Marrz Saludez Balaoro: Trans or Tomboy?

The Philippine LGBT community is abuzz with the most recent MMK episode that aired last night, July 13, 2019, featuring Anne Curtis as a young Reverend Marrz Saludez Balaoro. The question on most people’s minds is, “Is Marrz a trans man or tomboy?”. This is because it was announced that the episode would be about a transgender man, but throughout the episode, Anne as Marrz would constantly refer to themself as a “tomboy” while also stating that they were a “man inside”.

Who is Marrz?

Marrz is a Filipino who worked in Hong Kong as a domestic helper after their father vehemently opposed their dream of working in the Philippine Air Force. After witnessing the discrimination faced by their peers, Marrz started Filguys Association in Hong Kong (HK) where they would assist LGBT Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) facing discrimination in HK. They also officiated marriage ceremonies for LGBT couples. Marrz currently identifies as a trans man and is connected with LGBTS Christian Church Hong Kong.

Why did they use the term tomboy in MMK?

Throughout the episode, Anne as Marrz would consistenly use the word tomboy and the word trans never comes up. Marrz explains that the word tomboy was used in the show because that was the actual term he used in the 1970s.

The term transgender never really gained traction in the Philippines until around 2005. In fact, the first trans rights advocacy group, STRAP, still used the term transsexual when they were founded in 2002. STRAP stands for Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines. Several transgender groups have since been formed like Transman Equality Awareness Movement.

Preferred terms: (the ones you should use)

  • Transgender man
  • Trans man
  • Transgender woman
  • Trans woman

Deprecated terms: (the ones you should avoid using)

  • Transsexual man
  • Transsexual woman
  • FTM
  • MTF

Tomboy is typically used to refer to people assigned female at birth who identify as female (cisgender) who have a masculine appearance or expression. A tomboy may be attracted to men or women. It is typically used to refer to gender expression and not necessarily sexual orientation although it is commonly used by butch lesbians.

Transgender men are people assigned female at birth who identify as male. A transgender man may be attracted to men or women. A transgender man may be masculine, feminine, or androgynous in their gender expression.

Criticism of the MMK Episode

The show has been criticized for using a cisgender actor instead of an actual transgender man. When I saw the show, I noticed they had Jesi Corcuera, a trans man, as part of the cast and wondered why they didn’t use him as the main character though I have no knowledge of the level of Jesi’s acting skills. But one has to wonder if they asked Jake Zyrus or Ice Seguerra.

Note: As of this writing, I have not seen any explanation from MMK for their decision to cast Anne Curtis.

There is also a huge failure on the part of MMK to explain the reason why the term tomboy was used in the episode instead of trans man which could have been explained post-episode. They’ve only furthered the belief of Filipinos that tomboys and trans men are the same which they are not.

I am happy that MMK did feature a transgender man in their latest episode but it definitely could have been done better.

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