Just in time for transgender awareness week, all eyes are now on two women who became the first trans flight attendants in the Philippines. This is a win for the LGBTQ community in the deeply Catholic Philippines, which has seen various incidents of discrimination against trans people in recent months.
Yesterday, Twitter user @thysz shared how local budget airline Cebu Pacific had hired trans women Jess Labares and Mikee Vitug as part of their cabin crew.
“Cebu Pacific's (sic) started accepting trans women in their FA program without fanfare and here are the Philippine's first transwomen flight attendants, Mikee Vitug and Jess Labares,” she wrote.
This was celebrated by many people online, where the post has gone viral with more than 50,000 likes and over 9,000 retweets as of this posting.
In a Facebook post, Labares shared how she feels about being part of history.
“History has been made as I’ve now become the very first post-op transgender woman flight attendant in the Philippines,” she said.
“On behalf of the LGBTQ community, thank you very much. This means that we have progressed into a more accepting society who has learned to respect and celebrate human individuality and expression."
Vitug, a licensed pharmacist, also celebrated the news on Facebook, sharing how she first thought that becoming a flight attendant was impossible for trans women.
“It started as a random idea to apply as a flight attendant because I know it’s impossible here for a trans woman, and from what I know there weren’t any official Filipina trans women in the cabin crew. What more that our country is conservative; let’s admit that not everyone is open yet to people like me,” she said in Filipino.
“I feel honored and humbled that I am one of the first transwomen Cabin crew here in the Philippines,” Vitug said.
The two women underwent intense training that lasted 2 months. They endured daily exams and challenges, such as survival swimming, and fire and smoke drills.
Filipinos celebrated the milestone on social media.
While the Philippines is seen as friendly to LGBTQ people, relative to other Asian countries, many members of the community feel that they are tolerated but not accepted. Discrimination is still rampant, especially towards trans men and women.
In August, a trans woman was arrested after being blocked from using the women’s restroom in a mall. Although a number of Filipinos empathized with her, a recent survey revealed that many still feel uncomfortable about trans women using women's toilets.
The Philippines still has no laws to protect its LGBTQ citizens, with the Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE) equality bill still languishing in Congress.