We delve into the latest social media case of Jzan Tero and Sam Morales, proving that transwomen have always been the real victims of catfishing.
Catfishing, a term that has been floating around in pop culture, is the act of luring men or women into a relationship using a fictional online persona. At first glance it seems harmless, a crude game is done by people with nothing better to do. At its worst, it can conjure up humanity’s manipulative and deceptive nature, such as when catfishing became associated with transwomen who would supposedly “trick” straight men for affection or sexual favors. In recent years, this concept took an even more hysterical and deadly turn, with accusations that men could pretend to be transwomen and abuse young women and children in public bathrooms.
The message was clear: transwomen are predators.
But in the case of Sam Morales, it turns out quite the opposite—as it often does with the LGBTQIA+. For those who haven’t caught up with the latest social media issue, here is the extraordinary, Netflix-worthy story of transwoman Jzan Tero and her encounter with one Sam Morales, a cis straight female videographer. For a full eight months, Morales allegedly manipulated and deceived Tero into falling in love with her online persona, Bill Iver Reyes, to the detriment of Tero’s mental health.
Just as the news started to trickle down, MEGA received a message from a trusted source with close ties to Morales. This was a story that had already bubbled up late in 2019 but only to a few in the industry. The reason it didn’t spread was because it seems so incredulous even back then. That is, until Tero came out with hers. Allegedly, Morales started catfishing at quite a young age. One of her first victims was her gay high school teacher according to a tweet by an outspoken drag queen, Deedee Holliday.
Using an anonymous number, Morales supposedly pretended to be a guy and sought to make the teacher fall in love with him/her. She would send sweet greetings in the morning and heaped virtual affection, playing with the teacher’s feelings until the former wanted to meet in person. That was when Morales ghosted him. We laugh about being ghosted or being seen-zoned when it comes to romance, but in all honesty, it is truly heart-wrenching. Like any breakup without closure, it plays a deadly game with the heartbroken person’s mental health. For Morales, somehow, this experience awoke something in her and pushed her to catfish both gay men and transwomen again and again in the years that followed.
Fast forward to the case of Jzan Tero, a Cebuana transwoman, who was the initial whistleblower of this case. When Tero came out with her story, the rumors started to flesh out. Now there was a better context and vocal characters coming into play. Perhaps there was truth to the stories about the storyteller herself.
Morales, in her own twisted way, would grow emboldened to direct her own drama. She found Tero on Tinder and they instantly matched. Luckily for her, Tero lived in Cebu—easier to catfish when you’re hundreds of miles away. Morales posed as Bill Iver Reyes, or Bilko Argana, a model and associate of Morales’s in real life. Through Viber messages, she made Tero fall in love with Bill using the same tactics she employed in her past schemes.
When it was finally time for them to meet, the story took on a new level of crazy. On the night of Tero’s flight to Manila, Morales allegedly instructed Argana to meet Tero at the airport. He was meant to break up with her that night—but not without theatrics. Ever the director, she gave Argana blocking instructions like a theater actor. She instructed him to stay with Tero by the glass walls of the fast-food restaurant so she could view what was happening safely outside. She even asked him to go out of the restaurant from a specific exit. Morales wanted to see her teleserye come time life: a tragedy where the director and audience are one.
Is this social predation or are these actions a cry for help from someone with mental issues?
According to PsychologyToday.com, “a social predator is a puppeteer. Unlike the narcissist, they don’t need an audience, what they need are victims so they can act out as either a predator or a parasite. The social predator, like a self-centered narcissist, do share one thing in common: they also seek to become supreme puppeteers; pulling strings, controlling lives, manipulating others, getting their way. And whether in the role of predator or parasite, they seek to dominate and control by pulling strings and having others at their mercy. And the only thing we can be sure of with these individuals is that there is always suffering in the end, and it is the victim who usually pays the price.”
Morales’s case is quite close to that of a person with Antisocial Personality Disorder, a mental condition in which a person has a long-term pattern of manipulating, exploiting, or violating the rights of others without any remorse. One of the causes of this disorder is child abuse or childhood trauma. Tero mentions at the end of her twitter thread that Morales claimed she was bullied at a young age, the source of her hatred against gay men and transwomen. And since Morales is targeting a minority group, what she is doing may be categorized as a hate crime.
This is by no means a haphazard, armchair diagnosis of Morales, but rather, informed speculation to better understand the reasons behind these despicable acts. A one-day or week-long practical joke is terrible enough, but one that lasted almost a year? Based on Tero’s Twitter confession, it was pretty clear that she suffered thoroughly under Morales’s manipulations—something that Tero also plainly saw.
A transwoman’s journey is difficult and very unique. MEGA spoke to some transwomen and their experiences. Being fetishized as a means to satisfy a sexual desire is a common case for transwomen in the dating scene. So, when there is a man who approaches with the intention to show love and affection, it is easy to grab on to that small hope. Finally, a knight in shining armor that she could fall in love with and live happily ever after with—a fairytale happy ending that seemed exclusive to cis couples only.
It’s not just Morales who is experiencing the internet’s condemnation right now. Argana, the stand-in boyfriend was not saved from the backlash. For many, there’s simply no excuse in being an accomplice to a hate crime that lasted eight months. Transwomen are trying to live their lives as authentic as possible, but with deceptions like this, the fear of being themselves continues and the narrative of hate against them and the LGBTQIA+ community grows.
MEGA has worked with Morales in the past. A very talented videographer who had shown nothing but professionalism to our publication, this story was a sharp shock to us. We have yet to hear from Morales herself, even if we’ve reached out to her, but we respect and trust our source. Also, there is no denying the other people coming out with their own stories of Morales’s wicked games. We ask ourselves, what is the use of amazing talent if it’s not backed up by compassion and empathy? We do not condone cancel culture, but we do agree that aggression targeted towards our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQIA+ community are reprehensible. Morales needs to step out from the director’s chair, answer the accusations and—if indeed they are true—take responsibility for her actions.
The fact of the matter is, and it is about time the world comes to terms with this: transwomen are not out to trick anyone. They are there simply to live their lives. They are not the perpetrators as popular culture has made them out to be. More often than not, they are the victims. And this story of Morales proves it.