12 Filipino trailblazers to celebrate on Transgender Day of Visibility
The Fil-Am Connection

12 Filipino trans icons you should know on Transgender Day of Visibility

These Filipino transgender individuals are making significant strides for their community globally
/ 02:58 AM March 22, 2024

Elton Lugay column IDNEW YORK CITY—March 31 marks International Transgender Day of Visibility. This year, we aim to pay tribute to Filipino transgender individuals who are making significant strides for their community globally.

These advocates promote visibility, acceptance and diversity, enriching the Filipino community and wider society.

In the Philippines, where the trans community is gaining acceptance, it’s important to amplify transgender voices by affirming their identities and experiences.

Gender identity—not sexual orientation—defines transgender people. Respecting their affirmed gender is crucial. Celebrating this day and the achievements of Filipino trans icons helps build a culture of inclusivity and acceptance.

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We recognize the resilience and contributions of the transgender community, striving for a world where all are seen, heard and appreciated.

  1. Geena Rocero, a model and LGBTQ+ rights activist from New York City, founded Gender Proud, a media company advocating for transgender rights. Rocero has advocated at the United Nations, the World Economic Forum and the White House. She is the author of the bestselling book “Horse Barbie” and made history as the first trans woman to appear on the cover of Playboy magazine.
  1. Geraldine Roman, the first openly transgender person elected to the Philippine Congress, uses her background in journalism and public service to champion LGBTQ+ rights and social change.
  1. Tita Aida (Nikki Calma), based in the San Francisco Bay Area, is an influential transgender rights activist and community leader. Known for her longstanding advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community and her activism in AIDS awareness, her dedication to these causes has established her as a prominent figure in championing both transgender rights and health education.
Collage of trans icons

Filipino trans icons Geraldine Roman (from left), Jake Zyrus, Geena Rocero, Kataluna Enriquez and Tita Aida CONTRIBUTED

  1. Kataluna Enriquez broke significant barriers by becoming the first transgender woman to win Miss Nevada USA in 2021. She subsequently made history as the first trans woman to compete in the Miss USA pageant, championing representation and inclusivity in beauty contests.
  1. Ice Seguerra is an actor, singer-songwriter, director and guitarist. He publicly came out as a lesbian in 2007 and later as a transgender man in 2014. In 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Seguerra as the chairperson of the National Youth Commission, a position he held for two years.
  1. Jake Zyrus, a renowned international singer now based in Los Angeles, publicly came out as a transgender man in 2017. Since then, he has become an advocate for acceptance and representation in the entertainment industry, using his platform to inspire and educate.
  1. Isabel Sandoval, a filmmaker and actress based in New York, is recognized as a standout figure in the young generation of Filipino filmmakers. Her film ‘Lingua Franca‘ made her the first transgender woman of color to compete at the Venice Film Festival in 2019. The film received recognition at various prestigious awards and festivals. Sandoval is returning to the Philippines to shoot her fourth feature film, ‘Moonglow.’ 
Collage of trans icons

Filipino trans icons KaladKaren Davila (from left), Ice Seguerra, Isabel Sandoval, Bb Gandanghari and Angel Bonilla CONTRIBUTED

  1. KaladKaren Davila (Jervi Li), a television personality, has gained recognition for her spot-on impersonations of journalist Karen Davila. By infusing humor and visibility for the transgender community in the entertainment industry, she made history as the first trans woman to win a Best Supporting Actress award at the Metro Manila Film Festival.
  1. Jackie Baras is a healthcare leader and nurse manager at JFKUMC with over two decades of experience. A doctor of nursing practice, she has been a trailblazer in establishing LGBTQIA+ healthcare services in New Jersey. Her work has been recognized with accolades such as Nurse of the Year and the LGBTQ Community Service Award.
  1. Ally Castillo, known as AllyCat Castle, is a prominent makeup artist with a background from La Salle Green Hills and the University of Asia and the Pacific. At Nars Cosmetics at Saks Fifth Avenue NYC, she has made a name for herself and co-founded Trans Sisters TV. Through AllyCat Castle – Makeup & Motivation, she promotes community support and empowerment.
  1. Angel Bonilla, a singer and fashion designer, made history as the first transgender contestant on “The Voice” to turn a chair. Her journey from a conservative Catholic family in the Philippines to pursuing her dream of becoming a singer in Los Angeles is marked by her passion for music and her transition into a woman at the age of 16. Angel’s appearance on Season 14 of “The Voice” and Episode 4 of “I Can See Your Voice” showcased her talent and determination in the music industry.
  1. Bb Gandanghari, an actor and model based in Los Angeles, has openly shared her transgender journey, advocating for visibility and acceptance in the entertainment industry. Her advocacy and transparency continue to inspire many while she pursues an acting career in LA.

International Transgender Day of Visibility is a time to honor transgender people, recognize discrimination and celebrate their societal contributions. It was founded by Rachel Crandall in 2009 as a response to the lack of recognition for living transgender individuals. The event has grown globally, with President Joe Biden recognizing March 31 as Transgender Day of Visibility, urging Americans to support transgender equality.

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TAGS: Fil-Am, Filipino achievers, Filipino American achievers, Filipino American celebrities, LGBTQ, transgender
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