Mela Habijan Shares the Importance of Truthful Trans Representation in the Media
Gari Sy Rivera | June 26, 2020
Recently starring as Ruth in the iWant online series Manilenials, Mela Habijan shares that the project was a great way to tell real stories of those within the LGBTQIA+ community, such as beautiful transwomen like her. “I was so happy to be a part of it because it’s really a good representation of who we are as transwomen, of our struggles as transwomen,” she relates, “It allowed us to expose transwomen who are professional, who are making a name in the society, who are creating their own spaces. It allowed us to speak of how it is to date as a transwoman, especially here in the Philippines. It allowed us to expose how people see us, how people look at us as transwomen.”
An upcoming project she shares excitement for is Balangaw (rainbow), an online digital series directed by Jay Altarejos shot via zoom with stars such as Mela. Balangaw is anticipated to depict the different stories and relationships of those in the LGBTQIA+ community. The series’ premiere is set in time for the celebration of Pride Month on 27 June 2020 at the Balangaw Online Channel.
Relating the importance of LGBTQIA+ representation in the arts and media, Mela notes just how crucial it is actually, given its power to shape the world’s perception. “It’s very important on my end because one way to see the world is through media and whatever we see on media gives us an idea of what the world is, of how the world is, of who the world is.”
Stereotyping and keeping members of this beautiful community in a boxed and limited kind of portrayal was sadly present and practiced in the media but Mela finds that more recent times have shown a shift in LGBT depiction that rightfully shares the true and realistic stories of the community. “Di' ba dati in the 80s, we used to see this stereotypical gay guy and during that time, wala pang transwoman, wala pang imahe ng transwoman, bakla lang talaga siya. At ‘yong bakla, flamboyant. ‘Yong bakla, limited lang ‘yong kanyang kayang gawin like to be inside the parlor, or to be made fun of. Kumbaga, parang it's very stereotypical to be made fun of. The stereotype of being made fun of because you’re from the LGBTQIA+ community." (There weren’t many portrayals of transwomen then, it was mostly just gay representation and how they were flamboyant. They were shown with limited capabilities, like being in the parlor or to make fun of. Very stereotypical and just to be made fun of.)
“Nowadays, I’m so happy to be seeing movies and TV series that really portray our stories, our realities. Kasi that’s what I believe that media should promote—truth, the realities, the fact that we are also part of the society and we can also have a platform to share our stories whether it be the saddest of the saddest stories or the happiest of the happiest stories. Kasi ‘yon din, na-li-limit din ang representations sa mga inaapi at pang-aapi pero mayroon din mga members of the community who are really victorious in their fields—empowered. So mahalaga na makita ang iba’t ibang perspectives not just of the LGBTQIA+ community but of every person; mahalaga ang representation of every person in the society. The acknowledgment of your existence is promoted through representation," said Mela. (Because that’s also a limited way of telling the community’s stories, that it’s all about hurt but there are members of the community who are really victorious in their fields—empowered. So it’s important to see different perspectives of every person in society.)”
Encouraging her community, Mela reminds fellow transwomen to remember the beauty, courage, and power they have within. “For my trans-sisters, always think that even if the world sees us differently, may we always see our beauty, and may we always see our strengths within us because that’s what we need. Even though the world limits us with our opportunities, opportunities that we deserve, more importantly—we can create our own. We can save our own opportunities. All we have to do is just look at ourselves as strong individuals and respectful individuals as well because if we respect ourselves, then we will be gaining respect from other people. If we will become better individuals, then people will see our goodness and our beauty.”