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First book by a trans man

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Jake Zyrus comes out with his autobiography.

My boobs were gone. I couldn’t believe it. My eyes filled with tears over the realization that beneath the bandages was a flat chest — the chest that I had always wanted. After years of living in a body that didn’t feel like mine, I felt a sense of ownership. I waited five years to have my breasts removed, and then there I finally was — groggy but fulfilled in the post-surgery.”

Thus begins the autobiography I Am Jake, dramatically, with a transition, and then it delves into the past marked with turbulence. At the launch of the book, the author, singer Jake Zyrus, seemed very comfortable in his own skin, smiling a lot, evidence that he came out of his journey shinier.

Zyrus grew up before the public eye for the most part. The public first came to know him as Charice Pempengco, a child wonder with a powerful voice, via a television singing competition. Then the United States discovered her. She appeared in The Ellen Degeneres Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She then joined the concerts of David Foster and Andrea Bocelli and appeared in the very popular TV series Glee.

“I Am Jake” is considered the first book by trans man in the Philippines.

While on the verge of being a global pop star, Pempengco came out as a transgender man. There was much support from Hollywood including Oprah Winfrey, but back home in the Philippines, he was rebuked, especially by his own family and by most of the entertainment industry.

While he was not the first Filipino celebrity to come out as a transgender person, with the revelations of Rustom Padilla (now BB Gandanghari) and Aiza Seguerra causing as much stir and conversations, misconceptions and discrimination against transgender people are still rampant in the Philippines. Pempengco, now Jake Zyrus, was able to pull it through, coming out with the book containing some untold stories, suppressed memories and chronicling his brightest and darkest times, his joys and his sorrows. It is a story of struggle, grappling with his own gender identity and then dealing people as he came out. Zyrus likes to call it the story of survival, of a survivor.

“For me kasi, ‘yung (the) story, ‘yung (the) experience na naranasan ko (that I went through), para sa ‘kin (for me, it’s about) survival. So, para sa lahat ng may pinagdadaanan man or wala (for those who are going through things or none), I wanted to (this) be a survivor book for everyone. Especially for those mga tao na ‘yung mga nakikita ko na may mga (those people who I think have) depression. And sometimes ‘yung iba (others) they try to take away their lives for almost the same reasons kung bakit ko trinay sa sarili ko (why I attempted on my own),” Zyrus said. “Gusto kong i-share sa story, gusto kong malaman na hindi man sobrang pareho ‘yung buhay natin, gusto kong malaman nila na kahit anong sitwasyon, mayroon tayong pagkakapareho at ‘yun nga puwede tayong maka-survive (I want share in the story, I want them to know that even though we don’t have very similar lives, I want them to know that even in whatever situation, we have something in common and that is we can survive). Whatever it is, kung ano man ‘yung way (in whatever way). We cannot predict the future, but we can control it.”

This is it not the first time that his life has been told. ABS-CBN’s long-running, true-to-life television series Maalaala Mo Kaya? featured his story, which aired on 26 August 2017. During filming, he revealed he broke down.

IT contains some untold stories, suppressed memories and Jake’s brightest and darkest times, his joys and sorrows.

He was then approached by Anvil Publishing for a book project under its LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and others) imprint Pride Press. With help of a couple of writers and editors, he was able to piece together his story and put it into the first published book authored by a transgender man, another milestone for Zyrus, who has made several milestones, and for Philippine LGBTQ+ history.

“For me, this is a survivor story. This is really my first goal. I am excited for this book,” he said.

“The process of coming out with this book has not been easy for Jake and his team. We demanded a lot of his time and invaded his privacy. For the Anvil team as well, until now, the journey hasn’t been easy, but I know I Am Jake is a celebrity book like no other for what it wishes to convey: the story of a life that overcomes adversity amidst an unforgiving and a largely unaccepting society and that’s a story many young people will need to read about,” related Andrea Pasion-Flores, general manager of Anvil Publishing. “And for that, Pride Press is extremely lucky to have been trusted by Jake to share his story. After this book, we know many people out there will find it easier to be true to themselves because Jake has shown them it can be done.”

Zyrus described the process as translated here: “When I transitioned, that was when I felt very light. That was when I accepted myself 100 percent, when I loved myself — when I realized that everything I did, it was like all of a sudden everything was light… All of the sudden, my feeling is light. So, I thought it was my dream to share my story. Although the difference before, I haven’t been in control of my life, and it should be happy, that your life should be like a princess’ and it should be a fairytale and everything. Even then, I always wanted to tell the world the true story not because I want them to pity me — that is what I hate the most — not because I want to air my side. Because no matter what, there will always be other sides. I really want to share my story. I want those who read it to realize that there is someone else who went through the same thing. I want them to realize the fact that if he was able to get through it, so will they. I’ve tried to take my life three times. If there is anybody who went through worse, I did something to stop it. For me, this is a survivor story. This is really my first goal. I am excited for this book. I have mixed emotions, of course, because it’s not a fairytale book. But I am glad how the book turned out.”

I Am Jake is available at National Book Store and Powerbooks nationwide for P295.

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