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Singing a song to his life

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JAKE Zyrus keeps it real in his autobiography, “I Am Jake.”

When singer Jake Zyrus revealed his true gender identity, that of a transgender man, many people were exasperated, thinking that he was destroying his very promising entertainment career. At the time, it was gaining international traction.

What they did not know was that hiding his identity was destroying him, which led to breakdowns and suicide attempts.

Wth the help of understanding friends and supporters, Zyrus soldiered on and is now doing what he loves, making music.

Now, with a new autobiographical book, I Am Jake, 27-year-old Zyrus begins a new chapter of his life. Here, he shares some of his thoughts:

Roel Hoang Manipon (RHM): Although we are moving forward on the conversation on gender identity in the Philippines, it has been very slow.

Jake Zyrus (JZ): I cannot comment for sure when it comes to the Philippines. I know and we all know what our goal is — but we cannot expect to change the Philippines when they read my book, but it’s a step. You know, if somebody reads it, and there is discussion on gender and on all the issues regarding the LGBT community, for me it’s a first step.

The home is also a first step. But at the same time, we must be aware that we have our beliefs, we have our opinions, they have their beliefs… We have to accept that each and every person in this country, in this world, has their own different beliefs. For me, if you have a different belief, you have to respect the person. If they refuse us the acceptance, if they refuse to give us understanding, on what are genders, at least they should respect us as human beings because we are all the same.

RHM: It is also accepting yourself and loving yourself. The book is also a journey into that.
JZ: Many of us think it is okay trying to be a martyr, that we feel better if we do something for someone else. In all aspects in life, you know, I did this for you, in small things. But does it really make you happy? You know? We make ourselves martyrs in almost different ways.  And when it comes to ourselves, when you think about it… Actually, when you start taking care of yourself and accepting yourself, no matter what, no matter who you are, you start making the right decisions for yourself.

When I transitioned, everything was so easy. The decision was so easy, the transition… Everything was so, so light. The feeling was so light. The rest of the decisions I made in my life, it was easy because I know this is what I’ve always wanted in my life. When you accept yourself, when you love yourself, everything else will just follow.

RHM: Has transitioning changed your relationship with music?
JZ:  With music, honestly, no. Since I transitioned, I came to love being a balladeer more. Because that is my dream. It has always been in my mind to sing Josh Groban, Michael Buble, Frank Sinatra, the classics, you know.

Although, of course, my number-one genre really is alternative rock. But if I’ll perform on stage, it is really ballads. I always love performing power ballads. And ever since I have transitioned, I love it even more because that is what I really want and I am actually enjoying it more. During transition, there were changes like undergoing puberty, like the voice getting deeper. So, I experimented with the keys, the keys that are apt to my voice. Until now actually, I’m still experimenting with songs, with my singing.

Being in the entertainment industry, I [am attuned] to the music that we hear on the radio. So like, if I am going to look up to a newer pop star, it would be Shawn Mendes — his music, the songs and everything, very inspirational. And I love it even more because I can explore, and I can do the things I didn’t know I could do.

RHM: Do you have any song that speaks to you, that you love or that you can say, ‘This is about me?’
JZ:  On the meaning of the song for me, it’s “Diamond” because during the process when we made the song, I was with the very talented Trisha [Denise] and Anton. I really opened up to them, saying I like the song. It is not the inspirational kind that tells you everything’s gonna be alright without telling you the struggles. I want it to be real. I like the lyrics of the song to be truthful, saying it’s okay not to be okay. And they just made it happen. They made it happen. I started listening to it and of course I started recording it. I really felt it. I said this is the anthem of my life.

RHM: How was the process of writing the book I Am Jake? How did you select which parts of your life to put dow?
JZ:  Actually, there were no parts that I would say, ”Let’s not share these.“ Our problem then was how to fit it all in. The process was stressful because you have to relive the stories. But it made it easier to narrate, made the stories clearer.

The downside is every time we tell stories, our heads hurt in the end. Because you would laugh hard at the stories and then they became very heavy.

We thought it would be nice to start with the transition so it would start happy, and it was a perfect decision. From there, everything made sense.

Then, we start all over again, back to childhood. I had fun because it wasn’t us just working. It is very important for me that the people I work with have the attitude. For me, to share my story, they must understand it first of all. I don’t want just being interviewed. I want them to understand. I want them to savor all the stories.

My stories are very important. I wanted the emotions to come out. I want the people to feel the exact same emotions I felt when it happened to me.

And they just made it happen. For the people who helped me, thank you very much. The work became easier because everything was in it. There were hard work, love, acceptance. The difficult thing maybe was going to me all the way in the south. But it was worth it. When I read the finished book, I said it’s worth it. I was able to imagine everything. I was able to see it, to visualize it. It’s perfect.

RHM: Why is it called I Am Jake? Is there a closure for Charice?
JZ:  For me, ever since I was a child, I am Jake. There was no name then but I was him. I don’t have any closure for Charice because ever since I am Jake. And I don’t have any regrets. Charice was like a role for me. Every time I performed as Charice, I had to put on a different mask and it was very difficult. I enjoyed all the fun things, the fame, the treatment, the Hollywood and everything, but for me… I’m sure it is worth it for others. I can imagine this will fit other artists. But of course, not all people are the same. I don’t have any closure for Charice. For me, ever since, I am Jake.

RHM: What is your favorite part of the book?
JZ:  My favortie part? Oh, my goodness. My favorite part is maybe [chapter] 10 because I feel like it doesn’t end. It doesn’t end because I’ve never spent time with him. Ever since they separated, there was nothing. So the story never ends. The chapter does not end because I have so many what ifs. I always wonder what would we be doing now, what they did before. That is my most favorite because I enjoy the moments I think about, imagine about the things that can happen. But of course, I moved on. So every time I think about that part, it makes me calm.

RHM: What are the three things that describe you?
JZ:  Real, I guess. I mean not only about myself, not only for myself but in everything. When I decide on something, I think about what will happen in real life. I don’t like maybes. I think about it, whatever it is, even if it does not come out as pleasant. The truth hurts as they say. And I have many moments like that. And that is more okay with me. I can accept that. I am moody. But I have changed. The moodiness has lessened. Before I was really moody. I easily got irritated for no reason. But I am okay now. That cannot be avoided. I cannot really control it.

I am really a people-pleaser. Even though I say I don’t give a damn, I don’t mind what other people say… I wish people are happy for me. Always a people-pleaser. For my shows, it is important for me to know what kind of show because I want my songs to be apt. Even with friends and family, I am really a people-pleaser.

RHM: During your lowest moments, how did you rise from them?
JZ: I am not a superhero that I can be okay… My friends, my partner… You can’t imagine how many breakdowns I’ve had. Sometimes, it all piled up. I got through it because of them. My other families. I really appreciate the family from dad’s side. I haven’t had the chance to talk to them before but when I came out, when I transitioned, they were the first who messaged me with the support that I’m not alone. That was it. I said, if I have their support, as long as I have my auntie, as long as I have them, I have my partner, I have my friends, that’s it. I cannot do it alone.

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