Caring transsexual in new documentary
Tan Parsons BY day she cares for sick babies at the Royal Free Hospital – but by night she dons her make-up and dances the night away to the sound of rapturous applause. Nurse Chiqui Diokno, 43, is the front woman of Paper Dolls, an extrovert group of Fil
BY day she cares for sick babies at the Royal Free Hospital - but by night she dons her make-up and dances the night away to the sound of rapturous applause.
Nurse Chiqui Diokno, 43, is the front woman of Paper Dolls, an extrovert group of Filipino transsexuals who are the subject of a film that premieres at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn on Monday.
The documentary, directed by Tomer Heymann, tells of Chiqui's journey along with the other Dolls from the Philippines to Israel in the wake of the second intifada and then on to London.
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In August, Chiqui will have been a UK resident for seven years.
She said: "All four of the remaining Paper Dolls are in the UK and we still perform sometimes - at parties or weddings. We still talk most days and meet up on our days off - just like back in Israel."
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When they perform, it is a flamboyant dance in full dress and make-up. They strut their stuff to tunes like those of Chiqui's favourite band, Abba. Her favourite song is The Winner Takes It All.
The film details some of the group's highs and lows, including some of their performances as well as their struggle for other people's acceptance both in their home country and in Israel.
It exposes the trauma they faced as illegal workers trying to earn a living and also captures their humanity, charm and good humour even as they work gruelling hours to send money back to their families.
Tragically one former member of the group, Sally, was found dead near a local shopping centre in the United Arab Emirates after the film was shot but the remaining Dolls have vowed to carry on performing in her memory.
"London is a very open city - I think this is a relatively tolerant society with very equal rights," said Chiqui, who now lives in Temple Fortune. I love working at the hospital. It's so busy here in London - it's just very different to Israel in terms of culture and everything else."
The group, which includes Jan, Chiqui, Nits and Jojo, all have a background as carers and today they mainly make their living in the UK serving elderly members of the Jewish community in Golders Green and Hampstead Garden Suburb.
Chiqui still sometimes sends money back to relatives in the Philippines to help with things like school fees.
"But since her parents died five years ago, she has chiefly been working to earn money for herself.
"I've seen the film and it really embraces my heart," she said.
"It's about so many things like language, religion, race, class and nationality."
Asked how she would describe her sexuality, she said: "I'm just a very simple person. I'm a lady sometimes.
"I'm very happy in London. At last I have found my world."
The premiere of Paper Dolls is part of the Jewish Community Centre for London's summer programme in conjunction with Jewish Council for Racial Equality and the Jewish Film Festival 2009.