“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family,” stated Pope Francis in a clip released from his upcoming documentary, Francesco. “They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it.” These groundbreaking words expressed by the head of the Catholic Church resonated profoundly with the congresswoman for Bataan’s first district, Representative Geraldine Roman. “With his statement, the Pope is teaching us that one is truly Christian not by being more right or righteous, but by being kinder and more compassionate,” she shares. “The underlying message is not about doctrine but about love for fellow human beings, including LGBTQ persons.”
Following in the political footsteps of her parents, both former congressmen, Roman ran in 2016 and won by an impressive 67 per cent, making history by becoming the first-ever transgender person elected to the Congress of the Philippines. The elegant and sophisticated congresswoman is devoutly Catholic and proudly transgender. Although traditionally irreconcilable, Roman found solace in her church and faith very early on in her journey.
“The understanding of transgender is very recent. So, at the time, I just knew that I enjoyed doing things that others considered as feminine,” she shares of her childhood. “Deep inside, you’re more inclined to certain things and yet, the expectations of others are in the opposite direction. Then you realise that ‘Hey, my mind and my heart don’t seem to belong to this’. At first, I did not really accept myself. That’s the truth because I tried to fit in and meet the expectations of my parents and my family. Every child craves acceptance, and every child wants to belong.”
When her body started to mature during her high school years, the discord between her internal and external self suddenly became a source of trauma. “The difficulty was so great I had to share it with my father.” Her supportive father took her to a psychiatrist who encouraged her to accept who she was, but it was truly the Jesuit community of Ateneo who comforted her. “They would tell me: ‘Hey, God loves you just the way you are. He created you this way. He has a purpose for you.’ So, that was the moment when I started living my truth.”
After her years at the University of the Philippines, which she describes as giving her a feeling of “belonging” with other members of the LBGTQ+ community, she received a scholarship to study journalism at the University of the Basque Country in Spain. “I actually started to blossom fully as a woman there,” Roman says. “I had always used the men’s restroom in the Philippines, but the first time I had to use a public toilet in Spain, I was in El Corte Ingles and was stopped from entering the men’s room. ‘No, no señorita, es por alla [No, no Miss, it’s over there],’ I was told. It was then I realised that ‘Wow, I’m a woman.’”