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From political to politicized

For Michael David C. Tan, as the LGBTQI community in the Philippines pushes for the passage of the anti-discrimination bill, alliance building is key, thus the need to break partisan lines. Otherwise, the internal divisions will be our fall.

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Sinimulan ni Etta (Rosales), tatapusin ni Risa (Hontiveros).”

This was a statement delivered during a “non-partisan” rally that called for the (immediate) passage of the anti-discrimination bill (ADB) that has been languishing in Congress for 19 years now. It highlighted how the same ADB was first filed in the 11th Congress by Akbayan partylist Representative Etta Rosales. That version of the bill was approved on third and final reading in the 12th Congress, but failed to gain traction in the Senate. And now – after Liberal Party’s Sen. Bam Aquino “helmed” it (and let’s admit this, just sat on it) in the last Congress – it was re-filed in the 17th Congress on December 7, 2016 as Senate Bill No. 1271 by Sen. Risa Hontiveros (herself aligned with Akbayan and LP).

The legislative status of the ADB is still listed as “Pending Second Reading, Special Order (12/14/2016)” in the official website of the Philippine Senate. And as per the office of Hontiveros, SB 1271 is still only up for interpellation in the Senate.

And so now, what Etta started, Risa is supposed to finish.

BUT – forgive me here because I know not everyone is going to like this or even want to hear this – the very first thought that came to my mind when this message was shouted was: Etta started it (and we thank her for that), and Risa may be continuing what Etta started (thanks to her, too), BUT this fight is OURS, not hers (or theirs). Tayo ang tatapos nito (It is us who will end this), not her (or them). Because if the message is just the former, then… why do WE still need to hold a “non-partisan” rally?

This led to a somewhat lengthy discussion (among some admittedly older LGBTQI community leaders, right at the People Power monument) on the road that the ADB has taken, and why we are still unable to pass this 19 years later.

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And first among the points raised was/is the exclusionary approach in the development of the ADB.

I have mentioned this already in the past: When the version of the ADB that was being pushed was more comprehensive, and it specifically mentioned “persons with disability” as among those who should be protected from discrimination, I remembered asking for a version of the ADB in Filipino Sign Language (FSL) so Deaf LGBTQI people will also understand it. To date, nganga (figuratively: we are still waiting with open mouths).

Related to this, when I spoke with senior LGBTQI leaders from the Home for the Golden Gays (HGG), the current head Ramon Busa noted how they were “never once invited in any discussions related to the ADB.” So much for inclusion…

Ask the LGBTQI leaders (particularly those developing the ADB), too, where to get a copy of the proposed law, and you’d probably just be told to “get it from the Internet” in such-or-such Website. As if every LGBTQI Filipino has access to the Internet [e.g. I have spoken with LGBTQI Filipinos from Mindanao who told me: “Wala nga kaming kuryente, Internet pa kaya (We don’t even have electricity, much more Internet access)!”]…

Secondly, there’s this seeming credit hogging that shifted the focus on the intent of the bill (i.e. OUR protection) to “who gave you the ADB?”. The latter part changes the discussion by highlighting who we “owe” for our rights; who we should “support”; who we should hold our allegiance to. In Filipino: Kanino ang utang na loob.

Thirdly, there’s this seeming reluctance to admit that our approach/es to ADB may already need to be overhauled.

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Get this: 19 years after the first ADB was filed, a major issue that those opposing it continue to raise is “because ADB means LGBTQI people will be granted marriage equality”. That people continue to erroneously believe the ADB=marriage equality narrative highlights a failure in the way/s of getting the message/s across of the ADB handlers. And, yes, that this has been happening for 19 years now means… these same handlers already need to reconsider their approaches already (!).

It can be said that many people (including many in the LGBTQI community) dislike Rep. Geraldine Roman (with her shifting political parties, and her support for the death penalty, among others). But – heck! – she helped (in a big way) to get the ADB passed in the Lower House in just over a year. Let’s emphasize that: Just over a year. This hasn’t happened for over a decade under our “usual” approach(es). You don’t have to kowtow to her or to even love her; but let’s all at least start reaching across aisles so that, maybe, we can learn from each other; on what works and what doesn’t, and then apply what’s effective so we get the result that we all want (in this case, passage of the ADB).

It’s still questionable if Albert Einstein really said this, but the thought remains the same: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. Nineteen years is far too long; if we think our approach is working and shouldn’t be changed, we may have to wait for 19 more years…

And lastly, rounding up everything, the LGBTQI community needs to be made to understand that this is OUR cause. This is why the “Sinimulan ni Etta (Rosales), tatapusin ni Risa (Hontiveros)” statement is specious for me.

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As the LGBTQI community in the Philippines pushes for the passage of the anti-discrimination bill, alliance building is key, thus the need to break partisan lines. Otherwise, the internal divisions will be our fall.

We need to, first, fix our ranks if we want to fix this world.

The March 17 rally, for me, shouldn’t have been just a rally; it should have been the Pride MARCH. After all, if the march is our political move for our Pride, then this WAS the moment to best show this (instead of the once-a-year parade that is led by sponsors that are able to give moolah, easily displacing LGBTQI organizations).

This would have been the best time to unite the community irrespective of its members’ political colors, age, physical ability, social class, SOGIE and so on. Instead, as was mentioned to me by some pro-Duterte LGBTQI leaders, “It could just turn out to be an anti-Duterte rally”, so that they opted NOT to participate in a struggle that also includes them. No one reached out to them; they were just ignored, classified as “others”, even if we all belong under the same rainbow banner (thus highlighting again the “exclusionary” tactic mentioned above).

This should have been the best time to teach LGBTQI Filipinos to be more political (in pushing for our human rights), instead of ending up highlighting that yes, we are demanding for our rights, but not everyone is willing to brave the fight for these rights.

So yes, we say thank you to those who started the fight for us and are continuing this fight for us. But we need to own this fight. Only then will this succeed.

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Though he grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao), even attending Roman Catholic schools there, he "really, really came out in Sydney," he says, so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing and a developed world". Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language (FSL). Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).

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From the Editor

Start with that wo/man in the mirror…

With revisionism, credit-hogging, co-opting/hijacking of causes, et cetera happening even within the LGBTQIA community, Michael David C. Tan says “we need to look at ourselves closely and see if we have become the very people/systems we seek out to destroy/dismantle.”

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PHOTO BY TWEETYSPICS FROM PIXABAY.COM

“…I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love
It’s time that I realize
That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me, pretending that they’re not alone?

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change…

MICHAEL JACKSON
Man in the Mirror, 2008

This is going to be short; and yet I hope… crisp.

But – to start – considering Michael Jackson’s tattered past, let me apologize for starting this article with portions from his “Man in the Mirror” hit. Not to lift him up (he doesn’t need me for that) or attack him for his flaws (and he sure had many – e.g. child molestation charges), but his words sort of easily sum up a key message so many of us want to forget. That is, that for change to happen, we need to start with us. It’s a hackneyed statement/cliché, I know; but – guess what? – the stock statement has not gone stale.

Here’s the thing: So many of the (now out-to-the-world) flaws from within the LGBTQIA community merely reflect what we sought out to change. And so many of these same flaws are there because of our refusal to see that, in so many ways, we have become mini versions (some are actually exact replicas) of those we attack.

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Off my head, check:

1. Revisionism.
Yes, LGBTQIA people (like non-LGBTQIA people) claim that the Marcoses – and by extent, the role played by the likes of Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte here – seem to be busy amending our Martial Law history. By all means, we should be mindful of all forms of revisionism; we should not forget our past (the good and the bad) because we can only move forward if we know our history.
But – this is what’s unnerving! – there are also LGBTQIA community members (many of them the most loud in criticizing the revisionism that is happening) who are revising the LGBTQIA history in the Philippines – e.g. who should be credited for starting “Pride”, who we should thank/adore/praise/treat as gods for starting (not even for getting pass) an anti-discrimination law, et cetera. When we criticize what we, ourselves, are doing, that’s called (in a word) hypocrisy.

2. Dictatorship.
We go back to former strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos; and we now have Pres. Duterte, both we attack for their (what we refer to as) “wanton desire to cling on to power”. Rightfully, it should be said.
But then we look inside our LGBTQIA community, and we have:
A) Metro Manila-centric “leaders” who would go to LGUs to ask/dictate/tell them to develop ADOs sans community consultation of the LGBTQIA people there;
B) So-called “networks of LGBTQIA organizations” with “leaders” who are there as forever heads (with no mechanisms for passing of power); and
C) “Leaders” who help dictate where funds go, and yet only give the same to their inner circles.

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3. Idya-idya/Sila-sila/Nepotism/Special groups.
That the supporters (no matter how evil they may be) end up dividing the spoils of war is an oft-cited observation. In the past, the term we used was “cronies”. The terms may have changed, but the concept remains the same – i.e. that a small circle of people end up benefiting from those in power.
Yes, this is wrong; and yes, this has to be criticized (and changed).
But looking inside the LGBTQIA community, it’s not like we’re “exempted” from this practice.
Consider:
A) The non-inclusive approach to developing the anti-discrimination bill (ADB) (I have said this in the past, and I am saying it again and again and again);
B) As noted in point #2, the giving of available funds ONLY to inner circles; and
C) The continuing Metro Manila-centric-controlled discourse re “LGBTQIA movement in the Philippines” (there are those who’d deny this, of course; that’s their right. But that these same people are based in Metro Manila or are even overseas bely their very denial).

We often hear – as reasoning or as excuse, depending on how this is interpreted – that it’s because our LGBTQIA movement is “still young” And yes, this may be true. But the fact remains that when we’re no better than the very people we attack; when the systems we say are wrong/erroneous are the same inside our movement, then who are we kidding, really?

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From the Editor

8 Ways to know we’ve sold ‘Pride’

The moment the sponsors get to decide who “leads” the event because they gave so much money, then we’re double fucked. Because this is the sure sign we’re willing to eat our pride to accept any shit given by the moneyed.

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June’s done, and – sadly – for so many members of the LGBTQIA community, “Pride” is also done for the year, as they await next year’s hopefully bigger “Pride”. So – with this limited way of looking at “Pride” (i.e. that it’s a one-day, or even one-month “party” with realistic – though at times also only pretend – calls to support those who can’t join the party) – the end of the so-called “Pride month”/start of July is also a good time to assess how we’ve been marking “Pride” in the past years.

Yes, I’ve attended numerous “Pride” celebrations from all over the world – some of them full-blown festivals, some of them one-day gatherings, though all of them topped by “marches” or “parades”. In a gist, they’ve all been celebratory, yes (and who doesn’t like to party now and then, right?). But their approaches are often very different/defined because of their intent. The way I see it, the overarching distinction is when “Pride” ceases to be about… “us”, and more about “them”; when it can be said that we’ve been (in a word) bought.

So in my assessment (and yes, knowing that this won’t be to everyone’s liking), here are eight ways to know when we’ve sold “Pride”.

1. When sponsors outnumber the LGBTQIA people.
I’ve witnessed “Pride” events with contingents from sponsors easily outnumbering LGBTQIA participants. Or – to qualify that – participants who were only able to join the parade because they paid to be in that parade. I’m not sure this is Pride; more like co-opting (or even hi-jacking) it.

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2. When sponsors get to decide the form of “Pride”.
Yeah, money matters in this world. But when earning the same becomes the sole driver of holding an event, then we’re fucked. In the case of “Pride”, the moment the sponsors get to decide who “leads” the event because they gave so much money, then we’re double fucked. Because this is the sure sign we’re willing to eat our so-called pride and accept any shit given to us as long as we get money for it.

3. When organizers speak of minorities in the LGBTQIA community, but then you don’t see these minorities in the “Pride” celebration.
Yes, bringing up the interconnected issues is admirable; but if you stop there, then that inaction speaks more about the real intent. This could well be co-opting/hi-jacking of another minority group’s struggle.

4. Related to #3, when organizers claim to be “inclusive” of minorities in the LGBTQIA community, but then won’t allow these minorities to speak about their own issues during “Pride”.
I’ve attended a “Pride” event where sex workers (among others) were not allowed to speak during a program because, according to the organizers, of “time constraints”. However, politicians were allowed to use that “Pride” to campaign because they gave financial support and, well, they’re allegedly/supposedly politically aligned with these organizers or were popular. Then there are other “Pride” events where organizers spoke on behalf of/for minorities even with ACTUAL minority LGBTQIA people right there only watching their community being discussed seemingly in spite of them. For me: Just give them the mike. Else it reeks of co-opting/hi-jacking.

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5. When organizers enable the abusers because they’re popular/useful as “partners”/et cetera.
There are actually “partners” whose alleged dirts are ignored by “Pride” organizers – e.g. biz owners with members of the LGBTQIA community accusing them of abusing them. In the era of #MeToo, they – therefore – become enablers.

6. When organizers use speakers no matter their wrong notions on LGBTQIA so long as they’re popular/known/cheap/et cetera.
In Metro Manila’s latest “Pride” gathering, a trans host actually said that she’s a “real woman” because she now has a vagina. I don’t know if she even considered her insinuation that post-op (or non-op) trans people are therefore not “real”. There were also hosts who kept calling trans men “tibo” (i.e. lesbian) and “tomboy”; just as they kept referring to lesbian women as “tomboy”. SOGIE 101 lessons can easily remedy this, yes; but those in “power” ought to teach these people before giving them the mike (!).

7. When “Pride” accountability flies out of the window.
All over the world, I’ve seen LGBTQIA community infighting because of handling of “Pride” profit – e.g. where’s the money earned, who handles it, how the extra is handled, and so on. Heck, New York has a number of counter-Pride events because of the commercialization of Manhattan’s “Pride”!
Considering that, in 2013, a Pride event was held in the City of Manila with approximately only P5,000, so this money talk nowadays highlights points 1 and 2…

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8. When the organizers claim that “‘Pride’ is not a one-day event” and then you don’t see them at all the entire year (to help gather the ranks to fight for the LGBTQIA community’s other needs, from legislation protecting our human rights to joining the picket lines of LGBTQIA people dismissed from their work due to illegal employment practices) as they’d only really surface again in June next year, and in June again the year after that.

While attending L.A. Pride! last June, I was “warned” to lower my “political expectation”; it’s really just one big party there. I suppose this “honesty” is – well – refreshing because then, we know what to expect when going there. This “approach” also “broke” the “Pride” in Toronto, with the “big” parade separated from the “Dyke March” and the “trans march”. And sans these delineations, our expectation re “Pride” becomes idealistic – i.e. that it’s one “fight for equality”, when really, it always isn’t. Because – let’s be blunt about this; and considering the number and iterations of “Pride” celebrations all over the world now – for some, “Pride” can be and is being sold…

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From the Editor

How L.A Pride! made me ask ‘Whose Pride?’…

In L.A., I’d say, yes, come to party. In fact, as far as partying goes, this one ROCKS… big time. Particularly if you have the budget. But just as I was told, temper your expectations/idealism. Because if you don’t, you’d end up just seeing the cracks in the rainbow…

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This is a very, very tricky “position”.

On the one hand, it highlights a truth – i.e. that the way we observe “Pride” is very personal. It isn’t the same for everyone (and it shouldn’t be); and no matter the way we observe it, all our ways of celebrating are “valid”.

But on the other hand, this also sounds… like an excuse. Like a (lame) justification of what “Pride” has become; no longer a struggle, but as just a (mere) party. We’re not talking of the merging of the two; just the dominance of the latter (i.e. party part). And we explain this not necessarily by reconsidering the roots of “Pride”; but by excusing what it has become.

And so welcome to LA Pride!, one of the “shining” beacons of what “Pride” all over the world has become…

THE OFFICIAL ‘POSITION’

LA Pride!’s organizers are upfront about the annual gathering’s raison d’être: “Pride means different things to different people. It’s about being proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community; standing up for equality and human rights; being role models for younger generations; and, for many, it’s about simply looking forward to an annual celebration where we put our differences aside and stand together as one community…

“It’s not our role to tell you how to feel or how to act or how to believe during Pride. Your experience of Pride is completely up to you – and that’s a beautiful thing. However, we want you to feel empowered. We want to encourage you to find, embody, share, express, and celebrate what Pride authentically means to you. All in your own unique way.”

Yes… that is fair enough…

BUT WHERE’S THE STRUGGLE?

I am as pro-party as the next gay guy, don’t get me wrong. But if partying is – inadvertently – the end goal of the LGBTQIA struggle, are we really on the same boat here?

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“It’s not exactly political,” a Filipino friend who is now based in L.A. told me weeks before L.A. Pride! “It’s just one big party, really.”

I had to – I was told – “temper your (political) expectations.” This was the “only way I can appreciate it… by seeing it using the ‘party lens’.”

And so – on June 10, we headed to West Hollywood, L.A.’s largely accepted “gay area” (a day after the “Pride festival” officially started).

Yep, the dykes on bikes still led the parade. This is good representation, yes; though – let’s cut the crap here – really just a token (if not symbolic) role given to lesbians/women to “lead” the annual parade because of their continuing invisibility even within the LGBTQIA community.

Yep, there are “political” groups/messages – e.g. #BlackLivesMatter, and those highlighting how LGBTQI youth are largely affected by homelessness. But that many had to (also) strip for their causes to be listened to doesn’t reflect well on our lookism society…

Yep, many of the “regulars” that helped strengthen the LGBTQIA community were there – e.g. progressive faith-based organizations, HIV and AIDS groups, and so on. But almost always sandwiched between the plethora of the the privileged White, middle-class and/or rich, able-bodied, cisgender gay men, I’d say discussions on “representation versus tokenism” really have to be revisited…

And then there were the sponsors – i.e. them who supposedly “make Pride happen” because they fund it (e.g. banks, alcoholic beverages), easily equating “Pride” with “money”…

“Turn around,” the Filipino friend who accompanied me said, pointing me to the people on the street parallel to where the parade was happening. There, more of what makes our community “diverse” can be found – e.g. a gay man with his elderly mother who’s on a wheelchair, queer people proudly expressing their queerness, LGBTQIA couples, et cetera. “Mas interesting pa sa likod (Watching these people is more interesting),” the friend laughed.

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In L.A. Pride!, there is no program held after the parade. Instead, most of the festival revelers “gather” in an enclosed area (access is from $30, reaching to over $200 if you want backstage pass). And inside this area, the partying continues…

There are four stages (with DJs) inside; all of these stages were paid for by sponsors (e.g. MAC). In spots all over the enclosed area, there are stalls selling drinks – e.g. if a glass of beer can be bought for less than $5 outside, here, it’s well over $10. Let’s cut the crap and call this for what it is: Money-making dressed in the rainbow…

‘UNIFIED’ FUTURE?

Perhaps I’m just… grumpy?

Maybe I’m just growing old(er)?

Or I’m really just out-of touch?

Call me those, I honestly don’t care.

Because I suppose I am not ‘there’ yet. That is: I am not yet fully sold to this “new(er)” concept of what “Pride” has become/is fast becoming…

We have this grand idea of the “movement” that was started in the West (US in particular); and how we should “emulate”/work towards following their footsteps; et cetera

And this (apparently wanton) over-emphasis on “celebrate” versus “struggle” is becoming a “norm” almost everywhere. Fuck the pretenses, we seem to be told, it really is just one big ball/party…

Get this: Last year, in Marikina City for Metro Manila’s Pride parade, two sponsors actually bickered on who should lead the parade, citing the amount given as reason on the “right” to do so. The actual LGBTQIA groups that were there had to wait for their turn to join the parade until the moneyed could decide who deserved more to be in that parade…

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And for years now, we’ve been able to raise over half a million pesos every year for a one-day parade (give or take a handful of events promoting this parade, and then for the after-parade parties of the organizers); but we can’t even raise 10% of that amount to, among others: 1. help homeless senior LGBTQIA people find (more permanent) housing; 2. help feed LGBTQIA people also affected by contractualization in the picket lines after they were illegally removed from their jobs by opportunistic corporations; 3. establish a legal service to help particularly LGBTQIA people inadvertently affected by Duterte’s anti-tambay policy; et cetera.

We used to say “no Pride until all of us have Pride” and/or “none of us is free until all of us are free”. Well, this new(er) and more individualistic “idea” seems to be saying: Fuck your Pride; I already have mine.

If this is the future of “Pride”, then really, hindi na dugo at pawis ang puhunan ng Pride ngayon, pera na.

And I’m not sure this is the Pride we all really want to be part of…

Back in L.A., I’d say, yes, come to party.

In fact, as far as partying goes, this one ROCKS… big time. Particularly if you have the budget.

But just as I was told, temper your expectations/idealism. Because if you don’t, you’d end up just seeing the cracks in the rainbow…

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From the Editor

They’re united in hating us; why can’t we unite in facing them?

Michael David Tan: “Our haters can show strength in hating us; if we can’t unite in facing them, then let’s face it, we’re in deep shit.”

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So, the past few days, one of the biggest news items in my (social networking sites’) newsfeeds and/or timelines was the rally held by self-proclaimed “Christians” who flocked to the Senate to express their opposition to the anti-discrimination bill (ADB).

A lot of them are unaware, believing/claiming that the ADB is pro-marriage equality. As Jesus is Lord (JIL) founder, Bro. Eddie Villanueva, said at the rally: “Same-sex marriage is an abomination to God. The Bible is so clear about the man marrying another man. This will invite kinds of curses that we cannot contain in our generation.”

But this is not just blinded; it is – I’d go to a stretch here – actually ignorant (and stupidly so). Because the proposed legislation actually only really wants to protect the rights of ALL Filipinos (including these haters, who – in case they do not know, also have sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, or SOGIE) from getting discriminated for who they are.

But – again – they were able to make some “noise” because they were able to rally their (blind) followers, and thereby managed to show some “force”.

Now, more than anger, here’s where it suddenly became sad for me.

That – even if these so-called “Christians” can only muster thousands to show their hatred of us – so many in the LGBTQI community’s response has been focused on… keyboard activism.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a writer, so I know the value of (written) words.

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But I also know – and acknowledge – that words are not always enough.

In this case, yes, just whining online about “these haters” does not suffice.

So, on the one hand, we need to start showing our ACTUAL forces. If we can’t, then our silence becomes a tool of our enemies, making us our own enemies.

We can “boast” having thousands attend a once-a-year commercialized Pride event. We boast about preparing like crazy to spend crazy amounts of cash to party en masse for Holy Week or LaBoracay. We spend P500.00 (considering the wage other LGBTQI Filipinos get per day is just half this) for cover charge on top of P10,000-P30,000 per table in “exclusive” bars.

BUT when talking about ADB (or actually lobbying about this), we’re content with… just typing?

But I understand that – on the other hand – those who (supposedly) fight for us (including our “allies”) should be also held accountable.

For instance, exactly how many of LGBTQI Filipinos actually know (or get information) about the hearings about the ADB? For those in-the-know, how many did you share this information with? For those not in the “in” crowd, where do you get information; and how can you participate?

In this sense, “advocacy” becomes exclusive; and it only strengthens our oppressors.

This is (just) a rant, yes.

But let me state this nonetheless: Our haters can show strength in hating us; if we can’t unite in facing them, then let’s face it, we’re in deep shit.

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From the Editor

How the Vic Fabe issue highlights that we can be our worst enemies…

After hearing of the #VicFabeScandal, Michael David C. Tan noted how some members of the LGBTQI community actually “defend” the erroneous acts, seemingly unaware of the power dynamics involved in what transpired. Tan says: “We should stop being enablers of perpetrators of abuses we complain about.”

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I’ve never heard of this Vic Fabe guy before, or even (knowingly) saw any of his works. But these past days, his name has been making the (online) rounds. And NOT, I should say, for a good reason. Instead, it is because of the videos supposedly taken while he (a photographer) engaged in sexual acts with men (his models).

For those connected online, it can’t be escaped. Type the guy’s name, and Google will give you links related to his “scandal”. Don’t type it, and the reprehensible #VicFabeScandal hashtag appears in LGBTQI-related feeds anyway.

Let’s get this one out first: What consenting adults do in their bedrooms (or, if the case may be, in their studios) is their business.

BUT when acts (sexual or not) happen coupled with abuses of power/authority, then we’re entering the #MeToo domain.

Fabe may deserve to be heard, too (so we can get his side of the story). But if judgment of him is solely based on the videos making the rounds and the discussions surrounding these videos, then it can be (rightly) claimed that a position of power was used to take advantage of others.

The basic facts are: as the man behind the camera, Fabe was in a position of power, able to “lure” these wannabe actors/models for photoshoots (via cheap rates, free shoots, et cetera). And then, during these photoshoots, things then turn sexual WITH (known by these models or not) the camera still turned on (which is why there are these videos making the rounds now).

How is this no different from a gay male teacher who has sex with his male students for them to get good grades? Or – venturing into the straight world in the international fashion industry – the likes of famed photographers Terry Richardson, Mario Testino and Bruce Weber who were all accused of using their prominence/positions of power to take advantage of their (fame-seeking or just-making-a-living) models?

READ:  Best practices be damned

This #VicFabeScandal ought to be a big issue (also taking into consideration that this touches on the cybercrime prevention law with Fabe claiming that the videos were just stolen from him; and the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009).

But for me, just as big an issue are the responses of members of the LGBTQI community to it.

I have heard many members of the LGBTQI community (usually gay and bi-identifying men) who end up “defending” Fabe’s alleged acts, seemingly unaware of the power dynamics involved in what transpired.

There are those who claimed that “wala namang nawala sa mga lalaki (these men didn’t lose anything),” a comment from one stated. “Sumikat pa nga (This even made them popular).”

I have a friend who said “binayaran naman, so keri na (the boys were paid anyway, so what they went through isn’t an issue).” He stressed that “pokpok naman yung iba eh (some of the men are just prostitutes, anyway)”; blind to the fact that even those in the sex industry can be abused.

There are emerging/wannabe photographers who openly say that they now want to “pursue photography seriously… if only to mimic Vic Fabe.” Apparently, “ang swerte ng balyena (that whale – to refer to Fabe’s weight – is lucky)!”

There are those who now seemingly place Fabe in a pedestal – e.g. “Vic Fabe ikaw na talaga ang nag-iisa (Vic Fabe you have no peers)!”

And there are a lot who choose to ignore discussing this issue altogether, and instead just focus on asking “sino may copies ng videos ng #VicFabeScandal, papasa naman (who has copies of the #VicFabeScandal videos, please pass them).”

We’ve all been here before.

Remember Jojo Veloso, that talent agent who also had videos showing him fondling the private parts of his talents (e.g. Hans Montenegro)? History, it seems, repeated itself.

READ:  92 Days

If you think you’re too young to remember Veloso, then just think of the #MeToo movement.

How it also affects LGBTQI people – e.g. Cara Delevingne (June Moone/Enchantress in “Suicide Squad”), who claimed that when she was 23, disgraced film studio executive Harvey Weinstein also propositioned him (and even asking her if she had slept with any of the women she was seen out with in the media).

But – as we are now seeing – how this, too, highlights that members of our community can be perpetrators.

In Hollywood, Kevin Spacey already faced a backlash; but locally, we continue ignoring/not discussing this. In case you didn’t know: Veloso entered local politics, and… won.

And if the only “discussion” that will happen re Fabe are the “send mo naman ang copies ng scandals (send us copies of the scandals)”, then it seems like we won’t really get to the bottom of what happened.

Meaning, in not so many words: This will just be swept under the rug… until a new (similar) scandal arises.

Members of the LGBTQI community continue to experience abuses. We – of all people – should know what it feels like to be silenced by people in positions of power/authority.

And so unless we face (and admit) that we can be reflections of what’s wrong with the very system that abuses us, our long overdue #MeToo revolution won’t happen.

I have also heard of “open secrets”, where some indie filmmakers allegedly have sex (and even pimp) their actors in exchange for roles in flicks. Or of gay male teachers who – after having sexual relations with their students (in return for good grades or whatever) – take and then share naked pics of these students to their friends.

These are but some of the many abuses happening, with the perpetrators happening to be also LGBTQI community members. And we need to not only call them out, but stop them. Just as we would if/when the perpetrators are not members of the LGBTQI community. Abuse, after all, is abuse.

READ:  Holding our allies just as accountable

And simply because in not so many words, we should stop being enablers of perpetrators of abuses we complain about.

p.s.
Via his Twitter account (@vicfabephotos), Fabe released statements regarding the scandal.

On February 6, for instance, he posted:
Photo Scandal? Really, did you ever think that those videos were stolen and being sold by the alter community at my expense. Why dont you focus on the Alter Community where they deceive unsuspecting men and telling then to jerk off. Once they succeed they spread it maliciously.

On February 9:
It all started with my Google Drive and its hacked contents that are my personal sex videos. Stolen by an evil alter and maliciously posted online. And that started in September 2017. I just had 1k followers then and now it’s almost 6k now. Amazing. 🙂

On February 11:
The guy who was with me is so depressed. He has thoughts of committing suicide. Kaya please STOP NA. STOP SPREADING HIS PICTURES. Hindi na to nakakatuwa. Be a responsible alter. I know may mga kapatid kayong lalake. Pic ko nalang ang ilabas niyo. Please.

Again on February 11:
Hindi ko nilabas ang sex video ko. NINAKAW YAN SA GOOGLE DRIVE KO. Those are for private use only. Im sure may kapatid ka na lalaki and I hope marealize mo na shaming them will bring back bad Karma sa family mo.

p.p.s.
As of 7.20PM of February 13, @vicfabephotos has been deactivated; though his webpage (vicfabe.com) is still up. On the sidebar, there is a link to the subscription page for $49.95 per month to be able to access the entirety of the site.

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7 B.S. (or at least half-truths) you hear about HIV in the Philippines

For Michael David C. Tan, “a big part of why the Philippines’ HIV situation doesn’t seem to be getting better is because of the continuing use of ‘lies’ (okay, fine, let’s just call them half-truths!) in dealing with HIV.” As such, it’s time to debunk long-held beliefs that aren’t helping deal with this issue.

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PHOTO TAKEN DURING AN OUTREACH PROGRAM TO PLHIV OF THE PROJECT RED RIBBON

In 1998, when Shola Luna started her antiretroviral therapy (ART), she had to take 30 tablets in the morning and another 30 tablets at night. It can be said that things are not as “bad” as they were in the early days of HIV. Nowadays, when compared to the early plight of the likes of Shola, many Filipinos living with HIV (for instance) need only take one antiretroviral (ARV) tablet a day.

But this is not to say that everything is now rosy, considering that: the country registers approximately 31 new HIV cases EVERY DAY; less than half of PLHIVs in the Philippines access ART (in June 2017, that’s 21,035 of the 45,023 total reported cases); and those getting infected with HIV are getting younger (again in June, half of 1,013 cases reported were from the 25-34 year age group while 32% were youth aged 15-24 years).

I advance the position that a big part of why the Philippines’ HIV situation doesn’t seem to be getting better is because of the continuing use of “lies” (okay, fine, let’s just call them half-truths!) in dealing with HIV.

1. There’s a law that protects persons living with HIV

Yes, we have RA 8504, which – aside from mandating efforts to stop the spread of HIV in the Philippines – actually offers SOME (that’s in CAPS for emphasis) protection against discrimination of PLHIVs.
BUT (again in CAPS, for emphasis) the law itself is FLAWED, not to mention that having this law doesn’t mean it is actually being properly implemented.

Issues with it being flawed include: not allowing minors to get tested for HIV sans parental/guardian’s consent, even if the age of those getting infected in the Philippines are getting younger; only medical professionals who disclose one’s HIV status is punishable; lack of PLHIV representation in the national body (that’s the Philippine National AIDS Council) that is also supposed to look after their issues; and lack of clarity re bodies responsible re implementation (or non-implementation) of the law’s mandates (for instance, insurance companies still discriminate sans sanctions).

Issues with implementation are numerous, including: abundance of agencies that mandate HIV testing even if this is against the law – e.g. some are government offices and employment companies; absence of bodies PLHIVs can actually approach if/when violations happen; non-formation of Local AIDS Councils in local government units (with the devolving of healthcare to local governments); and so on…
So consider having a law as a good thing; but that it’s largely toothless makes it… largely inadequate.

HIV stigma and discrimination and official indifference?

2. Social media caused the surge of HIV

Eric Tayag of the Department of Health was one of the earliest to stress that easy access to social media networks (online and app-based, like Grindr, PlanetRomeo, Blued and even the likes of Facebook and Twitter) helped cause the surge of HIV infections in the country.

I’d say this is true… BUT only to the extent that technology made hooking up easier (and with more sexual partners, one’s risk of exposing oneself to STIs increases).

READ:  Fernando Carpaneda eyes to provoke debates and questions about equality with ‘New Portraits’

I contend, nonetheless, that this is also a questionable blanket statement because even if you are not into monogamy but practice safer sex, your risk of getting infected may be lower than someone who is in a monogamous relationship but: A) does not know his/her HIV status; B) have had unsafe sex prior to the relationship he/she has now; or – if one is HIV+ – C) has issues with his/her meds so his/her VL is in doubt.

In the end, educating people on how to stay negative (or if positive, how they won’t infect others) is the BETTER approach, instead of the admittedly catchier extensive claim of the Internet as (solely) blame-worthy for the spread of HIV.

3. Most affected by HIV are men who have sex with men (MSM)

Many people will not necessarily agree with me here; and they have every right opposing me. After all, data shows that the population most affected by HIV in the Philippines involves MSM. For instance, in June 2017, of the 1,013 Filipinos who were newly infected with HIV, most (93%) were male.

BUT for those willing to hear me out, my position is largely based on anecdotes we’ve encountered while interviewing (and even attending training) for articles developed for Outrage Magazine.

For instance, I have spoken with HIV counselors in Cagayan de Oro City and in Davao City who alleged that they were blatantly told by agencies implementing HIV-related programs in their localities to “only test MSM.” I personally attended a government-sanctioned training (to give community-based HIV testing) where the participants were told to “only use the rapid test kit to MSM, and NOT women (even if these women wanted to get tested)”. We also heard of populations (e.g. women in prison) who want to get tested, but aren’t tested.

So YES, existing figures show that MSM “drive” the spread of HIV in the Philippines. But I’d argue that THIS DOES NOT SHOW THE WHOLE PICTURE.

On this, note that we refer to the key affected population as “men who have sex with men”. Meaning, these are men who are not necessarily gay or bi, but are hetero-identifying men who just happen to have (had) sex with other men (e.g. DOTA boys, sex workers, masseurs who give extra service). Any other time, they will (also) have sex with women (they’re hetero, after all). So that if they have HIV, they may also infect these women they have sex with. Now, if we don’t test women (particularly those who want to get tested), our efforts are lacking…

4. Antiretroviral medicine is free

You’d often hear NGO workers, and EVEN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS claim that Filipinos should get tested to know their HIV status because – if they turn out to be positive – meds are given out for free anyway.

READ:  Stop this ‘B.S. advocacy’

Let’s call this a B.S.

Because the general rule is for a PLHIV to pay PhilHealth (if voluntary, this totals to P2,400 per year) first before he/she can get the ART. Specifically, in the Philippines, the treatment, care and support received by most people living with HIV (PLHIVs) are covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment (OHAT) Package. To those who are enrolled in PhilHealth, P30,000 is allocated per PLHIV per year, or P7,500 every quarter.

There are “exceptions” – e.g. for some, their fees are paid by local governments (say the mayor), NGOs, faith-based organizations, et cetera. But again, as a general rule, payment happened before the service (including the meds) is accessed. Meaning, you have to first cough up the money to access the life-saving meds (and HIV-related services).

This is important to point out here because:

A) Telling people outright that the meds are ALL FREE is a lie; and

B) Many PLHIVs consider themselves “lucky” for being “served” by treatment hubs, when the fact of the matter is that they paid for that “service” and therefore have every right to complain if that same service sucks.

5. PrEP is now available in the Philippines

Here, it’s a yes and no.

YES because it is being piloted, with a very select few chosen for the pilot.

So NO, too, because IT STILL ISN’T AVAILABLE FOR EVERYONE WHO WANTS/NEEDS IT (e.g. opposite sex couple who want to get pregnant, and those in serodifferent relationships). So if you’re a fisherman or a farmer somewhere in Visayas or Mindanao (and yes, there have been reported cases of HIV infection in these populations!), PrEP isn’t available for you (though for that matter, so is ARV).

What’s ironically funny for me is this: PrEP was already proven to be effective, so why the continuing delay in just rolling it out in the Philippines?

As a side note here: Do you know that even post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is still not (widely) available in the Philippines?

6. There’s no money for HIV

A common message we hear in HIV advocacy is that there’s not enough money to deal with a burgeoning problem.

I say: Yeah, right!

When we have NGO workers who: A) get to travel the world (for leisure at that!) using (most of) the money supposed to benefit people living with HIV; B) can afford to buy high-end gadgets (e.g. Apple Watch, think of the latest iPhone units, including iPhone X) and luxury goods (e.g. LV, Coach, et cetera) from a “low” salary; C) can afford to pay for cosmetic surgery from the same “low” salary; D) can buy properties (e.g. car/s and condos); and E) have “meetings” in – say – Boracay (and then present the same as an “achievement” to donor agencies), then we know THERE IS MONEY if not FOR, then at least IN HIV.

The emphasis, therefore, is NOT on whether there is money; but on WHERE THE MONEY GOES.
Of course, it’s easy to blame the government’s continuing seeming non-focus on HIV (e.g. remember those ARV procurement issues that happened because of non-payment of taxes?).

READ:  8 Ways to know we’ve sold ‘Pride’

But I’d also argue that part of the problem are some donor agencies that partner only with “big” NGOs, and then solely base indicators of “success” on reports given to them, as if these can’t be (or aren’t) faked.

For instance, there are many (admittedly smaller) HIV-centric NGOs in the Philippines that DO NOT HAVE MONEY to implement their projects, and yet there are many (bigger) non-HIV NGOs that get funds to run HIV-specific projects. The main difference is the “established systems” (e.g. accounting) of the bigger NGOs. A common practice is, therefore, for the bigger NGOs to get the money, and then hire (and pay less) the smaller NGOs to implement the projects for them. In a way, they become the “middleman” who gets “cut” not necessarily because they know what they’re doing, but solely for holding the power of the purse…

If these donor agencies really wanna help, I’d say EMPOWER THE SMALLER NGOs/CBOs by giving them the money (including to train their people to become competitive with the bigger NGOs) and JUST GET RID OF THE (profiteering) “middlemen”…

Another senseless indicator of success, for me, is the “noise” made in social media. For instance, I’ve attended a presscon of a well-funded “effort” to encourage people to get tested for HIV by using celebrities. The budget went to these celebrities (some even had the gall to complain that they were getting “peanuts” from the project), the photographers/videographers, PR firm, et cetera. After the project (and the money was spent), actually counting people who got tested because of the effort was sidelined because, as was said, “that’s not an indicator for success”.

Again, to emphasize, there is money for HIV. It just isn’t necessarily getting spent where it ought to be.

7. The HIV “community” is unified – NOT!

When somebody from the HIV community claims to speak for the entire HIV community, he/she is bullshitting you. This includes “speaking on behalf of the HIV community in amending RA 8504”, or giving citations to very select people who are supposed to have helped HIV advocacy in the Philippines (and even if their roles in HIV advocacy are questionable).

Remember that study about thinking twice before talking about the “LGBT community”? Yes, there would be similarities in the experiences (e.g. the need for ARV). But the same principle holds true here – i.e. this community is so diverse that speaking for it AS A WHOLE is not only erroneous, but ill-advised.

The first step to doing something about anything is acknowledging the truths (and lies, for that matter) about it. And so for me, here are the BASIC truths/half-truths/lies we need to tackle when discussing HIV in the Philippines…

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