Setbacks and comebacks: Theo Lacson reborn

While society has been more accepting toward the LGBTQIA community in recent years, transgender men and women still experience discrimination in their daily lives. Oftentimes, they are less understood and accepted by society, as they are rarely represented authentically. And in the world of sports where queerness is still very much taboo, trans athletes are subjected to discrimination and barred from certain opportunities. Their careers are at constant risk of prejudice, which is why athletes who do come out and speak up about these issues are essential game changers to the community.

Exploring the highs and lows a transgender athlete has faced throughout his entire collegiate football career, The LaSallian sits down with the former goalkeeper of the DLSU Lady Booters, Theo Lacson (BS-MKT, ‘21), who decided to forgo his fifth playing year in the UAAP in order to begin his transition. 

Finding your footing

Growing up in a very conservative environment in Bacolod, Lacson had trouble coming to terms with his identity. “All I knew was that I didn’t identify as a girl and that I like girls,” Lacson explains, “but that was about it, that’s where it stopped.”

It was not until he moved to Manila and enrolled in DLSU that he met other young people trying to find themselves too. After that, he found a word for what he was feeling–gender dysphoria, which is the discomfort a transgender person experiences due to the mismatch between their birth sex and their gender identity. “There was a disconnect to the way I looked at myself and the way I felt I truly was,” he states.

These feelings are especially heightened in trans people who have yet to or are unable to transition. “It had reached a point where even in the middle of class, I just broke down,” Lacson admits, “and it wasn’t because of any particular reason, it was just because I felt unhappy.”

Lacson eventually decided that he was willing to forego his fifth year at UAAP in order to begin his transition by his third year in college. While he still experiences occasional bouts of dysphoria after a year and a half on testosterone, it has since lessened considerably. 

“Just remind yourself and keep your mind in yourself that no matter how long it takes, you’re on this journey, and keep reminding yourself that you’re on the way to becoming the person you have always felt you were,” he remarks.

Kicking things off

Lacson started playing football in high school as a leisure activity. Quickly showing exceptional talent in the sport, he was recruited by Coach Hans Smit in his third year as a goalkeeper for DLSU. Lacson fondly looks back on how football has positively influenced his life, saying “Being headstrong, perseverant, courageous, determined, and confident, most of it came from football.”

Throughout his entire stay in DLSU, Lacson had a very solid support system that stayed by his side and was vital to his growth as an individual and as an athlete. Even when he decided not to finish his final playing year in DLSU, his teammates understood this tough decision. 

“They were a bit taken aback when I told them I wasn’t going to finish my last year or play my last year. But once I explained to them why, they completely understood. They respected my decision and supported me from then on,” he shares. “Even the coaches have been nothing but supportive, and I’m very grateful to have my sports family to be one of the strongest support systems aside from my partner,” he adds.

While the life of a student athlete was definitely not an easy one, with the daily training sessions, weekly competitions, and tiring workouts, Lacson would not have traded that experience for the world. “Even when I’m so tired [from] training every single day for the competition, there are these moments during training where I find myself happy being on the field, to be with my teammates,” he professes.

Shedding one’s skin

During his stay in DLSU, Lacson hardly experienced any discrimination in collegiate football. “I guess because I tend to be cis passing, so I don’t exactly receive or experience discrimination as much as other people from the LGBT community would,” he explains. 

The term “cis passing” refers to when a trans person’s transition has made them appear like their gender identity corresponds to their birth sex and unless told otherwise, leads people to assume the individual is cisgender. Unfortunately, not everyone is granted with the privilege of being cis passing. Trans men and women who have yet to medically transition through hormone replacement therapy are more likely to be targets of discrimination and harrassment from transphobic individuals.

Though progress is being made toward undoing these prejudices, this proves we still have a long way to go before society recognizes that the beauty, value, and authenticity of trans people are not skin deep.

Part of Lacson’s journey to self-discovery is his passion for tattoos. Himself inked, he shares that the most significant to him is a snake on his forearm. “When a snake sheds its skin, it’s beautiful. It’s almost new.” Lacson explains. “That’s how I felt when I finally changed my name to Theo. I felt like I was breaking free from this mold that society has tried to put me into for the longest time,” he elaborates.

In a society where it is frowned upon for disrupting the norm and for daring to be different, many queer Filipinos opt for the safe option—to stay in the closet. However, we are now seeing a steady overturn of these views in favor of acceptance toward members of the LGBTQ+ community thanks to those who are brave and bold enough.

“You are under no obligation to make sense to anyone but yourself,” Lacson argues, “and as long as you understand yourself, and you understand who you are, then that’s all you need.” 

Zachary Elias Dimayuga

By Zachary Elias Dimayuga

Tana Melgar

By Tana Melgar

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