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

Dear Jeb,

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.


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