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Op-Ed

Pride – The politics of politeness

Robert Flores notes that LGBT politeness may at times be understandable, but he believes that “the time of being polite is now over. I am saying exactly what every gay person who is involved in any way in the fight for equal rights is thinking, but who may be too polite to say out loud. Is that statement rude? Absolutely. Is it inflammatory? It better be.”

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There is nothing more difficult, or frustrating than trying to help someone who clearly doesn’t want to be helped.

We have heard this popular saying hundreds, if not thousands, of times before, and nowhere is it more apparent than in the gay community in the Philippines. There. I’ve said it.

The time of being polite is now over. I am saying exactly what every gay person who is involved in any way in the fight for equal rights is thinking, but who may be too polite to say out loud. Is that statement rude? Absolutely. Is it inflammatory? It better be.

The Philippines lives in a unique little bubble where the LGBT community enjoy certain liberties other individuals who identify as LGBT in other countries might not. But at the same time, the Philippine LGBT community is, as of this time; the biggest underrepresented group in Philippine politics. We have gained a lot in terms of personal and professional freedoms over the years, and are now poised to take everything that is due us as citizens of this country: marriage, the right to adopt, rights of succession, protection against discrimination. But why are we not moving forward?

In the last two elections, the group Ang Ladlad failed to get even a single seat in Congress. Political pundits had a field day. After successfully reversing the decision of the Commission on Elections, disqualifying Ang Ladlad from participating in the 2010 polls on blatantly moral grounds, and making history as the first party-list organization that seeks to finally represent the LGBT in Congress, Ang Ladlad went on to lose by a wide margin in the election, not even coming close to securing a seat. Ang Ladlad tried again in 2013, and again failed to reach the minimum number of votes to get a seat in the lower house. Working during both elections as first an intern, then as a coordinator for an NGO that monitored the conduct of the campaign and campaign spending, it was a truly exciting time to see history unfold… Well, almost. Excitement gave way to disappointment as it became more and more apparent, as election returns came in, that Ang Ladlad will have to wait three more years before trying yet again.

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Disappointment not at Ang Ladlad, despite the shortcomings of the campaign as observed by some, they are not to blame. They held themselves; the whole party, not just the nominees, out there, and the rest of the country just stood there, and simply did not vote for the party. We seem to have a very shallow depth of field when it comes to elections in this country: the point of elections is that ultimately, those who vote are the ones responsible for the acts of those voted into office, both the good and the bad. There’s a reason why people get offended when one says “Why are you complaining, you voted for him!” people don’t like it when they are made to look at their mistakes directly. And those who choose to speak the unadorned truth about how the whole gay community in the Philippines failed Ang Ladlad and themselves; are called rude by pointing it out. The time for being polite as a community should end now.

It is understandable, our decision to be polite: Not all gay people are out of the closet, in both the personal, and professional context, though it eludes me why one chooses to stay there since it should be a non-issue for individuals beyond the boundaries two adults who mutually consent to a relationship. But granted that they’re there and they choose to stay there, it is their life, and their right to be left alone. For people, not just those inside closets, politeness is the default setting hardwired into our consciousness as a minority: What one can and cannot say in polite society. What one can and cannot discuss in social circles. What one can and cannot incorporate into the curriculum. It is a form of emotional surrender, when one chooses politeness over dialogue. It chips away at you; every time you defer to your desire to lie low, to stay “under the radar”, to seem “polite”, rather than say what you really think. It slices off parts of your resolve, and unknowingly, you weaken us, the whole LGBT community as a political force. On a personal level, we don’t want to stand out, we don’t want to call attention to ourselves; simply because of the perceived inadequacy society has forced upon us. We are not inadequate, we are citizens, full-blooded citizens of this country, and in exchange for our loyalty and fidelity to the words that made this country materialize out of thin air, it owes us our rights that have long been denied. Being polite is easy: it is infinitely more tempting to be polite instead of being correct.

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The LGBT community in the Philippines has to wake up: The rights that should be granted to all citizens under the law, regardless of the gender they identify with, are not going to be handed to the LGBT community on a silver platter. We have waited for years, and no such voluntary recognition of our rights are forthcoming from the politicians and policy-makers in the Palace. The LGBT community must be represented in Congress where all the issues which we seek to address may be properly codified in law, that is binding and carries the weight of enforcement. But without any representative willing to take up the cudgels for the LGBT, there is no way that any form of LGBT-friendly legislation will ever see itself as an actual law. And gay people, up and down this country, will continue to be deprived of the power to fully live as citizens. The failure of Ladlad, twice, is indicative of a deeper problem, a general apathy in the LGBT community that must be addressed. We are a community divided, but with common concerns, and if we will be able to get our heads out of our asses, we might be able to accomplish something utterly extraordinary.

The straight community has long been aware of the presence of the LGBT community, despite their best efforts in looking the other way and pretending we don’t exist: because frankly, if something doesn’t exist, it can’t be a problem. And for years we have long deferred to the straight establishment, saying to ourselves, “Well, they’re the majority… So I’ll just do my own thing…” Not anymore. The time has come for the LGBT community to ask the questions we should have been asking a long time ago. The time for politeness is at an end. We need to confront our leaders and demand the rights that are rightfully ours. It is time to get involved, while we have time to prepare for the next showdown at the polls in 2016. Don’t be embarrassed to correct straight and ignorant colleagues or family regarding notions about homosexuality, don’t be afraid to not laugh at jokes made with poking fun at “the fags” at its core, don’t be scared to ask the questions that have been sorely needing answers for decades. Don’t give a f*ck if you are labeled rude, controversial, or a troublemaker: they will never wake up to face reality if you tread lightly around them. Find a way to help the effort, and to wear your colors proudly. Show them that we are here, and we are not going away.

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There will be opposition. There will be adversity. There will be casualties. But ultimately, we will prevail.

It is all up to you.

Ryan Robert Flores is a self-identified Bear. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, majoring in Marketing Management, and is currently working on a graduate degree, which he hopes would someday pay for TBRU, Lazy Bear Weekend, Provincetown Bear Week, Mad.Bear, and a leather sex sling that can support his weight (for, uh… research). A freelance graphic designer and photographer, he has worked with leading companies in different fields, but mostly in food (where else would a fat guy go?) by creating corporate branding and image development. A fastidious Grammar Nazi; a sure-fire way of driving him up the walls would be to say “For a while” (For a while, WHAT?), and other grammatical nightmares, without any proper context. He doesn’t like chocolate, despite being happily married to one who peddles it for a living for the past eleven years.

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From the Editor

On doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result…

The anti-discrimination bill has been pending in Congress for 19 years now. There are anti-LGBTQI politicians hindering the bill’s passage; but it may also be time to REALISTICALLY look at the current handling of the ADB to ascertain what needs to be changed from within the LGBTQI community so we don’t wait for another 19 (or more) years…

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Photo by Yannis Papanastasopoulos from Unsplash.com

Insanity: Doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.

This witticism has been attributed to, among others, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain (though when Rita Mae Brown used it, she attributed it to the Narcotics Anonymous “Basic Text” released in November 1981). But no matter the “origin”, the thought remains – i.e. it’s silly (perhaps even idiotic) doing the same thing over and over and over again when we already know what the result will be.

This thought kept nagging at me in the way the anti-discrimination bill (ADB) is being handled – particularly why, after 19 years, it continues to languish in Congress (in either the Lower or Upper House, or in both – depending on the year being discussed).

Let’s state the “givens” first.

1. There will always be haters IN Congress.
In the past, in the House of Representatives, it was Rep. Bienvenido Abante (6th District, Manila City) who – this one is the most ironic of all – chaired the Committee on Human Rights; as well as the likes of Rep. Lito Atienza (of Buhay Partylist). Currently, and in the Senate, we have the likes of Sens. Tito Sotto, Manny Pacquiao and Joel Villanueva.

2. Numerous politicians use the LGBTQI community to advance personal interests.
For instance, Sotto’s “Eat Bulaga” earns a lot of money by parading members of the population he refuses to grant human rights (i.e. Super SiReyna and Suffer SiReyna). And Villanueva USED TO support LGBTQI human rights, back when he needed the votes; but when he already got that, the narrative changed…

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3. The haters can be “persuaded” to side with what’s right.
Even the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (somewhat) changed it’s tune: it is now anti-discrimination of LGBTQI human rights (as long as it will still be able to discriminate, of course).
Some forms of “persuasion” can be harder/harsher – e.g. take the moolah away from Pacquiao, and he starts “reaching out” to the people he considered “masahol pa sa hayop (worse than animals)”. Some efforts are done behind closed doors – e.g. trans Rep. Geraldine Roman reaching out to Atienza to allay his fears that the SOGIE Equality Bill has nothing to do with marriage equality (and discuss the “toilet issue”), so that he ended up supporting this.

Now here’s where the “argument” of this article enters the picture.

Largely, it seems that the current approaches to promote the ADB (seem to just) continue to be the same.

And so we continue to be failing.

Consider these:

1. The ADB development continues to be “exclusive”.
Even when the ADB was comprehensive and mentioned other minority sectors (like PWDs, seniors, Indigenous Peoples, religious minorities, people living with HIV, et cetera), no representatives of these sectors were invited in the development of the same ADB.
Forgive me for saying this, but this is typical of a “top-to-bottom” effort – i.e. when someone basically dictates what’s good for… everyone (without hearing from the supposed beneficiaries).

2. The constant “othering”. And this happens outside and inside the LGBTQI community.
“They” are the “enemies”; only “we” are the “heroes” (there were even pro-ADB factions who wanted to discredit Roman who helped pass the ADB in the Lower House in 2017 after only a year).
“They” don’t know what’s good for the people; only “we” know better what’s good for them.
“We” don’t have to engage “others”; “they” do nothing but complain and complicate the ADB.
“We” can’t support any other form of ADB; we just want “our” version to pass.
This is “our” ADB because we’ve backed this for so long.

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3. Efforts related to ADB tend to be elitist.
The “handlers” of ADB continue to not see that – yes – online presence is good, but if the people supposed to benefit from it do not even know of it, of what good it could do to them, then the “noise” created is just that, exactly: noise.
I say: Try going to some beauty parlor in Valenzuela, or Quiapo, or Tondo, or… just about everywhere in the Philippines. Ask the parlorista if he or she knows of the ADB. If he or she does, that’s GREAT; but if he or she doesn’t, then reconfigure plans to make sure that these people know of it.
I remember during the Pacquiao debacle, when Luzon-centric activists/“activists” were flown to Mindanao to meet with the boxer. The local LGBTQI community there were – basically – ignored, treated as inconsequential to the cause they’re supposed to be part of.

4. We can’t show the numbers.
Last June, “we” were so proud to have held a “Pride” event in Marikina that was attended by approximately 25,000 people (the claim).

Metro Manila’s LGBT gathering breaks attendance records, highlights ubiquity of LGBT people if not causes

But – get this – when a “unified political rally” was held to push for the ADB, we couldn’t even get 1/4 (or even 1/8!) of that number. And then another more recent “rally” was held in the Senate, again to push for the ADB, and the attendees did not even reach 50. We’re not “25,000 strong”; instead, it seems, and in a few words, we are “25,000 weak”.

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One of the continuing “sore” issue re ADB is its association with marriage equality. The truth is, many people – including politicians – continue to think it advocates marriage equality. If – after 19 years! – the ADB continues to be misunderstood even by people who are supposed to have access to copies of the ADB, then – let’s admit this much – the messaging is failing…

Nineteen years is far too long a time to wait for the passage of a law that will protect us from discrimination because of our SOGIE.

So yes, we thank everyone – from Etta Rosales to Kaka Bag-ao to Roman to Sen. Rosa Hontiveros, and so on and so forth – who are pushing the ADB (no matter the version) in Congress.

But we also have to REALISTICALLY look at ourselves (and those handling the ADB) and check why we continue to fail. Again, we have “enemies” on the outside, yes. But unless we see (and admit, and start doing something about it) that some of what needs to be changed are from within the LGBTQI community, then we may have to wait for another 19 (or more) years…

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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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Op-Ed

Where’s the fire?

Reighben Labilles notes that the movement has only succeeded on a surface level. “It seems as if its reduced the queer struggle as a regular yearly narrative – a PR thematic during Pride Month, or something that resurfaces when a famous Pinoy queer couple gets married abroad, or when a queer Filipino becomes a victim of a violent crime… It’s time to go beyond the echo chambers of FB and Twitter.”

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By Reighben Labilles

When the rocks were soft and I had more hair, I used to be active in the local efforts for LGBT rights.  But shit happens and I had to move on.

I’ve led a colorful adulthood since then: balancing work in a very queer-friendly IMC firm, enjoying a quiet, private life with my partner, and participating in the testosterone-dominated MTG gaming community which I deeply love. In short: this lady hasn’t been fulfilling her role (no matter how small) as a civilian participant in social issues – hanggang FB-FB na lang and the occasional rally pagpasok sa schedule.

But it did allow me insights into the shared Filipino psyche when dealing with social issues. It can be summed-up into two observations: (1) people don’t care enough; and (2) people don’t know how to care for issues that don’t directly affect them.

Now this leads to my opinion on the state of progressive movements in the country. Given the public’s almost apathetic attitude towards dealing with society’s problems outside of furious FB and Twitter posts – movements struggle to make a dent in the status quo. When the population barely participates in these efforts, it cannot facilitate lasting change in the nation within the timeframes we need – which is dapat now na.

Case in point: this administration reacts when people have adverse online responses to their policies – but they still find ways to move forward with their plans because push-back from the citizenry isn’t strong enough. What’s even shocking is that there is a non-zero percentage of the population that actually likes what’s happening!

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In my opinion, these are the same harsh truths faced by groups that continued the fight for queer rights. They have rallies, online and offline campaigns, press events, and even the occasional nods from “allies” in the government. But the groups, in their various forms and iterations and evolutions, have been at this endeavor for decades now. So why is it we don’t have major victories in the pursuit of progressive changes in the country?

Years of reflection and observation have led me to this realization: The movement has only succeeded on a surface level. It seems as if its reduced the queer struggle as a regular yearly narrative – a PR thematic during Pride Month, or something that resurfaces when a famous Pinoy queer couple gets married abroad, or heaven forbid when a queer Filipino becomes a victim of a violent crime. The approach so far has its benefits, as it has encouraged more Filipinos to come out and pursue their own truths despite adversities. There is more queer visibility in the media. And we even live in an age where we have a proud transwoman serving in Congress.

But there is something I sorely miss. Something that I am guilty of no longer possessing. Gone is the fire and fury of old, of screaming at the wholesale injustices of the world against everyone from the poor to the queer. Where is that blaze that consumes people’s hearts – the passion that drives us to spill into streets until the elect gives us the rights and benefits and opportunities we all deserve. And finally, where is the push for greater compassion and understanding between all Filipinos – so we can make the most out of this struggling country.

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As I am far removed from the forces that actively continue the fight for our rights, I can offer no practical solution to what we face. I only offer these thoughts: We can only succeed in enacting change now when all of us finally understands that changing how the world works requires sacrifice.

It’s about taking time in our day to participate in causes that matter, of going beyond the echo chambers of FB and Twitter, of actually going to the streets, into communities, with our personal efforts evolving into finally working with each other for our shared aspirations.

And ultimately this: ending the culture of US vs THEM, as true and lasting progressive change can only be achieved when we are unified by shared goals while celebrating each other’s uniqueness and diversity.

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Op-Ed

Finding my Pride by not holding back

Though he was bullied while growing up for being part of the LGBTQI family, Edward Maalihan now says that “there’s always a rainbow after the rain. You go do you, even if it’s hard, even if it’s impossible. Because in the end, you’ll grow old and only remember how you held back to life and wished you had just ‘let it go’.”

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PHOTO COURTESY OF EDWARD MAALIHAN

By Edward Maalihan

Since I was young, I’ve been bullied by my schoolmates, friends and even my own relatives for being feminine – in the way I walk, my voice, and the way I reacted to things. So through high school and college I was in hiding even if others knew what I really am.

It was hard. I tried to suppress who I am because of what they always say to me: “Lalaki at babae lang ang ginawa ng Diyos (God only made a man and a woman)”, “Mga bakla, pinagtatawanan (Gays are there to be ridiculed)”, “Ang gwapo mo pa naman, sayang ka (You’re good looking; such a waste/what a pity!)”. Heck, I can say hundreds more like these; and because of it all, I came to a point where I believed them, that being gay is wrong. I even tried to force myself to have a girlfriend (obviously it didn’t work), and believe me you won’t want your sons and daughters to feel that way.

But after I graduated from college, I got into my first REAL relationship. And from then on, the weight of the world on my shoulders slowly started to lighten up. I could finally breathe and see what life really offers, without being chained to a heterogender system.

When I joined my first Pride gathering, I realized many things. It also made me ask myself: Were those bullies from the past at fault? Should I blame them for making me feel miserable?

Maybe, right?

But for me now, it’s their lack of knowledge about being LGBTQI; it’s the society that made being gay wrong; it’s those movies that made gays look ridiculous (yes we’re funny, but we are also deep and sensitive); it’s the “church” that made us sinners (yes we can be, but so can others) that are to blame.

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They don’t see that, yes, we are not perfect, but we also just try to be good citizens/people.

I already forgave all of my bullies, and I am even bestfriends with some of them now.

I still want to say so much more, but I’ll end now with this: There’s always a rainbow after the rain. You go do you, even if it’s hard, even if it’s impossible. Because in the end, you’ll grow old and only remember how you held back to life and wished you had just “let it go”.

FOLLOW @EDWARDMAALIHAN

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FEATURES

The impetus for organizing LGBTQI Pride in the Phl

All year round, various parts of the Philippines host LGBTQI Pride marches/parades/events. But the very first one happened in Metro Manila, which Outrage Magazine revisits to see how the annual LGBTQI gathering continues to evolve.

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It was in 1994 when the very first Pride March was held in the Philippines (and in Asia). The Philippines was actually the pioneer in the region.

“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,” recalled Fr. Richard Mickley, who used to head Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in the Philippines. MCC held a mass during that first Pride March in the Philippines.

Aside from Mickley, Oscar Atadero – then with ProGay Philippines – helped make the event happen, along with the likes of Murphy Red, et al.

Incidentally, 1994 also marked the 25th year since the “modern” lesbian and gay movement “started”, thanks to the Stonewall Inn Riot in New York.

“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,” Mickley continued.

So the date was set.

The route was planned.

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.

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.
PHOTO COURTESY OF FR. RICHARD MICKLEY

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 added.

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CONTINUING PRIDE

In 1996,  several LGBT organizations formed the Task Force Pride (TFP), a community-driven organization that was to be in-charge of organizing the annual Pride March in Metro Manila.

“One of the highlights of the early years was that of 1998. The Pride March was part of the contingent of the National Centennial Parade, as the Philippines celebrated 100 years of independence. Let that sink in. We marched in front of two presidents at the Quirino Grandstand, just before the transition from Fidel Ramos to Joseph Estrada,” Mickley said.

Ten years later, the LGBT movement in the Philippines grew bigger and stronger. And the fight for equal rights was – finally – in everyone’s consciousness.

Metro Manila Pride March in 2011, when the annual gathering was still political.

TFP continued to organize the annual march – at least the one in Metropolitan Manila. As a network, it was headed by different members of the LGBT community, representing different organizations. Every decision, every move was derived from consultations by/from the participating groups and members.

“More than the celebration, what was really memorable was that despite the community coming from all walks of life and various agendas, sub agendas, locations, et al., it was great to see everyone working as one, for just one moment in a year,” Great Ancheta, one of the organizers of the 2004 and 2005 Pride celebrations, said.

There were years when Pride almost did not happen.

In 2013, Quezon City was supposed to host the annual Pride March, but the supposed organizer (the local government unit/LGU) opted to cancel the event to donate the funds collected to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

“I was rattled with the idea that there will be no Pride March that year. I had to call all possible LGBT advocates that could help me organize Pride in two weeks time,” Raffy Aquino, one of the organizers of the 2013 Pride celebrations, said.

The Pride march almost did not happen in 2013; but REAL community effort – with approximately P5,000 – still made it happen.

Aquino – with the likes of GANDA Filipinas, Outrage Magazine and Rainbow Rights Project – reached out to different organizations and establishments in Malate (at that time still thriving as the LGBT capital of the country).

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“We had more or less P5,000 in funds, which came from the previous TFP organizers. I even waited until six or seven in the evening in Manila City Hall, the day before the event, for the permit to be released,” Aquino added.

But the 2013 Pride March happened.

And then came 2014, when “a super typhoon hit the country at the same time when Pride was scheduled, and we nearly had to cancel. Despite that, people still attended. (And) understandably, it had the lowest turnout in years. But it still showed that for many people, celebrating Pride is still important,” Jade Tamboon, one of the organizers of the 2012 and 2013 Pride celebrations, said.

PRIDE HURDLES

Organizing an event like the Pride March is not an easy feat, with organizers needing to deal with different factors – both internal and external to the LGBT community.

Pride in 2015 remained political; even if the march also started to become as just a parade.

“Working with the local government was one of our challenges (during our) time. Securing permits was also hard. And of course, rallying up sponsors,” Ancheta said.

Since the LGBT community in the Philippines is (still) only tolerated and not widely accepted, getting supporters that could help the event happen has been the most common problem year after year.

“Financing Pride has always been a major challenge, then and now. People don’t realize how expensive it is to mount Pride. But there’s also the logistics – the sourcing of materials, permits and vendors – that’s another thing people rarely see when they go to a Pride celebration,” Tamboon said.

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He added, “this has been a perennial problem of the Pride organizers: early fund-raising. It may be because organizers have not come up with a solution, rather than raising funds so close to the event date.”

YOUNG PRIDE

Today, organizing Pride marches – or aptly, parades – is mostly dominated by the young members of the LGBT community. And – whatever their stands/positions may be on LGBT human rights – this is as should be/bound to happen, with the passing of the baton inevitable.

By 2017, the annual Pride has followed the Western format, with private companies supporting the parade, and some even co-opting the LGBTQI struggle.

But the younger generation have it somewhat easier. As Ancheta said, “Pride celebrations are not limited now to the Pride marches/parades or events, with support for Pride now coming from various companies as evidenced in social networking posts.”

There are now also numerous Pride-related events – whether in the form of marches or parades – in various parts of the Philippines, from Baguio City to Cebu City, Davao City to Iloilo City, Iligan City to the Province of Batangas, among others. Even within Metro Manila, other cities already started their own (separate) Pride marches/parades, finally “devolving” the so-called Metro Manila Pride parade (nee “march”).

But even if the expressions of Pride (now) vary, that sense of solidarity – and raising awareness via that solidarity – remains…

“The increased interest and participation during the recent years, especially among the younger people, is a success in itself. More and more people are unafraid to be out and to showcase their (so-called) Pride,” Tamboon added.

“The recent Pride celebrations are successful in terms of numbers; they were able to target a bigger audience and wider corporate supporters. The younger organizers are also creative and well-versed in branding and marketing. They were able to utilize social media and digital marketing,” Aquino stressed.

STRUGGLE NEEDS TO CONTINUE

But for Aquino, everyone needs to remember that “Pride is not just a one day event.”

“The LGBT community of the Philippines is no longer hidden, closeted or unknown. We are here; we are everywhere – with our heads held high,” Mickley said. “We are on the way, (but) we are (still) seeking equality in the human family,” Mickley said.

*Interview requests were also sent to other past Pride organizers, but – as of press time – Outrage Magazine did not receive any response from them.

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Op-Ed

The missing link

For Patrick King Pascual, Pride is a moment of reckoning. Yes, it’s a time to give each other a pat on the back. But it’s also an opportunity to remind people that there is still a long way to go, and that no one can do it alone. “Without mincing words: We’ve taken steps, but we are still in deep shit. And that’s not being negative or cynical or drunk; just plainly stating reality.”

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IMAGE FROM PIXABAY.COM

Twenty-four years ago, the Philippines was introduced to the concept of parading for “Pride”. In fact, it wasn’t even just a parade when it started; it was a “march”. The former – in a gist – is mere celebration, while the latter has more weight, what with the political undertones. The coming of “Pride” helped in the continuation of the sparking of the local LGBTQI movement by serving as additional stepping stone of some sort.

Since then, in fact, the Philippines’ LGBTQI community has continuously experienced many firsts.

To name a few, the milestones included: LGBT-related crimes based on hate finally made the headlines; Ang Ladlad, a political party-list that was initially shamed and called immoral successfully joined the roster of electoral candidates; the anti-discrimination bill (ADB) crawled its way to the session halls of lawmakers; HIV prevalence and poor access to ARV (antiretroviral) drugs were discussed; the community was called “masahol pa sa hayop” by a senator; a transgender woman wins a congressional seat; and the issue of same-sex marriage continuously hounds everyone.

The first Pride March in the Philippines, held in the early 1990s, helped make happen the things that the younger generation are enjoying. It may be cliché, but those who came before us took a lot of the hit by being the first to confront erroneous systems that gravely affected (and still affect) us.

Here’s the interesting thing, though: NOT everyone believes we owe those who came before us any shit.

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I was in an LGBTQI event (one of those that were held to – ironically – celebrate “Pride”) when a young “leader” infamously claimed: “They (the elder LGBTQI people) haven’t done anything for us (Millennials). What did they do for the community, exactly; and for us/my generation?”

That someone can even think so left me dumbfounded.

National hero Jose Rizal keeps getting upgraded to make him relevant to the youth; one of his latest iterations is via a manga comics (even available online). But it seems that aside from the “cool” reinterpretation, the lessons he taught aren’t necessarily learned. Otherwise, the oft-cited “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan (He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination) won’t be forgotten so quickly.

And then, just a few days after that (this time, in the “Pride” event of the US Embassy), I met another young member of the LGBTQI community who told me that – for all intents and purposes – “Pride” has ceased to be a struggle. This is, her insinuation is, for the oldies. At least for her (and her followers/supporters), for the young, “LGBTQI ‘Pride’ is now all about partying and celebrating.”

Yes, I agree with her, of course.

But no, I can’t agree with her completely.

Because while Pride is a time to mark all our successes, all the milestones, we should also use that moment to remind everyone that there is still a long way to go. That many members of the LGBTQI community are still struggling is a fact; ignoring this is not only ignorant, it is selfish.

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She called me cynical, negative… and drunk.

If seeing the ongoing struggles of many LGBTQI people is cynical and gives many younger LGBTQI people negative vibes (that dampens their party spirit), then perhaps I am a cynic. And if being able to question erroneously held beliefs means being branded as “drunk”, then so be it, too.

Because – at the end of the day – even though “Pride” continues to evolve, two facts remain. First, that our concepts of “Pride” now (even the wanton partying) is because those who came before us made it possible; and second, that even if we just want to party during “Pride” nowadays, not every LGBTQI person can access these elitist “Pride” gatherings because they continue to experience hardships in life (many of these difficulties aggravated by their being LGBTQI).

Pride is a moment of reckoning. Yes, it’s a time to give each other a pat on the back. But it’s also an opportunity to remind the person standing next to us that there is still a long, long, long way to go, and that no one can do it alone.

Because in the end, let’s stop pretending that it’s all rainbows and butterflies. Without mincing words: We’ve taken steps, but we are still in deep shit.

And that’s not being negative or cynical or drunk; just plainly stating reality.

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