MANILA -- “If I had a choice, I would choose to be straight.”
That was what transgender lawmaker Geraldine Roman told ABS-CBN News after she was asked about her important choices in her life. If that happened, however, Roman never sees herself leading a straight and happy life.
“The problem with me by now, I would have a lovely wife,” Roman declared. “I would be a trapo politician. I would have lovely children. I would even have at least two queridas. But I am born with this condition. I did not choose it.”
Roman, who landed on the list of “13 Inspiring Women of 2016” compiled by Time Magazine, reveals her choices and what she thinks of issues big and small, mundane or major, in her YouTube vlog, “Geraldine Romantik,” which launches Wednesday.
For the pilot episode, “Let’s Get To Know Geraldine Roman,” she boldly talks about her sex change that happened back in 1994. She was then living in Madrid, Spain and working as a journalist, but she opted to have her surgery in New York, accompanied by her father, the late Antonio Roman, Jr.
“The only choice I have is what to do about it,” Roman said. “There are only two. To deny it or accept it. If you don’t accept yourself, can you imagine what kind of life you would be leading? You will have an unhappy life because happiness starts with self-acceptance.”
In high school at Ateneo, Roman experienced a lot of teasing by her classmates. But they apologized to her later on.
“On our 10th year reunion, I went with my best friend, everybody thought I was his wife,” Roman shared. “Then, Fr. Ampil, our school principal, welcomed me and introduced me to all the faculty. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to meet the first alumna of the Ateneo High School.’ At that time, Ateneo was not yet co-ed.”
The worst kind of persecution that Roman experienced was when others judged her relationship with God. “No one has the right to judge my relationship with God,” she insisted.
“Who are they to judge my relationship with God? Can they read my conscience? That was the worst that I encountered.”
Roman, who was named one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2016 by the US-based Foreign Policy Magazine, started her YouTube channel so she can talk about “anything under the sun” – from high prices and what to do to remedy the inflation.
“I want to reach out.,” Roman said. “A lot of people have been convincing me to do this YouTube channel ever since. But the pandemic happened, so this channel was delayed.
In her Facebook page, though, Roman has been doing live features.
After she earned her degree – European Languages from the University of the Philippines – Roman got a scholarship to study in Spain.
She originally took up architecture when computerized drafting was still unheard of. “Everything was manual then,” she said. “So, I didn’t think kakayanin ko ang architecture.
“My mom was very conscious at home. She didn’t want to get me a drafting table. I had a hard time in drafting. I had a back problem. I also had problem with my eyes. Lumabo ang mata ko.
“Ayaw akong ibili ng white light ni Mommy. Gusto niya yellow light. My ideas were not daring enough. The thrust in architecture was always something different, something avantgarde. My ideas were traditional. So, I shifted.”
First to Psychology. “I had long hair, but I was still unhappy with my body,” Roman admitted. “I had no social life in college. I was uncomfortable with my body. I was not done with my transition yet.
“I took up Psychology in the hope to discover myself. I was a trans person. I was already undergoing transition at that time, but I didn’t know in which direction I was headed. I didn’t know my options then. What my direction was.
“At that time, there were required Spanish classes and I got very high grades in the subject. My professor talked to me and suggested that I take up European Languages.”
Her mom, Herminia Roman, readily discouraged her. “'Magugutom ka,' she warned me. 'Wala kang regular na trabaho diyan.’ But that became my stepping stone to traveling to Spain. I got a scholarship to study in Spain.”
She pursued her Master degree in Spanish Language and Literature. Eventually, she also pursued Journalism.
“That was when I really became happy and fulfilled,” she shared. “That was when I blossomed and did my full transition.”
Roman stayed in Spain for 23 years, from age 22 to 45. “I worked at the Spanish News Agency and was assigned in the lifestyle beat in the Sunday magazine.”
Since she is known to be fluent in English, she was sent to interview the English-speaking Hollywood celebrities – Angelica Huston, Pierce Brosnan, Drew Barrymore, Alanis Morrisette, among others.
“We were sent to Florence, Italy because the junket for ‘Ever After’ was sponsored by Salvatore Ferragamo. I got to attend the party, where everybody was dressed in costumes.
“I also attended the premiere. We were billeted at the historic hotel along the Arno River. At another time, I went to the US in Bel-Air to interview Alanis Morrissette.”
Roman also got to repeatedly attend the Goya Awards, Spain’s version of the Academy Awards or Oscars.
In 2012, when her father was diagnosed with Stage 4 emphysema, Roman was compelled to return home at all cost.
“That caused inflammation in his lungs,” Roman said. “I thought he would get well. We would engage into very intimate conversations and he was always very philosophical, although he was always a very philosophical man.
“His questions were very existential. He asked me once, ‘What is the meaning of your life?’ I answered him truthfully. I have a home in Spain. I have a car. I have a partner. I’m able to shop, to travel. I save. Isn’t that enough?
“He told me, wala daw akong anak. Children are supposed to give you direction in life. You have all of these, what’s next? Unless you’re able to positively influence or help others, your life has no true meaning.”
After her initial episode, Roman plans to upload weekly features on her YouTube channel. “Geraldine Romantik” will be her way to reach out to more people from all walks of life.