Let me preface this by saying that I will not take the worst hit if birth control pills disappear. I might have it better than others in many ways, but at this point, no woman should stay silent anymore. No matter how seemingly insignificant your struggle is, it’s time to speak up for your right to live your life on your own terms.
I, for one, take contraceptives every day. I do so for medical reasons, due to a hormonal imbalance that's causing severe acne. I've only been on them for half a year, but the pills have already done wonders to my skin.
Already, you're beginning to see where this might be going. But let me wade you off that path right now and tell you that you're wrong. My taking a stand for birth control is not for the sake of being "pretty." Although I wish it were that simple, too.
You see, I've been struggling with acne for almost 10 years now. I'm 21. It has been the bane of my self-esteem's existence since I was 13. I've had it for so long that I don't even know how to live without it anymore. And frankly, it has taken over my life, my mental health, in ways even I didn't think was possible.
At its worst stage, I had cystic acne and whiteheads all over. Some were as big as a fingernail. They were painful when touched, and they were all over my face. They didn't grow one or two at a time, mind you. I used to have around 15 active breakouts at once: on my forehead, cheeks, chin, nose, between my eyebrows—basically everywhere. Almost all of them left dark marks and pitted scars that were impossible to fade.
IMAGE Gab Gutierrez
And because of that, I rarely ever went outside. If I didn't have to go to school, I wouldn't dare step out. When I made plans with people, I always canceled at the last minute. Whenever I did go out, I had my hair over my face 99% of the time. No skin care product helped. Makeup became somewhat a savior, but even that barely covered the bumps.
My family usually gets fed up by this, and I don't blame them. "Nobody cares about your pimples. Just go outside," they tell me. And the thing is, I know. I know that they probably couldn't care less. But I do. I unfortunately care a whole lot. The mere thought of people looking at my bare face was too achingly terrifying for me. I grew genuinely afraid of people seeing me. Because what they see, I had absolutely no control over, and it was frustrating. Every time I tried to have a conversation, I was always half-listening. I was too busy worrying about the zit on my nose or my chin. I remembering wanting to be a TV host at one point, but that dream died really quickly, for obvious reasons.
The more I did about my acne, the more frustrated I became as well. I wash my face religiously, heck, I might even have a better skin care routine than most people in my circle. But I was never the one with nice skin. I have friends with great skin who wash their face with alkaline bath soap. Ironically, I was the one who told them to switch.
It didn't help that those who did see me without makeup were tactless either. Everyone suddenly becomes an acne expert when I entered the room. Asking me if I've tried this or that, naming every acne remedy they know. I've been greeted several times with "O, dumami pimples mo!" before a proper hello.
No one knew what they were doing to my self-esteem. Their attempts to "help" only told me that nothing could. They had no idea how pointing out what I was already aware of made things tougher to deal with. Imagine indirectly telling someone they're not good enough every time you saw them.
ILLUSTRATION Gab Gutierrez
That's why for a few years, hope really escaped me. My skin occupied most of my thoughts for many years. I was angry, insecure, and eventually resigned that I'll have acne forever. It wasn't fun.
Now doesn't that sound like an angsty teen movie? Because it sure does to me. The thing is, a trivial situation like that actually happens outside TV, and they have lifelong effects. Being in recovery, I have yet to step outside without makeup on. To this day, I still can't imagine doing it.
I would honestly call myself out for exaggerating, too, if none of these were true. Call me whiny or petty, but the truth stands. Birth control pills are not only saving my skin, they're saving my mental health from declining as well. While my feat with acne is surely not over, having medication comforts me, assuring me that things can get better. These few months of undergoing treatment has been slowly restoring the self-esteem I forgot I should have.
However, it's not pity that I'm asking for. Not at all. Many people have it worse than I do in many ways. The point here is that contraceptives help people more than they do harm. Every woman's need, experience, and struggle in relation to it may be different, but under the law, we're one and bound together.
The government doesn't have to empathize to sympathize. They only need to acknowledge the hardships of their people and do something about it. What they don't realize with this TRO is that catering to the interest of a few will have a backwards effect on the overall welfare of women. But at the same time, the timing couldn't be more perfect. Challenging the freedom and rights of women in this era of empowerment only makes our force stronger. To all women—all Filipinos, rather, it's time to rise to the occasion. No form of oppression should be stronger than our claim to freedom.
Sign the petition to lift the TRO for contraceptives here.