Writing letters has been a lost art, but I’ll do my best to write this letter to my 12-year old self, and guide her in navigating the world of beauty as a transgender woman
On the beauty of transition: MEGA Fashion Editor Jeb Fronda writes a heartfelt letter to her younger self
Hey, Jeb! We’re called Jebby now. We’re also 27-years old, turning 28 in less than two months. Today, April 27, 2019, is a great day. Just finished watching Avengers: Endgame for the second time. (Please make sure to watch it twice.) We also just tried on some turbans we could use for the upcoming Pinoy Pride Ball. Now, I’m at our usual spot in the house thinking if I should write this letter to you now. Remember that song we love? Go The Distance from Hercules? I just came upon a video of the Philippine Madrigal Singers belting that song out, and one line stuck to me: “When I go the distance, I’ll be right where I belong.” I guess I’m writing this letter now, thanks to Michael Bolton.
I know from the very beginning you have felt like you have never belonged anywhere. Not in a dramatic way. You know your family loves you. You have a solid group of friends. You’re doing fine in school. It’s that nagging feeling you can’t really understand. Like a treasure box you’re so curious of opening, but couldn’t find the key. You’ll have questions like, why you like boys and then look at yourself in the mirror, and it doesn’t seem to fit? Or you’ll see your girl friends and wonder why you can’t have gorgeous long black hair or wear those frilly skirts that
flow with the wind. Well, we did grow up in a hyper masculine environment, and more than that, a religiously Christian home.
In your next years in high school, you’ll still be battling with those questions, and as if the universe is telling a hilarious joke, punch-lines it with severe acne. You won’t be hearing the end of it until it clears out by your first year in college. All your aunts and uncles would point it out at every family reunion. At one point you’ll really have had enough. Stay in that empty room. Cry there and throw around the pillows as hard as you can. It’s okay. (Well, maybe reverse that curse you placed on one of our aunts.) Not in school though, because you’re practically invisible, and your amazing group of friends made everything easier for you. They became the frontlines for all the bullying.
Pay attention to yourself in these next years. You’ll realize a lot about yourself. At some point, one of the hardest roadblocks will come along. You’ll have to text Mom: “Hello. We need to talk.” You just have to say it out loud, at least to those who matter most. “I’m gay.” And then immediately after, you’ll realize that the mountain you think you had to climb was merely a pebble you had to set aside. “Actually, naramdaman naman namin dati pa. Mahinhin kang bata. Mahilig ka kumanta kasabay ni Regine Velasquez. Napakiramdaman
na rin ‘yan ng pamilya natin. Basta tatandaan mo na kami ang pamilya mo at mahal ka namin ano pa man ang mangyari. Pwede naman ang pagiging bading, basta disente at ‘wag magdamit babae. At, hindi pwede magboyfriend,” said Dad. I know that last statement kind of defeats the purpose, but you have to see the silver lining. You have an amazing family. Sometimes they will impose weird rules. Just chill, they mean well.
I won’t say much about college other than you’ll find another amazing group of friends. (Watch your liver though as they are very hard drinkers.) The real clincher comes when you start working in MEGA. The outside world is quite scary, but trust me when I say that an employer who allows you to be whatever you want without conditions is all you need in that moment of growth. Your creativity will shine. You will falter, but you will stand back up and prove yourself. On your second year, you’ll click on a TedTalk video with Geena Rocero on YouTube, and it will change your life.
Transgender woman. A person born in the wrong body, essentially. Transitioning. Male to female. To become beautiful. The specific details for everyone else won’t matter, but for you, it will be everything. Remember that treasure box you wanted to open? This is the key. Open it. Read more about it, from scientific studies to fictional novels. It will help. And finally you’ll feel like you fully belong. But this is just the beginning.
You’ll start growing out your hair. You’ll try to feel it out at home when this happens. Is it okay? Will they have an issue when it grows longer? Aside from Mom’s urging for you to get a haircut, it won’t really matter. You’ll soon buy heeled boots that will turn to full on 4-inched stilettos. It’s fine, as long as you won’t wear it in front of them. But at some point, it becomes unbearable. You will have to tell them again. “Hey, mom. Can we talk?” This one is a harder pill to swallow for Mom and Dad. Their faith will tell them that there can only be a man and a woman, no in-betweens. It will be painful not only for you, but also for them. Learn that in this process, you are not the only one transitioning. The family will transition with you. Try to be patient and most of all understanding. They’ll still love you no matter what, however conditional it will sound at that moment.
You will finally decide to transition. Eventually you will find the best endocrinologist for you and you’ll start swallowing testosterone blockers and female hormone pills. Budget wisely! It’s quite expensive. You’ll find fairy godmothers in the form of Dra. Aivee of The Aivee Clinic where you’ll get the best Laser Hair removal treatments with Aivee Infinity and Aivee Soprano Ice. Momoi Supe of Strokes will give you the best brows and lift your long lashes up every three months while Dra. Puno-Ramos’ prescriptions will mold your body, adding curves where there were edges.
In the process of your transition, dating will become a possibility. You’ve always liked strong handsome boys with, godwilling, blue eyes, and amazing physiques. Thankfully, it is also that same time you get to go on trips for work. That’s where you’ll fully realize your sexual nature. It’s been a long time coming. Flying outside the Philippines you’ll realize that being wanted is possible, however shallow the meaning of it is for us transgender women. You’ll get to finally wear the heels and dresses dumped at the very back of your closet. Your body is curvy enough to wear swimsuits. Thank you, Diane-35.
You will feel like an exotic delicacy. It’s fun at first. The attention will be exhilarating, but at some point, you’ll realize a delicacy is just that—something to taste and to leave right after. Being wanted has become fully physical. “Was it wrong to be my best (physical) self? Am I not beautiful enough for them to stay?” are just some of the questions that will go through your mind. Reflect on these questions and you will understand that what you project to the universe is what they’ll give back in return.
For a good chunk of those years, you will have this model of what kind of woman you want to be. You have to be sexy, with perfectly tanned skin, high cheekbones and long black hair, because what straight man would want a masculine girlfriend right? Transgender women, until now, have been measured on how feminine they are. You will also use this beauty standard as a defense mechanism for the ignorant. At some point, just the act of going to a public restroom would be difficult. Am I feminine enough to be allowed in the female restroom? Am I still masculine enough to be accepted inside the men’s room? You will be in-between worlds for a good year, but thankfully, you will never experience the shame of being told to get out of the bathroom just because of your looks. You will not be allowed inside the club in Bali though because of the gender marker on your passport. You will adapt and get your own fake ID in Recto with the female gender marker just so you can get into places without the fear of being shamed. You will find loopholes in the system and you’ll be able to use everything to your advantage.
You should never rely on physical beauty though. And when you do that, you’ll realize that it’s time to start working on the inside. Love the way you make people laugh. Love your creativity. Love the way you love food. Stop nagging on your imperfections and start embracing them. Love those wide shoulders. Love your huge forehead. Insecurities will come knocking once in a while. Let them in, understand them and then ask them to leave. Improve on things you can. Change that distorted mirror in your room, because it’s not doing your beautiful figure any favors. Keep doing those treatments, religiously moisturize, and put on sunblock. This time, be beautiful for no one else but yourself. Become your own standard of beauty. Trust me, this will be the best work you’ve ever done. The you after all of this will become your own beacon of self-love and positivity. And like bees to nectar, the right person will come. He will be funny and handsome. He also has blue eyes. Most importantly he will carry you higher and think you’re the most beautiful woman he’s ever met—that is an exact quote from one of his texts. He will silence all your insecurities. You will build each other up to the best version of yourselves. He will love you fully for who you are and see the best of you at all times. At the end of the day isn’t that what we all want? Find these people and keep them. Surround yourself with so much love that no hate or insecurity can come in.
It’s 11:50 PM now and it’s been a beautiful trip down memory lane to write this letter to you. Sorry for the spoilers! I just wanted to assure you that everything will be fine. Actually, everything will be amazing. Have unwavering courage with the challenges ahead. No matter what the future holds, we’ll get through it together.
Oh, right on time. Just got Rob’s “Good morning, beautiful” text. Got to attend to the boyfriend now before I conk out. I love you, and I can’t wait for you to be me. It’s awesome!
P.S. You’re not that fat! And please, unfollow those Instagram accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. Comparing yourself to anyone else will not do you any good. Thank me later.