Life Has Never Been More Beautiful: An Interview with Janlee Dungca

Written by: Carla De Guzman/Thursday, Jun 23, 2016 09:51 AM

When I approached Janlee to talk about her story, she didn't hesitate in saying 'yes!' I've known her as a fabulous and inspiring soul, so gorgeous inside and out. She would electrify any room she walked into. It's the kind of confidence and beauty that I wanted to try to capture here as she shares her story. 

Janlee celebrating Pride 2016 with her fellow Love Yourself volunteers

When she isn't busy working in PR and Communications, Janlee spends the rest of her time volunteering for HIV awareness, prevention testing and treatment for a non-profit organization. When she's got some extra time, she finds adventure in mountains and beaches, and spends time with her family and friends. When asked to describe herself, she said: "I'm spontaneous, crazy, level-headed, sweet, fun-loving, and child-like all at the same time. I love music, fashion, art, travel, adventures, food. I love life!"

Can you tell us about your transition? 

Most members of the LGBTQ community had to come out once. Luckily for me, I had to do it twice - first as a gay guy back in high school and ultimately as a (transgender) woman upon learning about the whole concept of transgenderism in a Gender Psychology class during senior year in college. A few years later in the workforce, I started transitioning. I have been in transition for more than three years now, undergoing Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) where I take a combination of hormone pills - testosterone blockers and estrogen supplements that work together to feminize me - all under the supervision of an endocrinologist. 

I started transitioning last March 07, 2013 on a weekend trip to Boracay. I was excited as usual but the thought of having to wear board shorts to the beach yet again made me cringe. That was the turning point. I bought and took my first set of hormone pills at the day of my flight (having consulted with trans women and my endocrinologist prior) and wore bikini (privately with my friends first) for the first time. I have never felt so relieved.

"I have never felt so relieved."

I wouldn't say transitioning ever ends. I think transitioning is a life long process really - physically, emotionally, mentally and socially. Transgender people's bodies transition physically first to close the gap between their physical bodies and their gender identities, to become closer to how they see and identify themselves gender-wise. What most people don't realize though is that most transgender people transition everyday - to their family, to their friends, and to everyone they encounter every single day. It's a continuous process. 

Not every transgender person actually transitions through HRT. Some choose not to and some simply can't due to limitations. I know that some transgender people might not pay as much importance to physically transitioning through HRT so I would just like to talk about my personal experience. 

"What most people don't realize though is that most transgender people transition everyday - to their family, to their friends, and to everyone they encounter every single day. It's a continuous process. "

I considered transitioning through HRT because I know that it will help me physically become closer to the gender identity I identify with - a woman. True enough, it did and it has helped me a great deal - from achieving congruence between how I feel inside and how I look to gaining more confidence to thriving in the field I work in. It might sound shallow but I have never felt so comfortable wearing bikini to the beach now, and to me, it says a lot about how I've developed as a woman in the past three years.

This might not apply to all transgender person of course but personally, transitioning has helped me a lot in developing not just physically but more importantly mentally, emotionally and socially. I attribute my happiness in life to my decision to transition. It remains to be one of my best life decisions.

You seem very close with your family. Have they always been supportive of your choice to transition?

My family has been my rock. Of course it hasn't always been the case. It started rough. As I said, I came out twice to them, so coming out for the second time as a (transgender) woman was quite confusing for them. A few weeks into my HRT, I invited them to dinner and poured my heart out about who I really am, how being gay is different from being a transgender woman, and how I am doing with my transition. It was not easy but I just expressed myself. I told them how I cringe whenever I look at the mirror and see a man and how it frustrates me whenever someone calls me "sir" or refers to me as a man. I showed them how much I really wanted to transition and how much it would help me become more comfortable with myself.

"My family has been my rock."

Fast forward to today, they have been very supportive and loving in every step of the way. They were of course concerned about my health first and foremost but I assured them I had everything monitored and taken cared of. They refer to me as their daughter/sister and tell family and friends that I'm a woman. They understand and accept me and the choices I've made. I could not be happier. 

How has your life been since you started the process? 

My life has been much more clearer. It wasn't easy in the beginning. I lost some friends along the way who did not really approve of my transition. It was saddening but also enlightening. What they say is true - those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. Transitioning made me realize that the best relationship I can and must have is with myself first.

"What they say is true - those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

If not for my transition, I wouldn't have felt comfortable in my own skin now. It makes me very happy then that this confidence in my (gender) identity has allowed me to nurture stronger and healthier relationships with people who truly matter. Living life as the woman I know I am has made me embrace my self-worth and has made me more enamored being with other people. It follows that transitioning has helped me thrive at work, in volunteering and in all my other fields of interest. Life has never been more beautiful.

What is one truth you wish everyone would realize about transgender women? 

Transgender women are women, much like Asian women, blonde women, and Muslim women are women. I know not everyone will agree but I hope you all find it in your hearts to understand and hopefully accept who we are. Besides, transgender women being women shouldn't really affect you negatively or in any other way, should they?  Anyway, we are humans first before we are (transgender) women. 

"I hope you all find it in your hearts to understand and hopefully accept who we are. "

If someone approached you for advice on transitioning, what would you say? 

The first thing you have to do is to be sure about how you feel inside, how you identify gender-wise and who you really are. There is no deadline. Take as much time as you need until you are 99% sure that you are a woman. Do it for no one else but yourself. Once you are sure that you're a woman, do your homework - research about transitioning, consult with an endocrinologist (who handle transitioning patients) and other transgender individuals.

When everything is set, start transitioning. Don't delay it any longer (as horomone pills take more effect when taken at a younger age).

"Take as much time as you need until you are 99% sure that you are a woman.
Do it for no one else but yourself."

Most importantly, keep in mind your reason and goal for transitioning - yourself and your desire to become closer to the gender identity you identify with. At the end of the day though, don't be defined by your gender and your transition. You're a human being first and foremost and your gender is just once aspect of your total self. Transition to become not just the gender you identify with but to become a better, bigger person.


About Carla De Guzman
Carla de Guzman is the author of self-published books Cities, Marry Me Charlotte B! and We Go Together. She loves to travel, coming home to her dog Kimchi and spending her weekends having dinner with her crazy family by day. By night, she’s writer and an artist, spending her midnights at her desk. Follow her on Instagram (@somemidnights) for more!
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