Bakla: explaining the transwoman of the Philippines

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Originally posted 2022-03-28 19:50:38.

All humans, with the exceptions of a tiny minority with disorders of sexual development (DSDs) or Intersex, are either male or female. So there are two sexes.

We are not tilapia, frogs or molluscs, and these sexes are fixed for life. Sex can never be changed. The nonsense that biological sex has no basis in reality and can be changed from male to female is just that, nonsense. It derives from Post-Modernism; a rotten, toxic ideology. But that means we must explain the phenomenon of transsexualism, and to do that we’ll focus on the form found in Luzon in the Philippines, the bakla.

The explanation hinges on the critical difference between sex and gender. These are not the same.

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Sex, gender and the bakla

Humans have by far the most intricate and developed social systems of any species on the planet and, as a part of this, we have developed gender. The routine conflation of gender with sex, by those wh0o do not wish to educate themselves beyond Primary School level has been a major problem and continues to be. This is because gender, while innate, does not always match physical sex.

We still do not know to what extent gender has a genetic foundation, but we know that it does. It is supported by many neurological studies. Put simply, and directly contradicting the somewhat absurd feminist position, men and women have different brains.

Gender is an innate part of being human. It is the system by which we find suitable mates and establish protective families within which to raise children. Gender is not ‘socially constructed to oppress women’, it is an innate, evolved structure of interpersonal relationships which is the basis for a highly successful system of reproduction and child-rearing. Most importantly, one of its functions is to protect women.

santonino bakla
Santo Nino parade, Plaridel. Pic Rod Fleming

Nuclear versus clan families

Around each woman and her children  develops an extended structure of interpersonal relationships, known as either a tribe or a clan. Everyone in these is related to everyone else. This forms extremely robust social units which cooperate for survival, whether that be in the protection of children, hunting for food or fighting off others.

There is no record of the modern ‘nuclear family’ prior to the thirteenth century and then it was very rare. In fact the nuclear model only became popular in the early 20thy century, guess where? USica, the motherlode of bad ideas.  It appears that increasing industrialisation and mechanisation meant the Capitalism required a physically mobile work force. It’s a lot easier to move a man, a woman and a few kids than an entire clan of perhaps a hundred people.

In fact, the modern nuclear family did not exist prior to around 1920. When it did appear it was of a different type from the older model, which existed within the mercantile class and was effectively a structure built round businessmen. Agricultural and industrial workforces (the proletariat) remained steadfastly attached to the clan model.

A few examples: both my father’s and my grandmother’s families were clans, the Flemings and the Martins. The clans of Appalachia need no introduction, as everyone, surely is familiar with the McCoys and the Hatfields — and their deadly feud. The entire structure of organised crime even today is based on the clan, from Al Capone to John Gotti and many more. Clans remain integral to working-class life.

Across the planet, outside the benighted West, the clan model is dominant and while the organisation itself might be odious beyond words (being racist) the BLM Manifesto’s first page pledges to restore the clan (it calls it the  ‘extended’ family.) The nuclear family is far less universal than its proponents would like you to to imagine.

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Without gender, our ancestors might well have suffered the fate of the Neanderthals, so genetically close to us that we could successfully interbreed, but who may have lacked our sophisticated gender system. They went extinct some 40,000 years ago (although, as ever with such things, researchers are unable to agree on the precise date.) It is quite possible that their less sophisticated social structures made them less resilient. Gender counts. It is real, it is innate, and it is one of the things that make us human.

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Lisa. Pic Rod Fleming

Physical and performed gender

Gender, both in its innate and learned elements, exists in two forms in all humans. It is the basis of our success as a species. The forms are masculinity and femininity.

The genders are outwardly expressed by partly by physical characteristics. In general, females have prominent breasts and buttocks, marked facial neoteny and are generally lighter and smaller that males. On the other hand, males are much more hirsute, generally taller, carry more weight in their upper bodies, have slender hips and when they gain weight, this tends to be in the belly area. Other gender differences are also innate but are performed behaviours.

However, the gender binary does not always map congruently onto the sex binary. It is not always the case that a person born male, for example, will grow up to develop masculine gender. So that person might grow up to be a bakla, aka a transwoman, or something in between. This is neither abnormal nor even rare; it’s just a natural  biological variation.

Sammi. Pic Rod Fleming


There is no such thing as ‘gender neutral’. We are all either one or the other. Similarly, the Snowflake ‘gender spectrum’ of 58, 158 or 258 invented genders is a canard. If they can be said to exist at all, it is only within one gender – feminine, or perhaps more accurately, ‘not-masculine’.


Sexuality — the matter of which sex we are attracted to and whether we want to penetrate to be penetrated — is believed by many researchers to be innate. Sexuality works like this: amongst born males, female sexuality, attraction to masculinity and to being penetrated, tends to lead to a feminine gender.

Expressions of male homosexuality are a sexual variation in which a male born person desires to have men as sexual partners. How this is expressed varies according to social pressure.

So we have: a man is a person born male with masculine gender; a woman is a person born female with feminine gender; a transman is a person born female with masculine gender and a transwoman is a person born male with feminine gender. (The word ‘cis’ is redundant and has become pejorative; it should no longer be used.)

If we take the two preceding paragraphs together, it follows that homosexual males are a form of transwoman — something readily confirmed by observation.

Gender behaviour

Azumi. Pic Rod Fleming

So the gender behaviours that define one as masculine or feminine have a sex based stimulus arising from sexual desire. This desire appears to be innate. However, how this manifests in the individual depends on other factors. The principal amongst these is socialisation.

How do we explain the apparently masculine male who desires male lovers and to play the feminine role in sex?

In the West, sex non-conformism suffers severe social intolerance. Many feminine homosexual males describe being beaten for ‘being girly’ and, to add insult to injury, they are routinely bullied and ostracised by other homosexual males for not being ‘masculine enough’. This causes them to hide in plain sight — to affect sex normativity while clandestinely pursuing a non-conforming sex life.

The alternative, often followed by transwomen who discover their natures in childhood, is to complete as women, move town and vanish; to invent a new life.

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Southeast Asia

To see how strange this is, you have to go to a place where social intolerance  is reduced and look at what happens there. That is exactly what I do, in my travels in southeast Asia.

Here, boys who desire men or who ‘feel girly’ become transwomen. They are supported in this by a subculture that I call kabaklaan. Equivalents to this exist under various names across the region.

The most notable thing about these cultures is that they are not strictly divided into ‘men’ and ‘women’. Instead they are divided into ‘men’ and ‘not men’ groups. This is a subtle but important difference and it is not unique to Southeast Asia. Professor Don Kulick observed it in Brazil and discusses it at length in his book Travesti. (1998)

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The groups

Crucially, outside the West, the clan family remains more usual than the nuclear one and it is in this that baklas flourish. The extended family, controlled, remember by senior women, can protect a young bakla in a way that is not possible in the nuclear family.

It is likely that the clan family structure is one of the reasons why transsexualism is so visible in regions like Asia, while sex-conforming forms of male homosexuality are more prevalent in the Benighted West. Boys’ behaviour is far more closely regulated by fathers in the nuclear structure. As single-parent nuclear families, now presided over by a single mother, become more prevalent in the West, this may again have an influence.

In this model, the ‘men’ group is strictly policed in terms of behaviour and dress codes, by men. It comprises of born males who are masculine. It is led by the strongest and fittest mature males. The authority figures are those who are most experienced or skilled; this is a fraternal meritocracy. Less dominant males are tolerated within it, but their behaviour is constantly monitored and, as a result, they often try to ‘hyper-masculinise’ themselves.

Those born male but who do not conform to sex norms of behaviour are rejected and instead join the ‘not-men’ group. This is centred on women but includes these males. This group is formidably matriarchal, with authority being vested in grandmothers (‘lolas’ in the Philippines.)

Ladyboys, otherwise known as baklas and others similar to them, never socialise as men, because they can’t; they are just too ‘girly’ to be accepted. But they do join the ‘not-men’ group, where other baklas and girls will reinforce their development into ‘not-men’. Baklas do not suggest that they are ‘real women’. The only times I’ve ever heard a bakla iterating such a position were amongst those actually brought up, or who had spent spent years in the West. However, everyone respects that a bakla is part of the social group that includes women, and are protected in it, although they have lower status.

bakla boat
Jelly. Pic Rod Fleming

Bakla Aspirations

Through socialisation in the ‘not-men’ group, a bakla learns a set of aspirations, life-goals and behaviours. These are, more or less, the same as those that girls learn, though there are some differences.

A bakla cannot aspire to be a doctor, say, or a lawyer. The society will favour her if she becomes a hairdresser, make-up artist, or cabaret dancer. Baklas have become the mainstay of the Philippines’ booming call-centre industry; this, while relatively well paid, is not a traditionally masculine job. (Unfortunately there is a ‘chiffon ceiling’ in place that will limit her promotion, unless she de-transitions.)

Bakla Instinct

Because of the years in which her understanding of herself as a ‘not-man’ has been reinforced, this becomes a powerful natural instinct for a bakla. Even if she is told by her boss she has to cut her hair and stop wearing make-up, this doesn’t change her sense of self. She’s a girl and always will be, because of her sexuality and socialisation as a ‘not-man’. (Essentially, when presenting as a man, she’s a cross-dresser!) Gays in these cultures recognise that they are ‘not-men’ and are ‘women inside’.

The problem in the West

Compare this to a man like Bruce Jenner who, at the age of 65, having socialised not just as a man but, successfully, as a highly competitive, aggressive one, suddenly decided that he was ‘a woman’. It defies rationality and should be called out.

Jenner and others like him have a right to live in peace with human dignity, but they are not ‘real women’. If a bakla who has socialised as a girl since the age of 5, lived all her life as a girl and is as feminine as one, is still not a ‘real woman’ — and she would be the first to accept that — then Jenner et alii can go fly a kite.

bakla babe
Sammi. Pic Rod Fleming

Bakla life-goals

Baklas are well-adjusted, rational, sane people with no illusions about themselves. They’re not pretending to be ‘real girls’; they’re attempting — and often succeeding — to be more beautiful, glamorous and sexually attractive than ‘real girls’. (This latter can cause jealousy and hostility, though not usually.)

Most want to find a nice straight man and settle down with him for life, to play the role of wife, home-maker and mother. Cats, dogs, rabbits and dolls are usually the children, though I know baklas who have adopted orphans and have thrown themselves into the role of working single mums.  Others have married men with young families. Their children are lucky, because a bakla is a  devoted mother.

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