Personal Stories: Jacob

My name is Jacob*
and I am a 31-year-old nurse.

I came out to my parents as transgender when I was 19. At first they thought I was just confused, but I have proven that I'm not, that this is something I want. None of my other relatives know about it, though.

It wasn't difficult coming out to my parents as I've always been open with them. I don't want to die without doing this. They are supportive of me. They say I've already done my part as a child, so this time they allow me to do what I really want with my life.

All I knew was that I wasn't comfortable with myself, that I wanted to change my body. I had no idea what transitioning meant or entailed. I started to learn slowly from American websites and mostly YouTube. There was only one other person in The Philippines that I knew of who was transitioning. I also learned about transgender community activities in Singapore through SGButterfly.

I wanted to connect my mind to my body
I got my first testosterone injection in September 2011. Within the first three months, I began to see physical changes. However, I still cannot grow a moustache till this day.

This was when I started to have problems at work. Everyone knew me as "female"... when my voice started dropping, my colleagues grew suspicious of me. Some treated me like a freak, some thought I might be ill, some suspected I might be on hormones... I was afraid to come out to them because I was afraid of rejection.

We have gendered uniforms at my workplace and that is a big problem. My patients see me as a guy and sometimes they ask why am I wearing a female uniform. I do feel disadvantaged at work by not being recognised as male.

I've yet to speak to my boss about my transition. I don't know how to approach the topic.. but I think I might have to talk about it when it's time to re-contract my employment. I don't think I will be terminated because of this because my performance is good.

I came out to my friends, and they understand. I think with friends it's like that, they understand you easily. Although, some of them still see me as female and tease me a lot.

I started a support group in The Philippines because of all that I went through. It's mainly to share our experiences, how we started and how we are doing. Back home, we don't have the kind of medical assistance that is available in Singapore. In Singapore, I have access to a doctor who can assess my health and see to my transition journey. I want to help more people like me who want to start transitioning... or those who are struggling with their gender identity.

I saved money and did my chest surgery in Manila in July 2014 for about $4000. I may get a hysterectomy done soon, too. I'm not sure if I will go for "bottom surgery" as I'm afraid I may lose sexual sensation down there... although I will admit it may boost my confidence all the more if I do go ahead with the surgery.

My parents don't know about my surgery because I didn't want them to worry. Although, I do have support from friends and also from the support group that I founded.

I've always been open about being transgender, and I'm honest with women when they ask. I've been rejected by women simply because I cannot give them children. Some are concerned about my health. I'm experimental when it comes to sex.

I was held at Singapore customs for a half hour because currently my face does not quite match my passport photo anymore. It was awkward. Then they asked me if I'm undergoing HRT (hormone replacement therapy), and I said yes and they let me go. I'm not sure how I will deal with this situation if faced with it again.

In The Philippines, there is no distinction between a transman and a butch woman
I try my best to explain that it's two very different things.. that transmen are men who are trapped in a body that they do not feel aligned with. There is also a stereotype that all transmen are straight men. This is why we need more awareness.. more education on the topic, especially on mainstream media. Some friends still ask me why I want to transition, because they are comfortable with me being a "butch lesbian".  Some lesbians think of transmen as a "higher form of lesbian".. and some transmen feel proud of that.

A typical day for me comprises going to the gym, meeting friends, eating, drinking, and meeting the girl that I like.

The girl that I'm courting said, "I don't want a lesbian, you're a guy, right?"
This was very affirming for me, to know that she perceives me as male. I've met her parents, and she says she will marry me if I'm able to change the gender marker on my legal documents. She doesn't want to be in a relationship with no legal status. I think she is afraid of being mocked... when we go out, we go to places where we won't bump into anyone we know. She's cautious of being seen by people here. My previous relationship ended due to the long distance.

Big dreams
Like most cisgender people, I want a family, a house. I want my support group to pick up and expand. I want to organise fundraising activities to support Filipino transmen who want to undergo surgery, or more like a donation pool especially for those who cannot afford surgery. I also want to set up a centre for the transgender community, a trans clinic and a trans-friendly centre.

My advice is to do your research before you decide to begin transitioning.

*names have been changed to protect the individual's privacy


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