But Mimi never had it easy in life. Like any other homosexual male, her father and brother didn’t reach the point of acceptance as easily as her mother did.
“I remember my brother punching me because he hates what I’ve become.” She said and went on. “I remember them tying me on a tree and forced me to tell them that I am not gay, but all I managed was to cry.”
To me, every homosexual face such a typical scenario. A nightmare they all must surpass before they can fully be free. Mimi knew that everything that happened in her childhood played a pivotal role for her to reach the person that she is right.
When most of us think that high school would press more pressure to people like Mimi, much to her surprise, the tables were turned upside-down. She was never harassed and discriminated for what she was in high school because “no one seems to give a care. Everyone was minding their own business,” said Mimi.
Unlike other homosexual who were severely mistreated growing up, Mimi had it blissfully. Her brother never ceased to show his disgust to what his brother have become but Mimi is a force to be reckoned with.
Living a transgender life
Mimi started cross-dressing when she reached third year college. A couple of years before that, she took baby steps towards transformation by wearing fitted jeans.
Mimi is of the generation where it would be conventional for homosexual males to remain wearing clothes of a male to deviate from society’s prying and judgmental eyes. But Mimi doesn’t want to succumbed to such hilarity.
“For me, wearing girl’s clothes is all about wanting to be viewed as a girl and it’s important thing that you are comfortable with what you are wearing. Plus, I see myself as a girl that is why I dress as such,” Mimi said when asked what’s the importance and significance of her wearing women’s clothings.
A lot of us would think that presenting their selves as such would stir more discrimination than acceptance, but for Mimi self-expression is something that society should not deprive them of.
To Mimi, the treatment that society gives to the LGBTs is more discriminative than being called with labels. Mimi doesn’t give a care with the labeling. She is more concerned of the treatment people often give to people like her.
“The way they treat us draws a clear line that tells you you’ve just been discriminated.” Mimi said, commenting about the notion.
There’s a saying that goes, “it’s better to be cruel than to be weak.” I told Mimi about what I’ve observed when gay people are discriminated; how they act cruelly and violently. I asked her what her stand about this and she said, “I think we can’t blame them because all we want is equality. So long as no one’s going to get hurt.”
The world has a disobliging habit of turning into a balky arena for the LGBTs. Mimi faced challenges when she started her internship, working as a media man; at that time, she had to face crucial challenges posed by society.
“Working in the media and being what I am, it will really take a long time before this kind of issue will be resolved. But since you’re in the media, you have to learn how to mingle with them to extract the information that you need. Being what you are should not be a problem as long as you’re doing your job.” Mimi said answering my prompt about how hard it is to be in the media and being a transgender.
Recently, Mimi have had her first surgery; she had breasts implant. I asked her if what good (or bad) it entails. She said, “It lessened the discrimination, which is good. More and more people are now addressing me as ma’am.”
“I did it because I want to see myself more as a girl and it has always been my dream to have this surgery. After my surgery, I’ve had more confidence and it really lessened the discrimination.”
What the future has in store
In present, the LGBT community continues to fight for equality, respect, and legal representation is government and society. The future is still blurry and remains to be an unexplored terrain. But Mimi is optimistic about the future.
“From what I can see, the future will not be as hard for us because the world is slowly accepting us. Say in Cebu, there is a city ordinance there for anti-discrimination.” Mimi said, eyes glistening with what is unmistakably pure optimism. “Besides, gay themed materials are being featured in TVs and films already.” She finished.
I asked Mimi if being out and proud, like her, would be a step for people to accept the LBGTs especially in the Philippines. She said, “yes it will be easy for them to accept people who are out and proud because, people who are out and proud are real people. Real in a way that they are true to themselves.”
As per conclusion, Mimi gave a message to (a) the people who are not yet ready to accept people like her; (b) to those who are afraid to come out as gays; and (c) to society as a whole.
“To the people who are not yet ready to accept us, thank you. Because you are the reason why we need to strive hard to fight for equality and respect. To those who are still in the closet, there is nothing to be afraid of. Your life and happiness is at stake here. Happiness comes once you start to accept yourself for who you are. . .acceptance must come from the inside out. And lastly, to society, we only want equality and respect.”
As of today, Mimi is busy with her plans for the future. She’s currently working all the necessary papers to get her life partnership visa. She just came back from a vacation at Thailand following her graduation last March this year. She plans to work at Cebu as a call center agent while studying basic German for reasons she didn’t disclose.
The fight for equality and respect for the whole LGBT community continues, and Mimi would want to see that day when she could hold her partner’s hands in a park in Luneta or elsewhere, the day when people will not pry and discriminate people like her, and the day when she could exchange vows with the person she plans to share her piece of forever with.