"A lot of men who date us don’t plan for a clear future and they often just string us along. This has to stop."
By Bernadette Lunas
Dating is tricky. One goes through it clueless about what the other person really wants out of it. It’s like swimming in the ocean with a blindfold on.
For transgender women, however, dating is like swimming in the ocean wearing a blindfold, and a jacket filled with rocks.
Notwithstanding the progress in many societies when it comes to LGBTQ+ acceptance—a 2019 Williams Institute study showed that the majority of countries have become “more accepting” since 1981—Filipino trans woman Amanda Valentine Dela Cruz believes the Philippines still has a long way to go.
“Tolerance is one thing, but acceptance is another,” Amanda told Manila Standard in an email interview.
LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender, Amanda said “are still not protected in terms of healthcare, civil unions, workforce discrimination, harassment, and more. Working and studying are basic human rights and depriving transgender people of these is far from acceptance.”
Despite public clamor and support from high-profile personalities, the law meant to protect members of the LGBTQ+ community against discrimination, the SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression) Equality Bill, has failed to pass—becoming one of the slowest-moving bills in the Philippines.
Amanda is no stranger to discrimination.
“I was abused by the school system and even got locked up in a library during our Christmas party just because our principal said I was wearing a blouse for women. My 5th grade teacher also assaulted me regularly just because she hated how feminine I acted,” she related.
“On a scale of 1-10, I’d say Filipinos in terms of accepting LGBTQ+ people are at a solid 2, 3 if we’re being generous,” she lamented.
“Do a quick search on Facebook by keying in #SogieBill and you will not only see intolerance but also hate.”
While she considers herself “fortunate” for being employed as a writer since 2013 because “companies from outside the country do not care so much about one’s gender identity and expression,” the 30-year-old writer and techpreneur believes that that happening here in the Philippines “is still far from reality.”
“Most companies in the Philippines still don’t employ transgender people, but positive change is gradually happening,” enthused Amanda, citing strides made by Cebu Pacific which hired two transgender flight attendants in 2019.
Going back to swimming with a blindfold and rock-filled jacket, discrimination also exists in the dating scene, particularly in the relationship between trans-oriented men—men who are attracted to transgender individuals—and trans women.
“Most people think that men who get involved with women like us are only after our money, have sick fetishes, pseudo straight, and more. But that’s far from reality,” asserted Amanda, who’s also a dating coach for leading transgender website My Transsexual Date.
Tackling misconceptions surrounding romantic relationships between men and transwomen encouraged Amanda to write her book Dating Transgender Women for Gentlemen, coming out on June 27.
“A lot of assumptions target trans-oriented men negatively and demeans the existence of women like us,” she said, pointing out that “men who date transgender women are not desperate, kinky, pseudo-straight, on the down low.”
She also challenges assumptions that transwomen are desperate to pursue a romantic relationship.
“A lot of transgender women like I am live a normal life and we work hard to achieve our dreams. We are quite selective when it comes to choosing a life partner,” shared Amanda.
These external factors, according to Amanda, also affect how men approach a relationship with a trans woman.
“Men who are interested in us fear of their lives. They don’t want to be bullied by bigots and this results in them not able to truly own up to their feelings. A lot of men who date us don’t plan for a clear future and they often just string us along,” said Amanda.
“This has to stop.”
Those “with an image to protect” are afraid that a relationship with trans women will affect how other people look at them.
“CEOs, COOs, anyone with a high position in a company, celebrities, and religious types often find it difficult to date transgender women. I have a section in my book that talks about dating discreetly, and I think that the biggest boulders trans-oriented men have to break are the ones that they’ve created themselves,” shared Amanda.
While it entails a lot of trans-exclusive topics, her book discusses etiquette and relationship guides from which all men, regardless of sexual attraction, can benefit.
“Grooming, chivalry, patience, understanding, style, language, and more—these are what men have to learn if they want to attract the woman of their dreams,” said Amanda.
Optimistic, the author and dating coach reminds trans women: “Ladies, there are still good men out there.”
“If you want to be with a high-quality man, you have to be a high-quality woman. Refusal is elegance, leveling up is a must, and most importantly, know your worth, then add tax.”