Rico is a 15-year-old boy living in Ella Yallah Home. One will easily notice him during Virlanie’s celebrations featuring children’s performances because Rico is not only an ex-member of the Virlanie Voices (Virlanie Choir) but also an outstanding dancer. His abilities to dance and sing built his self-confidence on stage.
Rico developed his talents as he was able to find inner-peace and fulfillment through the practice of performing arts. Perhaps this was also a way for him to escape the struggles of his daily life. For many years, Rico experienced bullying in school and at home because of his gender expression.
As young as the age of 5, Rico recalls that he already had a feminine gender expression. While most of his boy-playmates used to gather around basketball courts and had male role models, he remembers developing a passion for dolls and bringing them to school. The other children would mock him for being a boy playing with dolls.
Even if his playmates bullied him because of his gender expression, Rico recalls, “At a young age, I knew already that I wanted to be a girl, I just didn’t fit in the standards of society.”
Rico has been taken care of by Virlanie for almost nine years. Like other young adults of Virlanie, Rico is enrolled in the Independent Living Program (ILP). Part of the ILP curriculum is to provide the young adults with comprehensive Adolescence Sexuality and Reproductive Health (ASRH) Seminar which aims to discuss and promote gender sensitivity and sexual education.
“I already had the chance to participate to two sessions of ASRH. This helped me to know more about gender and understand better my own gender identity,” Rico said.
Responsibility, respect and confidence are the main values that Rico was able to build and apply because of the ASRH seminar. He became proud of his gender identity. He is now self-declared gay and confident to talk about it.
“Pursuing my preferred gender identity was difficult, I experienced bullying at home. There was no physical bullying, but I experienced verbal bullying,” Rico shared. Thus, the ASRH seminar was not only beneficial for Rico to understand and accept his own gender identity, but also to other youth who were taught to be more tolerant and respectful towards gender difference.
Today, Rico is a jolly and energetic teenager of Ella Yallah Home. He accepts advices from the staff and study well to fulfill his dream of being a flight attendant someday.