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The rainbow vote

Despite the issues of the LGBT community now seemingly included in discussions with politicians seeking national positions, Michael David C. Tan says LGBT people should be wary or end up being used. “LGBT people need to stop kissing asses/groveling/kowtowing… When dealing with politicians, we have to remember that yes, it’s good to be mentioned (in speeches and all), but we need to recognize when we are being used. We need to learn to go beyond motherhood statements,” he says.

When Sen. Grace Poe declared her Presidential candidacy on September 16, 2015, she became the first to actually mention the LGBT community. Specifically, when she enumerated her would-be administration’s plans, she stated:

“We should respect human rights. We will not be blind to the conditions of our vulnerable sectors, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, urban poor, women, youth and children, the LGBT sector and senior citizens. To all senior citizens, you will not be ignored.”

It wasn’t much – e.g. no promises of prioritizing the anti-discrimination bill languishing in Congress for almost 20 years now; no statements on gender recognition law; and not even a promise to quickly re-visit existing laws like RA 8504 (so-called AIDS Law) that has no real teeth and continue to adversely affect many gay men who are HIV-positive. But as the first person to actually mention “LGBT”, it said A LOT. And truth be told, when I heard it, it made me… smile.

But that smile was immediately tempered by… reality.

Because before that mention of the LGBT people, Poe did not exactly show her support of us.

Let me be clear – I believe that people can change. Even US Pres. Barack Obama’s pro-LGBT stance that we now identify his administration to be hasn’t been revolutionary; instead, as Obama himself said, it “evolved.”

So I continue giving Poe the benefit of the doubt.

But the moment you claim to start picking up the cudgels for us, we expect to see more of your including of us. And thus far, aside from that candidacy declaration soundbyte, Poe hasn’t exactly shown much for us.

Poe isn’t alone here, of course.

Know that Korina Sanchez, wife of another Presidential aspirant Mar Roxas, formed United LGBT Philippines supposedly after “lahat ng mga grupo ng mga beki sa bawat city, bawat probinsya, pinuntahan ko iyan nang isa-isa. Nakinig ako sa mga kailangan nila sabihin, kaya nabuo ito.”

To claim “lahat (all)” is… blind (I’m trying to be nice here). Because I can name beki (gay; not to mention other LBT) groups that were not contacted (or even knew of United LGBT Philippines).

They even held the largely hated “gay congress” (note the focus on “gays”, as if only the “G” in the umbrella “LGBT” face discrimination [or, for that matter, if you deal with “gay” issues, you already automatically deal with everyone in the LGBT community]) where they had celebs singing for us because… well, serenades will effect changes to remedy our lowly plight, right?

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And then – VOILA! – in an interview, Roxas actually stated he will not support marriage equality. To wit:

Bilang public policy para sa akin ay hindi ako pabor dito. Subalit… may mga kamag-anak ako na close na close na have partners and nirerespeto ko sila, minamahal ko sila, tinatanggap ko sila, bukas-puso, bukas-loob kong ang aking pagtrato sa kanila.

Roxas was playing with words; but – COME ON! – do we really have to deal with “I support you, but I don’t support you” again?

And then there’s Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte who is… tricky. Yes, Davao City has an anti-discrimination ordinance (among the few in the country), and there was a time when he even openly said he’d support push for marriage equality, something he has since taken back. But because LGBT people do not live in a vacuum, and our issues are interrelated with mainstream issues, Duterte’s other positions (e.g. human rights) have to be raised.

Then there’s VP Jejomar Binay who has been largely mum about LGBT-related issues, even if – when he was mayor of Makati City – there was a policy “prohibiting wearing of girl’s attire by gay employees including putting on make-up and lipstick.” That’s blatant discrimination of some of the very people he claims to serve, and who pay him his salary via taxes…

And Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago? Yes, she filed the likes of Senate Bill 1559 (Anti-Sexual Orientation Discrimination bill) and SB 1871 (which seeks to install LGBT protection desks in all police stations); and even said that:

“There can be no true and meaningful democracy if we continue to systematically oppress the LGBT community and turn a blind eye to the abuses committed against them.”

But as early as 1998, Santiago (with Sen. Marcelo B. Fernan) submitted bills that wanted to bar recognition of marriage involving transgender individuals, contracted in the Philippines or abroad, and bar recognition of marriages or domestic partnership between two people of the same biological sex contracted in countries that legally recognize such relationships.

Yesterday (February 13), a newly-formed LGBT organization (of mainly gay men in the business sector) tried to mimic what Western LGBT organizations now do somewhat successfully – i.e. gather Presidentiables to hear their platforms for the LGBT community.

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NONE CAME.

Roxas’ representative – i.e. his wife Sanchez – earlier confirmed her attendance. But she cancelled (her flight was delayed or something; though if Roxas was just going to send a representative anyway, surely he had others to replace Sanchez?).

Poe sent her son Brian (the one who was criticized for his shoes costing around P10,000) to represent her (a surprising move since she once asked for her family not to be dragged into politics).

And the organizers didn’t say what happened to the other Presidential aspirants (Duterte I knew from news was already on his way back to Davao City the day before this gathering).

Truth be told, it was a case of “Thanks, but no thanks” for me. After all, at least one of the Presidentiables sent someone, and that should count for something, right? But, really, I can’t hold representatives responsible for the position/s of the people they represent, particularly if these representatives do not hold “official” posts in the governments that will be formed. Telling me “I will make sure this reaches his/her ears” is not the same as “When I am President, I will make sure I will do this because it is what’s right, and you can hold me to my word.”

And so here’s my take (and let’s stop playing with and twisting words now)…

LGBT people, particularly those who take leadership positions in the LGBT community, need to stop kissing asses/groveling/kowtowing. If politicians don’t give us the respect we deserve, then – PLEASE – stop talking about them like they’re God’s gifts to us (for what, a chance to hobnob with the powers-that-be when they’re finally in positions of power?!).

Of course, as a community, we have yet to strengthen our ranks to have a unified voice in raising our issues– e.g. look at how the mainstream media somewhat “decided” for us about the line of questioning re LGBT people when they talk to politicians seeking office (this blind focus on same-sex marriage, as if it’s the ONLY LGBT-related issue that matters to LGBT Filipinos; they don’t know that they’re actually just mimicking the developments re marriage equality in the US).

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We always say for LGBT leaders and wannabe-leaders to step outside Metro Manila and see REAL LGBT issues (e.g. non-inclusion of LGBT human rights in BBL, access to ARVs of gay PLHIVs in non-metropolitan areas, existence of discriminatory policies that limit access to spaces and services in various smaller towns, et cetera).

In the case particularly of the Presidentiables, answers need to be given regarding their positions on so many of our issues (again, not just “same-sex marriage”), e.g.:

  1. Position on ADB;
  2. Development of gender recognition law;
  3. Seeming failure of DOH re harmonization of services in treatment hubs accessed by PLHIVs (many of them gay and bi men) even if they pay the same amount to PhilHealth (and even if the package for them supposedly specify the services they should be receiving);
  4. Inclusion of LGBT people in existing policies of the government (e.g. trans issues in VAWC);
  5. Inclusion of LGBT people in policies still being developed (e.g. LGBT people in BBL);
  6. Monitoring (and actually solving of) LGBT-related hate crimes;
  7. Et cetera, et cetera

When dealing with politicians (AND THIS ISN’T PERTAINING TO ANY PARTICULAR POLITICIAN, BUT TO ALL POLITICIANS), we have to remember that yes, it’s good to be mentioned (in speeches and all), but we need to recognize when we are being used. We need to learn to go beyond motherhood statements (world peace, anyone?).

Voters (including LGBT voters) don’t owe politicians anything; the other way around is true. So recognize that power – e.g. start calling out those who do not support us (or stay silent, and that silence is helping advance efforts against us), or who only claim to support us because it’s politically convenient for them.

I myself have yet to decide who I’ll vote for this May; but for now, I won’t stop calling out this pretending that I’m seeing. Because – again – we have to value our votes, and give these to those who really care about us…

PHOTOS TAKEN AT A GATHERING OF SOME LGBT ORGANIZATIONS, LGBT INDIVIDUALS AND ALLIES THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO GIVE POLITICIANS SEEKING NATIONAL POSITIONS CHANCE TO SHARE THEIR PLATFORMS TO THE LGBT COMMUNITY

Senatoriable Neri Colmenraes, the ONLY politician to share his plans to help the LGBT community

Senatoriable Neri Colmenares, the ONLY politician who came after getting invited to share his plans to help the LGBT community

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Brian Poe attended the event to represent his mom, Presidentiable Grace Poe

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