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LIVING HISTORY

Living History: How words reflect gender understanding in Phl

For Michael L. Tan, to better understand the LGBTQIA community in the Philippines, understanding Filipino concepts of gender is necessary. This is because words used referring to LGBTQI people are based on concepts that are biologically based related to roles in reproduction.  

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Watch those words.

That language evolves is a given; so it is not surprising that references to gender expression were noted in the evolution of some words in the Filipino language.

A good example is an old word used in the Philippines to refer to effeminate men, i.e. syoki, which was believed to be derived from Hokkien (Minnan) words syo and ki to mean “with weak spirit”. Suffice to say, the word suggests that effeminate men are weak (Tan, n.d.).

In the past, the term used to identify mainly cross-dressing effeminate men was bakla, while the female counterpart was tomboy. It is worth noting that while Western terminology has long entered the local lingo (e.g. LGBT), these remain widely used, particularly in areas outside of metropolitan cities.

But for Michael L. Tan (n.d.), to also better understand the LGBTQIA community in the Philippines, understanding Filipino concepts of gender is necessary. This is because these words (mentioned above) are based on concepts that are biologically based related to roles in reproduction.

As such, in the Philippines, definitions used particularly on gays and lesbians “keep going back to a biological dichotomy of a male and female… Both ‘tomboy’ and ‘bakla’ center on ‘inversion’, in the sense of a male taking on female mannerisms, way of dressing and of a female taking on male”.

Tan stated that, generally, “one could not be bakla, or gay, if he was not effeminate, and one could not be tomboy, or lesbian, unless she was masculine.”

READ:  Province of Ilocos Sur passes LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance

This way, a bakla was a “girl”, and as “girls”, they will not have sex with other bakla (also considered as “girls”), as this was considered “tantamount to lesbianism”. The tomboy, meanwhile, is “constructed as a man trapped in a woman’s body” (Tan, 2001).

Sources:

Tan, M.L. (n.d.). Filipino Keywords Related to Sexuality.

Tan, M.L. (2001). Survival Through Pluralism: Emerging Gay Communities in the Philippines. Gay and Lesbian Asia: Culture, Identity, Community. Gerard Sullivan & Peter A. Jackson (Eds.). The Haworth Press Inc. 117-142.

UNDP, USAID (2014). “Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report.” Bangkok.

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LIVING HISTORY

Living History: Intersex in focus in Phl

The Supreme Court allows for intersex Filipinos to determine their gender classification. The SC stated: “Respondent is the one who has to live with his intersex anatomy.To him belongs the human right to the pursuit of happiness and of health.” 

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Photo detail by JC Gellidon from Unsplash.com

A win for intersex Filipinos.

On December 11, 2003, Jeff Cagandahan, an intersex person, filed a Petition for Correction of Entries in Birth Certificate before the RTC, Branch 33 of Siniloan, Laguna. Specifically, Cagandahan asked to change his name and his sex (from female to male). Cagandahan claimed that he developed male characteristics while growing up because of a condition called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH).

On January 12, 2005, the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 33 of Siniloan, Laguna granted the Petition for Correction of Entries in Birth Certificate filed by Jennifer B. Cagandahan and ordered the following changes of entries in Cagandahan’s birth certificate: (1) the name Jennifer Cagandahan changed to Jeff Cagandahan and (2) gender from female to male.

But the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG)appealed the decision, also using the Silverio argument (i.e. that “Rule 108 does not allow change of sex or gender in the birth certificate and respondents claimed medical condition known as CAH does not make her a male”).

Living History: On changing one’s sex by petitioning the Phl courts

The SC sided with Cagandahan.

In its 2008 decision, the highest court stated:

“Ultimately, we are of the view that where the person is biologically or naturally intersex the determining factor in his gender classification would be what the individual, like respondent, having reached the age of majority, with good reason thinks of his/her sex. Respondent here thinks of himself as a male and considering that his body produces high levels of male hormones (androgen) there is preponderant biological support for considering him as being male. Sexual development in cases of intersex persons makes the gender classification at birth inconclusive. It is at maturity that the gender of such persons, like respondent, is fixed…

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“In the absence of a law on the matter, the Court will not dictate on respondent concerning a matter so innately private as ones sexuality and lifestyle preferences, much less on whether or not to undergo medical treatment to reverse the male tendency due to CAH. The Court will not consider respondent as having erred in not choosing to undergo treatment in order to become or remain as a female. Neither will the Court force respondent to undergo treatment and to take medication in order to fit the mold of a female, as society commonly currently knows this gender of the human species. Respondent is the one who has to live with his intersex anatomy.To him belongs the human right to the pursuit of happiness and of health. Thus, to him should belong the primordial choice of what courses of action to take along the path of his sexual development and maturation. In the absence of evidence that respondent is an incompetent and in the absence of evidence to show that classifying respondent as a male will harm other members of society who are equally entitled to protection under the law, the Court affirms as valid and justified the respondents position and his personal judgment of being a male.”

The decision was written by Associate Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing; with Conchita Carpio Morales, Dante O. Tinga, Presbitero J. Velasco Jr. and Arturo D. Brion concurring.

READ:  Living History: Intersex in focus in Phl

Sources:

Republic of the Philippines versus Jennifer B. Cagandahan (G.R. No. 166676), Available from http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2008/september2008/166676.htm#_ftnref12

UNDP, USAID (2014). “Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report.” Bangkok.

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LIVING HISTORY

Living History: On changing one’s sex by petitioning the Phl courts

For the Supreme Court, “considering that there is no law legally recognizing sex reassignment, the determination of a person’s sex made at the time of his or her birth, if not attended by error, is immutable.”

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Where does the court stand on self-determination of trans people in the Philippines?

In 2002, Mely Silverio, a post-op transsexual woman, filed a legal petition to change her name, as well as her sex from “male” to “female”. While the trial court decided in her favor in 2003, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) appealed the decision.

In 2006, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the lower court. Silverio appealed the decision to the Supreme Court (SC), which – in 2007 – ruled against Silverio, thereby ending the possibility of changing one’s sex by petitioning the courts.

For the SC, “considering that there is no law legally recognizing sex reassignment, the determination of a person’s sex made at the time of his or her birth, if not attended by error, is immutable.”

The Silverio decision also produced the court’s definition of male and female when it said that: “Female is the sex that produces ova or bears young and male is the sex that has organs to produce spermatozoa for fertilizing ova.”

Sources:

Rommel Jacinto Dantes Silverio versus Republic of the Philippines (G.R. No. 174689), Available at http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2007/october2007/174689.htm.

UNDP, USAID (2014). “Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report.” Bangkok.

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LIVING HISTORY

Living History: Impetus of LGBTQIA movement in Phl

The 1990s saw the formation of numerous LGBTQIA organizations in the Philippines, many of them championing LGBTQIA-related issues. So the 1990s may be when at least an impetus of the LGBTQIA movement emerged in the country. 

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PHOTO TAKEN FROM THE HOME FOR THE GOLDEN GAYS

Formalized organizing.

As Michael L. Tan noted, as early as the 1960s-1970s, (particularly) gay men already formed organizations, albeit these were non-political. The 1970s, in fact, saw the formation of Kakasarian, a group that had members who were middle-class professionals who sought to champion gay rights. This group folded after less than a year, supposedly because bakla themselves did not see the need to fight for gay rights (Tan, 2001). The Home for the Golden Gays (then just called The Golden Gays) also marks its beginning in the 1970s.

Fast forward to the 1990s, when the formation of LGBTQIA organizations became prevalent. It is worth noting that during this period, championing LGBTQIA-related issues (among others) gave birth to many of these organizations, and then drove these organizations’ existence.

In fact, just prior to the first Pride march in 1994, various LGBTQIA organizations were already formed in the Philippines, so the 1990s may be when at least an impetus of the LGBTQIA movement emerged in the country.

Living History: Phl makes history with first Pride March in 1994

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but perhaps among the most noteworthy include:

  • ProGay Philippines, which was founded in 1993.
  • Metropolitan Community Church (which held its first mass in the Philippines in 1991) was established in 1992.
  • University of the Philippines (UP) Babaylan, the oldest LGBT student organization in the Philippines, was established also in 1992.

The spread of HIV helped galvanize the gay community in Western countries.  This similarly happened in the Philippines with the establishment of two Metro Manila-based NGOs, i.e.

  • The Library Foundation (then TLF) was established in 1990.
  • Remedios AIDS Foundation (though serving the general population, not just MSM) was established in 1991.
  • Katlo was established in 1992.
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As per Michael L. Tan, most of the members of these organizations were self-identifying as “gay” and were conscious about building a gay community (Tan, 1995).

TLF, in particular, received funding from USAID to start the first HIV/AIDS prevention program for men who have sex with men (MSM) in the country. The work of TLF brought MSM to the attention of the government so that when the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) was established in 1995, it allocated one seat for MSM. TLF eventually became the TLF Sexuality, Health and Rights Educators Collective Inc. (TLF SHARE Collective).

Notable lesbian organizations that emerged in the 1990s included:

  • Metro Manila-based CLIC (Cannot Live In a Closet)
  • Lesbian Advocates Philippines (LeAP!)
  • Lesbond (based in Baguio City)

Tan earlier noted that in the 1990s, compared with gay men’s groups, the lesbian movement had a “comparatively low profile… and yet it (was) able to move with such unity” (Tan, 2001).

Sources:

Tan, M.L. (1995). Tita Aida and Emerging Communities of Gay Men: Two Case Studies from Metro Manila, the Philippines. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services. The Haworth Press Inc. Vol. 3(3), 31-38.

Tan, M.L. (2001). Survival Through Pluralism: Emerging Gay Communities in the Philippines. Gay and Lesbian Asia: Culture, Identity, Community. Gerard Sullivan & Peter A. Jackson (Eds.). The Haworth Press Inc. 117-142.

UNDP, USAID (2014). “Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report.” Bangkok.

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LIVING HISTORY

Living History: Phl makes history with first Pride March in 1994

On June 26, 1994, ProGay Philippines and Metropolitan Community Church helmed a march in Quezon City. Dubbed as “Stonewall Manila” or as “Pride Revolution”, it was held in remembrance of the Stonewall Inn Riots and coincided with a bigger march against the imposition of the Value Added Tax (VAT). With this, the Philippines gained the distinction of being the first country in Asia and the Pacific to host a Pride-related march.

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Aside from Fr. Richard Mickley, Oscar Atadero - then of ProGay Philippines - helped make the first LGBT Pride March in the Philippines happen, along with the likes of Murphy Red, et al.

On June 26, 1994, ProGayPhilippines (Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines), with the likes of Oscar Atadero and Murphy Red, and backed by Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) under the leadership of then Pastor Richard Mickley, held a march at the Quezon City Memorial Circle.

This march – even dubbed as “Stonewall Manila” or as “Pride Revolution” according to various accounts – was held in remembrance of the Stonewall Inn Riots since 1994 marked the 25th year since the “modern” lesbian and gay movement “started”, thanks to the Stonewall Inn Riot in New York.

But it also coincided with a bigger march against the imposition of the Value Added Tax (VAT) in the Philippines.

Some actually contest whether this was really a “Pride March”, considering that: 1. it was not well-documented; and 2. even if a march happened, the issues raised were not only LGBTQIA-specific.

But – to start – if Pride as it is currently known marks the Stonewall Inn Riots, then this march, as an endeavor that did that, obviously qualified. Also, even with the reliance on mainstream media for most of the documentation in those days, the march actually received ample media attention. Lastly, for the organizers of that first march, the broadened approach actually “symbolized not only the solidarity of the LGBTQIA community but also LGBTQIA community members’ participation in mainstream social and economic issues.” The latter point remains valid now, particularly with the call to start looking at intersections within the LGBTQIA community, as well as with other minority sectors.

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Interviewed by Patrick King Pascual for Outrage Magazine, Mickley recalled that “there was no interference or harassment along the way, but a lot of noise and shouting in the ranks of the 50 or so marchers.” Nonetheless, the move was considered needed because “we recognized that we now had open, not closeted, organizations. But the movement was still quiet or unknown. We felt we needed a (local) Stonewall”.

The impetus for organizing LGBTQI Pride in the Phl

As the small group of LGBT organizations marched along Quezon Avenue to Quezon Memorial Circle, they were confronted by the park police and was asked, “Where are you are you going?”

“We had no assembly permit. We sat by the roadside until the activists of ProGay ironed out the stumbling block. (After it was settled), we made our way to an assembly area with a stage,” Mickley said.

But in the end, “the first Pride March brought a publicity breakthrough. The purpose of the Pride March was realized – (to show) that the gay and lesbian people of the Philippines are real people, and they are not freaks in a closet,” Mickley said.

In the end, “that first Pride March brought a publicity breakthrough. The purpose of the Pride March was realized – (to show) that the gay and lesbian people of the Philippines are real people, and they are not freaks in a closet,” Mickley said.

And with this very first march, the Philippines gained the distinction of being the first country in Asia and the Pacific to host a Pride-related march.

READ:  Supreme Court to hold oral arguments in June on same-sex marriage

Sources:

Pascual, P.K. (2018).   The impetus for organizing LGBTQI Pride in the Phl. Outrage Magazine.

UNDP, USAID (2014). “Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report.” Bangkok.

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LIVING HISTORY

Living History: Emergence of LGBTQIA-related writing in Phl

Toward the end of the 1980s and into the early 1990s, the awareness of and on LGBTQIA Filipinos continued to grow. Helping increase particularly gay awareness, for instance, were the release of literary mats on this.

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The rainbow ink cometh.

Toward the end of the 1980s and into the early 1990s, the awareness of and on LGBTQIA Filipinos continued to grow.

And helping increase particularly gay awareness, for instance, were the release of literary mats on this.

Good examples include:

  • In 1994, Ladlad was released as an anthology of Philippine gay writing. It was edited by Danton Remoto and J. Neil Garcia.
  • In 1993, A Different Love: Being Gay in the Philippines was published by Dr. Margarita Go-Singco Holmes.
  • In 1998, Tibok was released as an anthology of lesbian writing.
  • In 1999, a lesbian primer was released by CLIC (Cannot Live In a Closet).
  • In 1999, ManilaOUT opened as the first LGBT newspaper in the Philippines. It was published by Bayani Santos Jr., with Fr. Richard Mickley serving as editor in chief.

The 1990s also saw the mainstreaming of LGBTQIA-related writing, with LGBTQIA people writing in mainstream media (perhaps a good distinction is being open about their SOGIE while doing so).

Also starting then, and this time from the academe, studies of the likes of Michael L. Tan also saw publication, providing insights particularly into the emerging communities of gay men. Meanwhile, a glimpse of the plight of members of the LGBTQIA community in southern Philippines was provided in 1997 with the release of an ethnographic study that focused on the experience of 40 parloristas (gay males or transwomen working in beauty parlors) from Sulu in Mindanao. This study highlighted the evolving notions of SOGIE, said to be both informed by Western concepts and yet affected by local sensibilities (Johnson, 1997).

READ:  1st Batangan Pride parade held in Sto. Tomas

Sources:

Johnson, M. (1997). Beauty and Power: Transgendering and Cultural Transformation in the Southern Philippines (Explorations in Anthropology). Oxford & New York: Berg Publishers.

UNDP, USAID (2014). “Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report.” Bangkok.

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LIVING HISTORY

Living History: 1992 as ‘turning point for lesbian activism’ in Phl

In 1992, a lesbian contingent, called Lesbian Collective, joined the International Women’s Day march. It was the first demonstration attended by an organized sector from the LGBTQIA community in the Philippines.

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IMAGE USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSE ONLY; PHOTO BY STOCKSNAP FROM PIXABAY.COM

Power to the lesbians.

In 1992, what is considered “an important turning point for lesbian activism” (Mohideen, 1996) happened in the Philippines when a lesbian contingent, called Lesbian Collective, joined the International Women’s Day march in March of that year.

This made a mark in our history, as it was the first demonstration attended by an organized sector from the LGBTQIA community in the Philippines.

Sources:

Mohideen, R. (1996 May). Lesbian movement emerges in the Philippines. Green Left Weekly (Issue 230).

UNDP, USAID (2014). “Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report.” Bangkok.

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