Although, it isn’t necessarily gonna make many people happy, but I’m fine with that.
So (drum roll please), I’m gonna use ladyboy. Which, yeah, is a total fucking slur if coming out of a white mouth. So, respectful white people should stick with bakla, but not too many people seem to know what to do with the term. *shrug*
Anyway. I’m reclaiming ladyboy. It is something that has been used against people like me, even if the term today appears more strongly associated with Thai peeps.
Want a definition? We’ll use the ever respectful Urban Dictionary.
Here is the 3rd definition:
An extremely effeminate gay Southeast Asian male, usually in his 20s, who dresses up like a girl, often has tits (fake or grown with hormones), and typically cums like an ordinary male. They often practice as prostitutes in the tourist ghettos of Thailand and The Philippines, and are known for luring/soliciting unsuspecting Western men, as well as their unique ability to suck cock given their personal familiarity with male anatomy and desires. Most ladyboys prefer to get fucked in the ass, though a few (usually those with larger dicks) are tops. Ladyboys are completely mind blowing to sexually confused Western men who are simultaneously bi-curious and into Asians. Large hands/feet and over-assertiveness are usually a dead giveaway.
Lovely, isn’t it? Like, could the person who wrote this definition have managed to pack more cissexism, transphobia, transmisogyny, racism, colonialism, sex worker shaming, disgusting sexism, misgendering, and I’m running out of words for all the fail I see in this paragraph of writing.
But what I do like about the term is not only how much it is the result of colonial constructions of a gender binary, but also just how deeply horrifying american white cis men must have found bakla when they began occupying the Philippines.
What is fascinating about not only the definition and the term is how much the fail that it contains also recognizes something important about the genders it is deriding: there are no good anglo words to express all the meaning and diversity contained in within bakla. Because the term erases and insults those bakla who are women and who are men. Those who crossdress. Those who’s gender is third or other.
But I pick this anglo term for all ways that it encapsulates so many of my struggles. Because the transmisogyny in the term and the sexism and the colonial tie in with sex tourism all create a toxic brew that keeps me afraid. That stops me from expressing my gender and living authentically. It says everything about why, since I’m in the land of colonizers and white people, my people are still doing sex work, still being expected to be sexual available and consumable, still oppressed but expected to fill this role in the white imagination. That we are monsters who will trick unsuspecting confused white men with our (mandatory) fem realness. Who are (sometimes) rejected by trans* communities because we don’t fit the narrative and exist outside of white colonial constructions of gender identity and expression.
So. Ladyboy. This is me. I’m Filipina and I am human. And I give no fucks if I’ve picked a word with so much racist connotation that I’ll be less than impressed if a white (trans* or not) person ever calls me this.
(if anyone is wondering why this has been on my mind… it is because even with other PoC ‘bakla’ needs some explanation. Because I’m forced to (mostly) communicate in english. Because I don’t necessarily want to have to give a long explanation every time I interact with white trans* people. And just because. I don’t want to have to use binary anglo terms to try and express what my gender means to me).