In every paradise, there is a princess. And in Siargao, the “Island Princess” is Dods Taylor. Born Florentino G. Gubaton III, Dods today is a 21-year-old femme surfer and local tour guide in Siargao island. A proud cross-dresser, meeting Dods is like a breath of fresh air. Like a confirmation of a bright future. Like the validation of a community much bigger than the world we are meant to re-imagine.
Dods grew up in a quaint neighborhood nearby a surfing spot, where friends and an enticing environment pushed him to take daily trips to the ocean. At 11 years young, he began surfing. The beginning, as he recalls, was “catching white bubbly waves” that were strong enough to push him.
However, conditions weren’t always friendly. At 13 years old, Dods experienced a mild accident that made him stop surfing for 4 years. He shares, “I was in the line up catching waves that were perfect for me. And then, one moment, I was caught by a huge set that struck me. Those waves were powerful, and just like that, I couldn’t breathe. I was so scared that I never surfed again.”
But just like all things that are meant for us, Dods found his way back into the ocean. Now a fully grown adult, he makes his “surf comeback,” as he likes to call it. Although, times have certainly changed. As he reminisces his trauma, he teaches himself further to become confident in and out of the water. He shares, “I taught myself to be brave and to be courageous to conquer those waves, among other challenges.” Beyond his mental and physical growth is his maturity to embrace his authentic self in the LGBT community.
Dods knew he had to earn his spot as a proud gay surfer in a small surf community. For a sport that’s deemed to be masculine, it seemed like a long shot. But thankfully, both the locals and tourists of the isla have helped him boost his self-confidence. “It feels so refreshing,” he shares. “When I surf, I express myself. I wear what I want (bikinis) and ride my board in the sexiest way possible. And no one bullies me! People are supportive instead.”
Little by little, Dods walks his talk. He gets up every day to do what he’s meant to do: Enjoy life while helping the surf community to grow in the direction of recognizing the LGBT community.
Despite living freely, Dods isn’t immune to the troubles of behaving as a femme gay man. Looking beyond the landscape of Siargao, Dods promotes gender equality for all. “I’m daring,” he begins, “and I use my Instagram to eat away at the stigma towards my people.” And his heart, where his dreams are, tells him that he can help eradicate homophobia once and for all, even if it means allowing it to very slowly fade away.
He explains that what we all want is fair treatment. And in an effort to achieve this, he has become an active vessel for the Cabuntogan Gay Association (CaGA) in General Luna, Siargao. And in his holistic approach, he says it simply makes sense for him to become a good example of the LGBT community. Whenever he can, he also lends a hand to the Sea Movement to help ecotourism.
A certified soul surfer, surfing for Dods has taught him never to give up. “Those big waves that tried to pull me down,” he says, is how he sees and faces problems in life. Growing in the water, he believes, has shaped him to become a stronger individual. “I taught myself that I have to do something so the wave could not drag me down because… that’s me: I’m Dods Taylor the Island Princess, and I am unstoppable.”
Above all, Dods emphasizes that empathy is important in understanding differences. “Does gender matter? I don’t think so,” he claims. “What’s important is to respect one another and to let people express who they really are.”
Perhaps to be accepted and understood is to be loved despite your otherness. This must be the greatest gift of all. “I want to banish the stigma,” he finalizes. Looking forward to the day that discrimination towards the LGBT no longer exists, Dods shares that his dream is “to take it from their hearts and expel the negative thoughts about us.“