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Jopay of Davao: Empower the differently-abled

Many – if not most – people from the Hearing community tend to look at members of the Deaf community as having “impairment”; after all, referring to differently-abled people, including the deaf, as “persons with disability” (PWD) continues to be common. But Jopay, a 28-year-old transpinay from Davao City, said that this notion has to change. Particularly in her case, “I never once wanted to be a Hearing person,” she said in mixed Filipino Sign Language (FSL) and Visayan Sign Language (VSL). “I have always been happy as a Deaf person.”

She admitted that, yes, “there are challenges. But these are not necessarily because of me being deaf. Instead, it’s how society responds to people like us.” And for Jopay, “this has to change.”

Jopay was born deaf. “My mom, they told me, got sick when she was pregnant with me,” she said. The sickness affected the baby (i.e. Jopay), who was born deaf. And so “I never saw myself as anything else but as I am.”

But Jopay said this “never bothered me”, particularly since her family “has always supported me.”

Jopay said that she was six years old “when I knew I’m different,” she said. “I didn’t see myself as a boy at all – I wanted to dress up, wanted to play with toys of girls, wanted to be with girls…”

But at this point in her life, Jopay said she already found happiness in what she is – as a Deaf transwoman, “even if it can be challenging at times.” These challenges primarily revolve around the inability to speak, since “not many Hearing people are willing to learn sign language if only to be inclusive of us,” she said. H

Jopay said she never once wished to be Hearing. In fact, she believes that “empowering Deaf people – including Deaf LGBT people – could help remedy the difficulties we’re encountering.”

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