The struggle for Dee Mendoza to prove herself at work was a difficult one, not for reasons of capability, but because of the way she chose to express and affirm her gender. Mendoza talks intimately about being a transsexual woman; her discoveries and her struggles that ultimately led to her emancipation.
Clothes may make a man, but it doesn’t make a woman.
I have always been a woman even though I had to wear men’s clothes. Cross dressing — that is me in men’s clothes — started at a very young age. I was born with a male body. Thus, I was expected to perform conventionally in the role of male; act male, be heterosexual, have girl friends, and eventually a wife.
It never felt right. From my earliest memories I knew I was not comfortable in some way. From an early age, I identified far more with my childhood girl friends than boyfriends. It went on until college, up to the first few years of my employment in my current job.
My parents reared me to become a good, law-abiding, God-fearing boy. In my heart I know that they did this out of love and good intentions. But that did not stop me from dressing up in princess gowns using our spare curtains or wrap a towel on my head and think that it was my long hair when I was alone or in the company of my female friends.
One Christmas, I wrote Santa: Dear Santa, please give me a Barbie doll.
“Santa” (my parents) wrote me back and said: Barbie dolls are for girls, you should not ask for that. I was crushed. I thought Santa Claus was about magic. I thought he was my confidant, and my request was something that would not reach my parents. From then on, I wrote to Santa and asked for neutral toys like puzzles or books.
As I grew up, the only path open to me was the so called gay role. But I soon discovered that wasn’t me.
Meeting the word “transgender” is one of the turning points of my life. It was then that I truly began to discover who I was, who I am, who I have always been, in respect to my sexuality, and my gender. I knew then that I was, and always had been, gender female, and a heterosexual woman.
There was no transformation, there was just an AFFIRMATION. A declaration to myself and to the world that my gender is female and that I am a woman. The word “transformation” is problematic to describe my experiences. It connotes a leap from point A to point B. In retrospect, I have always thought myself to be female since the earliest recollection of my memory. It was later blurred by the dictates of society and it became clear again to me when I reached the affirmative point in my life where I rediscovered I am woman.
Before the realization, I lived a life behind a mask. Always pretending to be someone I was not. I was always unhappy, unfulfilled.
The day I rediscovered who I am was the day I was set free. I was never felt happier, more confident. It was as if a whole new world awaited me.
Before that, I felt so trapped.
This is me, free and unmasked. This is who I am. Who I have always been. I was always Dee. That wasn’t always my name. But I have always been who I am. I felt it from an early age, but as described above, rebelled against my imposed identity and now, I am myself both outwardly as well as well as inwardly.
Discovering who we are is a process all of us go through at some point in our lives, and it takes time. For some people it takes more time than for others, and for the transperson, discovery is further complicated by the restrictions of society’s conventional thinking, misunderstanding, and even hostility about sexuality, sexual identity, and gender identity.
The reality is that the conventional view that there is only male and female, heterosexual and homosexual, and that one should conform to the expected norms, is simply, wrong. Human, life, all life for that matter, is more complex and more interesting than that.
Of course, there are still some constraints for me. These are not of my choosing. Instead they are imposed by those around me, by some sections of our society, in its ignorance and bigotry, when it tries and sometimes succeeds in restricting my right to be who I am. I face this daily.
A few years ago, I was fired from my job because I started to express my real gender by growing my hair and putting on women’s garb.
The reason for termination was, of course, something else other than that. I actively searched for a job after that enduring as many as 3 interviews in a week. This went on for 6 months. I even applied for entry-level positions in Marketing, which were way below my qualifications. I would be called for an interview upon seeing my resume, but when they saw me, they’d politely come up with a reason for the rejection of my application. An unforgettable encounter I had with a prospective employer was when he said, to my face, “We’re okay with gays but not the likes of you.”
Fortunately now, I am employed by an equal opportunity employer who judges me based on my performance and not what’s between my legs or how I choose to present myself. I had to prove myself and work hard, but it paid off. I have earned the respect of my supervisor and colleagues and have been with the same company for the last 6 years.
I am currently in a healthy, loving relationship. I met my partner on-line.
You know, there’s a certain quality about meeting someone on-line; you are not lured by the trappings of the other’s beauty, the wining and dining…by the need for touch. You connect on an intellectual and deeper level.
He flew here to the Philippines a few months after we met. For the first few years, it was a long distance relationship. He would fly here every three months and would be together 6 months in a year. In 2008, he moved here.
My partner looks at me and treats me as a woman. I told him from the start that I am a transsexual woman and he said: “It doesn’t change the way I feel about you”. My partner has always been heterosexual and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way. I wouldn’t want to go out without a man interested in other men.
He first proposed to me on a trip to London. We were outside the church where Princess Diana got married and he knelt down and proposed. I told him it wasn’t the right time yet, and I think it may have hurt him, but after a year, he proposed again and I said yes.
I’m incredibly happy. Because of the Gender Recognition Law in the UK, ours will not be a civil partnership, it will be a marriage. Being married has always been my dream as a child to and now it’s going to happen. I’m going to make it happen. It’s the ultimate affirmation of my femininity. I am going to be part of a legitimate and recognized couple.
Suffice to say that there is nothing really that remarkable about transpeople, beyond the struggles we have to overcome to be accepted as just as normal, just as clever, just as nice just as nasty — just the same as everybody else.
We are so much more than our bodies. When we think of ourselves and others in terms of their anatomy and their genetalia, it is as if we are reducing ourselves to bits and pieces.
We all want love and long for a lifelong partner.
We just have to try harder, and do more than most to prove it. And all we want is a level playing field, an equal chance to succeed.