13, Gender & Human Rights advocate, member of Dakila Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism
At 13, Kelsey Hadjirul is unlike many young girls her age. Brave, outspoken and with quite a silver tongue, Kelsey’s concerns go beyond the frivolity of teen-hood. Chock it up to an unconventional household or life-changing experiences, but when she speaks, we listen.
Kelsey grew up in a lesbian family, which is uncommon for our conservative culture. “[It’s been] challenging,” she says of her experiences, “Grade two ako noon, sabi nila bakit wala akong tatay, bakit dalawa ang mommies ko. Doon ko na-realize, may mali sa pagiisip ng iba.” Meanwhile in sixth grade, a similar incident had happened to her. This time, the bully was a teacher who said that hers wasn’t a “proper family.” Kelsey, who was the school paper editor at the time, responded in the form of an essay on prejudice and LGBT rights, but was disapproved for print publishing. So she did what any woke millennial or Gen Z-er would—she published it online. While this was met by mixed reviews, questions and even hate, Kelsey remains unshaken.
Raised by two loving and fearless women, Kelsey says that these experiences have only made her and her family stronger. “Mas tumibay relationship ko with my parents. [My question to them was] mommy paano ba, hindi bakit ganito,” she says. As an active member of Dakila and by speaking at youth forms, Kelsey hopes to change the stigma and encourage people to think more openly.
Her advocacies though cut across preference and orientation; the high school junior also champions women’s issues. Having once been groped in a public transport, she has since spoken out against rape culture, victim shaming, catcalling and so on. Her words seem to have struck a chord in many as she was invited to speak at the United Nations Safe Cities Program, which aims to fight urban violence and crime to create safe public spaces for women, and has already been implemented in Quezon City.
Taking inspiration from her two moms, Kelsey is forging her own path and fighting for what's right as well as the rights of others, and would like to continue to do so through art. And with brave girls like her leading the way, change doesn't seem impossible. In fact, change is happening; change is now.