I have recently come to this jarring realization — I don’t know any Asian transmen or very many transmen of color. I have several transgender friends at Stanford — we are a tight-knit community. They are people whom I treasure and who I know care for me. I have also reached out to other transgender communities in the area. But in my adventures both inside and outside of the Stanford bubble, I haven’t met any Asian transmen. And as I live in an area that has a large Asian population, it’s really strange.
Not only am I a transman, but I am also a transman of color. I am Asian — more specifically, Filipino. I am a first generation Filipino-American — my parents emigrated here from the Philippines in the 1980s, and I was born in 1988 down the street in Santa Clara. I have lived my entire life in the San Francisco Bay Area. I come from a predominantly Filipino community, attended schools where Filipinos were the majority. I took my ethnicity for granted until I reached college, when all of a sudden I was exposed to Caucasian people and other non-Filipino people. I came to a place where some people didn’t even know what Filipino was. It was certainly a culture shock — and Stanford is only 20 miles from my hometown.
A lot of my friends have told me that I’m the first transgender person they’ve ever met, and many of my readers have emailed me telling me that my column is their first exposure to the experiences of transgender people. However, I will admit that my experience has many unique aspects to it, because I am a transman of color. Not only have I had to transition, but I have also had to battle stereotypes surrounding Asian men — such as how I am perceived as more feminine than other men, less because I’m trans and more because I’m Asian (and I think I am very manly, thank you very much). As an Asian American, I have also had to confront the traditional notions of masculinity presented by both America and the Philippines. I have had to face my own insecurities about not feeling attractive enough because I am not white. Ever since childhood I have had to deal with the fact that there are not many realistic and non-stereotypical portrayals of Asians and Filipinos in media (Filipinos can only either sing or fight. We can’t do anything else, apparently). And although Asia is seen as a very transgender-friendly place, it’s a culture dominated mostly by transwomen. Transmen are virtually invisible, pushed aside. I am part of a marginalized group within a group that is marginalized enough already.
And I don’t get it — I mean, there has to be other people like me someplace, in the billions of people on this earth. I’ve met many LGB Asians and Filipinos. However, strangely enough, I don’t know any Filipino transgender people. When I came out to my parents, I remember my dad told me that there were people like me all over the Philippines. But where are they? Are they hiding from me? Is there some secret, exclusive club of Filipino transmen that I’m not cool enough for?
A couple weeks ago, I decided to reach out beyond Stanford and find other Asian (especially Filipino) transmen. I joined Tumblr, connected with Facebook, referred to Google. I scrolled through webpage after webpage, blog after blog, forum after forum, and this is what I found strange: these online communities were mostly white transmen. It was alienating. I could not find somebody like me, even in something as incredible and vast as the Internet.
Why am I so preoccupied with finding other Filipino transmen? There is something unique about growing up trans in a Filipino household. The Catholic culture (church every Sunday), the family-centered mindset (I can’t imagine living more than twenty miles away from my parents), the national obsessions (when boxer Manny Pacquaio fights, the crime rate literally drops to zero because everyone in the Philippines is watching the match. Solution to our country’s problems: have him fight 24/7.) — and don’t forget, the rice (you can’t have a complete meal without rice). I have yet to connect with another Filipino transman, have yet to share and compare experiences. I have yet to discuss with another Filipino transmen how we are treated compared to transmen of other ethnicities, about our family situations, about our relationships with religion, about our role models, about our love of Filipino food. These are all things I have wondered about, all things that I wonder are universal amongst Filipino transmen or just unique in my own experience.
I’m still searching. I’m not giving up hope. There’s got to be a guy like me out there, someone who maybe even lives in the SF Bay Area I could meet up and grab a cup of coffee with. I would give anything to meet somebody like me. I can’t be the only one.
Are you a Filipino transman or a transman of color? Email Cristopher Bautista at [email protected].