The queers really are everywhere. Jenni and I had planned to take a break from our project and head out to the island of Boracay in the Philippines to enjoy the white sand beaches. My cousin in Australia had told me to look for a troupe of gay fire dancers there, price so we asked a bunch of locals on where we could find them.
After numerous inquiries (“we’re looking for the gay fire dancers”), the only fire dancing that the locals kept pointing me to was a group of female dancers. So we gave up the search and decided to just enjoy the fire dancing girls.
VIDEO: What exactly is fire dancing? Check out the hottest women of the Philippines island.
Then, I realized that the fire dancers we were watching was actually a group of transgender women. For someone who has worked with the transgender community in San Francisco for years, I had to laugh at myself as to how even I got stumped. I am guessing that most of the tourists didn’t notice their seamless transitions either.
We watched the mesmerizing fire dancing for hours to the music of Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and Madonna (yes, some things just don’t change no matter where in the world you are). The dancers whipped their flaming kerosene-soaked torches around their bare bodies with amazing speeds while doing some pretty incredible dance moves. All in all, the show was thrilling and downright sexy (I tried talking Jenni into taking up fire dancing, no dice). Both of us were pretty wowed, which is a pretty big deal for us because after touring gay clubs around the world for the past three months, it takes a lot for us to be wowed.
After the show, we met with three of the newest dancers, Troy, age 16 (pictured left) Ashanti, age 19 (pictured middle) and JJ age 16 (pictured right and in video). Ashanti excelled in English, so we asked her a few questions:
Lisa: How many women are in your group?
Ashanti: There are ten of us. We spend the day together for the most part and dance at night. This is a special job for homosexuals and transexuals. There has only been five biological woman fire dancers on this island.
Lisa: How long have you been learning?
Ashanti: The three of us just joined the group less than three months ago. The older women teach us the steps. The hardest part about learning is getting burned a lot, so we learn quickly.
I’m shocked. I would have thought you had been dancing for years!
Ashanti: We don’t know why we’re so good. We ask ourselves why bio girls have a hard time learning the fire dancing when the transexual women don’t. It comes quite natural to us and we can learn in half the time. Most transexual women find themselves in the entertainment industry.
Lisa: Why is that?
Ashanti: Transexuals have to work as performers. You rarely get hired in business jobs and there is no legal protection in the Philippines. Though I have a friend who is a lady boy who recently got hired by a good company. So it is changing and gives me hope.
Lisa: What was your coming out experience like?
Ashanti: Ever since I was in pre-school and I saw other girls with long hair I told myself that I wanted to be a girl like them. My mom is very supportive of me. My dad used to see me dancing in the living room and knew that no straight men dance like me. So, he knew from the beginning also and has supported me.
Lisa: Where have most of the women in your group gotten medical care for their transitions?
Ashanti: The majority of us have been taking contraceptive pills from a young age for the estrogen to develop breasts. Our body frames are small, so that also helps.
Lisa: How is your group viewed by the community here in Boracay?
Ashanti: In general, there is less discrimination than before. People see us now on television and they treat us better. We’re respected here as a dancing group and look out for one another.