Saturday 10 April 2021

Interview with Antin Belizar

Monika: Today I am meeting Antin Belizar, a Filipino make-up and hairstylist, and YouTube vlogger. It has been 10 years since she launched her Antin Belizar vlog where she shares her beauty tips and transition story. Hello Antin!
Antin: Hi Monika! I'm really glad to answer your questions and thank you for this opportunity.️
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Antin: My name is Antin. I was born and raised in the Philippines. I am proud to say that I am a transgender woman. I work as a call center agent in the BPO industry as my main source of income. Sometimes I like to indulge in little activities to help me escape from reality. That's how my YouTube channel was created. In my channel, you will see me create different makeup Inspirations and most importantly some videos I have shared about my true Identity. I'm just a normal person; I'm far from being perfect. I'm just me.️
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on social media?
Antin: Even at such a young age, I already felt that my body is different than the gender I was assigned at birth. After I shared my true identity and my story on YouTube, it really had a powerful effect on my self-esteem.
For many years I've been secretive with my transition, just because I didn't want anyone judging me. And mainly, people with Transphobia. To be honest, I felt really scared.
Some people are transphobic because they were taught them by people who have negative ideas about LGBTQ or about transpeople.

I want to share my story because I know, there are many young people who are still scared and I hope they will be inspired and learn from my story. Also, there are a lot of transgender women who shared their stories online where they became successful through their journey from HRT and life. Now, I look up to them and I am admired by many.
I know for a fact that transphobic people are still misinformed. And it's okay! We're in the year 2021 and I know there will be more people like me who will come out, using social media for digital advocacy. We will be supporting them as we raise our flags full of pride.
Monika: Do you get many questions from your followers? What do they ask for?
Antin: I do get quite a few questions, most of them are really common about me or at what age I started my transition, what kind of hormone regime I'm taking, how do I achieve my feminine physique and etc.
Monika: What was the strangest question that you answered? :)
Antin: So far, I haven't got any questions that are really strange from my videos. However, some ask for my personal information like my number, some would ask if I wanted to go out for a date or to get married hahaha. Why would I marry a stranger or give out some of my personal stuff? I find them strange and funny but sometimes scary.
Although I already put out my story on YouTube, I still want to protect my privacy and my personal life from the public. I'm now more careful with what kind of information I want to share, or the next content I want to create.

"Transgender Filipinos remain vulnerable to
widespread discrimination based on their
gender identity and gender expression."

Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, we lose our families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Antin: At first, my parents were not supportive of me being myself and anything related to HRT. But I really love my parents, and I understand why they were against it. I really don't want to lose anyone especially my loved ones because they're all I have.
At that point, I stopped talking to anyone about my decision for HRT. It was so difficult because I have to work really hard just to get that freedom, without asking for any support. I have to be strong, I might be selfish, but that was the best decision I've ever had. This is one thing I really admire in a lot of transpeople and learned from them, that they have to battle through life on their own. Not showing any sign of weakness even when they're really hurt and discriminated against by many but instead, they feel empowered to persevere and to be better. That's a true warrior!
At the age of 20, I was hired as a call center agent. I chose that path because BPO companies don't discriminate against LGBTQ people as long as you have computer skills and basic English. At work, I met a lot of people like me who are transitioning as well and because of them; I have gained more information and knowledge through their own stories. They made my transition a lot easier because of them. My life has changed after that and then everything has fallen into place.
My parents already knew and now they fully understand. I didn't even have to explain why I made that decision to take HRT. They can't deny that I look better, hahaha. Before my mom was so against me transitioning as a woman. But now she's my best friend and for the first time, she bought me a pair of ballet shoes, the sweetest thing ever!! I accepted the gift with teary eyes because I was finally accepted.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Antin: 100%!! It's life-changing.
Monika: We are said to be prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome. Although cosmetic surgeries help to overcome it, we will always be judged accordingly. How can we cope with this?
Antin: I always get criticism, and I really hate that feeling. But people will always have an opinion. As I grew older I learned how to recognize my inner critic and any negative thoughts that creep up on me. It is the first step to overcome fear. I am the one who is in control; if I allow someone else's judgment to be my own perception, I might suffer from major depression. But I chose not to go there because it's scary and dark. I know my own strength and I only listen to myself.

"I am proud to say that I am
a transgender woman."

I have to let go of any urge to be perfect. I'd rather invest more in personal growth and well-being like going to the gym, meeting new people, getting a massage, shopping, learning new hobbies.
When we prioritize our personal needs that would really help prevent anyone else from taking control of the way we feel about ourselves.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow or followed?
Antin: I do look up to Geraldine Roman. She is the first transgender person elected to the Congress of the Philippines, She was named as one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2016 by US-based Foreign Policy magazine; one of "13 Inspiring Women of 2016" list by Time magazine. She's an inspiration.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Antin: Transpinays and transpinoys continue to face barriers in legal recognition, accessing education, employment, health care, and public accommodations, and in seeking redress as victims of violence and bias-motivated crimes.
Up until the present, transgender Filipinos remain vulnerable to widespread discrimination based on their gender identity and gender expression. Filipino transmen and transwomen experience human rights violations perpetrated both by transphobic State and non-State actors.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Antin: I like simple clothes as I have a simple personality. I'm not too much into brands though, I have a few Adidas hoodies and jackets (if I have something branded it's probably going to be a hoodie). I actually like getting some of my clothes online, because they are cheap, convenient, and simple.
I really love t-shirts when it isn't too cold and I wear jeans. I don't really wear too bright colors and I am more of a dull color person, It's simple, cheap and it suits me well. I love it.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Antin: To me, the purpose behind a beauty pageant is to find someone who has beauty plus the brain. Some people think that these beauty pageants are just for finding somebody more beautiful than the rest. But, someone is truly beautiful when she has outer beauty, inner beauty, and the brain.
A transgender beauty pageant can be either a positive or negative experience depending upon your state of mind when you enter and what you hope to get out of it. You are already a wonderful person with value. A pageant does nothing to affirm that and if you don’t win you will only feel beaten down. Ultimately it is the individual’s decision to take part or not.

Monika: By the way, do you like being complimented on your looks?
Antin: Yes, compliments make us feel so good. Both giving and receiving are basic human needs.
Monika: Do you remember your first job interview as a woman?
Antin: I remember I was extremely confident with my job interview. Because I was finally comfortable with my own skin and it does make such a huge difference when you're confident. If it wasn't for HRT, I don't think I would have gained confidence today. I feel like I can conquer the world now.
Monika: What would you advise all trans women looking for employment?
Antin: My advice is to be patient and research. Before I got employed, it took me a while to find a job that fits my skills and interest. And a job that doesn't discriminate against transgender people. Then I found BPO companies, so I took every opportunity to learn English. My job may not be aligned with my passion which is art but I can't complain. I have bigger dreams and I'm slowly working towards them.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of the local LGBTQ community?
Antin: Yes. In fact, we created a community page through Facebook but only exclusive for LGBTQ. It's really important for us to stay connected and support each other.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Antin: This may sound cliché, but love is what keeps me alive. I worked really hard to get what I want and also to support my loved ones. Life can be extremely difficult sometimes but at the end of the day, I still choose love.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Antin: I might, but I'm not sure when. Maybe in the near future.

"We are women, but we were
born in a wrong body."

Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Antin: Currently I'm still trying to finish college. I'm hoping to get my college degree next year and hoping to get a higher position from my work.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender women that are afraid of transition?
Antin: It's okay to feel scared or afraid at first, It's very natural. I would recommend them to surround themselves with good people. During my two years of transitioning, I was still sacred and still wearing men's clothes because I was not confident enough to go out as a woman yet, not until my hair got longer. My advice is to just enjoy the process, take it at your own pace. Transitioning is a long process but it's worth it.
Monika: My pen friend Gina Grahame wrote to me once that we should not limit our potential because of how we were born or by what we see other transgender people doing. Our dreams should not end on an operating table; that’s where they begin. Do you agree with this?
Antin: I strongly agree with her. For me, transgender is just a label. We are women, but we were born in the wrong body. Our identity doesn't define who we are and what we're capable of. We are all human beings and all of us are unique and talented. I understand why other transgender women would undergo any kind of surgical procedure but that's their own choice. As long as you have the money and if that's what makes them happy, I respect that. 
Monika: Antin, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Antin: Thank you Monika for recognizing me. I am truly grateful for this interview. We really need more people like you to spread awareness for transgender women. God bless you!

All the photos: courtesy of Antin Belizar.
© 2021 - Monika Kowalska

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