I looked into the shop window and saw sparkly dresses and cute doll shoes. They were so beautiful and I wanted them.
I was shopping with my mum to buy an outfit for a school Christmas party, but I couldn’t tell her about my dream outfit.
I was around eight or nine years old, and I knew that boys like me weren’t meant to be into that kind of stuff. So I kept it to myself.
By that point, I knew I was a girl – even before I first knew the term ‘transgender’.
When I eventually heard about people like me, the word was always used to describe makeup artists, hairdressers and escorts – nothing that reflected my experience.
And then there were depictions of trans women, like in Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. I vividly remember the scene where a villain is revealed to be a trans woman and everyone starts violently vomiting in response.
It made me retreat even further into the closet and I hid my true self because I didn’t want people to view me like that.
So I dressed ‘appropriately’ and grew up as the ‘boy’ that society expected me to be. But because I wasn’t happy or comfortable with myself, my grades at school suffered.
That changed during my last year of school, and after I found the courage to start dressing more androgynously. I started wearing fitted clothes such as shirts that cinched at the waist instead of straight cut men’s shirts and styled them with a loose jacket, platform trainers (it was the Spice Girls era) instead of sporty trainers and a cute, smaller backpack. Sometimes I even borrowed my mum’s shirts.
During college I even started to dress more feminine. The new surroundings meant I found myself in a less restricting environment and gave me the courage to accept myself as me. My style evolved and I opted for styles that showed my figure. I was now shopping in the women’s section in shops and even started to grow my hair long.
I felt alive. My studies improved and I then graduated with honours from one of the top universities in the Philippines. Becoming my authentic self gave me the confidence to excel.
Unfortunately, the world of work forced me to repress who I was again. I thought if I wanted a job in a corporate setting, I would need to dress like a man, with long sleeve shirts, trousers and leather shoes.
It crushed me inside. It was like I was moulding into what society expected me to be and it felt like I was resurrecting a zombie I already buried.
I secured a job, and for two years the real me was eager to come out.
Although I looked like a boy, my mannerisms were very feminine, and people judged me. Colleagues asked why I acted the way I did, deriding my behaviours. I decided to pick my battles and just try to keep my head down through it all.
But I felt disrespected, excluded, unvalued and hated, the Pet Ventura memory ringing in my memories.
After two years in the job, I decided to walk away and leave the company. It was one of the best decisions I made. When I finally left, it felt like I could breathe again.
I went on to take up a role at consumer goods company Procter & Gamble, where I still work to this day. While I still presented as a man for the first year, I felt safe because of the focus put on ensuring an inclusive environment.
So much so that when I started my transition through hormone replacement therapy, I didn’t tell anyone about it.
It wasn’t because I was scared of their reaction, more that I knew they would accept me and there was zero chance of my team reacting negatively to my decision.
To my relief, they never made me feel like my trans identity was invalid and it made me feel like they saw me the way I saw myself – all without saying it.
I also came out to my mother, who was incredibly supportive. She told me, ‘We loved you even before we had an ultrasound, why do you think that will change?’ I was so touched. Her words gave me even more confidence in myself to know that what I was doing for myself was the right decision.
When I started feeling more comfortable in my own skin, it gave me the motivation to succeed and I was promoted. Just like at school, when I felt free to be myself, I thrived – and I know that this is how a lot of other trans people feel too.
I am very lucky to have a supportive family that accepts me and is proud of me – nowadays my mum and sister even ask to borrow my clothes. Many are not fortunate to be in the same situation that I am.
Throughout my journey, I’ve grown a thick skin to handle situations but again, not everyone can.
This is where the support of trans allies comes in. Allies can help influence change and this is monumental, because it tells young trans people that they are loved, valued and respected.
I am no different to anyone else. I am also a daughter, sister, an aunt, a friend, a lover, an accountant, a colleague and a proud trans woman living my truth.
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