Life histories of transpeople in Asia
As told by Brenda Alegre, and excerpted from her thesis 'Psychological Perspectives and development of the transsexual woman: a phenomenological case study on male-to-female Filipino transsexuals'. Masters of Arts thesis, Clinical Psychology Major, Graduate School of the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines.
uploaded 7th September 2006.
Birthplace: Mabalacat, Pampanga
Height: 165 cms Weight 58 kgs.
Ordinal Family Position: eldest of six (three male siblings and two female siblings)
Education: Graduate ; Nursing
Work: Nurse (working as stealth) in Birmingham, England
Sexual Orientation: Bisexual
Religion: Christian / Catholic
Apples is currently in England working as a nurse in stealth. This means that only her recruitment directors know that she was assigned male at birth. She has not yet filed for legal name change because she was discouraged that her intentions might be futile in the Philippines. Apples has been on HRT for more than twenty years. As a child Apples was male and she used to be a very tough boy. She was fond of playing with guns and matchboxes as well as racing with other boys. She liked wrestling and playing basketball and she had crush on girls. She however felt that there was something different about her growing up although she could not explain what it was and how to identify it. As a child, (recalling earliest memories to when she was four) Apples remembers playing with her siblings on mostly generic toys and games. She was also fond of bullying her younger siblings and her small classmates. She also disliked singing and dancing, she was usually interested in the paranormal, the supernatural and the fictional. Apples loved cartoons and animation as a child, her biggest favorite was Superman and Spiderman. She would hardly pass up the chance to imitate these characters whenever given the chance. She used to collect stickers and school items with these characters as the designs. She dreamt that she wanted to be invincible and powerful like these fictional characters. Apples was also fascinated by the topics of science and history. Her earliest and most consistent ambition was to become a scientist. She was also very fond of animals, often reading about animals in encyclopedia and books.
Apples’ first crush was a girl; they were both nine years old. She remembered having kissed her on the cheeks and sharing food with her always. She also punched several male schoolmates and busmates whenever she gets teased or provoked. She was quite ill tempered as a child. In spite of bullying her younger siblings, she loved and cared for them at the same time. She was closest to her youngest brother who used to copy her every moves and expressions. She did study hard because of her fascination with the most difficult subjects. Apples graduated on top of her class in grade school and entered an exclusive Catholic high school with a scholarship. In high school, Apples’ interests expanded to sports like volleyball and badminton, sports which are usually tagged as feminine. She did not feel hesitancy and apprehension as other schoolmates might tease her for being effeminate because her usual playmates are gays and females rarely boys. In high school, she still hated singing and dancing but this time she gets easily tired playing basketball. She also stopped bullying other children. She became more reticent and mild mannered. She did have a girlfriend at the age of fourteen. This was a short lived relationship as it lasted for only four months. Apples was not a very religious child, she sometimes gets tired or feels lazy to pray or read the Bible. She believed in God and many of the other teachings but was not very fond of it.
She did not have any color preferences as well. Apples however discovered an interest in drawing human figures. She does not consider her skill to be highly developed but she found sketching to be very interesting. Apples was a debater, a journal editor, a Math quiz champion and an orator in high school. She was also among the best volleyball players in school and their neighborhood. She was fond of joining inter municipality volleyball leagues. She still dreamt of being a scientist but along with that, she also hoped to be a professional volleyball player. Apples strongly felt that there was really something odd that she felt but she just could not explain what it is and how to find answers. Sometimes she would even ask her friends and teachers and she even had several counseling sessions with her school guidance counselor. Up until the age of fifteen, Apples did not feel anything inferior about gays and effeminate boys. Because she was seen as a good looking boy, she had many sexual and flirtatious advances from gays young and old. She was only fascinated by their ‘fascination’ but unlike other boys who reacted repulsively against this, Apples somehow felt flattered. Apples was close to her parents. Her father was a priest shortly before meeting her mother. He then became a businessman and part time professor. Her mother is a plain housewife who on occasion, would be a saleslady. Her parents spent quality time with them growing up, reminding them of values and responsibilities. They were taught to fend for themselves as young as they were. Apples’ life was typically male until this stage.
Shortly before graduating from high school, Apples felt the unexpected; she was intrigued with the fancy of being a girl. She noticed that she did not have anymore crush on any girl as she felt more affectionate towards a few male classmates of hers. Apples also lost interest in playing basketball and matchboxes. Apples was surprised with this sudden change because it was unexpected and there was no known source as to why this change occurred. The only thing Apples knew is that she liked the feeling and she did not feel strange anymore. Apples confided this to her closest female classmates and her younger sister. They were startled at her revelation but she was not discouraged by them. Shortly before entering college, she stumbled upon a television movie about a transsexual ophthalmologist/ tennis player (the movie was “Second Serve: The Renee Richards Story”) and was extremely amazed with her life experiences. Apples felt that she could relate with the experiences of Richards and that this maybe what she herself is experiencing. After watching the movie, she felt enlightened. She was also in search for many answers. She asked herself the following questions: “why did I become this way? Could I really be born a female? Am I gay? Was I influenced by anyone? Who? Am I going to revert back to how I was? How?” In spite of these questions, Apples did not feel and think of herself any less, she did not feel cathartic as well. She may have been feeling slightly confused and her attitude towards this revelation was more of a positive reaction because she did not feel that she is a different person. This feeling is also consistent. Apples was able to incorporate and adjust to this change one day at a time. She became more mild mannered and less interested in masculine and brute activities. She gained the interests in cooking and redecorating their house. She was also fond of reading fashion magazines like Vogue, Elle and Mod.
Apples entered a top university to study nursing. The university has very strict policies and some students exhibit “homophobic” reactions. She described this as a feeling that gays are inferior and abnormal. Apples maintained her tolerance and fascination for gays but this time, it was more than tolerance and fascination. She now feels that she herself might be gay since she thinks she might be a woman. Apples began to observe different gays and the nuances they display. She would frequent beauty parlors and observe them as well as the way they cut hair and apply make up. She felt that being a beautician and a fashion designer might be fitting for her. At the age of seventeen, Apples discovered that she now has a deep infatuation with a male schoolmate. In fact she has had many other crushes aside from him. Apples also began to be more fascinated with females. She would observe her sisters, mother, aunts, cousins and friends. She would listen to their stories and she felt that she could also relate with their experiences. She would also observe and imitate female media icons but she was most fascinated with beauty pageant contestants and female fashion models. At the age of eighteen, Apples started to wear her sisters’ and mother’s clothes and shoes (at first without their knowledge). Her sisters though are aware of her situation and so they were very accepting and helpful. She would also practice on applying make up to herself and to her sisters. She would now talk a pitch or two higher and sometimes her father finds this really strange. Apples in fact remembered that her youngest brother and her father would frequently ask her, “nagiging bakla ka na ba (“are you becoming gay)?” Apples would only evade situations that would require her to answer but deep inside she was hoping that she could muster the courage to fully explain how she is feeling.
Apples also had sex with a male schoolmate upon her schoolmate’s taunting and this encounter was followed with another, her first boyfriend. Her boyfriend was from another school and although it was Apples who “courted” him, he sometimes felt that Apples is like other girls. Apples felt at home in this relationship and she felt that finally she felt free. Because of this, she mustered the courage to admit to her parents about her condition. She had a family conference along with her closest aunts and uncles but excluding her youngest siblings. She cried when she admitted but she hoped that they will not make her revert to being a boy. They were surprised and irritated at first but she remembered what her father said, “ano pa ba ang magagawa naming, andyan na yan, basta huwag ka lang mananakit ng ibang tao at wag ka lang sasaktan. Kung pwede ka pang magbago mas maganda, ero kung yan na nga nag nararamdaman mo, mahal ka pa rin namin (what else can we do now that it is there, for as long as you won’t hurt anyone and will not be hurt yourself, we are fine. If you can revert back we will be very happy, if not we still love you).” Apples felt truly free. She considered this to be the biggest turning point in her life. Now everything she does is done openly. Everyone knew about her relationship, her dreams of becoming a woman, her interests and hobbies and her need to wear women’s clothes. She would now wear women’s clothes at home without hesitancy and secrecy. She would now sit when urinating because she abhors seeing her penis. She also assumed another name, a female name but would still use her christened name because her christened name is considered unisex. She can now cook well, sketch well, apply make up well and walk well just like female fashion models.
Apples was an average student in college, although she did not graduate with honors nor did she join many extra curricular groups, she did a lot of researching and reading. After graduation, Apples learned about beauty pageants for gays and transgenders and she was amazed and fascinated. She learned about the concepts of HRT, FFS, SRS and transsexuality. She did not understand it but after watching several beauty pageants, she has learned to appreciate this new knowledge. She immediately started HRT (her first was Diane 35 and Depo Provera) and allowed her hair to grow long. She started to work as a nurse in their university hospital. She would always brush up and tie her hair so it would not appear long. She started to buy for herself women’s undergarments and would wear them everyday. She would secretly use the women’s washroom and continued to urinate in a sitting position. Apples had another relationship, this time her boyfriend is French and almost twenty years older. She met him in a fashion show that she watched and he was amazed with her beauty and he did not suspect that she is a transsexual. This relationship would last for almost ten years. She felt loved just like any other woman. He showered Apples not just with love but with gifts. He was very generous to her and her family. Apples’ family knew about her relationship and they were supportive and accepting to this. As her boyfriend went back to France, they maintained a long distance relationship. Apples continued her feminization process with HRT and whitening.
She would only wear women’s clothes except when working as she is required to wear their prescribed uniform. She also started joining beauty pageants for transgenders and gays but she went to join only seven contests in total because she did not feel comfortable with being on stage as a female but representing yourself as gay presenting as a female. Apples believed that she should be in a beauty contest of women and not of transgenders. Apples went to France as a tourist to stay with her boyfriend. They frolicked about Europe and her boyfriend financed her breast implants and rhinoplasty which was done in England. When her boyfriend decided to move to Japan for a business, Apples felt that this was also an opportunity for her to be with other Japayuki transsexuals and observe them. They went to the clubs in Japan where transsexuals performed and she was amazed to find them all in one place, the most beautiful and feminine transsexuals. She decided to join this club in spite of the initial refusal of her boyfriend. She worked as a dancer but it was challenging at first because Apples was not a very good dancer. This opportunity was extended for almost four years and she earned a lot of money in the process. Apples also learned more ways of femaling from the Japayukis. She went to Thailand for her orchiectomy which was followed by complete SRS two years after. Apples is now a woman at the age of twenty nine. Apples was contended with her transformation, any stranger will not be able to tell that Apples was assigned male at birth. Add to this is her very petite frame and she is able to live in stealth. In spite of not having female as her legal gender, Apples christened name did not do her harm because it is unisex and in other countries, her name is considered a woman’s name.
Unfortunately, her relationship with her French boyfriend of more than ten years ended. She did not want to perform anymore in Japan as an entertainer. She went fully in stealth mode. She underwent refresher training for nursing and she took MA units in nursing. She was also allowed internship in a private hospital even if the owner learned that she is a transsexual. The patients and other clients never suspected that she is a transsexual. Two years ago, Apples flew to England to work as a nurse. The hospital which hired her knew of her as a woman but her recruitment and benefits team knew that she is a post op transsexual. She is very happy to have worked again as a nurse but this time as a female nurse. She also found a new relationship but this time she fell for a woman. It has been long since Apples last fell in love with a female, she was still in high school. It was awkward at first but she knew that it was natural since women can love either a man or a woman or both. She realized that she is a bisexual and that her sexual preference has nothing to do at all with her actual gender. Apples is very happy with both her work and her relationship. She found friends who accepted and loved her unconditionally and this includes her family. Her younger sister and brother are also working as nurses in Birmingham and lives with her.
Although she has been a Catholic for a long time, she has now been attending different Christian group affiliations like Born Again, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, Adventist and Protestant churches. This was because she disliked some preaching of the Catholic church especially with regard to homosexuality, transgenderism and gender expression. At the moment, while she is experimenting, she still maintains being Catholic because she believes that believing in God and doing good is not solely based on being a Catholic or not. She is also pondering on legal name change but she feels discouraged to go about it anytime soon since she knew that this might be futile for her. Besides, her christened name is feminine enough. Apples is currently living in stealth mode and only her closest friends and family knew about her transsexuality.