From one kween to another: Breaking norms in Thy Happy Halls

FEU Advocate
March 17, 2024 15:12

Every year, the world recognizes the contributions of women in society in different aspects such as politics, history, and innovation. Today, as we transverse into a more inclusive and open society, we acknowledge our sisters from the LGBTQIA+ community—transwomen—as part of this celebration. 

Building to foster an institute where inclusivity and progressiveness are seen is a step-by-step process. Way back in 2019, Far Eastern University (FEU) implemented all-gender restrooms (AGR) and allowed students to express their spectrum through clothing. Looking back on this project, it built and gained a reputation as being an embracing community. 

For instance, students can cross-dress and some students who identify themselves as trans have the privilege to wear uniforms that complement their chosen identity. 

This stepping stone created a safe bubble for the students to freely spread their wings as they achieve their dreams within the bounds of the academic community. Hence, the progress does not stop here. 

Certainly, the diversity among the students on campus grew as the years passed. The LGBTQIA+ community has slowly been created and continues to be achieved in a new era of creating opportunities. 

Following this, a few trans and cis students were questioned to discuss and share their beliefs as women. 

How to be a woman? 

What is the essence of being a woman?’ is a popular question in beauty pageants. However, what does it take to become one?

As FEU Advocate interviewed a few of the trans and ciswomen on campus, they shared their answers to this question as they unveiled their definition of womanhood.

Angel Dedase, a first-year Communication student who proudly waves her flag as a transwoman, believes that being a woman is the backbone of society. 

I think the essence is a broad term and for me. Being a woman, woman itself, hindi lang siya nade-define (it does not define) on what you have. For example, the genitals, parang hindi lang siya nag-go-go there (it does not only go there). Being a woman is so much more, we can be so much more,” Dedase said during a roundtable interview. 

Another kween interviewed is Amber Lalin, a first-year Nursing student. Lalin associated womanhood with the ability to advocate for change.  

“Personally, the essence of being a woman is [to] make a difference in this world. I feel like even small differences can make a drastic change [in] our lives,” she expressed. 

Per se, this kind of perception from transwomen—what is within the bounds of a woman’s heart—is so much more. 

Consequently, the power of womanhood and making a difference does not stop there. One of the Tamaraw transwomen tried to make it an even safer and more conducive place for everyone. 

Cy Christianne Dela Paz, the first trans woman officer in the Institute of Tourism and Hospital Management (ITHM) Student council shared one of her ambitions for the community. 

“Last semester, I was the one who started the initiative to use our lived names on our nameplates. That’s something na nag-strengthen sa akin, especially sa mga trans sisters and brothers ko sa Institute, na we feel safe and secure in FEU (That’s something that strengthened me, especially my sister and brotherhood from my institute, that we feel safe and secure in FEU).”

The said project is a new stepping stone for the trans-community to feel the security and inclusivity of the campus. 

This very acknowledgment and validation they have for their spectrum, showcased how progressive the community is inside the campus. 

Linking the progress to a movement

Upon developing a community, the womanhood present on campus still conquers odds and hindrances as they face adversities. Subsequently, these predicaments may cause degradation for the victims, as they are invalidated in how they express themselves. 

Jane Chieko Dela Cruz, a third-year student in International Studies majoring in International Relations and Diplomacy expressed her point-of-view regarding this.

 “I cannot fully speak for transwomen and their experiences because even though we're both women, there are still struggles that I did not experience as a cis woman,” she said. 

By this sentiment, an approach from a transwoman was gained to elaborate on the situation on their spectrum. 

“There is still room for improvement, especially when it comes to our other stakeholders like our professors, employees, and staff. We need to further educate and make them aware in regards to the inclusive environment here in FEU,” Dela Paz said.

The regards about improving how to cater to and recognize them shows the University still has a long way to go. As a result, the issues and predicaments each group faces are still visible. These should be addressed and advocated to lessen the instances of experiencing these types of hindrances. 

Although, as we celebrate International Women’s Month, it's inevitable to include the perception of society in terms of yielding a transwoman as a woman. Definitely, this other side of the coin still invokes and revolves around the community. 

Cindy Butay, president of FEU Sexuality and Gender Alliance pointed out that, “the society that has been established for a very long time is the result of patriarchy. That is why even the progress into accepting the spectrum is very slow,” she expressed.

Sharing the rapport of this stigma, she expresses how the patriarchal and misogynistic culture causes women to get restricted from showing their fullest. Additionally, she added that these cultures have been deep-rooted in society. This is why if it’s not for the masses, then it is normal. 

Thus, in these chances that challenge our society, how will it compromise the idea of a diverse gender identity since the country is well-known for being conservative? Is this causing a stretch to digest the existence of this spectrum?  

Validating the feminine stigma

Undeniably, a transwoman is a woman who embodies the femininity she possesses. Each lady in society can overcome each hindrance, odds, and predicament she faces. After all, it is within the grasp of a woman to manifest as the framework of a community. 

Kailangan ba maging feminine? Kailangan ba maging ganito? Parang usually dapat ‘yung stigma na ‘yon putulin na. As long as you identify yourself na babae talaga, go lang (Do we need to be feminine? Do we need to be like this? It is usually a stigma that must be stopped. As long as you identify yourself as a woman, then go for it),” Lalin said during the interview.  

“Being a transwoman isn’t just nagparetoke ka and nagpagawa (underwent surgery) but it is how you perceive and identify yourself,” Dedase affirmed her experience as a transwoman. 

In brief, the insight on affirming the validation of a transwoman being a woman reflects on the idea we imply. Obviously, the recognition of one’s identity starts within us, especially regarding education about gender sensitivity. Furthermore, it should be accommodated properly to break the conformity present in society. 

Patching the debris of the past

In recognition of womanhood, a look back at their past was conveyed. These messages mirrored the driven feelings they express, such as accepting who they truly are, having the courage to stand for what they perceive, and finding inspiration to fight for the voiceless. 

“I think my message to my younger self would be to just live with a purpose as you did. And I think maybe we should be smarter when it comes to everything that comes our way, especially as women in this society,” Dela Cruz affirmed. 

Dedase expressed that whatever her younger self does, she’s on the right track and eventually finds herself along the way and that even though it’s not given now, it will soon come later. 

“No matter what, sarili mo ‘yan (that’s yourself). ‘Yung sasabihin nila, nariyan lang ‘yan. ‘Wag kang susuko (Whatever they say, that’s all there is. Don’t give up). I’m so proud of my younger self,” Lalin stated. 

Dela Paz declared to her younger self that she would be someone who can inspire other people, someone who can uplift other people, and someone who will never pretend anymore for who she is. By the time she comes, she will be a transwoman, a woman of inspiration, change, and innovation. 

“You are louder than the noise inside your mind; the reality is simpler than your thoughts. There are women in your life that will always got your back, may they be silently rooting for you or cheering loudly every step of your way,” Butay asserted. 

Despite the unwaveringly harsh past experiences they overcame, all of them continued to grow beautifully and confidently. Thus, they slowly became the version of themselves they embody and perceive to be. Nevertheless, women's empowerment dominates one’s identity in believing that she can and will be. 

A woman is the boss of her life and identity. She is neither an outcast nor a doll to manipulate, as she is an alpha in her true capabilities. Learning the perspectives of our sisterhood in the LGBTQIA+ community can help in knowing the bounds of limitations. The openness of society is indeed a grand gesture to corporate the existence of each identity. Therefore, if we acquire a progressive society, the glimpse of discrimination will now only be a remnant of the past.

- Eunhice Corpuz

(Photo Courtesy of Cy Christianne Dela Paz, Jane Chieko Dela Cruz, Cindy Butay, Angel Joseph Dedase, and Amber Lalin)