By Marjaleen Ramos
“… I am more than just a transgender woman and I can prove that by merit.”
Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) entered a remarkable milestone when it welcomed its first transgender valedictorian last May.
Ianne Gamboa delivered her historic valedictory speech during the graduation ceremony of the university last May 15,2018, after graduating Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English degree.
At a very young age, Ian Christopher, now 20, recognized herself as a transwoman, a state that had been fully supported by her parents.
Gamboa, who had always wanted to dress up as girl, then eventually changed her name into ‘Ianne’ as it gave her confidence and emancipated her to her true self and identity.
“I identify, respect, and present myself as a woman. Therefore I prefer to be addressed with feminine pronouns and honorifics. I also prefer to be called Ianne because it sounds more feminine than my name at birth,” she said.
Gamboa, however, was not able to experience acceptance of her identity, not until she went to college as she had to follow school policies in high school that required her to follow the image and practices of male students..
“When I was in high school, we had to obey policies that would develop our disciplines such as maintaining a short hair, wearing school uniforms that are for males, entering the men’s bathroom,” she shared.
She recalled that being held back in self-expression hinders a transgender man or woman to see his or her full potential.
She said that it was one of the main reasons why she did not excel in her academic standing in her high school days. “I felt that I was trapped and could not express my true identity.”
Gamboa said when you support or accept a person to express herself or himself regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, she or he can excel.
Fresh winds in college
True enough, upon entering college, Gamboa became more than ready for success as she was able to fully express her true self.
Gamboa excelled both in academics and in co-curricular activities in PUP.
She later became the president of the Department of English, Foreign Languages and Linguistics, and graduated with a general weighted average (GWA) of 1.23353, making her one of the third highest GWA scholars of more than 8,000 graduates of PUP Batch 2018.
With her whole academic journey – being recognized as magna cum laude and PUP’s first transwoman valedictorian – Gamboa hopes that her achievements will inspire younger generations of the LGBTQ community to break gender stereotypes.
“I feel that God really had a reason why I have become the first transgender woman valedictorian of PUP,” she exclaimed.
“My greatest hopes are that the members of the LGBT Community will be given a fair and equal opportunity not just in the academe but also in the professional world. Members of the LGBT community can achieve their dreams if they are allowed to express themselves fully and with enough respect for our education,” she added.
In her speech during the commencement rites, she shared how she expected that her journey will not be easy. “I know that at some point, my choices and preferences will become an issue… Others will doubt my skills. But I had no choice. I cannot change the way I speak or the glow of my dewy skin. I cannot change who I am so I had to be first. I am glad, that all these years, PUP welcomed me with open arms.”
Gamboa thanked her Alma Mater and the people around her who continue to respect those who belong to the rainbow community.
“PUP has given me the opportunity to be who I am while working hard to become who I want to be. I am very grateful to the teachers and students of PUP for respecting those who do not belong to the sexual binary. PUP has taught me, above anything else, that I can be anything,” she said.
Concluding her speech, the Magna Cum Laude graduate then encouraged her fellow graduates to always be the “first”.
“Our challenge is to shatter the glass ceiling in every industry or profession we chose to be part of; to become trailblazers and pioneers in whatever endeavor we choose. In everything we do, we have no other choice but to be first,” she stressed.
Gamboa wants to give back to the country by working in the government civil service.