Sunday, 13 December 2009

Reclaiming the lucidity of our hearts

Opposing grave human rights violations
on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity

ECOSOC Chamber, United Nations Headquarters, New York
Thursday, December 10th 2009 at 1.15 p.m. – 2.45 p.m

Let me begin by expressing my warmest gratitude to the Permanent Missions to the United Nations of Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, and to the coalition of non-government organizations defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Thank you for making this event possible and for giving us this opportunity to contribute our voices to this ongoing conversation for change. Our esteemed participants, beautiful beings, and profound expressions of this Universe, a warm, vibrant, and dignified afternoon to each and every one of you!

Burned at stake. Strangled and hanged. Raped and shot and stabbed to death. Throats slashed. Left to bleed to death. These are just some of the ways transgender people were killed in different parts of the world, in different times in the history of humanity. These are just the tip, the violent tip, of the iceberg of our suffering. I can go on and on, reciting a litany of indignity upon indignity, but my time is not enough to name all the acts of atrocious cruelty that transgender people experience. But what is the point of counting the dead bodies of our fellow human beings, of narrating how we suffer, and of opposing violence against us if we don’t challenge the root of our oppression?

The sincerity of our intention to address the human rights violations against transgender people rests upon the depth of our appreciation of human diversity and the breadth of our understanding of why transgender people suffer these indignities.

The root of our oppression is the belief that there is only one and only one way to be male or female. And this starts from our birth. Upon a quick look on our genitals, we are assigned into either male or female. This declaration is more than just a statement of what’s between our legs. It is a prescription of how we should and must live our lives. It is a dictation of what we should think about ourselves, the roles we should play, the clothes we should wear, the way we should move, and the people with whom we should have romantic or erotic relationships. But the existence of people whose identities, bodies, and experiences do not conform to gender norms is a proof that this belief is wrong.

Nonetheless, even though the truth of human diversity is so evident and clear to us, we choose to hang on to our current beliefs about gender, a belief that rejects reality and forces people to live a lie. This is the belief that leads to attacks on our physical and mental integrity, to different forms of discrimination against us, and to our social marginalization. This is the belief that led to Joan of Arc to be burned at stake because she was cross-dressing. This is the belief that motivated the rape and murder of Brandon Teena on December 31, 1993. This is the belief that led to the stabbing to death of Ebru Soykan, a prominent transgender human rights activist in Turkey, on March 10, 2009. This is the belief that led to the arrest of 67 Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia for cross-dressing in June this year. This is the belief that keeps the list of transgender people being harassed, killed, and violated growing year after year. And it is very unfortunate that our legal systems, religions, and cultures are being used to justify, glorify, and sanctify the violent expressions of this belief.

So we question: Is human life less precious than this belief? Is our right to life, to dignified existence, to liberty, and pursuit of happiness subservient to gender norms? This doesn’t need a complicated answer. You want to be born, to live, and die with dignity – so do we! You want the freedom to express the uniqueness of the life force within you – so do we! You want to live with authenticity – so do we!

Now is the time that we realize that diversity does not diminish our humanity; that respecting diversity does not make us less human; that understanding and accepting our differences do not make us cruel. And in fact, history has shown us that denying and rejecting human variability is the one that has lead us to inflict indignity upon indignity towards each other.

We are human beings of transgender experience. We are your children, your partners, your friends, your siblings, your students, your teachers, your workers, your citizens.

Let our lives delight in the same freedom of expression that you enjoy as you manifest to the outside world your unique and graceful selves.

Let us live together in the fertile ground of our common humanity for this is the ground where religion is not a motivation to hate but a way to appreciate the profound beauty and mysteries of life;

for this is the ground where laws are not tools to eliminate those who are different from us but are there to facilitate our harmonious relationship with each other;

for this is the ground where culture is not a channel to express the brutality of our limited perception but a means to express the nobility of our souls;

for this is the ground where the promise of the universality of human rights can be fulfilled!

And we will be in this ground if we let the sanity of our desires, the tenacity of our compassion, and above all, the lucidity of our hearts to reign in our lives.

Thank you!

by: Sass Rogando Sasot, transgender activist, Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP)
Links to the entire webcast:



Thursday, 26 November 2009

Stop Transphobia sa Bahay ni Kuya!!!

Official Statement of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) on the recent happenings inside the Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) House involving Rica Paras

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny

She-man. Mumu. Half-half. Samson and Delilah. These are just a few of the derogatory comments heard recently from PBB Double Up Housemates Rob Stumvol, Patrick Villanueva, Hermes Bautista, Mariel Sorino, Yuri Okawa and most especially Rocky Salumbides in referring to Rica Paras. We, her sisters in STRAP, join the rest of the world’s loyal audiences who watch PBB Double Up diligently in expressing our dismay, disappointment and disbelief in this blatant show of anti-transgender prejudice or transphobia. STRAP condemns to the highest degree this senseless bigotry and calls on Big Brother to intervene and put a stop to the hate happening right under his watchful eye.

Ever since Rica entered the PBB House, she has always carried herself well. She has never been a burden to her housemates but instead has proven to be an asset to them with her leadership skills, quick thinking and positive attitude. She has helped in household chores, shared her talents selflessly, related wholeheartedly with her housemates, and always contributed to the completion of tasks in the best way she could. The whole world knows that Rica has been nothing but a consistent team player, a shoulder to cry on, a loyal friend and a loving and reliable sister to all of her housemates.

We are therefore calling on all the housemates to STOP BASHING RICA for she has done nobody any harm. STOP DISREPECTING RICA for she has only treated all of them with grace and care. STOP DISPARAGING RICA for she is simply being herself. The asinine machismo being directed at her is the same kind of misogyny that leads to violence against women. The narrow-mindedness being displayed by some of the PBB Double Up housemates is the same kind of bias that leads to abuse, insensitivity and cruelty towards others. This is totally unacceptable behavior and must be stopped at all costs.

This has to stop if we believe in the equality of all persons. This has to stop if we want to create a world where the uniqueness of all is valued. This has to stop if we want to create a better world where kindness, compassion and respect reign, a world that upholds the inherent dignity of all. STOP TRANSPHOBIA SA BAHAY NI KUYA!

*repost as you please

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Bigotry is the threat to the well-being of humanity

The Official Statement of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) on Comelec’s non-accreditation of Ang Ladlad LGBT Party List

The greatness of every mighty organization
embodying an idea in this world
lies in the religious fanaticism and intolerance
with which, fanatically convinced of its own right,
it intolerantly imposes its will against all others
- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf Vol. 1 Chapter 12

The Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) stands with courage and in solidarity with all those organizations and individuals who have been disheartened, disappointed, and dismayed by the unfavorable decision Ang Ladlad received from the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

STRAP is among those who say: Yes! It’s a violation of the separation of Church and State; Yes! It breaches the ‘no religion test’ clause of our Constitution; Yes! It lays the case for our legal persecution; Yes! It’s a retrogressive way of thinking; Yes! It’s a violation of human rights. But above all this, STRAP says Yes! The bigotry of Comelec is a threat to the well-being of every human being.

In its 8-page decision, Comelec argued that should they allow Ang Ladlad to participate in the elections, “[the] youth would be exposed to an environment that does not conform to the teachings of [Christianity and Islam]”, implying that such exposure would cause the moral and spiritual degradation of the youth. "[They] are not condemning the LGBT," Comelec said, they just “cannot compromise the well-being of the greater number of our people, especially the youth.“ Protecting the well-being of everyone is a good intention. However, as history has shown us, the road to hell can be paved with bigotry masked as good intentions.

How many wars have been waged, people burned at stake, genocide committed, and bodies turned into bombs just to create an environment that blindly conforms to the teachings of a particular religion? How many such atrocities have happened just because of the refusal to acknowledge the humanity of those people who are simply different?

If we’re going to be honest in answering these questions, we’ll find out that our natural diversity in sexual orientation, gender identity and expression is not the threat to the well-being of humanity. The threat is bigotry.

So we further ask, Who is the real threat to the youth? An organization that seeks to promote respect for and deeper understanding of human diversity? Or those who wear bigotry as a badge of honor?

*repost as you please

Friday, 13 November 2009

2009 Transgender Day of Remembrance - Manila

This year, STRAP is partnering with the first-ever TLBG student group in the University of the Philippines (UP) system, UP Babaylan to commemorate the International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) The TDOR is meant to honor people who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. It began a decade ago after the death of Rita Hester who was brutally murdered in November 1998. Hester’s death resulted in the creation of the Remembering Our Dead website and a candlelight vigil in 1999. Henceforth, transgender people killed due to hatred are honored in annual TDOR activities worldwide.

We are holding TDOR week in UP and our activities are as follows:

Activity and Venue

Date and Time

TDOR Exhibit

*Opening ceremony

(AS Lobby or Palma Hall Lobby, UP Diliman)

November 24-27, 2009 (8:00AM to 5:00PM)

*November 24, Tuesday, 10:00AM

TRANSCEND: Stories and Struggles of Transpeople in the Philippines (Forum)

(UP Diliman Gender Office, 2/F Benton Hall)

November 27, Friday, 2:30PM to 5:00 PM

Candlelighting Ceremony and Reading of Stories of the Departed

(AS Lobby or Palma Hall Lobby, UP Diliman)

November 27, Friday, 6:00 PM

We hope that you can join us in all these activities. We will really appreciate it. To participate or for inquiries, contact STRAP Secretary Mae Emmanuel Hernandez at mobile (0905.352.0943) and email ( Thank you. See you there!

Friday, 6 November 2009

STRAP Girl Wins Queen of Cebu Pageant

24 October - Rain Villagonzalo won the first edition of Queen of Cebu, a new and prestigious pageant for Cebuana transpinays. Rain, who is Cebu-based, was Miss Philippines and she bested 20 other beautiful Cebuanas representing different nations of the world for the title of Queen of Cebu Universe.

As reported in The Mindanao Examiner, "It was no neck-and-neck battle of beauty and brains before the panel of judges, who unanimously singled her out to walk away with the crown, after she articulately discussed STRAP, of which she's been an active member for two summers now.

The ever eloquent pageant champ recaps, "It stands for Society of Trans-sexual Women of the Philippines. It is the only transgender rights support and advocacy group in the Philippines. It aims to provide assistance to transgender people who are victims of discrimination and prejudice, be it in the workplace or in society in general. Most of the time transgender people are not taken seriously in the workplace. The organization provides legal support as well... in order to assert every transgender's rights to equal employment opportunity. After all, Transgender rights are also Human Rights. On a personal note, I'm fortunate enough to be part of a company that respects equal employment opportunity and somehow takes into consideration Affirmative Action when hiring employees."

Saturday, 10 October 2009

STRAP Girl Enters Pinoy Big Brother's House

Dear Friends, Allies & Supporters,

We, the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), a transgender rights advocacy organization and support group for girls and women of transsexual experience, are very proud to announce that one of our very own, Ms Rica Paras, is now a Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) housemate. Housemate Rica, the Math Goddess of Bacolod (although she is really from Iloilo, entered the PBB house tonight, 10 October 2009, Saturday, and we believe that given the dearth of positive and empowering media images of transgender Filipinas or transpinays, her addition to the cast of PBB housemates marks a significant milestone both in the history of Philippine TV but as well as in the local transgender liberation movement. Rica is the first out and proud transpinay who will ever enter the PBB house and be watched by millions on national TV.

This is perhaps just rightly so as Rica’s story, indeed, is one that needs to be told. Growing up in a lower middle-class household in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo, Rica at a young age displayed an affinity for science and mathematics. This led her to attend the prestigious Western Visayas campus of the Philippine Science High School where she was a consistent A-student. Later, Rica won a scholarship to study Mathematics at Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) where she graduated with honors. The last six years, Rica has been working as a globally certified IT consultant for a multi-national company training people in sales, product distribution and finance.

That Rica’s story may serve as an inspiration to people who are dealing with difficult gender and identity issues at a young age is not lost on us. Many of us, her sisters in STRAP, know all too well how it is like to grow up with no one to look up to, deprived of role models on TV who look like us and are going through the same things in life. We would therefore like to invite you to watch Rica on PBB so that she can tell you her story in her own words. There is so much more to know so watch and see the amazing person that we have all come to love and cherish. More importantly we hope that you will join us in supporting our dear sister and ensuring that she emerges the Big Winner of this season’s PBB.

Add Rica Paras on Facebook, Multiply and Friendster. Do not forget to text in your vote for her also so that she can stay in the PBB house until the Final Four. Help us bring Rica’s story of succeeding against all odds and breaking stereotypes and barriers to the millions of Filipino households that watch PBB every day and every night. Remember that a vote for Rica is a vote for our desire for change—change in the kind of people we see on TV and change in the way people will see people like us. A vote for Rica is a vote for the dreamer in us—that anyone, regardless of gender, religion, social status, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. can dream big and work hard for a better life. A vote for Rica is a vote for self-determination—that ultimately we are the masters of our fate and the captains of our souls. Only we can decide for ourselves who we want to be and who we really are!

In love and peace,
Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP)
Dear Friends, Allies & Supporters,