PUP’s First Transwoman Valedictorian: ‘Transwomen are diverse in beauty, passion, and intellect’

Photos provided by Ianne Gamboa

It’s been a year since Ianne Gamboa graduated from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. She majored in English and now has the highest of Latin honors under her belt. When the news of her big achievement broke out, her name was on every local publication out there, not for her honors, no – although they are definitely worth bragging about – but because Ianne wasn’t just any woman, she was the first transgender woman to graduate from the university with such esteem.

Born Ian Christopher, Ianne started identifying as a woman at a young age. “Since I was younger, [I’ve] really liked dressing up as a girl. I felt confident, and it emancipated me to my true self and identity,” she said as reported by Rappler in 2018.

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“I identify, respect, and present myself as a woman. Therefore I prefer to be addressed [with] feminine pronouns and honorifics. I also prefer to be called Ianne because it sounds more feminine than my name at birth,” she said.

We had a bit of a chat with Ianne to catch up with her exactly one year after she graduated and became an inspiration to a lot of people from the transgender community.

Q: Do you think that the acceptance of the community has evolved since you graduated? Have there been any changes or improvements?
A: I think transwomen [as a] community need to work hard and be educated to earn respect from our society. As for me, I get respect from my workplace because they know I have skills and talents.

We can see a lot of transwomen on all media platforms. There are also numerous contests in media that showcase the talents and beauty of transwomen. So I think, it [improves] as times goes by.

Q: What are your thoughts on people who say that members of the LGBT community need to excel in order to be respected?
A: In cases of transwomen, yes. Transwomen really work hard to look more feminine and look [as] passable as they could.

A great example is Ms. Angela Ponce, the 1st transwoman who joined Miss Universe. Millions of people have disagreed on the decision of [the] Miss Universe Organization to allow her to join the pageant. Some also said that she is not passable and not as feminine as a biologically born woman.

For me, we should start educating the society that, like biologically born women, transwomen are also diverse in terms of beauty, passion, and intellect.

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[ALSO READ: Maxine Medina Apologizes For Insensitive Remarks About Transwomen in Miss U]

Q: In which direction do you see the Philippines going to in terms of the SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression) Equality Bill, Same-Sex Marriage, and LGBT rights in general?
A: All I can say is that I’m very hopeful [now] that the Anti-Discrimination Bill and Same-Sex Union are being discussed in the legislature. As we continue to do [these types] of causes, the society will slowly accept and learn the concept of SOGIE and that it is not always white and black.

One thing I’d like for our legislature to draft [into] law is the Gender Recognition Bill wherein trans people can legally change their name and sex on legal documents.

Q: Do you have any advice for young boys and girls who are confused or are afraid of exploring their sexuality? Specifically, those who feel like they want to transition but are afraid to?
A: Coming out and learning your own identity really takes time. We did not choose our SOGIE, it is naturally built within us. All you have to do is to accept yourself. In terms of transitioning, always consult a doctor for proper medication.

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Q: One last question, what does PRIDE symbolize/mean for you?
A: Pride means showing everyone the movement of the LGBT Community against all forms of discrimination and celebrating the diversity of sexual orientation and gender variance.

Ianne is currently a communications officer at the PNP National Headquarters. She says she really wants to work for the government as a way of giving back to the country. Last December of 2018, she finished the Paralegal Training Program at the UP College of Law. She’s still trying to figure out if pursuing law is in the books for her.

You can find Ianne on Twitter and Instagram at @iannegamboa.

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