| Sunday, March 05, 2006
| TRANSFILIPINA: THE WOMAN WITHIN
|Cameron Delfin Garcia was a federal police officer when she chose to become a woman. She remains married to her "wife" of 31 years.
Despite society's accumptions about those wo identify themselves as transgenders, one's sense of integrity, empowerment and pride defines the true meaning of femininity.
Californian Cameron Delfin Garcia ins the prime of her life. Married 31 years to the same devoted partner with whom she has three grown sons and two grandchildren, retired from a 36 year federal service and now serving her home county of Monterey as a California Equal Opportunity Advisory Commissioner she calls herself "blessed".
She is a late bloomer.
Garcia 56, is one of n unknown number of Filipino who were born male and now identify as women -- or vice verza -- either in dress, body or mind. Her transition began in her forties, long after her first enchanment by her mother's wardrobe and her secret weekends wearing women's clothes.
Back then, she wore her wife's nylons and dental assistant's smock at home when everyone else was out. But seizing opportunity in her wife's remakr one day that she had "legs.... women would kill for," Garcia offered and donned her wife's panty hose, "and the rest is history".
Garcia and many like her bravely carry on in a society that boxes individuals in specific categories, expecting them to assume roles they donot necessarily embrace. Undaunted, Garcia identifies as a woman but continues to call Pam, her wedded parner, "my wife".
"I'm still attracted to females and still don't like guys." she says. "People would probably say 'Well, if you're now a girl, you should like guys, right?" Wrong, "I guess you could call me a lesbian by transition."
She refers to herself as her sons' "Dad" and asks that they call her Cameron "in public", although titles, like categories, make little sense now.
Merriam Webster's online dictionary defines transgender as "Exhibiting the appearance and behavioural characteristics of the opposite sex". To behavioural specialists, it's the umbrella term used to descrine identities and experiences.
"There are so many reasons why we put labels on people -- statistics, classification, trying to make sense of something that's not black or white" explained Dr. Jei Africa, one of the very few known licensed Filipina psychologists and clinical director of Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse (CORA) "I think the most important thing is how people identify themselves that dictates their preference or whom they choose as a partner. I don't think it's a black and whore or simply gay - straight issue. 'Are you happy with who you are?' is the question that ultimately determines one's identification because that dictates the choices you'll make in all aspects of your lfie," says Africa, who identifies as gay and rejects the term "Lesbian" to describe herself. "We know that people are at peace with themselves are happier and exude that happiness to others".
Gender identifivation confounds anthropologists, religious evangelists and legal authorities, as in the case of Los Angeles resident Donita Ganzon, whose petition for unification with her husband has been denied by immigration authorities because she is transgender. So far, however, Cameron's transistion has strengthened the Garcia's commitment to each other.
"The two of us took out marriage vows seriously" explains Cameron, a Monterey native who served with the U.S. Army from 1969 before becoming an emergency medical technician in 1980 and then a federal police in 1974. "When I married I figured it would be for life and I figured it would be for life and all of its pitfalls and problems."
She opened up to her sons.
"Since it was kind of hard to hide my clothing from my three sons, I told them about my cross-dressing", she recalls, "I explained to them about my female self and that I was still their father and loved them no matter what. One of my twins asked to see me dressed as a woman. One of them asked if I shaved my legs. Satisfied I wasnt' going to leave them or divorce their mother, they kind of accepted me."
She began seeing therapist and joined a transgender support group. She and Pam "agreed to balance need to be a woman and my need to be a father, parent and partners," says Garcia. "This seemed to be the key to our resolving issues realted to my cross-dressing."
Her collegue on the force welcomed Cameron, who was once upon a time the office they called "Butch", Garcia's childhood nickname.
"Some were mystified, some would'nt talk tome, but the majority of the guys were supportive," she says.
"My mother is not convinced her son is a woman", adds Garcia, an only child. "She still outs me in front of the people -- storekeepers or anyone she meets -- hoping this will embarass me. I think at 89 years old, she will never understand what it means to show her all the advances and data accumulated within the last 30 years, she still figures that I'm going to get arrested by the police for dressing as a woman."
Anto-androgen theraphy has brought "gradual change", sayd the six footer, who now has "....less facial hair.... the breast of a 14 year old" for her 56th birthday on March 9, she's gifting herself breast augmentation surgery.
As a certified sexual assualt counselor and response team member of the Monterey Rape Crisis Center, Garcia brings a higher level of cultural sensitivity to the field. As a peioneer, she has embraced the responsibility of shattering transgender stereotypes.
Although she has never experienced any form of sexual harrassment, Garcia is aware of the plight of some transgender women, most notably Newark, California teen Gwen Araujo, who waso was killed by a group of men after they discovered she was bilologizally male. Whether for saftey or privacy, some transgenders hide their identification.
To her fans, Miami singer Maria Rustia,who asked not be identified by her real name, is a legend. Few of them knows whe was born male.
"I am me, I've found myself, and I', very happy". she says from her South Beach penthouse. "What matters is who I am now and not what I was then."
"Then" she already thought of herslef as "a girl, not gay". A darling of Miami critics, she chose to follow her star in Florida. Talent, pluck and luck sent her straight to exclusive clubs when she performs for A-list celebrities equally about her beginings.
"I shun publicity", Maria emphasizes. "I was woman when I met my manager and clients if they learn I'm transgender, I would have to cut ties with them out of shame that I kept a secret from them. I would lose my livelihood and fall in my responsibility to support my family in the Philippines. I'm conscious that my successful career is fleeting; I need to keep it as long as I have this filial obligation".
Now in her early fifties, Maria is partnerless, "by choice" and far from lonely. "Happiness is a state of mind", she says.
Maria consented to speak to Filipinas on the condition of anonymity and only to illustrate another consequence of transition. Her's wont' be a secret retirement, she assures. "When I'm well settled and done with my financial responsibilities, I'll be free to talk about myself."
In contrast, Cameron Garcia basks in attention. Last month, she became the first transgender to sign up for the Filipina Women's Network's historic all Filipina presentation of the "Vagina Monologues". She was joined by Byumi Gonzales, 27, in a thought-provoking dyad.
A fresh grad of Fashion Institute of Design and Management, Byumi works part time as a bank operations agent and designs evening dresses on the side, with an eye on opening her own boutique next year.
Cameron and Byumi share more than their gender identification.
"I joined the Monologues to be a part of an eye-opening, liberating movement", says Byumi, echoing Cameron's motives.
"I wanted the audience to know that transgender Pinays generally lead rich and rewarding lives, that we have children, jobs and experiences, that would rival those of many non-transgenders." Cameron stresses.
"As one of the transgender Pinays openly out in the mainstream, I feel I have a duty to be a role model for transgender youth to let them see we are not just women solely interested in partying as we are often portrayed in the media, but women who are strong and just as productive asn profound as our non-trangender sisters."
(Source:FILIPINASMAG by:Cherie M. Querol Moreno, a Community Outreach Coordinator with San Mateo County based non profit (CORA)
|posted by infraternam meam @ 11:45 PM