This January, it’s all about welcoming everything new with a bang. Preen is looking at the changing tides and how they sweep over us to reveal better stories and bigger adventures.
Transgenderism is still a fairly new concept to most people, especially here in our country. You’d think this concept would be a normal thing now, considering mainstream media has constantly trained the spotlight on personalities like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox as of late, while actors Jared Leto and most recently, Eddie Redmayne, have portrayed transgender characters in Oscar-nominated films. Even Filipino model Geena Rocero was featured in a Refinery29 documentary on transgender women in the Philippines.
However, once a person expresses that they are, in fact, a transgender woman or man, people would often ask them how it is any different from being gay or simply just crossdressing to look like the opposite sex—a point of view somewhat attributed to heteronormative standards.
Before 2015 ended, Tina*, a stylist, posted a Facebook status, asking the question, “What makes one officially and completely a woman? Is it measured by the length of my hair, and the restroom I use? Can it be quantified by the clothes that I wear, or by the acceptance of my family and friends? Will it be affirmed by compliments? Will it make me a woman if guys find me attractive enough to date?”
Because of the norms that society is accustomed to, some, if not most, transgender women like Tina* who are in the process of transitioning sometimes feel pressured to look and act a certain way on the outside to be accepted and be seen as legitimate women instead of men masquerading as the opposite sex. Hence, an internal struggle ensues, questioning more on when they’ll finally be ‘enough’ for themselves and for society.
But what does it really take to truly accept one’s changed identity in a world that tells you otherwise?
For the benefit of those who do not know the term yet, or are confused: Being transgender means having a different gender identity and expression from the sex you were born as. For example, transgender women were born male but identify as female and hence, would most likely present themselves as female, too. And vice versa.
Most transgender women would take hormone pills to change their bodily appearance, and transitioning to become a woman is not a walk in the park either since it’ll involve bodily pains and mood swings—just like going through puberty the second time around. Those who can afford it would get boob jobs and go through gender reassignment surgery. These women can also get into heterosexual relationships just like Geena Rocero and her boyfriend.
So, you got the body, the looks, and the man. But is looking as such and getting into relationships enough to consider themselves a full-fledged woman?
Janlee Dungca, a transgender woman who works as a PR manager, shared with us her insight on the matter, citing what she learned in SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression) Education back in college.
“Just like biological and cisgender women, not all transgender women are very feminine. Some are more androgynous in the way that they present themselves…One thing I learned in SOGIE Education is that those three things aren’t dependent on each other,” she explains. “I also know transgender women who don’t present themselves as women because of financial restrictions, work, or by choice.”
“Don’t feel pressured because it won’t be your identity if it will depend on other factors. Your identity comes from within [and] gender comes out naturally; it’s not forced,” she adds.
Putting it simply: Regardless of how one looks and external circumstances like getting into a relationship, and getting the acceptance of your friends and family, the state of being ‘enough’ will always come from within. If womanhood is something that is innate, then it won’t go away even if the world may seem against it.
And besides, change is good and finally becoming a woman for a transgender is the best change there is for them. Also, it doesn’t make them less of it if they don’t conform to all the rules of womanhood because even that changes from time to time.
As Tina* would say, “Look within. She is in you, not anywhere else.”
So make peace with yourself and repeat after us: You are enough.
Art by Dorothy Guya
*Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.