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Educate LGBTQI people so they can help themselves – Richelle Mae De Luna

Richelle Mae De Luna believes that the LGBTQI community, to start, needs to strengthen its ranks; but she also believes that the LGBTQI struggle should be broadened so it doesn’t only focus on identity politics, but “the issues of other Filipinos because the issues of other Filipinos are also issues of LGBTQI Filipinos.”

Richelle Mae De Luna – who hails from Naga City – never had it easy in her life.

Her late father, who happened to be gay himself, was against his children being LGBTQI – particularly her brother, Ralph, who is gay, and Richelle, who is bisexual. There were even times, Richelle recalled, when she was a physically violated by her gay father.

Her mother – a high school teacher in a remote area – was no help, too. “Ayaw niya na nakikipagkita, usap o magkaroon ng relationship sa kapwa ko babae (She does not want me talking, seeing or having a relationship with another woman),” Richelle said. “She wanted for me to be straight.”

Richelle admitted that there was a time when – after she realized she’s bi – “I told myseself to ‘stop it’, I eventually realized that I can’t. It isn’t a choice. I just had to be me.”

Interestingly, even with acceptance, the challenges continue. And this time, it came from within the LGBTQI community itself.

There were times, for instance, when she was told “I am too unfair dahil pwede daw na dalawa sa akin. I hate that after they know na bi ako, sinasabi nila na gusto ko lang daw ng threesome (In am too unfair because I can be attracted to two sexes. I hate that after they know my bisexuality, they tell me I am so because I just want to have threesome).”

This is interlinked with the limited representation of bisexuality including in the LGBTQI community, Richelle said. “Isn’t it ironic!? We continue to fight for the right to be heard but some utter in disbelief with bisexuality.”

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Richelle helped establish an LGBTQI organization in Ateneo De Naga University, ADNU Bahaghari, which she hopes for the school to officially recognize.

Richelle lamented that “sa amin, so far, in my observation, masyadong apolitical ang mga LGBTQI people (where I come from, in my observation, LGBTQI people remain apolitical),” she said.

And so for Richelle, “kailangan ng (they need) awareness through education. But this is the same for the whole Philippines.”

For Richelle, the lack of education is also problematic because there are times when LGBTQI people actually want to do something, but “sila mismo hindi nila alam ang dapat gawin dahil konti lang alam nila (they do not know what to do because of limited knowledge).” With this, “they believe that someone will do it (fight for human rights) for them.”

Richelle believes that the LGBTQI community, to start, needs to strengthen its ranks.

Kailangan natin ng unity para maging successful ang gusto natin, ang ipinaglalaban natin (We need unity in order to succeed in fighting for what we want and need),” she said.

But she also believes that the LGBTQI struggle should be broadened so it doesn’t only focus on identity politics, but “sa kalagayan ng iba pang Pilipino (the issues/status of other Filipinos),” she said. “Ang problema ng Pilipino ay problema rin ng LGBTQI na Pilipino (The issues of other Filipinos are also issues of LGBTQI Filipinos).”

To attain change, Richelle said that “we need to even have critical judgment on the smallest forms of discrimination and have the wisest responses (to these).” And here, “it starts with “joining the struggle; continuing the fight even in small ways. If we die doing this, there’s no regret because it isn’t only for oneself but for the good of the people.”

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