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  • Lesson plan
  • Grades 11-12

When the Political Becomes Personal: U.S. Imperialism in the Philippines


The United States has a history of imperialism that was intended to increase military reach, expand U.S. markets, identify and exploit cheap labor and resources and spread American culture and ideals. The policy and ideology of imperialism have led to devastating results for the economies and cultures of colonized nations around the world, including the Philippines. Inherent to a doctrine of imperialism is a suppression of indigenous cultures and, according to historian Kristin Hoganson, author of Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars, a gender-based exercise of power.

In the documentary film Call Her Ganda we see how the legacy of U.S. imperialism persists in the form of ongoing U.S. military presence in the Philippines and legal protections afforded to U.S. military personnel who commit crimes on Filipino soil. Call Her Ganda reveals the injustices and imbalance of power inherent in this legacy and how it leads to violence against the Filipino population in general and, in the case of Jennifer Laude, the historical erasure and degradation of transgender identity and the inability of the Filipino people to fight for their right to punish violent crimes committed against them on their own shores.

In this lesson students will study how the history of the U.S. military presence in the Philippines has an impact on families like the Laudes and how the murder of Jennifer “Ganda” Laude reveals the tragic intersection of imperialism, gender, transphobia and violence.

If students are unfamiliar with the disproportionate rates of violence against transgender individuals in the U.S. and around the world, it may be instructive to share this information:

“Every day millions of transgender people in all regions experience rejection, stigmatization, harassment and physical violence because they do not conform with prevailing gender norms. Such violence may be physical (including murder, beatings, kidnappings, rape and sexual assault) or psychological (including threats, coercion and arbitrary deprivations of liberty).”

— 2013 United Nations Development Programme Discussion Paper on Transgender Health and Human Rights

Trans Murder Monitoring Map, a project of, monitors murders of transgender people by country throughout the world.

Important Note to Educators

Call Her Ganda includes violence and sexual assault that can be difficult to watch and talk about. Bringing these elements into a classroom conversation requires establishing an environment where students have been prepared in advance and exhibit the maturity to share and process this information.

To prepare for this lesson:

● Watch all the film clips suggested for this lesson prior to screening them in your classroom.

● Review the Resources of this lesson and familiarize yourself with the recommended organizations and materials.

About the authors


Blueshift is a team of education specialists with background in environmental and social impact work. The team recognizes and builds on the power of documentary film in reaching broad audiences to spark energy for deep and lasting social change. The team works with filmmakers, photographers and writers to develop innovative educational strategies, experiences, tools and resources that bring stories off the screen and into viewers’ lives.