Accepted as I am
Most people assume I’m transgender, but I’m not sure I identify completely with that. My pronouns are she/her, I date men, wear make-up and have long hair. But I don’t really wear dresses and I’m not looking to have any transitional surgery done. The LGBTQIA+ spectrum is so broad, and I don’t know yet how I want to identify myself. That’s why I say I’m gender fluid.
There was no big coming out for me. My family always knew me as feminine and flamboyant. I grew up in a household with two cousins who are also LGBTQIA+. It helped me accept who I am, and I’ve always known I was different. From the time I was four or five years old, I was always with the girls, and I didn’t much interact with boys. preferred being with my girlfriends.
Growing up, I was very focused on studying and passing the board examinations. I went to a parochial Catholic high school when I was younger, and for me, the biggest issue there wasn’t my sexuality, but that I was required by the school to cut my hair in a very short, military style. My long hair was deeply important to my sense of identity in those early years, and being forced to conform was difficult for me.
It was only after college that I started to blossom in to the person I would become. I felt liberated that I no longer had to wear a uniform, or follow certain standards of appearance. As a matter of fact, I haven’t cut my hair since graduating college in 2010.
There are many people like me in the Philippines, and there’s a fairly tolerant attitude especially in highly urbanised cities like Manila. But there is still a stigma attached. I’ve always worked extra hard to prove I can earn people’s respect. I want to show that we can do more than just work in a bar or in the entertainment industry, both traditionally stereotypical workplaces for people of my sexual identity.
Knowing ING is a Dutch bank, I was optimistic that I would be accepted for who I am. ING surpassed my expectations. My sexuality and the way I dress didn’t come up during the interview. I have gained so much confidence here and have been given many opportunities. After a year, I was already training people and leading a team. I don’t and have never felt any discrimination. My teammates are completely engaged and I am confident that I have earned their respect.
Within six months of joining ING, I had helped to set up GALA (now Rainbow Lions) in the Philippines, our LGBTQIA+ employee network and resource group.
When I was hired, I was the first and only transgender person here. Now we have more trans women in the organization, and I even interviewed one of them for the job. She told me afterwards she was so relieved that I did. She was a new graduate and hadn’t known what to expect. Seeing me gave her confidence to know she would be accepted at ING, just as I was.