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Bodies of evidence

Gay apps have been criticized for (re)introducing superficiality and “toxic masculinity” in the gay and bi community. But for Evan Tan of Blued, blaming just one element re this may be understandable yet still shortsighted since “changing mindsets and beliefs needs the help of the whole community.”

IMAGE BY COMFREAK FROM PIXABAY.COM

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When MC created an account in three gay apps using the handle “I am Effeminate”, he claimed to have received “unwanted – many of them unsolicited – personal attacks through PMs (personal messages),” he said. Supposedly, “random guys would message me even if I didn’t message them first, just to attack my very being.”

He had been told – among others – “Tsupi (colloquial for ‘Get out of here)!”, “This is no place for you; this is just for us bi men!”, You’re malnourished; only muscular men should be here!”, “Go to hell, fag!”, and so on.

Just as it is in mainstream (hetero) population, this shaming of the “other” – i.e. those who do not fit the stereotypical concepts of how community members are supposed to look like/act like – even from within the LGBT community itself is actually already prevalent. But, as MC’s experience may highlight, it can be argued that gay and bi apps are helping “normalize” or are even popularize this.

NO pa-ghirl (effeminate) allowed. No fatsos. No oldies. ONLY those from premier schools in Metro Manila need send message. Fuck off trans. Asians NOT allowed. Only interested in White men; everyone else, leave.

These are but some of the very real statements included in profiles of gay app users, often taken as mere reflections of “preferences” instead of blatant (internal) discrimination.

MC – who is still in his early 20s – admitted “na nasaktan din ako, siyempre (of course I was also hurt/offended),” he said. “Wala naman akong ginawa para kutyain (It’s not like I did something to merit the attacks).”

He admitted feeling “nanliit (belittled)” and crestfallen, as if “wala ka talagang silbi (you’re really useless).”

MC would – most times – shrug the “attacks” off; but then “nangyayari pa rin (they’d happen again).” And so he said he is regularly reminded “na iba ako (of my ‘otherness’).”

MC’s case is – unfortunately – not uncommon.

One’s weight is, of course, but one of the identifiers of “otherness”. Others include ethnicity, religious affiliation, and – as in MC’s case – effeminacy.
PHOTO BY PIXABAY.COM FROM PEXELS.COM

SAD STATE TO BE IN

This treatment of “otherness” in gay apps was already scientifically considered. For instance, in 2016, a study published in the Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity suggested that antifat bias (with weight among the identifiers of “otherness”) is a “challenge for many members of the gay community, even those who are not technically overweight”.

Do gay men hate fat people?

 

For “Fat Chance! Experiences and Expectations of Antifat Bias in the Gay Male Community”, Olivia Foster-Gimbel and Renee Engeln conducted two studies exploring antifat bias among gay men.

The first study explored experiences of antifat bias among gay men and the body image correlates of these experience. Involving 215 participants (gay men aged from 18 to 78), who completed measures of antifat bias, body image disturbance, and open-ended questions about their experience with antifat bias, this study found that over one third of gay men reported directly experiencing antifat bias.  The surprising part? Many of them were not even overweight using common body mass index (BMI) guidelines.

According to this study, the most common type of antifat bias reported was rejection by potential romantic partners on the basis of weight (e.g. No fatsos). The antifat bias experienced and witnessed was associated with several types of body image disturbance.

A follow-up was done to the first study. This time, a comparison was made between gay and heterosexual college men’s expectations of antifat bias from a potential romantic partner. Participants rated how likely certain outcomes would be if they saw an overweight man hit on an attractive target (a man for gay participants or a woman for heterosexual participants). Not surprisingly, gay men reported greater likelihood that the overweight man would be blatantly ignored, treated rudely, or mocked behind his back if he approached an attractive potential romantic partner.

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To top it all off, the gay male surveyed also reportedly expect other gay men to show these antifat biases when looking for a romantic partner.

But to begin with, why the hate?

In Gay Men: Girth, Mirth, and the Politics of Stigma (2014), Dr. Jason Whitesel interviewed members of Girth & Mirth, an international organization supposed to celebrate “big men and their admirers”. Interestingly, Whitesel found that many members had internalized a great deal of the bias that they experienced from outside their community.

The sadder part of the internalized hatred is the dissociation, noted Whitesel, with some big men confessing that “they want to dissociate themselves from other people who are fat, as if fatness were contagious.”

One’s weight is, of course, but one of the identifiers of “otherness”. Others include ethnicity, religious affiliation, and – as in MC’s case – effeminacy.

FOLLOW OUTRAGE MAGAZINE IN BLUED

BODY REPRESENTATIONS

This is why, according to Evan Tan, country marketing manager for the Philippines of Blued, it is relevant to introduce different (body) representations. And here, apps (and those running them) need to join the conversation.

Evan Tan recognizes that platforms like Blued “can and will be used by people in different ways.” However, “we believe that showing the diversity in the gay community will help dispel implicit (and maybe explicit) biases.”
PHOTO BY PIXABAY.COM FROM PEXELS.COM

“People are more than just stereotypes and labels. It’s easy and convenient to think of people as templates, but there’s a larger story behind every person than the labels we give each other,” Tan said.  This is why – at least for Blued as a social networking app – “we want to allow those conversations to happen.”

Tan recognizes that platforms like Blued “can and will be used by people in different ways.” However, “we believe that showing the diversity in the gay community will help dispel implicit (and maybe explicit) biases.”

How does a platform like Blued do this?

“To encourage authenticity in Blued, we ask people to actually verify their profiles,” Tan said.

Here, authentication is seen as antidote to fakeness (e.g. making fake profiles with fake pics placed just to conform to stereotyped notions of beauty), since authenticity could mean capturing the diversity seen in the real world.

“We think it’s time for gay men to be truly out and proud of who they are, and to not hide behind headless torsos or fake photos,” Tan said, adding that in his observation, “I’ve seen more faces in Blued than in any other app out there; and more people are authenticating their profiles as well.”

Blued also makes sure it “we feature diverse people on the site – e.g. in advertising,” Tan said.

And to promote diversity not just in body representations but even in expressions of ideas, “here in the Philippines, we’ve reached out to different organizations, such as UP Babaylan (the LGBT organization of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City), to create community pages on Blued. We hope that these will help create a community of diverse opinions and foster healthy conversations on what we find attractive and acceptable, and why.”

Reaching out to communities is necessary, said Tan, because for him, dealing with issues of representation in the LGBT (in this case in particular, gay and bi men) needs everyone’s help. Tan particularly believes that placing the blame – so to speak – on just one element is shortsighted. “We think that this issue can’t be solved by just one app or feature, in such a short time,” he said. “Changing mindsets and beliefs needs the help of the whole community. We’re (just) happy to help advance the discussion in the ways we can.”

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WANTED: COMMUNITY EFFORT

While it’s easy to pinpoint these gay apps as the culprit of promoting the idealized gay male beauty, Blued’s Tan believes that the problem is bigger than just the apps, which may just be magnifying the issue.

“People are more than just stereotypes and labels. It’s easy and convenient to think of people as templates, but there’s a larger story behind every person than the labels we give each other,” Blued’s Evan Tan said.  This is why – at least for Blued as a social networking app – “we want to allow those conversations to happen.”
PHOTO BY TIM MOSSHOLDER FROM PEXELS.COM

“The challenge, of course, is always that you need to slowly loosen the hold of unhealthy cultural baggage that people cling on to,” Tan said. “This is a long process that can’t be solved by just one person (I personally don’t believe in savior narratives — it’s cute to say that one person or group magically saves everyone, but it’s never the case most of the time). Instead, you need the involvement of different groups of different people from different backgrounds to create long-lasting change. How do we do that? How do we spearhead the conversation without judgment?”

At least some apps are taking initiatives to introduce diversity. Grindr has “tribes” to identify the “types” of people – e.g. twink, daddy, bear, jock, and so on. PlanetRomeo has a category for “body type”.  And perhaps to limit what could turn out to be hateful and hurtful engagements, Jack’d and Hornet allow their users to filter their searches, with categories including age, height, weight and ethnicity.

Blued, by the way, ups the ante by allowing people of the same persuasions to “gather” – that is, “Blued actually allows you to add friends, join groups, and even broadcast your hobbies and interests to other people. We encourage people to keep it wholesome, because ultimately, they can always go to other apps if they’re just solely looking for sex. We want Blued to be more than just that. We want it to be a safe space where people can be who they are, without fear of judgment or discrimination,” Tan said.

One Blued group, for instance, is BEAR CLUB, which was organized by one Titus_31 this June “so that those like us (bears) can congregate safely,” he said to Outrage Magazine.

In a few months, the group (also known as GC, or “group chat”) already garnered a hundred members, and – added Mhakkie23, one of the administrators of this group – “I’d say that 90% of our members are extra friendly.”

For both Titus_31 and Mhakkie23, this affability is worth highlighting because of the “seeming continuing limited spaces for diversity in our midst.” And so, as “as a rule of the GC, we are anti-discrimination of (the big bodied) and we always remind the members of this. It helps us gather like-minded people; and in this way, nakakatulong siya (it helps a lot),” Titus_31 said.

“It was surprisingly easy to grow the group,” Mhakkie23 added, “since marami palang katulad namin (there are many of us) out there.”

There are also apps that actually find ways to sanction those who are disrespectful of diversity. For instance, WooPlus – which is for “bigger women, big guys, and curve lovers” – allows users to flag harassing behavior by reviewing, rating and commenting on the profiles of people they’re messaging with. Those who get enough poor reviews and ratings will be automatically — and permanently — banned from the site.

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EVOLVING (VIRTUAL) WORLD

Not all app-related experiences of people stereotypically branded as “others” are bad, of course.

Based in Davao City, Deaf gay man Prime opened an account in Blued three months ago. Mainly, he said to Outrage Magazine in Filipino Sign Language (FSL), “I wanted to reach out to other (MSM) in the Philippines.”

Yes, 37-year-old Prime said he gets to occasional brush-offs (e.g. “Not my type”), though in his estimation, “these are not (necessarily) because I’m Deaf but because of preference.” He has yet to be told upfront he isn’t liked because he is differently-abled. In fact, for a Deaf gay man like Prime, using the app make conversing easier “compared with chatting with someone in person because they usually don’t know  FSL. In Blued, I just tell them to ‘Use English please’, and we are already able to communicate/understand each other.”

Prime recognizes that “apps haven’t perfected yet their approaches to be more inclusive of people like me, but I’m still hopeful it could help link me with other MSM. Who knows, I could even find love from here,” Prime laughed.

For chub_cub, “whether in apps or in real life, stereotyping has always been an issue. I don’t think it’s any app’s fault; instead, it is the (wider) culture that wrongly influences discrimination within the MSM community that is to be blamed,” he said. “A lot needs to be done to deal with this. And for me, showing up to showcase diversity is a good first step.”
PHOTO BY PIXABAY.COM FROM PEXELS.COM

In another gay app, Outrage Magazine interviewed a person living with HIV. “I was devastated when I found out my HIV positive status in 2010,” he said. Following then, he opened accounts in various gay apps to find other PLHIVs. And surprisingly, he said, “guys were interested to get to know me…”

He admitted that “there are a handful of guys who can be so judgmental even in apps,” but having this persona in apps can be helpful particularly for PLHIVs not only because it links them with others “in the same boat as oneself” but also because “it’s easier to come out as PLHIV in these platforms because you are not really seen.” And so this way, “it can even be therapeutic.”

And still in Blued is Mandaluyong City-based 30-year-old chub_cub, who opened a profile in October 2016 to “at first monitor what my ex-BF was doing there,” he laughed. But “after our break up, the app became handy as a means to talk to a lot of people.”

chub_cub – who occasionally goes live in Blued (one of the app’s key features) to prove that he is not a poser – eventually gained over 700 followers. And he credits this to authenticity. “I may not be a hunk, but at least people enjoy how I stay true to myself,” chub_cub said.

And so for chub_cub, “apps can promote diversity in the MSM community. There are apps with certain groups that you can search and become part of it. Blued, too, has a group chat platform where you can talk with people of your same interests,” he said.

Blued’s Evan Tan believes technology (including apps) should be treated as a tool that can – perhaps – help promote diversity, instead of pigeonholing. “Let it personally help us ask why we find something attractive, and then strike a balance between appreciating ourselves while not becoming hateful.”
PHOTO BY PIXABAY.COM FROM PEXELS.COM

For chub_cub, “whether in apps or in real life, stereotyping has always been an issue. I don’t think it’s any app’s fault; instead, it is the (wider) culture that wrongly influences discrimination within the MSM community that is to be blamed,” he said. “A lot needs to be done to deal with this. And for me, showing up to showcase diversity is a good first step.”

For Blued’s Tan, apps should be treated as such: a tool that can – perhaps – help promote diversity, instead of pigeonholing. “Let it personally help us ask why we find something attractive, and then strike a balance between appreciating ourselves while not becoming hateful,” Tan said.

App user MC still has accounts in numerous apps, and he still goes by the name of “I am Effeminate”. “I’m not giving up hope,” he said, “that I may meet someone who will accept me for me while here. So far, may mababait naman (there are some nice guys).” And because “I have seen how nice some people are in apps, I know they can’t be all that bad. I suppose we just continue reaching out to show to the world that, yes, magkaiba-iba ang tao (people are different) and there’s beauty in this diversity.” – WITH INTERVIEWS BY MICHAEL DAVID dela Cruz TAN

MAIN IMAGE BY COMFREAK FROM PIXABAY.COM

FOLLOW OUTRAGE MAGAZINE IN BLUED

Call him A.M. (short for Albert Magallanes, obviously; though - he says - also to "signify being on the go, as people tend to be in the mornings"). A graduate of BS Physical Therapy (in DLS Health Sciences Institute), he found his calling ("Sort of," he laughed) attempting to organize communities ("While having fun in the process," he beamed). For instance, in Las Piñas where he is based, he helps helm an MSM group that has evolved from just offering social events to aiding its members as needed. He now writes for Outrage Magazine as the Las Piñas (and southern) correspondent.

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What it’s like to be trans in Taiwan

Tamsin Wu visits gay-friendly Taiwan, where she meets Abbygail Wu, founder of Intersex, Transgender and Transsexual People Care Association (ISTSCare), who said that the country is still failing its LGBTQ citizens, and particularly lags in promoting trans rights.

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Photo detail by Thomas Tucker from Unsplash.com

Taiwan may be the most gay-friendly country in Asia, but according to Abbygail Wu, founder of Intersex, Transgender and Transsexual People Care Association (ISTSCare), the country still receives a “failing mark” when it comes to LGBTQ equality. Transgender people, in particular, usually bear the brunt of sex-based discrimination.

ISTSCare has a one-woman 24/7 hotline service. Abby has dealt with calls concerning struggles related to suicide attempts, job insecurity or homelessness, and even domestic violence. To provide support and assistance to hotline callers, ISTSCare also partners with NGOs and other LGBTQ-related organizations.

Aside from the hotline service, the organization does its advocacy work through protests, by maintaining an online presence, as well as directly communicating with political figures and trans-friendly journalists to rouse awareness and discussion on transgender and intersex issues.

ISTSCare in Taiwan

In 2014, four years after the first official notice regarding gender reassignment procedures in Taiwan was issued, the Ministry of Interior (MOI), with the support of the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), announced the easement of legal requirements on changing gender identity. MOI promised that it would immediately work on letting transgender citizens change their gender marker without having to go through rigorous psychiatric assessments, sex reassignment surgery (SRS) and parental approval. However, MOI backtracked since then.

“MOI, which is handling the national ID cards, they said there are still a lot of research to do about the gender issue and they try to get some professional opinions, but MOHW already said this is not a medical issue, it’s an internal affair issue. So MOI, they’re just under the pressure and paused a lot of meetings… and now the issue is still under research for four years,” Abby lamented. “We’re the first Asian country to pass the bill but it’s not implemented.”

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Despite MOHW already stating that medical professionals should not have a say when it comes to determining one’s gender identification, transgender citizens are still presently forced to consider SRS. Besides that, they are also required to seek the expensive involvement of psychiatrists and, outrageously, the consent of their parents. Otherwise, their gender identity cannot be legally recognized.

Abby clarified that not all transgender people want the help of doctors to validate their gender identity. Hence, SRS is especially discriminatory towards transgender citizens who do not wish to undergo surgery. “What is gender? Is it just based on our anatomy? Or is it in our behavior? In our mind? Or in the way we dress?… There are a lot of factors that influence what gender one identify as, but society focus on the least publicly visible aspect – our sex organ.”

Abby continued, “There are risks to surgery and that is one of the reasons why not all transgenders want to go through it. And also, they may question themselves, ‘Do I really want to have surgery or is it just for the sake of getting this ID?’”

Abby standing beside the transgender pride flag.
Photo credit: Ketty W. Chen

“One day before the presidential election, I went to the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) headquarters to talk with the Department of Woman. I told them, ‘tomorrow is already the day for voting, are you going on stage and advocate for transgender rights? This has been neglected for the past 3-4 years. Then they just told me, ‘this requires social consensus’… I went out of that meeting deeply upset,” Abby shared.

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With lack of funding, community support and societal understanding of trans issues, how could transgender rights obtain social consensus when this feat requires acceptance and approval from the status quo in order for the relevant social change to take effect? Why should the rights and well-being of a minority group fall in the hands of the majority? Currently, both the public and the government possess inadequate knowledge in dealing with transgender issues, which exacerbates the struggles transgender citizens face.

Prejudice against transgender folks can also be felt within LGBTQ communities. On one hand, some non-transgender members of the LGBTQ community question the gender identity of trans people. On the other hand, there is also internalized transphobia.

“A lot of transgender are more binary [in the way they see gender]. They think a man should act and look a certain way and that a woman should act and look a certain way… ISTSCare does not condone this kind of thinking,” Abby said.

Trans activist Abbygail Wu and her partner in a protest for their marriage right.
Photo credit: Ketty W. Chen

When asked why ISTSCare is run by only three people (including Abby and her partner), she shared that many transgender citizens in Taiwan find it difficult to prioritize doing advocacy work because their life situation is oftentimes mentally and emotionally taxing. On top of having to deal with an unsupportive family, they often face discrimination in the job market. Hence, there’s a high level of difficulty for them to get a good job, gain professional working experience and make a decent living, let alone have the financial resources to go through SRS. As of now, they’re in this loop of societal discrimination and economic vulnerability with no recourse.

READ:  LGBT orgs condemn brutal murder of transgender Filipina

Another reason for the lack of transgender-focused activists in Taiwan is attributed to the problem of privilege. Abby adds that well-off transgender citizens tend to be exclusive in their social group. Post-surgery and after assimilating in heteronormative society, they also tend to ignore the struggles faced by less fortunate transgender citizens. They would rather not get associated for fear of being found out and face discrimination. Albeit joining Pride Parades, they are at other times nowhere to be found when it comes to advocating for transgender rights.

Abby clarified that not all transgender people want the help of doctors to validate their gender identity.
Photo credit: Abbygail Wu

Abby said that ISTSCare’s main goal right now is to push for a non-discriminatory, comprehensive gender identity law in Taiwan.

“We hope to be like Argentina. Just file [required] papers to the courthouse and they will assign the legal gender change. No need to go through any kind of medical process.”

Having a well thought out gender identity law may not help solve all transgender issues and alleviate them from all of their struggles. However, getting the said law done and implemented right would be one significant progress for the recognition of the human rights and dignity of, not only transgender citizens, but also intersex and non-binary people.

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Chance of HIV-positive person with undetectable viral load transmitting the virus to a sex partner is scientifically zero

The PARTNER 2 study found no transmissions between gay couples where the HIV-positive partner had a viral load under 200 copies/ml – even though there were nearly 77,000 acts of condomless sex between them.

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Confirmed and needs to be stressed: The chance of any HIV-positive person with an undetectable viral load transmitting the virus to a sexual partner is scientifically equivalent to zero.

This is according to researchers who released at #AIDS2018 the final results from the PARTNER study. Results originally announced in 2014 from the first phase, PARTNER 1, already indicated that “Undetectable equals Untransmittable” (U=U). But while the first study was lauded in tackling vaginal sex, the statistical certainty of the result did not convince everyone, particularly in the case of gay men, or those who engage in anal sex.

But now, PARTNER 2, the second phase, only recruited gay couples. The PARTNER study recruited HIV serodifferent couples (one partner positive, one negative) at 75 clinical sites in 14 European countries. They tested the HIV-negative partners every six to 12 months for HIV, and tested viral load in the HIV-positive partners. Both partners also completed behavioral surveys. In cases of HIV infection in the negative partners, their HIV was genetically analyzed to see if it came from their regular partner.

And the results indicate “a precise rate of within-couple transmission of zero” for gay men as well as for heterosexuals.

The study found no transmissions between gay couples where the HIV-positive partner had a viral load under 200 copies/ml – even though there were nearly 77,000 acts of condomless sex between them.

PARTNER is not the only study about viral load and infectiousness. Last year, the Opposites Attract study also found no transmissions in nearly 17,000 acts of condomless anal sex between serodifferent gay male partners. This means that no transmission has been seen in about 126,000 occasions of sex, if this study is combined with PARTNER 1 and 2.

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While this is good news overall in the fight against HIV, related issues continue to plague HIV-related efforts, particularly in countries like the Philippines.

Why aren’t we talking about ‘undetectable = untransmittable’ in the Philippines?

For instance, aside from the overall silence on U=U (undetectable = untransmittable), use of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) continue to be low. As of May 2016, when the country already had 34,158 total reported cases of HIV infection, Filipinos living with HIV who are on anti-retroviral therapy (i.e. those who are taking meds) only numbered 14,356.

The antiretroviral medicines in use in the Philippines also continue to be limited, with some already phased out in developed countries.

All the same, this is considered a significant stride, with science unequivocally backing the scientific view helmed in 2008 by Dr. Pietro Vernazza who spearheaded the scientific view that viral suppression means HIV cannot be passed via a statement in the Bulletin of Swiss Medicine.

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‘God loves LGBTQIA people; so do we.’

A Christian church wants members of the LGBTQIA community to know that “they are loved by God.” Val Paminiano, pastor of the Freedom in Christ Ministries, says that “we would like to apologize on behalf of the mainstream churches that condemn the LGBTQIA community. Sorry for hurting you; (and) even for using the Bible to hurt you.”

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God’s love is for all.

“(We want the members of the LGBTQIA community to know that) they are loved by God,” said Val Paminiano, pastor of the Freedom in Christ Ministries, which has been making its presence known particularly in LGBTQIA Pride events to highlight its Christian anti-anti-LGBTQIA position.

Approximately 80% of Filipinos are Roman Catholic, and the church’s teachings continue to dominate public life in the Philippines. As it stands, church’s teachings re LGBTQIA people still often revolve around the “hate the sin, love the sinner” statement, so that LGBTQIA people are tolerated so long as they do not express their being LGBTQIA.

This “hate the sin, love the sinner” stance seems to be reflected in dominant perspectives re LGBTQIA people in the Philippines.

In 2013, for instance, in a survey titled “The Global Divide on Homosexuality” conducted by the US-based Pew Research Center, 73% of adult Filipinos agreed with the statement that “homosexuality should be accepted by society”. The percentage of Filipinos who said society should not accept gays fell from 33% in 2002 to 26% that year.

But more recently, in June 2018, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that a big percentage of Filipinos still oppose civil unions. When 1,200 respondents across the country were asked whether or not they agree with the statement “there should be a law that will allow the civil union of two men or two women”, at least 61% of the respondents said they would oppose a bill that would legalize this in the country. Among them, 44% said they strongly disagree, while 17% said they somewhat disagree. Meanwhile, 22% said they would support it, while 16% said they were still “undecided”.

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For Paminiano, “we would like to apologize on behalf of the mainstream churches that condemn the LGBTQIA community. Sorry for hurting you; (and) even for using the Bible to hurt you.”

Churches continue to be lambasted for not changing with time – perhaps most obvious in the treatment of LGBT people of those with faith. But the number of denominations openly discussing – and even coming up with statements of support of – LGBTQIA issues is increasing.

Finding room for #queerinfaith

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#KaraniwangLGBT

All hail the beauty queen

A glimpse into the life of a trans woman beauty pageant enthusiast, Ms Mandy Madrigal of Transpinay of Antipolo Organization.

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This is part of #KaraniwangLGBT, which Outrage Magazine officially launched on July 26, 2015 to offer vignettes of LGBT people/living, particularly in the Philippines, to give so-called “everyday people” – in this case, the common LGBT people – that chance to share their stories.
As Outrage Magazine editor Michael David C. Tan says: “All our stories are valid – not just the stories of the ‘big shots’. And it’s high time we start telling all our stories.”

“I feel accepted.”

That, said Mandy Madrigal, is the main appeal of joining beauty pageants.

“I feel so loved when I join pageants. Especially when people clap for us, cheer for us. And when you win… it (just) feels different.”

FINDING ACCEPTANCE

Assigned male at birth, Mandy was in primary school when her father asked her if “I was a boy or a girl”. That question scared her, she admitted, because – as the only boy among six kids – she thought she did not really have “any choice”. “So I answered my father, ‘I am a boy’.”

But Mandy’s father asked her the same question again; and this time, “I said, yes, I am gay.”

No, Mandy is NOT gay; she is a transpinay, and a straight one at that. But the misconceptions about the binary remains – i.e. in this case, she is associated with being gay mainly because she did not identify with the sex assigned her at birth.

In a way, Mandy said she’s lucky because “I believe he (my father) accepted (me) with his whole heart.”

The rest of her family did, too.

Though – speaking realistically – Mandy said this may be abetted by her “contributions” to the family. “Hindi naman aka basta naging bakla lang (I’m not a ’typical’ gay person),” she said, “na naglalandi lang o sumasali lang ng pageant (who just flirts, or just joins beauty pageants). Instead, Mandy provides financial support to her family by – among others – selling RTW clothes and beauty products. In fact, some of her winnings also go to the family’s coffers. By helping provide them with what they need, “it’s easy for them to accept me as a transgender woman.”

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Growing up, Mandy realized that while “makakapagsinungaling ka sa ibang tao, pero sarili mo, hindi mo maloloko. Kaya mas magandang tanggapin mo ang sarili mo para matanggap ka ng ibang tao (you may be able to lie to others about who you really are, but you can’t lie to yourself. So it’s better to accept your true self so that others will be able to accept you too).”

Mandy was “introduced” to beauty pageants when she was 13 or 14. At that time, a friend asked her to join a pageant; and “I won first runner up.” She never looked backed since, even – at one time – earning as much as P20,000 after winning a title. Like many regular beauconeras (beauty pageant participants), she also heads to distant provinces to compete, largely because – according to her – prizes in provincial competitions tend to be higher. The prize money earned helps one buy more paraphernalia for the next pageants, and – in Mandy’s case – also helps support her family.

Generally speaking, Mandy Madrigal said that “ang tunay na queen ay may malaking puso (a real queen has a big heart).”

FORMING A FAMILY

Beauty pageants are competitions, yes; but for Mandy, pageants also allow the candidates to form bonds as they get close to each other. Pageants, she said, can be a way “na maging close kami, magkaroon ng magagandang bonding… at magkakilala kami (for us to be close, to bond and get to know the others better).”

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Pageants can be costly, Mandy admitted – for instance, “you have to invest,” she said, adding that a candidate needs to be able to provide for herself (instead of just always renting) costumes, swimsuits, casual wear, gowns, and so on.

In a way, therefore, having people who believe in you helps. In Mandy’s case, for instance, a lot of people helped (by providing necessities she needs) because “naniniwala sila na I am a queen inside and out,” she smiled.

But this support can also rack the nerves, particularly when people expect one to win (particularly because of the support given).

One will not always win, of course; and this doesn’t always give one good feelings. In 2017, for instance, Mandy joined Queen of Antipolo, and – after failing to win a crown – she said many people told her she should have won the title, or at least placed among the runners-up. “naguluhan ang utak ko (That confused me),” she said. “‘Bakit ako ang gusto ninyong manalo?’ But that’s when I realized na marami ako na-i-inspire na tao dahil marami nagtitiwala sa akin (I ask, ‘Why do you want me to win?’ But that’s when I realized that I inspire a lot of people, which is why they count on me).”

This gives her confidence; enough to deal with the nervousness that will also allow her to just enjoy any pageant she joins.

A TIME TO SHINE

Mandy believes pageants can help LGBTQI people by providing them a platform to showcase to non-LGBTQI people why “hindi tayo dapat husgahan (we should not be judged).”

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Generally speaking, Mandy said that “ang tunay na queen ay may malaking puso (a real queen has a big heart).”

And she knows that not every pageant is good for every contestant. There will be pageants where you will be crowned the queen, she said, just as there will be pageants where you will lose. But over and above the winning and losing, note “what’s most important: that there’s a lot of people who supported you in a (certain) pageant.”

At the end of the day, “sa lahat ng patimpalak, pagkatandaan natin na merong nananalo at may natatalo. Depende na lang yan sa araw mo. Kung ikaw ay nakatadhanang manalo ay mananalo ka; kung nakatadhanang matalo ay matatalo ka talaga. Yun lang yun. Isipin mo na lang na meron pang araw na darating na mas maganda para sa iyo (in all competitions, remember that there will always be a winner and a loser. It all depends on your luck for the day. If you are fated to win, you will win; if you are fated to lose, you will lose. That’s that. But still remember – even when you lose – that there will always come a day that will be great for you).”

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Iloilo City passes anti-discrimination ordinance on final reading

The city of Iloilo has joined the ranks of local government units (LGUs) with LGBTQI anti-discrimination ordinances (ADOs), with the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) unanimously approving its ADO mandating non-discrimination of members of minority sectors including the LGBTQIA community.

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Pride comes to the “City of Love”.

The city of Iloilo has joined the ranks of local government units (LGUs) with LGBTQI anti-discrimination ordinances (ADOs), with the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) unanimously approving its ADO mandating non-discrimination of members of minority sectors including the LGBTQI community.

The ADO was sponsored by Councilor Liezl Joy Zulueta-Salazar, chair of the SP Committee on Women and Family Relations. Councilor Love Baronda helped with the content/provisions of the ordinance.

“Everyone deserves equal protection under the law. This local legislation reinforces the Constitutional rights and the inalienable human rights of everyone to be treated equally,” Zulueta-Salazar said to Outrage Magazine. “It has always been a question of equality versus equity. Your government is a duty-bearer to protect everyone under the law. Moreso those who have time and again, been victims of injustice borne out from bigotry and indifference. That has to change now. Discrimination has no place in the ‘City of Love’.”

The ADO defines acts of discrimination to include: refusal of employment, refusal of admission in schools, refusal of entry in places open to general public, deprivation of abode or quarters, deprivation of the provision of goods and services, subjecting one to ridicule or insult, and doing acts that demeans the dignity and self-respect or a person because of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, descent, ethnic origin, and religious beliefs.

Penalties range from P1,000 for the first offense, P2,000 for the second offense and imprisonment of not more than 10 days at the discretion of the court, and P3,000 and 15 days imprisonment on the third offense.

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The ADO also mandates the creation of the anti-discrimination mediation and conciliation board headed by the mayor. This board will initiate the filing of cases against violators.

“Discrimination… violates basic human rights thus making it our duty as public servants to protect our citizens from unwarranted and unfair treatment coming from their fellow citizens, or worse from their own government. We respect and give emphasis to the right of every person because what matters is for us to be humane and to do everything in love,” Baronda said to Outrage Magazine.

Zulueta-Salazar added that “having worked with the marginalized sectors of our society through non-government organizations like the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines Iloilo Chapter and the different barangay local governments in Iloilo City, we have seen how the struggles of the LGBTQI, of the urban poor, of the religious minorities including the Indigenous Peoples displaced in the city. This ordinance is for them, not for special or preferential treatment from their government, but to give them what they truly deserve: a more just and equitable treatment by providing an enabling environment for them to be equally productive members of the society.”

For Zulueta-Salazar, the salient points in the Iloilo ADP may be the same as the other ADOs across the country, “but the one we have here in Iloilo City is a product of hard fought struggle for equality not just for one sector of the society, but generally as a statement that the ‘City of Love’ does not discriminate based on gender, age, race or religion. That in the ‘City of Love’, truly it can be said now that love wins.”

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For Iloilo City-based Rev. Alfred Candid Jaropillo, who heads the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), the ADO “is a step for the ‘City of Love’ in creating a community where the rights of all its constituents are respected and protected. As a clergy of the UCCP, I commend our government officials for passing the said ordinance (to show that) Iloilo is indeed a safe city for our sisters and brothers coming from the LGBTQI community.”

The Iloilo City Legal Office has 60 days from approval to promulgate the implementing rules and regulations (IRR), while the Public Information Office shall conduct an information drive 30 days from approval. The ordinance takes effect 10 days after its publication in a local newspaper.

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Mandaluyong City passes LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance

With the continuing absence of a national law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQI Filipinos, the city of Mandaluyng passed Ordinance 698, S-2018, which seeks to “uphold the rights of all Filipinos especially those discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).”

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IMAGE DETAIL FROM JUDGE FLORENTINO FLORO FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

With the continuing absence of a national law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQI Filipinos (largely – at least for this year – because of a weak political support from the Philippine Senate via the non-leadership on this issue by Senate Pres. Vicente Sotto III and Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri), localized anti-discrimination efforts are again in focus. This time around, the city of Mandaluyng passed Ordinance 698, S-2018, which seeks to “uphold the rights of all Filipinos especially those discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).”

With this, it is now “the policy of the Mandaluyong City government to afford equal protection to LGBTQI people as guaranteed by our Constitution and to craft legal legislative measures in support of this aim.”

According to Dindi Tan, secretary general of LGBT Pilipinas, which helped push for the passage of this anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO), said that “the tactic now is to shift from a national lobby to local lobby, which is more pragmatic and feasible given the prevailing political environment in Congress.”

The Mandaluyong City ADO is specific to he LGBTQI community. Other ADOs in other localities lump the LGBTQI community with other minority sectors, including persons with disability (PWDs), seniors, cultural minorities, et cetera. But this city ordinance is specific to LGBTQI people, focusing on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

“We continue to relentlessly lobby for the passage of local ADOs and similar policies such as this one from the Tiger City of Mandaluyong pending the enactment of a national law made for (this) purpose,” Tan said. “We can’t afford to wait forever for the Anti-Discrimination Bill (ADB) to pass in the Senate and the bicam while our LGBTQI sisters and brothers on the ground continue to be the targets of gender-based violence and discrimination.”

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Mandaluyong City’s ADO specifically prohibits such discriminatory acts as: denying or limiting employment-related access; denying access to public programs or services; refusing admission, expelling or dismissing a person from educational institutions due to their SOGIE; subjecting a person to verbal or written abuse; unjust detention/involuntary confinement; denying access to facilities; and illegalizing formation of groups that incite SOGIE-related discrimination.

For the city to attain its goals, activities lined-up include: incorporating LGBTQI activities in Women’t Month celebrations; hosting of seminars in private and public spaces; and month-long Pride celebration in November, culminating on World AIDS Day on December 1.

The ADO also “strongly” encourages the Mandaluyong City Police District “to handle the specific concerns relating to SOGIE through existing Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) desk in all police stations in Mandaluying City.”

A Mandaluyong City Pride Council will also be established to oversee the implementation of the ordinance.

Any person held liable under the ADO may be penalized with imprisonment for 60 days to one year and/or penalized with P1,000 to P5,000, depending on the discretion of the court.

Pushed by Sangguniang Panglungsod councilor China S. Celeste, Mandaluyong City Mayor Carmencita A. Abalos signed the ADO on May 17.

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