Formed in December 10, 2008, Initiative and Movement for Gender Liberation against Discrimination (IM GLAD) is the pioneering lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organization for the provinces of North Cotabato and Maguindanao in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
Currently headed by Bagodatu “Bhags” Mabang Zacaria, a Maguindanaon, IM GLAD was convened by LGBT members of the Young Advocates of Peace and Solidarity.
Empowered by his trainings on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE), Bhags focused on organizing LGBT out-of-school youth, students and young professionals. IM GLAD started with around 100 members from Cotabato City area.
IM GLAD initially struggled to maintain its membership. “Habang tumatagal, nababawasan. Dahil sa religion, then dahil sa stable na trabaho (As time passed, the number of members lessened. At first because of religion, then because of the need of members to find stable jobs),” Bhags said.
IM GLAD maintains a very inclusive membership policy. “As long as tanggap niya sa sarili niya na gay o lesbian siya… Even if straight siya as long as tanggap niya ang LGBT. May mga 15 na straight na members ngayon.” ( As long as they accept themselves as gay or lesbian… Even if he/she is straight, as long as he/she accepts LGBTs. We currently have 15 straight members.) Bhags said.
Through social media and school orientations, IM GLAD has reached out to other cities and towns in Mindanao. Currently, it has chapters in the Islamic city of Marawi, Midsayap and Cagayan de Oro City. Bhags said that they are not only focusing on the Muslim youth, but also Christians and Lumads. “Tanggap namin ang tri-people. Mas nahirapan kami sa Lumads, especially sa Midsayap (We accept that we are tri-people. We had more difficulty in reaching out to indigenous peoples, especially in Midsayap),” Bhags said.
IM GLAD reported its difficulty in organizing in Muslim communities and the need to consolidate its membership.
“May ibang members na nag-pa-participate dahil naghihintay ng kapalit. Nag-i-isip ng may allowance. Dini-discourage ng religious sector ang IM GLAD. Kinausap ang nanay ko na pagsabihan ako sa pagbubuo ng gay organization. Nagsimula ang threats noong may binatikos na officer sa isang barangay (There are other members who just participate because they expect something in return. They think they will be given an allowance. The religious sector also discourages IM GLAD. They talked to my mother to advise me to stop forming the gay organization. Threats started when we criticized a village officer),” Bhags said.
Even with these challenges, IM GLAD has been able to collaborate with different LGBT groups such as Rainbow Rights, LGBT Hate Crime Watch, Ladlad Partylist, SHINE SOCCKSARGEN and ILGA.
IM GLAD celebrated their recent achievements with socio-civic activities in Cotabato City. Already, even without funding IM GLAD, was tapped by the city’s health department for the conduct of HIV testing and the conduct of activities for World Aids Day.
“Kasama kami sa mga medical missions ng local government at patuloy kami sa aming peace education at advocacy. Napatunayan namin na ang mga LGBTs ay may kayang gawin (We participate in the local government’s medical missions, and we continue our peace education and advocacy. We have proven that LGBTs can do something),” Bhags ended.
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