I first heard Art Sta. Ana and Trixie Maristela’s love story in the middle of Formula One frenzy in Singapore, in a packed club, over bottles of beer.
“It’s weird, partying without her,” Art said. “I miss her.”
Their romance started like many others do—a mutual friend, cups of coffee, constant chatting and texting—but theirs isn’t a tale you’ve heard a million times before. That’s because Art is a straight man and Trixie is a transgender woman.
I was so riveted that the thumping of apl.de.ap’s beats seemed to melt away as Art talked about their relationship.
But their story is one better enjoyed away from pulsating music and tipsy people dancing. And that’s exactly what you can do when you read Art’s book, “He’s Dating the Transgender.”
“I felt that our experience is something that people can learn something from. We had to go through so much because we were scared. And we realized people didn’t have to go through what we went through. It initially was meant to be a love letter of some sort, a gift to Trixie which we realized needed to be shared with the world,” Art told Super.
In “He’s Dating the Transgender,” published by Anvil Publishing, Inc. and released at the Manila International Book Fair, Art explores his relationship with Trixie, a transgender beauty queen. The former radio DJ and aspiring pilot writes in conversational Taglish that will make you feel like he’s a friend who is telling you his story. (He is currently working on an English version.)
“Akala ko, hindi na ako iibig pang muli. Hanggang makilala ko si Trixie,” he wrote.
Readers get the chance to see the story from Trixie’s perspective, too, with her contributed anecdotes.
“Na-realize ko, siguro tama si Tita, baka nga walang seseryoso sa akin kasi nga isa akong transgender. Tinanggap ko na lang at parang every time na magkaka-boyfriend ako binibigyan ko sila ng expiration date. Nagbago lang ’yun noong na-meet ko si Art,” she wrote.
In the pages of the book, we witness Art’s journey from being a player whose relationships didn’t last (“Okay lang maging babaero… huwag na huwag lang akong magiging bakla”) to becoming a devoted man (“You know what I really love about you? That you had to endure so much to be who you are today,” he told Trixie). He writes about his struggles and their struggles with honesty and sensitivity. (“Hindi naman puwede ’to, e. Straight ako, di ba? Chixman ako, di ba?”)
There are chats, anecdotes and pictures, making the story leap from the pages. The book is sweet, funny, tender, touching, bittersweet and enlightening—no matter how open-minded you already think you are. It will make you laugh, it might make you cry. It’s Bob Ong meets Ramon Bautista meets Sweet Dreams.
There are different ways to enjoy “He’s Dating the Transgender.” You can read it like you would a romance novel and let the kilig wash over you. You can read it as an educational tool—Art devoted paragraphs to LGBT issues, sexual orientation, gender identity, etiquette in dealing with transwomen, but not in a preachy way. You can read it to figure out exactly where you stand and how you feel about equality. But try to read it with an open mind and an open heart.
Art knows not everyone will embrace the book and he’s ready for that. “I knew of the consequences when I put my name out there. But I want people to use my name, my experience, dissect it, use it and abuse it, whether you agree or not, as long as the conversation gets started. I’ve been hiding for so long, we’ve been hiding for so long, I’ve been unfair to her for far too long,” he said.
He wrote, “This struggle… will not be over for a long time.” And he’s right. But his book is a step—an important one.
It’s a story that needed to be told—and I applaud Art and Trixie for courageously doing so. And it’s a story that needs to be read, whether you are male, female, straight, gay, trans, young or old.
Art wrote, “…hindi rin iba ang love story namin sa love story ng karamihan. May tampuhan, pag-aaway, at pagbabati. At siguro, lahat naman tayo, nais lang na magmahal at mahalin nang totoo. So, you know, our love story is everyone’s love story, too. Medyo iba nga lang.”
This book is extra-special to me because I have a cousin who is trans. I adore her and I care for her deeply, and I would like her to be able to live in a world where her life and her love—a love like Art and Trixie’s, steady, sustaining, enduring, strong—will not only be tolerated but celebrated.
“I want people to believe in love again. I want people to let that love be the starting point to understand that just because somebody is different or non-heteronormative or nonconformist, doesn’t mean he or she can’t live a life free of judgment and prejudice,” Art said.
“He’s Dating the Transgender” is now available at National Book Store and PowerBooks. Meet Art and Trixie at the book launch on Oct. 10, 4 p.m., at National Book Store Glorietta 1.