In accordance with the world over, we celebrate #PreenPrideMonth through stories that deal with the in-betweens of the letters LGBT.
For a country that loves its gay pageants and prolific with its community-specific clubs, isn’t it surprising that we still don’t agree whether to call Aiza Seguerra a he or a she? Or that a loud majority found Vince Uy’s hand on Nino Gaddi’s shoulder disturbing?
This is after we’re called the 10th most gay-friendly society. How’s that for a reality check?
We sure are friendly with LGBTs. But just in case we forget, merely being friendly isn’t the same as respecting sensitivities. And when we don’t, we’re as good as frenemies to them all.
Producing a series of LGBT-themed stories meant that I had to start with the basics: Just like entering kindergarten, we’ve to learn our ABCs.
And so I asked Sass Rogando Sasot, co-founder of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) and awardee of the Harry Benjamin Distinguished Education and Advocacy Award, about the first words we need to know. After all, we don’t talk about the cause till we know what to say.
#1 Sex and Gender
How many times did you roll your eyes when forms ask “Gender: Male or Female?” The nth time will be your last because for Sass, sex and gender can be used interchangeably.
But take note: “Genitalia and body parts are biological facts, but the label we assign to them is not,” she says. “The law doesn’t make any distinction between sex and gender. They’re not separate and independent legal processes.”
When someone says sex/gender assignment, it means a declarative attribute based on what’s in between your legs.
When people ask about your gender identity, tell them the gender you feel yourself to be—the gender you feel you belong.
Sexuality, on the other hand, pertains to our capacity for erotic experience and response. This is where you identify yourself as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or even asexual.
#3 Gender expression
Fashion feeds on this: the way you express gender, and your expression (feminine, masculine, androgynous and whatnot) pertains to how you dress and behaves.
#4 Sexual orientation
Would you like sausage to go with that muffin? Sexual orientation is defined by the gender of the people you’re mostly attracted to.
#5 Cisgender and heternormativity
Phew, big words. A cisgender person is someone who has a gender identity and expression that match the gender identity prompted by their sex assignment.
So let’s say you’re a feminine woman who loves men. You’re straight, yes, but to be exact, you’re cisgender because you identified with a gender expected of your genitalia.
Heteronormativity is the belief that heterosexuality is the only valid, normal, moral and sometimes legal orientation.
For now, this is what we call Caitlyn Jenner. She has a gender identity and gender expressions that don’t match the gender identities and expressions expected from her sex.
Being a transgender woman, Sass explains it this way, “Since I was born with a penis, I was assigned male at birth. But I have a female gender identity, and most of the time I’ve a feminine gender expression.”
So baby, were you born this way? Transsexuality is having a gender identity that’s completely opposite to your sex assignment. Unlike transgender people, the transsexual crowd feels that they were never their own sex. Most have taken further steps to alter their bodies via sex reassignment surgery and hormone replacement therapies.
Sass explains, however, that “being transsexual is just one of the ways of being transgender.”
Another transgender method is crossdressing. Crossdressers maintain gender expressions, in this case via dressing, that don’t match the traditional gender expression associated with their sex.
#9 So how do we accurately address somebody via gender?
No pronouns, no problem—at least with the Filipino language. If you haven’t noticed it yet, we only have “siya” to address people.
But for English speakers, we recommend you ask.
Art by Dorothy Guya
Photos courtesy of Vanity Fair and Glamour