A Love Letter To My Country

Topics: Transgender, Sexual orientation, Gender Pages: 4 (2110 words) Published: November 17, 2014
A love letter to my country: from a transgender Filipina
The online news portal of TV5
Mga minamahal kong kababayan (To my beloved Philippines):

I know that it has been an emotional three weeks to all of us who have been affected by the death of Jennifer Laude, the 26-year-old transgender woman whose lifeless body was found with her head in a motel toilet in Olongapo City, Philippines on October 11, 2014. I know, too, that Jennifer Laude’s story has divided us as a nation. While many support her and clamor for her justice, many also condemn her and believe that her murder by suspected US marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was here in the Philippines for joint military exercise under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), was justified.

I am opening my heart and writing this letter to you not to change anybody’s mind. I am writing this letter so that we can continue the national conversation we are having now about gender and sexuality (and even sovereignty) that I feel has been a long time coming. I hope that your hearts will remain open to this important conversation because I know that as a people, we are fond of saying, “Ang lahat ng bagay ay nadaaan sa mabuting usapan. (We can talk openly about anything under the sun).”

I want to start by saying that transgender people have always existed in the Philippines. We are a highly gender-diverse society and transgender Filipinos have been an indelible part of our country’s cultural memory. It is just that you have known us by different names at different times in our nation’s history.

In olden times before Spain colonized us through cross and sword, we were the babaylan who served as spiritual leaders in pre-colonial tribes and communities. Since the 60s, some of us have also been called byuconeras or pagenteras who you see join beauty pageants from your barangay (village) to nationally televised ones like Super Sireyna on the noontime show Eat Bulaga to international ones like...
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