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From the Editor

Stop this ‘B.S. advocacy’

For Michael David dela Cruz Tan, many LGBT leaders/“leaders” who represent the entire LGBT community actually refuse to listen to the very people they claim to represent. Sadly, current power structures keep them there. So for him, “only if we dismantle these structures will we be able to hear about the REAL issues, not those mouthed by people who are just there to perpetuate the status quo to sustain positions of power.”

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Last year, a politician openly told me a hard truth about the Filipino LGBT community, i.e. that it is EXTREMELY divided. But then he added that we should learn to unite by backing a “leader” who happens to be a friend of his.

PHOTO BY TANVIMALIK FROM PIXABAY.COM

I couldn’t help myself from reprimanding him, telling him that he is part of the problem of the disunity of the LGBT community – i.e. when dealing with the LGBT community, he only coordinates with this person he recognizes as our “leader” even if the LGBT community as a whole does not accept this same person as such.

This politician isn’t the first to do this, of course. You only have to look at so many of the “leaders” being interviewed on behalf of the ENTIRE LGBT community to see where I’m coming from…

Yes, I get it.

  1. This continues to be a lookist society, so we end up getting someone “pretty” speak for us. If the one speaking isn’t necessarily pretty, No. 2 (below) applies.
  2. This continues to be an elitist society, and often, only those who have access to power (including mainstream media) get the chance to speak/be heard.
  3. Those in positions of power tend to move ONLY within their circles, so only those belonging to No. 1 and/or No. 2 are heard.

But these are the very reasons why, particularly in the LGBT community, “B.S. advocacy” persists (and even triumphs).

There are extremely well-compensated people who are supposed to help deal with the worsening HIV situation in the Philippines. I once asked one of them (whose Facebook wall is inundated by non-stop touring around the world disguised as “reaching out”, as well as incessant shopping) if there’s a plan to visit – even once – a treatment hub in the Philippines where the very people they claim to serve are continuing to die due to (among others) lack of funds. I was told: “No.” This person now just ignores me… while the world tour and incessant shopping continue…

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I know of a Metro Manila-based NGO that is pushing for an anti-discrimination ordinance in a city outside of Metro Manila because an international funder is (sort of) demanding it. So they’re pushing for this… sans the involvement of the local LGBT community.

There are people with the global platform to speak about HIV, and yet publicly shame people living with HIV.

I know of people representing the entire LGBT community while pushing for the anti-discrimination bill (ADB), but won’t engage those who will question their version of the bill.

But sadly, so many of these people are the ones we see; the ones we hear from; the ones who claim to represent us.

And just as sadly, the current power structures keep them there.

And it is these structures that we need to dismantle if we want the LGBT community to be strengthened, even if not “united”. Only if we dismantle these structures will we be able to hear about the REAL issues, not those mouthed by people who are just there to perpetuate the status quo to sustain positions of power.

Yes, we have space/s for everyone. In fact, the spotlight for representation is – in theory – big enough to accommodate those who are willing to die for the cause, and those who just want to profit from it.

But we need to start distinguishing advocates from “advocates”; we need to see beyond this cult of personalities, where select people who do not necessarily do anything to advance our causes benefit from our sufferings.

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This is our duty as members of the (still divided) LGBT community.

We also need to start calling out not only the latter, but those that promote them.

Because if we don’t, then the “B.S. advocacy” will just thrive.

And what about that politician?

He went quiet when I presented to him my position about his friend, who he says we all should just back blindly. I am not sure he’d listen (I was told he’s somewhat hardheaded). But I sure won’t stop raising this up – including to him if he, again, ONLY speaks to his friend as a representative of the entire LGBT community…

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

3 Reasons why TasP and U=U won’t happen soon in the Philippines…

Treatment is available for people with HIV. And if a PLHIV gets treatment, he does not need to die from AIDS-related complications, and he’ll reduce his viral load so he can’t transmit HIV to others. But in the Philippines, among the common reasons why TasP is NOT working is because of the failures of the service providers themselves.

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Fact: Treatment is available for people living with HIV.
And if someone with HIV gets treatment, he/she does not need to die from AIDS-related complications.
And if someone also gets treatment, the antiretroviral treatment (ART) he/she uses reduces the HIV viral load in his/her blood, semen, vaginal fluid and rectal fluid to “undetectable level”. And get this: Evidence shows that individuals on effective antiretroviral treatment (ART) with an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV to others.

“Lor”, one of the HIV-positive people Outrage Magazine met in Mindanao, who lamented how he was not informed of “what to now do after I tested HIV-positive”.
Eventually, without being able to access treatment, he passed away from AIDS-related complications.

This is why treatment as prevention (TasP) is important.
So important, in fact, that the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines call for “test and treat” strategies to “initiate all people diagnosed with HIV on ART as soon as possible after diagnosis as a way to decrease community viral load and reduce the rate of new HIV infections”.

But in the Philippines, among the common reasons why TasP is NOT working is because of the failures of the service providers themselves.
Testing is picking up, yes. But even now, not even half of PLHIVs access ART.
But so many of the after-test services continue to be lacking.

Here are three (of the many) reasons why I think TasP and U=U won’t happen soon in the Philippines:

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1. After people get tested, no one really knows what to do next.
In the past three days, I have been speaking with three people whose HIV rapid test results were “reactive”. Soon after the tests, they were basically “dumped” by their “counselors”/service providers. These three were basically left on their own – and, as two of them said, “ni walang flyer na binigay para sana alam ko man lang ano na ang gagawin ko (no flyer was even given so I would at least be guided on what to do next).”
You’d expect more from the center where they got tested, too – both are satellite treatment hubs of one of the country’s major treatment hubs; and one is (in)famous for its extremely well-funded “efforts” to supposedly stop the spread of HIV in the Philippines.
The way I see it: Centers without after-testing support should NOT exist.
Because I said this before, and let me say this again: “You can’t just test people and then – after finding out they’re reactive/positive – ‘dump’ them to become somebody else’s problem. Because if/when you do, your concept of service provision is too limited, and as such, you’re actually part of the problem you claim to be dealing with…”

2. Baseline tests are NOT covered by PhilHealth.
In the Philippines, the treatment, care and support (TCS) received by most people living with HIV (PLHIVs) are covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation’s (PhilHealth) Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment (OHAT) Package. Specifically, to those who are enrolled in PhilHealth, P30,000 is allocated per PLHIV per year, or P7,500 every quarter.
The 2010 circular that guided the implementation of the OHAT specifically stated that “covered items under this benefit are drugs and medicines, laboratory examinations including Cluster Difference 4 (CD4) level determination test and test for monitoring of anti-retroviral drugs (ARV) toxicity and professional fees of providers.”
The revised OHAT Package released last June 2015 stated that “covered items under this benefit are drugs and medications, laboratory examinations based on the specific treatment guideline including Cluster of Differentiation 4 (CD4) level determination test, viral load (if warranted), and test for monitoring anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs toxicity and professional fees of providers.”
Meaning: baseline tests are NOT covered by the OHAT package.
In 2015, Outrage Magazine interviewed Dr. Rosanna Ditangco, research chief at The Research Institute for Tropical-AIDS Research Group (RITM-ARG), a treatment hub located in Alabang. She lamented that management issues come to play in the delivery of treatment, care and support (TCS) services to PLHIVs.
For instance, “the OHAT Package does NOT cover baseline tests yet”, including such baseline laboratory tests as CBC, chest x-ray, PPD and blood chemistry (i.e. lipid profile, BUN, Creatinine, FBS), and CD4 count.
Let’s call this out already: This policy is – in a word – idiotic.
You need ARVs to treat HIV. You can ONLY get ARVs if you get your baseline tests done. If you have no money to pay for these baseline tests, then say goodbye to ARVs. Sans ARVs, you’re as good as dead.

3. Many medical practitioners in HIV advocacy continue to not know much about… HIV. Or even if they do, they continue to be sources of HIV-related discrimination.
One of the (aforementioned) guys who only recently got tested for HIV told me that – when the attending doctor was informed that his CD4 count is 60 – he was sarcastically told: “Ha, good luck!”.
I saw for myself how one nurse told a PLHIV “not to have sex anymore, ever. Para di na kayo dumami (So your number won’t grow).”
Try bringing up U=U in the country, and among the staunchest deniers are those working in HIV advocacy. I remember one of them tell me before: “Magkakalat pa (You’re giving them excuse to spread HIV)!”.
I also know of doctors who won’t even touch people they suspect to have HIV – due to disgust or fear or whatever, I can only surmise…

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There are other issues, of course (from slow government response to wrong priorities to fund mismanagement to profiteering).

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

And so here’s another fact: Unless these are dealt with, expect for the worst to come.

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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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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

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.

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