In the early 2000s, I went into the Philippines for a job interview.
A Filipina man asked me if I had ever been to Malaysia, a country I had never been to.
I told him that I had visited in 2009, but it had been four years since I had gone there.
“So you don’t know how to use a toilet?” he asked me.
It was then that I realised how much I had missed the Philippines in the 20 years I had lived there.
In fact, I had been missing so much of the Philippines that the only time I had felt remotely at home was when I went to visit family in Malaysia.
That was the time I realised the importance of the ‘toy’ toilet.
It gave me a sense of home.
As a Filipina, I could feel like I belonged in Malaysia, the place I had spent so much time in.
It made me realise how much Malaysia had changed.
But I had no idea what the world would think of my ‘toys’ in the future.
It had been 20 years since my first trip to Malaysia.
Today, I feel like a stranger in a foreign land.
We are still waiting for our first taste of what the future might hold.
It has been more than 20 years.
The Philippines is a country where people can feel isolated.
People live in fear of the authorities.
I had grown up in a city where people felt comfortable to talk to me.
But as the years passed, I found myself growing tired of the constant conversations and even more tired of being asked to change clothes.
I found it very hard to have conversations with other Filipinos.
In our culture, we don’t allow people to talk about things like the health and safety of our cities or the environment.
People are scared of getting a bad impression.
In the past, it would take me several days to explain to someone why the Philippines had the worst water quality in the world.
Today I feel that I was being asked for too much information and not enough answers.
There was also no sense of community and there was no way to have a regular social life.
People just wanted to get away from the constant conversation, gossip and media.
I felt like I was living in a bubble.
I wanted to see my country for myself.
When I returned home, I began looking for ways to change the culture.
I started taking classes to become an expert on the Philippine economy.
But the conversations I had with other Filipino men about the toilet and the Philippines always left me with the impression that I would have to leave the Philippines and start over.
I was not prepared for the pressures that would come my way.
I would need to learn a new language, move out of my house, and spend more time away from my family.
I also realised that if I wanted a family in the Philippines, I would want to be married to a Filipinas woman.
The problem was, my Filipino wife had not even finished finishing high school.
I did not know how long she would be away from home.
I worried about her safety and security.
I decided to start an online dating site to find a Filipino man to marry me.
I didn’t know what I would do when I met the Filipino man, but I knew I had to make a choice.
In my mind, I thought, ‘I’ll go to a country that I love and that I can go to every single day of my life’.
I was determined to start a life with a Filipino woman.
It would be different if I lived in the US.
In US, we have the freedom to choose our spouses.
However, in the United States, people don’t want to change their gender.
For example, if a person is transgender, they may be treated as a second-class citizen.
The US does not allow them to transition because it is considered to be a violation of their rights under the law.
I began searching for a Filipino couple who would be willing to marry a woman.
When the Philippines went to the polls last year, I decided I would go to the Philippines to vote.
I thought I would meet a Filipino family and get to know them.
The Philippine government had promised to give me the opportunity to vote in the upcoming elections.
But, it was not an easy process.
When we got to the polling station, the Filipino woman’s husband told me, “We are sorry, but there is no place for a man in this country.”
I felt a bit embarrassed.
I asked the Filipino husband if he was joking.
“No, you are right, you can’t have a Filipino husband.”
He was completely serious.
I went home and tried to decide if I should go to my parents house to get married.
I tried to go to their house and say that I wanted my Filipino husband to marry the Filipino girl.
I even called their parents to tell them that I want to marry them.
They were very worried.