In a society where talking openly about sex and gender can sometimes be considered taboo, Thysz Estrada believes it is important for people to understand that everyone has their own sexual orientation and gender expression, and that the experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community is not that different from the rest.
Estrada, a freelance writer and consultant, conducts SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression) 101 workshops for human resources departments in companies, and for other private organizations.
As part of her workshops, Estrada discusses how everyone has their own SOGIE, and that it does not only apply to members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
"Unang una, it is a channel to communicate ‘yung mga buhay ng LGBTQIA+ na hindi kaiba sa mga straight o cisgender people. So bakit natin sinasabi ito? Kasi, ‘pag sinasabing usapin ng LGBTQIA+, 'Ay, iba ‘yan'. Parang, dahil hindi ako ‘yan, o kakaunti lang ang kilala ko, wala naman akong alam diyan, umiiwas ‘yung mga tao sa pakikipag-usap about sa mga issues na ‘yun," she said.
(First of all, it is a channel to communicate that the life of the LGBTQIA+ is not that different from the lives of straight or cisgender people. Why do we say this? It's because people tend to avoid issues involving the LGBTQIA+ community because it doesn't involve them.)
"Ang hindi nila alam, mayroon tayong lahat na tinatawag na SOGIE. Ibig sabihin, lahat ng tao nakaka-experience ng sexual orientation, gender identity and expression."
(What they don't know is that everyone has what we call SOGIE. It means everyone experiences sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.)
Estrada said talking about SOGIE is especially difficult in the Philippines where it is often associated with sexual intercourse, a taboo topic.
"Importanteng malaman natin ‘yung SOGIE kasi ‘yung discussion na ito, ino-open up niya ‘yung discussion about identity, our sexual preferences, who we are as people, beyond just the talk of sexual intercourse, which is taboo. Kaya mahirap pag-usapan ang SOGIE din dahil sa kultura natin. Sobrang closely intertwined nito sa pagiging taboo noong topic," she explained.
(It is important to understand SOGIE because by discussing it, it opens up discussions on identity, our sexual preferences, who we are as people, beyond just the talk of sexual intercourse, which is taboo. That's why it's difficult to talk about it in our culture since it's closely intertwined with a taboo topic.)
Being a controversial topic, however, makes it more important to talk about SOGIE, Estrada pointed out.
"Pero kaya nga natin siya pinag-uusapan in this way para mas ma-educate ‘yung mga tao na lahat tayo may ganito, may mga issues surrounding our SOGIE na naipapahamak ang mga kababayan nating Filipino at may mga bagay tayong maaring gawin para hindi sila humantong sa ganitong kapahamakan," she explained.
(This is why we talk about it in this way so that we can further educate people that we all have this, that there are issues surrounding our SOGIE that can cause harm to other Filipinos, and that we can do something so it wouldn't cause harm to others anymore.)
Aside from conducting SOGIE workshops, Estrada also fights for LGBTQIA+ rights and representation as a trustee of organizations like PANTAY and Mindanao Pride. She is a mobility advocate as well.
She believes her experiences as a transwoman who is a bike commuter play a big role in her advocacies.
"‘Yung experience ko po ay may intersection doon sa dalawang advocacies na ‘yun. And bilang isang transwoman, maraming klase ng challenges but also breakthroughs kapag ikaw ay isang transwoman na may personal mobility sa bansang ito," Estrada said.
(My experience has an intersection with my two advocacies. And as a transwoman, there are several challenges but also breakthroughs when you are a transwoman with personal mobility in this country.)
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
Estrada, who was been fighting for a more gender equal and inclusive society for nearly a decade, hopes for a future where one's gender would not matter anymore.
"Ang lagi kong hope at lagi kong sinasabi as advocate is sana, all of these doesn’t matter anymore in a generation; (na) may henerasyon na hindi na nila iniisip na, or natatakot na ‘yung sexual orientation nila, gender identity nila, expression nila, will be used against them; or paparusahan, babaguhin, pipiliting baguhin, or i-suppress at magdulot ng kapahamakan sa kanila," she said.
(My hope and what I always say as an advocate is that hopefully, all of these doesn't matter anymore in a generation. Hopefully there would be a generation that they would not think about or worry that their sexual orientation, their gender identity, their expression will be used against them; or that they will be punished, forced to change, or suppressed, and that it might cause them harm.)
She also hopes for a future where people will just do things that would not be harmful to others and let people live peacefully in a society where nobody gets discriminated against.
"Sana ginagawa na lang natin ‘yung mga bagay na hindi na nakakapahamak ng iba and live on with our lives. And it will be a much better society kung wala kang iniisip kung madi-discriminate ka ba, matatakot ka ba para sa buhay mo, matatakot ka na may aatake sa’yo nang biglaan na lang. So ‘yun ang gusto kong future na magkaroon ang kabataan," Estrada said.
(I hope we would be able to just do things that won't be harmful to others and live on with our lives. And it will be a much better society if you don't worry about being discriminated, or you won't need to fear for your life, or that somebody would just attack you. That is the future I want for the younger generation.)
For Women's Month, Estrada hopes women would be able to reclaim their voices and have the power to do what they need to do to change the world.
"My main message nitong Women’s Month ay pag-reclaim ng power ng kababaihan. Ang lagi nating sinabi, ang babae ay matapang, ang babae ay mahalaga sa lipunan, ang babae ay ganito, ganyan, ganyan. Pero nakakapanlulumo na maraming spaces pa rin na ang mga babae ay hindi kayang gawin ito at nata-trap pa rin sa patriarchal na cycle," she said.
(My main message for Women's Month is to reclaim the power of women. We always say women are brave, they are important in society, but unfortunately there are a lot of spaces where women still cannot do these things and they are still trapped in a patriarchal cycle.)
"So if the lady, the woman, acknowledges na kaya niya sa sarili niya at mayroon siyang kapangyarihan, it’s easier sa babae na makasama ang iba pang powerful na mga babae at may change in the world," she continued.
(So if the lady, the woman, acknowledges that she can do it on her own and that she has the power to do things, then it is easier for her to work with other powerful women and change the world.)
"Kaya ng babae, may lakas ka makipag-usap, makipagtrabaho sa lahat ng other na babae. And together, mayroon tayong power to change the world."
(Women can do it, you have the strength to communicate, to work with other women. And together, you have the power to change the world.)
This article is part of the Amazing Women series of ABS-CBN News this month of March, featuring stories of select women who are making a mark in their respective fields and advocacies. March is National Women's Month in the Philippines.