Tangential issues | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

Tangential issues

A tangential issue in the case of the killing of Jennifer (aka Jeffrey) Laude, a transgender individual, in a motel room in Olongapo City allegedly by an American Marine taking part in war games here, is the “nature” of Jennifer and whether she was plying the “world’s oldest profession” or was merely out for a good time.

Stories have come out about Jennifer’s German boyfriend who said they had plans to get married and that he had intended to take her back home with him to save his fiancée from her “dangerous” life in the Philippines.

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Was Jennifer at risk simply because she was a “trannie” in a land where there is still considerable social and legal discrimination against gays, or because, to earn money to put a sibling through school and pay for other expenses, she was engaged in prostitution?

Of course, it’s irrelevant and immaterial whether Jennifer was a prostitute or simply a good-time gal. She did not deserve to die simply because she was not “fully” a woman, in the same way that women (and men) engaged in the flesh trade cannot be raped, beaten up, or killed simply because they failed to satisfy their customers.

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But her being transgender has trained a light as well on the realities of life for those whose sexuality and sexual orientation lie beyond the pale. Certainly appalling are comments that Filipinos are raising too much fuss about Jennifer’s killing, as if the death of a transgender person deserves less outrage and pain than the murder of a “normal” woman or man. Or that a prostitute’s life is not worth grieving or agonizing over, as if human rights apply only to those living righteous lives.

* * *

But we are not alone in trying to straighten out the kinks and tangles of Jennifer’s killing.

A neighbor of PFC Joseph Scott Pemberton, the Marine accused in the killing, expressed “shock” that a murder suspect lived on her street in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Quoted in a news article in the New York Daily News, the neighbor lamented: “The world is falling apart right now, between Ebola and everything else. I have grandchildren. What kind of world are we leaving them?”

Well, hopefully, a world where people would not assume that “pretending” to be a woman when one still bore the physical characteristics of a man was a crime in itself. This same anonymous neighbor said she heard about Pemberton being a boxer, and expressed the view that he “killed a Filipino girl after he found out she was a guy. I wouldn’t want to be with a guy and find out it’s a girl. I’d freak out. But I don’t think he should have killed anybody. I just think that’s what put him over the edge.”

Shall we count that as an extenuating circumstance?

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* * *

A blogger who makes it his business to confound commonly-held assumptions declared that transgender people don’t just want to be transformed into anatomically correct women, they want to become “attractive” women as well.

I remember interviewing a transgender Filipino who had, her friends complained, taken the notion of femininity to the extreme by asking that the surgeon give her a cup-D breast size. “It’s as if she has to be the most voluptuous woman on earth,” the friends said.

But while the trannie was certainly full-figured and curvy, I happened to look down at her hands and found them huge, so huge I would later describe them as “kargador” hands. Some trannies, it seems, need to undergo not just a lifetime of hormonal treatments to help “soften” their masculine features, but also minor procedures to hasten their transition to womanhood.

Still, what could my transgender friend do about her huge and calloused hands? Some transitions, it seems, science can only help partway, although it seems the transition had already been initiated in their minds, their hearts, their very concept of self and being.

As I said earlier, I have no way of knowing whether Jennifer had completed her transition. But she was certainly proud of her newly feminine body, as those photos of her bikini-clad form published on Facebook and splashed on the front page, prove. (Really, news editors? Do we need bikini photos to prove Jennifer was a woman?)

Who knew it was this new form that would pave the way for her ignominious exit?

* * *

October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, many organizations have boarded the breast cancer bandwagon to promote awareness of the disease and encourage women to go for early cancer detection.

One of these organizations is Pureology, a hair-care product brand by L’Oreal Professionnel, which has chosen the ICanServe Foundation as its partner in its advocacy for breast cancer awareness and setting up support programs for Filipino women battling cancer.

Pureology’s connection with breast cancer programs doesn’t come by accident, since it was founded in 2001 as an offshoot of founder Jim Markham’s search for a safe hair-care product for a friend stricken with cancer. Local spokesman Asher Lu says that “from its inception, Pureology has been created with integrity and has always been striving to make a positive impact in its communities worldwide.”

Pureology has since made a name for itself as “the best hair care line for color-treated hair” enriched with organic botanicals and made with a commitment to sustainability.

Salon-goers who choose Pureology (the product is available only in beauty salons) can be assured that a percentage of sales goes to ICanServe Foundation to help fund its support programs for breast cancer patients.

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TAGS: At Large, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Jeffrey Laude, Jennifer Laude, Joseph Scott Pemberton, Olongapo City, opinion, Pureology, Rina Jimenez-David, US Marine
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