11 Trans Advocates Redefining Queer Storytelling in Philippine Media

Nov 19, 2023 0 comments
Even with the hate-driven efforts to minimize narratives of our trans sisters and brothers in society, more than ever, the community pushes through to create spaces and live through the hope that all stories get to have a platform. 

We have already witnessed many 'firsts,' as well as the telling of trans narratives— at the forefront of reclaiming spaces and experiences they were once deprived of. As we cap off #TransAwarenessWeek, we take a look at some of the trans trailblazers in Philippine media. As we walk with them, it shows that the trans revolution has always been here, and they are not going anywhere!

Rod Singh


Film and TV Director Rod Singh believes in pushing boundaries in queer storytelling by ensuring that those who have lived through these experiences narrate the stories. Whether in front of or behind the cameras, this representation matters because it breaks prejudiced tropes and allows the stories to reach the fullest potential of queer individuals.

For Singh, it also involves raising a fist whenever she gets a chance to speak. In her debut film 'Mamu: And a Mother Too,' she provides a perspective from a trans sex worker and other queer characters. Beyond the portrayals seen in other films, Singh's work shows that these identities can resist and achieve the happy endings they deserve.

Singh extends her impact by launching the drag reality series 'Drag Den with Manila Luzon,' which recently received two nominations for the Asian TV Awards. While it coexists with Drag Race Philippines, it isn't a competition for who is the best but rather an extension of platforms to showcase the wit, spook, and beauty of the local drag scene.

Iyah Mina 


Iyah's portrayal of Mamu highlights the importance of having trans stories told by the trans community. In the film, she takes on the role of Mamu, a trans sex worker who also becomes a mother figure for her niece, Bona.

In 2018, she made history by becoming the first transgender woman to receive the Best Actress Award at the 14th Cinema One Originals Filmfest. Dressed in a stunning peach silk gown, she owned the spotlight, earning well-deserved recognition for her performance.


Iyah proudly shouted in her speech, "Babae ako! True?" while offering victory for every trans and LGBTQIA+ community. Now, her legacy will always be remembered to be among the firsts of the trans community. Indeed, inclusivity in storytelling also requires allowing actors and actresses to truly embody and understand the contexts and experiences of the characters. 

KaladKaren


Talent is not a problem, but opportunity is. KaladKaren knows this, and when she gets the chance, she continues to blaze the trail—opening more doors for others to pass through. From being known as a Karen Davila impersonator, this 'One-Woman Wonder' makes a mark from being a host, a resident judge in Drag Race Philippines, and now, even conquering the film and news media industry! 

In the first Metro Manila Summer Film Festival, KaladKaren bagged the Best Supporting Actress for her performance in 'Here Comes the Groom'. For her, this not only merits her acting skills but also recognizes her existence. This made her the first transgender woman to receive the award in the film fest and joined Iyah Mina to have accepted such acting recognition. 

Months later, she was announced as the first trans woman anchor as part of the TV5's Frontline Pilipinas. KaladKaren hopes that more doors for the trans community will be opened. After all, such a profession is not a matter of sexuality. It's competence that matters.

Mela Habijan


Even before being crowned as the first ever Miss Trans Global in 2020, Mela was already making waves in the entertainment industry as a writer, a public speaker, and a content creator. Having a big platform is a huge responsibility, but Mela knows how significant it is, especially in opening discourse and debunking misconceptions. 

Mela Habijan is also vocal about advancing inclusivity in education, especially for trans students who are deprived of freely expressing themselves through hair and clothing. She stands on moving mountains and fighting for the rights and welfare of these students. Mela even gave Nicole, Kendi, Jade, and Rey their deserving graduation shoot.


She also shares her journey and love of her family, which introduces how she learned the meaning of Pride through the unconventional love of her father. It is something that most queer kids would love to hear, especially from their parents. Sharing this kind of story, Mela hopes that every LGBTQIA+ kid would not condemn themselves for who they are, and that they can do so much more than what society told them. Her impact landed her one of the Cosmopolitan Philippines' Women of Influence 2023. 

Captivating Katkat


Clenching high into the trans flag, with the words: trans women are women, written in her bodysuit. This is how Captivating Katkat ended her lipsync battle against Arizona Brandy in the finale episode of Drag Race Philippines Season 2. Moments later, she snatched the title, making her the first trans woman winner of the Philippine franchise.

The season also made herstory by having three trans women, and they are all finalists of the season! Jade So, one of the fan favorites, certainly proves that she is indeed a 'power top na bratzy' even in the competition. And Bernie, who touched the public with her charm and story and with a powerful lipsync battle against Katkat, resulting in a double shantay. 

Katkat, on the other hand, is one of the season's front-runners. We have known Katkat as among the legendary queens even before Drag Race Philippines existed. In fact, she also bagged the title in LOL's Drag Queendom. She has cemented herself in the local drag scene, and we know when she performs, it's a 10s across the board!   

Sassa Gurl


After jokingly posting content on challenging alcohol brands to feature queers in their campaigns, her call came true-to-life as Sassa made herstory as the first of the community to be a calendar girl of White Castle Whisky. The groundbreaking move received applause and praises and Sassa believed that this was made possible because of those who ushered her the way into this. 

Aside from her iconic hotdog blush, we have known Sassa from her hilarious classroom reenactments and satirical stints on politicians, marites—but all centering into her 'kanal' humor. But more than the fun, Sassa knew the responsibility of having such wide reach; to which she encouraged her co-content creators to do research before posting.

From enjoying the refuge of her four-cornered room and a ring light, Sassa is slowly taking the main event, garnering shows and opportunities to showcase even more who the true Mima of the naksh*t is. She posed for several magazines, starred in Drag Den with Manila Luzon and the upcoming reboot of Takeshi's Castle, and as a singer releasing Mahiwaga and Panaginip. 

Jake Zyrus


Jake Zyrus came out as a transgender man in 2017 and has been open in discussing his transition. Although his journey is tough, given the mix of support and criticism of his decision, Jake continues what makes him comfortable for his body. 

In 2022, his Facebook post headlined as he shared a shirtless photo showing that he has had top surgery. He admitted to being conscious of sharing this post, given that most people always have something to say, especially if it shows something beyond what the conventional is. 

"Masaya ako at gusto ko lang ipakita sa inyo na eto ako. Sa wakas, komportable sa nakkikita ko." He ended his post with exclaiming that this is him.

Now, he continues to pursue music and show his vocal prowess. Jake Zyrus is still determined to amplify what has been started, and that is to introduce the vibrancy and greatness of the Philippine music industry. 

Jesi Corcuera

It has been several years since Jesi Corcuera appeared in Pinoy Big Brother Lucky Season 7. He was dubbed as the 'trans man of the House ng Cavite'. With his visibility on the public's screen, we also get to see his journey and story. 

Jesi has openly shared his journey to transitioning into a transgender man. In October 2021, Jesi Corcuera shared his surgical in an Instagram post which also made headline in social media. His caption conveyed, "Pero sa likod ng mga huwa sa ilalim ng aking dibdib 'yan ang simbolo ng aking kalayaan. Kalayaan sa mapanghusgang lipunan. Para sa mga tulad kong parte ng makulay na bahaghari, 'wag kayong titigil makamit ang inyong kalayaan at kasiyahan." 

Jesi's story is not just a show. Jesi being on our screen, is not just a character we vote to save or evict, or for the win, but rather a live testament of seeing stories we mostly never heard of. 

Nil Nodalo


Nil is known as an advocate for transgender men in the Philippines. In 2012, he founded the Transman Pilipinas which is dedicated to empowering trans men, as well as forwarding their rights in the society. The organization's establishment came from his experience with the challenges and setbacks. He eventually turned this into an advocacy with aim of honing an inclusive space where they can fully be themselves. 

He continues in even providing resources and support to transgender men across the country. In 2019, Nil was recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines. Nil is not just driving for a change, but he also makes sure that the trans community gets to sit behind the wheel to traverse a glittering and empowering parade. 

He also made his debut in Dick Talk, a theater play that not only talks hilarious views on sizes of male genitalia, but also discusses serious matters of and about men. And having the first to join them, Nil used this opportunity to bring the audience from the perspective of a transgender man. 

Jamie Casiño


If you've been scrolling through TikTok, chances are Jamie Casiño's name has already warmed your heart. As a beauty and lifestyle model, she's not just a face on the screen; she's a beacon of hope with a whopping 446.3k followers cheering her on.

But Jamie's story goes beyond the glitz and glamor of modeling. She's a guiding light, especially for young transgender women, imparting invaluable advice about their rights. Her relatable skits have woven a tapestry of connection, resonating profoundly with the gender minority and creating a significant fanbase rooted in understanding and support.

Now, here's the twist in the tale – Jamie's aspirations reached for the skies, quite literally. Dreaming of soaring through the clouds as a flight attendant, she faced discouragement due to her sexuality. But hold onto your boarding passes because, in March 2023, Jamie defied the odds and achieved her dream! It's not just a success story; it's a testament to the power of perseverance and the radiant hope that shines even in the face of adversity.

So, here's to Jamie Casiño, the TikTok sensation turned dream-chaser, reminding us all that dreams don't discriminate. They're for everyone, and when hope takes flight, there's no limit to where it can take you.

Christy Tabanyag


Given the variety of dance challenges and covers in Tiktok, Christ Tabanyag initially planned on pursuing her passion for dancing. But what truly marked her presence is her hilarious food review, midwiving to the 'Miss Deliciousness' that we know today. 

Having received positive reactions, she continues to produce content primarily giving entertainment to the viewers. Ever since, entertaining has been in the kit of Christy whether in hosting, dancing, or performing comedic acts. We have also seen her with other content creators such as Steven Bansil, Poca, and Chardie B. 

In September 2023, Christy was hailed as the Tiktok Philippines Rising Star of the Year. Dazzled in a modernized Filipiniana, she graced the stage with her personality thanking her friends, family, and supporters. Indeed, what Christy Tabanyag said in her speech totally makes sense. "If you feel that your life is sinking, just group yourself into four"—initially wanting to pursue her dancing, to her food review stint, turned content creator, and now, a rising star of the year! 


━━ Written By Maria Allaizah Domiquil and Michael Odtohan

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