When the MUJER-LGBT Organization was established on September 25, 2015, under the urging of the Department of Health-Region IX (through Clarissa Jose, the regional coordinator for STI, HIV and AIDS; and Allan Tahamid), it was mainly because “we wanted to combat the stigma and discrimination linked with HIV and AIDS,” said Alvin Toni Gee Fernandez, who now helms the group.
But the impetus soon grew to not only focus on HIV and AIDS, but even other LGBT-related stigma and discrimination – e.g. dealing with discrimination encountered by LGBT students in their schools.
As Fernandez said, this is in recognition that “our issues are interconnected, so solutions need to be interconnected, too.”
Already, MUJER-LGBT Organization has done events that are stereotypically identified with the LGBT community (e.g. gay and trans Santacruzan) and those that are not (e.g. paralegal discussions). But even now, it is still the fight to curb the spread of HIV that it holds dear “because as we all know that HIV is no longer a death sentence, so the sooner you’ll know your status, the better you can look after yourself,” Fernandez said. “This is a lesson that has to be learned by members of the LGBT community.”
In its effort to mainstream the LGBT community, MUJER-LGBT Organization has not stopped reaching out. For instance, “we keep reminding every individual that HIV is not a problem only of the PLHIVs, but the problem of everybody,” Fernandez said. To spread information, mini-lectures are held in various barangays. “Spreading the voices of acceptance is our main goal. At the end of the day, the fight is for everybody,” Fernandez said.
There have been “issues” – e.g. MUJER-LGBT Organization’s members being harassed and called names – but “we just focus on our advocacy,” Fernandez said.
And this is what keeps MUJER-LGBT Organization going – “Keeping pushing for our advocacy,” Fernandez said – as they eye to continue making a positive impact in Zamboanga.
VISIT THE MUJER-LGBT ORGANIZATION’S FACEBOOK PAGE FOR MORE INFORMATION.