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There but not there (A closer look at forced LGBT invisibility)

Roxas City in the Province of Capiz as a study of forced LGBT invisibility in the Philippines.

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ROXAS CITY, PROVINCE OF CAPIZ – Sometime in 2016, 19-year-old Roxas local Kyla* started “walking” the streets of the city and sell herself as a way to make a living. It wasn’t that hard of a decision, she said with a wide smile, summing up her decision with “nasasarapan na ako, kumikita pa ako; reklamo pa ba ako (I’m already having fun, and I earn from it; what’s there to complain about)?”

But behind the smile-shrouded somewhat simplistic justification are layers after layers of LGBT-related issues touching on each other.

WORKING THE STREETS

Kyla was already in college when she stopped going to school. “Walang pera (No money),” she stated in a matter-of-fact way. At that time, she said she looked for a job to make a living, and then she came across the other sex workers who ply themselves in the plaza in Roxas City.

Kinaibigan ko sila (I befriended them),” she said, adding that while no one specifically told her to enter the sex industry, she was told “kayang-kaya mo ito (this will be an easy job for you).”

The rest – as the cliché goes – is history.

It wasn’t that hard of a decision to do sex work, Kyla said with a wide smile, summing up her decision with “nasasarapan na ako, kumikita pa ako; reklamo pa ba ako (I’m already having fun, and I earn from it; what’s there to complain about)?”

Nowadays, Kyla works almost every day, servicing up to three to four clients a day. It’s needed, she said, if she wants to earn “an okay living.” She charges P150 for oral sex; P300 for anal sex. And no, she insisted, she will not “top” (play the insertive role when having sex) “kasi babaeng babae ako (because I play the stereotypical role of a woman).”

The expanse of the city’s plaza – from the narrow street in front of Land Bank of the Philippines to the front of the city hall/church of the Immaculate Concepcion to the front of the provincial capitol – is sort of divided according to the SOGIE of the sex workers, with transwomen, women and men plying the areas, respectively. At times, though, the workers congregate, such as when dealing with common threats.

There are perils that come with the job, obviously.

Mga pulis, nanghuhuli (Policemen detain us),” she said. “Lahat ng dahilan ibibigay nila – bagansiya daw, menor daw kami, at kung ano-ano pa (They give various reasons when they arrest us – from the anti-vagrancy law (already legally rescinded, though obviously not known by many), to us being minors, or whatever).”

It is not uncommon seeing “some of us scamper,” she said.

And then there are the verbal abuses hurled at them, at times escalating to risks of getting physically abused “usually ng mga lasing na pumupunta sa plaza para maghanap ng aliw (by drunk men who come to the plaza to look for fun),” she said. Again, the scampering happens.

Of course, “naiisip din naming parati na ma-Jennifer Laude (the thought of experiencing what slain transwoman Jennifer Laude experienced also enter our minds),” she said. One time, she recalled a client who wanted to tie her up, and cut her arms with a blade. “Trips na nakakatakot (Fetishes that can be scary).”

Kyla knows of the necessity of using condoms to prevent getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs). When asked where she gets her supplies of condoms and lubes, she said “binibili ko ang condoms, pero… ano’ng lube (I buy my condoms; but… what’s lube)?”

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At 19, Kyla, by the way, isn’t the youngest among these sex workers.

A regularly cited plaza “character” is 16-year-old Ronnie*, also a freelance sex worker who is said to similarly work the streets of Roxas City. As narrated, similar to Kyla’s case, Ronnie’s life exemplifies forked concerns.

This Ronnie is said to be the eldest of 10 kids. His father, at 49, is a mang-uuling (coal-maker) in one of the barangays some five to six kilometers away from downtown Roxas City. His 39-year-old mom stays at home to look after all the other kids. He was 13 years old when he stopped going to school to start working for a construction company. Usually, he’s tasked to mix concrete, carry stuff from one area to another, or – generally – just do as the foreman would tell him. For this, Ronnie supposedly takes home around P2,500 per week. As a minor, Ronnie isn’t legally employed; and as such, his pay is under-the-table. Everything he earns, he sends back to his mom.

Now, as shared, since Ronnie’s less-than-P2,500-per-week earning is not enough to feed his nine siblings and his parents (his dad only earns from P500 per week for making coals), he was said to have been “forced” to look for another way to earn. And so – only last year – when a close friend told him to “kadto sa plaza kung way kuwarta (go to the plaza if you’re broke),” Ronnie was said to be introduced to the sex industry.

And there, in the plaza, regulars talk about how the 16-year-old approached a transwoman, allegedly asking her if she wanted “nga muduwa (to play).” She supposedly agreed to pay him P200 to “play”. He supposedly “topped” her sans protection.

Information like this bring to the fore how the issues of the likes of Kyla and Ronnie aren’t as clear-cut as they seem.

There’s sex work, long considered as the “oldest profession in the world”, though – perhaps particularly in contexts like the Philippines – it continues not to be given proper attention; or if at all, always in maligned ways. That there’s propensity to dismiss this as just “due to poverty”, there’s more to the issue than meet the eyes.

Republic Act No. 10364 (Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012), which amended the earlier RA 9208, declares unlawful “prostitution”, here defined to refer to “any act, transaction, scheme or design involving the use of a person by another, for sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct in exchange for money, profit or any other consideration.”

Kyla may have been “forced” into her line of work by her circumstance, but she’s first to say “dili ko prosti (I’m not a prostitute); I’m a sex worker.” That distinction, at least as far as the country’s law is concerned, is non-existent, so that Kyla and people like her are involuntarily forcibly obscured.

A SIDE NOTE: Not surprisingly, when RA 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012) was passed as a law, among the sectors whose silence was notable was the LGBT community, even if some of its provisions may be deemed anti-LGBT or at least not informed by realities in the lives of LGBT people. For instance, Chapter II (Punishable Acts) of RA 10175 considered as an offense “cybersex”, which was defined as “the willful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation, directly or indirectly, of any lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, for favor or consideration.” Again, sex work – not just prostitution – happens online (also involving LGBT people), which the law fails to even consider.

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The case of Ronnie is even trickier, obviously, because he’s a minor.

Speaking to Outrage Magazine, local (and grassroots) LGBT leaders Charmel Catalan and Simplicio Vito Jr. claimed familiarity with “hate crimes sa (in) Roxas City.” Among commonly (and frequently) shared such stories include: the bashing of a trans woman na napag-tripan (because some people just felt like it); sex work-related ill-treatment; and killings.

A related issue is HIV.

It is worth noting that the HIV/ AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP), for one, only started to include those who engage in transactional sex (or those who report that they pay for sex, regularly accept payment for sex, or do both) in 2012, as if it’s a completely new development. But even with the delayed inclusion, a total of 3,941 HIV cases were already reported in HARP from December 2012 to May 2017. Ninety-six percent (3,769) were male and 4% (172) were female. For May 2017, in particular, of the 105 reported cases of HIV infections engaged in transactional sex, most (92%) were male whose ages ranged from 16 to 60 years (median: 28 years).

Suffice to say – or, for those who’d argue, even if it’s just insinuated – that the young: already actively engage in sexual relations, and put themselves at risk (for instance, HIV infection) with their behavior/s. Kyla and Ronnie may well be good examples here.

Particularly because there are community-reported cases like minor Ronnie, Outrage Magazine reached out to the City Social Welfare Development (CSWD) while in Roxas City to specifically ask about local efforts pertaining trafficking of minors here, but no one wanted to speak on an official capacity AS OF PRESS TIME. Instead, the non-official statement given was to “look at the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 (RA 9208)”, which the CSWD supposedly follows; and to “only interview us when the proper authorities already agreed for this interview to take place because we’re always busy”.

Still, in the first quarter of 2016 alone, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reported 2,147 cases of child abuse, with more than one–fourth of these cases said to be sexual nature. This number was nearly half of the total 4,374 child abuse cases reported in the entire year of 2015.

Surprisingly, a local Roxas City government official (who only gave an answer on this issue on the condition of anonymity) alleged that “walang sex workers sa Roxas City (there are no sex workers in Roxas City).” Officially, she purported, the stance is that “these sex workers came from places like Iloilo City. They take the last trip to Roxas City, work here, then take the first trip out of Roxas City to return home after the night is over.”

This, obviously, belies the very existence of the likes of Kyla and Ronnie.

AGAINST LGBT PERSONHOOD

Beyond the streets of Roxas City, however, are other LGBT-related stories that fail to gain mainstream traction.

Speaking to Outrage Magazine, local (and grassroots) LGBT leaders Charmel Catalan and Simplicio Vito Jr. claimed familiarity with “hate crimes sa (in) Roxas City.” Among commonly (and frequently) shared such stories include: the bashing of a trans woman na napag-tripan (because some people just felt like it); sex work-related ill-treatment; and even killings.

When validated, particularly the killings, no SOGIE of the people involved were mentioned to the police, so that these were not treated as crimes committed particularly against LGBT people. As such – and instead – “kami-kami lang nakaka-alam (it’s only us who know),” Vito said.

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From the local LGBT community, “siguro (perhaps) two to three cases of LGBT-related hate crimes happen every year,” Vito said.

That this creates fear in the local LGBT community is a given, Catalan said. “But after a week or two, balik normal (things go back to how they were),” she said. “May magagawa ka ba (It’s not like there’s anything we can do about this)!?”

BEING LEFT BEHIND

Ma. Fe S. Salgado, Health Education & Promotions Officer III of Roxas City, lamented the different – not just slow – responses related to HIV in Roxas City, and even the Province of Capiz.

In April 2017, the Province of Capiz already had 107 accumulated cases of HIV infection. “The number has been rising,” Salgado said to Outrage Magazine, “so we’ve been alarmed.”

It is this that drove the local government unit (LGU) to establish its own (satellite) treatment hub so that they can start “at least giving antiretroviral medicines (ARVs), provide counseling and treat common opportunistic infections (OIs).”

But there remain numerous challenges in their HIV-related efforts that also highlight forced invisibility if not of LGBT people, then at least of LGBT issues.

For one, when giving lectures about HIV in local educational institutions, “we’ve been forced to amend the key messages,” Salgado said. The ABC of safer sex, for instance, now no longer reflects A=Abstinence, B=Be mutually faithful, and C=Correct and consistent condom use. Instead, there have been instances when “C” was made to refer to “Close relationship to God.” This approach, Salgado said, “negates the fact that young people –including men who have sex with men – are already exposed to sex even at a young age. (Sans provision of knowledge,) they are not recognized and therefore not served.”

There’s also the issue of not being updated re current HIV-related approaches. People living with HIV in these parts of the country are referred to Iloilo City, where the treatment hub accredited by the Department of Health (DOH) is located. But there, there are practices that remain backward – e.g. allegedly not giving ARVs to PLHIVs unless they reach the AIDS stage, and even if the (inter)national policy is to start treatment as soon possible (not only when someone gets sick); and alleged withholding of giving life-saving services due to the continued delays in releasing confirmatory results from Metro Manila.

Metro Manila’s HIV practices may already be deemed backward in various aspects when compared to Western practices (e.g. availability of newer ARVs, PrEP, U=U). But outside Metro Manila, “mas malala yata (it may be worse),” Salgado said.

Sadder still, these issues do not enter mainstream discourses; and that non-inclusion highlights the invisibility.

Roxas City may be said to be developing; but are LGBT people being left behind?

AND LIFE GOES ON…

Kyla thinks she’ll continue working the streets “hanggang may ma-save ako; mag-aaral siguro ulit (until I save enough; perhaps I’d go back to school),” she said. But at 19, “tingan natin. Hindi pa siguro agad-agad (we’ll see; it may not happen immediately).”

She said she knows the risks; “kahit na di pinag-uusapan o ayaw pag-usapan (even if no one talks about them or no one wants to talk about these issues).”

From the city hall, stories swirled about an attempt to tackle at least one of the LGBT-related issues. A councilor – Dr. Cesar Yap – is said to have expressed interest in filing a local ordinance to provide restrooms for LGBT people. Outrage Magazine went to the city hall, including in the office of Dr. Yap and the office of the secretary of the Sangguniang Panglungsod; but not a single person knows of the existence of such an ordinance.

At night along Roxas St., Kyla said “you’d see us. Andito lang kami. Pero kung makikita niyo lang kami (We’re just here. But only if you really see us).”

*NAMES CHANGED TO PROTECT THE PRIVACY OF THE INTERVIEWEES

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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What it’s like to be trans in Taiwan

Tamsin Wu visits gay-friendly Taiwan, where she meets Abbygail Wu, founder of Intersex, Transgender and Transsexual People Care Association (ISTSCare), who said that the country is still failing its LGBTQ citizens, and particularly lags in promoting trans rights.

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Photo detail by Thomas Tucker from Unsplash.com

Taiwan may be the most gay-friendly country in Asia, but according to Abbygail Wu, founder of Intersex, Transgender and Transsexual People Care Association (ISTSCare), the country still receives a “failing mark” when it comes to LGBTQ equality. Transgender people, in particular, usually bear the brunt of sex-based discrimination.

ISTSCare has a one-woman 24/7 hotline service. Abby has dealt with calls concerning struggles related to suicide attempts, job insecurity or homelessness, and even domestic violence. To provide support and assistance to hotline callers, ISTSCare also partners with NGOs and other LGBTQ-related organizations.

Aside from the hotline service, the organization does its advocacy work through protests, by maintaining an online presence, as well as directly communicating with political figures and trans-friendly journalists to rouse awareness and discussion on transgender and intersex issues.

ISTSCare in Taiwan

In 2014, four years after the first official notice regarding gender reassignment procedures in Taiwan was issued, the Ministry of Interior (MOI), with the support of the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), announced the easement of legal requirements on changing gender identity. MOI promised that it would immediately work on letting transgender citizens change their gender marker without having to go through rigorous psychiatric assessments, sex reassignment surgery (SRS) and parental approval. However, MOI backtracked since then.

“MOI, which is handling the national ID cards, they said there are still a lot of research to do about the gender issue and they try to get some professional opinions, but MOHW already said this is not a medical issue, it’s an internal affair issue. So MOI, they’re just under the pressure and paused a lot of meetings… and now the issue is still under research for four years,” Abby lamented. “We’re the first Asian country to pass the bill but it’s not implemented.”

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Despite MOHW already stating that medical professionals should not have a say when it comes to determining one’s gender identification, transgender citizens are still presently forced to consider SRS. Besides that, they are also required to seek the expensive involvement of psychiatrists and, outrageously, the consent of their parents. Otherwise, their gender identity cannot be legally recognized.

Abby clarified that not all transgender people want the help of doctors to validate their gender identity. Hence, SRS is especially discriminatory towards transgender citizens who do not wish to undergo surgery. “What is gender? Is it just based on our anatomy? Or is it in our behavior? In our mind? Or in the way we dress?… There are a lot of factors that influence what gender one identify as, but society focus on the least publicly visible aspect – our sex organ.”

Abby continued, “There are risks to surgery and that is one of the reasons why not all transgenders want to go through it. And also, they may question themselves, ‘Do I really want to have surgery or is it just for the sake of getting this ID?’”

Abby standing beside the transgender pride flag.
Photo credit: Ketty W. Chen

“One day before the presidential election, I went to the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party) headquarters to talk with the Department of Woman. I told them, ‘tomorrow is already the day for voting, are you going on stage and advocate for transgender rights? This has been neglected for the past 3-4 years. Then they just told me, ‘this requires social consensus’… I went out of that meeting deeply upset,” Abby shared.

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With lack of funding, community support and societal understanding of trans issues, how could transgender rights obtain social consensus when this feat requires acceptance and approval from the status quo in order for the relevant social change to take effect? Why should the rights and well-being of a minority group fall in the hands of the majority? Currently, both the public and the government possess inadequate knowledge in dealing with transgender issues, which exacerbates the struggles transgender citizens face.

Prejudice against transgender folks can also be felt within LGBTQ communities. On one hand, some non-transgender members of the LGBTQ community question the gender identity of trans people. On the other hand, there is also internalized transphobia.

“A lot of transgender are more binary [in the way they see gender]. They think a man should act and look a certain way and that a woman should act and look a certain way… ISTSCare does not condone this kind of thinking,” Abby said.

Trans activist Abbygail Wu and her partner in a protest for their marriage right.
Photo credit: Ketty W. Chen

When asked why ISTSCare is run by only three people (including Abby and her partner), she shared that many transgender citizens in Taiwan find it difficult to prioritize doing advocacy work because their life situation is oftentimes mentally and emotionally taxing. On top of having to deal with an unsupportive family, they often face discrimination in the job market. Hence, there’s a high level of difficulty for them to get a good job, gain professional working experience and make a decent living, let alone have the financial resources to go through SRS. As of now, they’re in this loop of societal discrimination and economic vulnerability with no recourse.

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Another reason for the lack of transgender-focused activists in Taiwan is attributed to the problem of privilege. Abby adds that well-off transgender citizens tend to be exclusive in their social group. Post-surgery and after assimilating in heteronormative society, they also tend to ignore the struggles faced by less fortunate transgender citizens. They would rather not get associated for fear of being found out and face discrimination. Albeit joining Pride Parades, they are at other times nowhere to be found when it comes to advocating for transgender rights.

Abby clarified that not all transgender people want the help of doctors to validate their gender identity.
Photo credit: Abbygail Wu

Abby said that ISTSCare’s main goal right now is to push for a non-discriminatory, comprehensive gender identity law in Taiwan.

“We hope to be like Argentina. Just file [required] papers to the courthouse and they will assign the legal gender change. No need to go through any kind of medical process.”

Having a well thought out gender identity law may not help solve all transgender issues and alleviate them from all of their struggles. However, getting the said law done and implemented right would be one significant progress for the recognition of the human rights and dignity of, not only transgender citizens, but also intersex and non-binary people.

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Chance of HIV-positive person with undetectable viral load transmitting the virus to a sex partner is scientifically zero

The PARTNER 2 study found no transmissions between gay couples where the HIV-positive partner had a viral load under 200 copies/ml – even though there were nearly 77,000 acts of condomless sex between them.

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Confirmed and needs to be stressed: The chance of any HIV-positive person with an undetectable viral load transmitting the virus to a sexual partner is scientifically equivalent to zero.

This is according to researchers who released at #AIDS2018 the final results from the PARTNER study. Results originally announced in 2014 from the first phase, PARTNER 1, already indicated that “Undetectable equals Untransmittable” (U=U). But while the first study was lauded in tackling vaginal sex, the statistical certainty of the result did not convince everyone, particularly in the case of gay men, or those who engage in anal sex.

But now, PARTNER 2, the second phase, only recruited gay couples. The PARTNER study recruited HIV serodifferent couples (one partner positive, one negative) at 75 clinical sites in 14 European countries. They tested the HIV-negative partners every six to 12 months for HIV, and tested viral load in the HIV-positive partners. Both partners also completed behavioral surveys. In cases of HIV infection in the negative partners, their HIV was genetically analyzed to see if it came from their regular partner.

And the results indicate “a precise rate of within-couple transmission of zero” for gay men as well as for heterosexuals.

The study found no transmissions between gay couples where the HIV-positive partner had a viral load under 200 copies/ml – even though there were nearly 77,000 acts of condomless sex between them.

PARTNER is not the only study about viral load and infectiousness. Last year, the Opposites Attract study also found no transmissions in nearly 17,000 acts of condomless anal sex between serodifferent gay male partners. This means that no transmission has been seen in about 126,000 occasions of sex, if this study is combined with PARTNER 1 and 2.

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While this is good news overall in the fight against HIV, related issues continue to plague HIV-related efforts, particularly in countries like the Philippines.

Why aren’t we talking about ‘undetectable = untransmittable’ in the Philippines?

For instance, aside from the overall silence on U=U (undetectable = untransmittable), use of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) continue to be low. As of May 2016, when the country already had 34,158 total reported cases of HIV infection, Filipinos living with HIV who are on anti-retroviral therapy (i.e. those who are taking meds) only numbered 14,356.

The antiretroviral medicines in use in the Philippines also continue to be limited, with some already phased out in developed countries.

All the same, this is considered a significant stride, with science unequivocally backing the scientific view helmed in 2008 by Dr. Pietro Vernazza who spearheaded the scientific view that viral suppression means HIV cannot be passed via a statement in the Bulletin of Swiss Medicine.

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‘God loves LGBTQIA people; so do we.’

A Christian church wants members of the LGBTQIA community to know that “they are loved by God.” Val Paminiano, pastor of the Freedom in Christ Ministries, says that “we would like to apologize on behalf of the mainstream churches that condemn the LGBTQIA community. Sorry for hurting you; (and) even for using the Bible to hurt you.”

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God’s love is for all.

“(We want the members of the LGBTQIA community to know that) they are loved by God,” said Val Paminiano, pastor of the Freedom in Christ Ministries, which has been making its presence known particularly in LGBTQIA Pride events to highlight its Christian anti-anti-LGBTQIA position.

Approximately 80% of Filipinos are Roman Catholic, and the church’s teachings continue to dominate public life in the Philippines. As it stands, church’s teachings re LGBTQIA people still often revolve around the “hate the sin, love the sinner” statement, so that LGBTQIA people are tolerated so long as they do not express their being LGBTQIA.

This “hate the sin, love the sinner” stance seems to be reflected in dominant perspectives re LGBTQIA people in the Philippines.

In 2013, for instance, in a survey titled “The Global Divide on Homosexuality” conducted by the US-based Pew Research Center, 73% of adult Filipinos agreed with the statement that “homosexuality should be accepted by society”. The percentage of Filipinos who said society should not accept gays fell from 33% in 2002 to 26% that year.

But more recently, in June 2018, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that a big percentage of Filipinos still oppose civil unions. When 1,200 respondents across the country were asked whether or not they agree with the statement “there should be a law that will allow the civil union of two men or two women”, at least 61% of the respondents said they would oppose a bill that would legalize this in the country. Among them, 44% said they strongly disagree, while 17% said they somewhat disagree. Meanwhile, 22% said they would support it, while 16% said they were still “undecided”.

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For Paminiano, “we would like to apologize on behalf of the mainstream churches that condemn the LGBTQIA community. Sorry for hurting you; (and) even for using the Bible to hurt you.”

Churches continue to be lambasted for not changing with time – perhaps most obvious in the treatment of LGBT people of those with faith. But the number of denominations openly discussing – and even coming up with statements of support of – LGBTQIA issues is increasing.

Finding room for #queerinfaith

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#KaraniwangLGBT

All hail the beauty queen

A glimpse into the life of a trans woman beauty pageant enthusiast, Ms Mandy Madrigal of Transpinay of Antipolo Organization.

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This is part of #KaraniwangLGBT, which Outrage Magazine officially launched on July 26, 2015 to offer vignettes of LGBT people/living, particularly in the Philippines, to give so-called “everyday people” – in this case, the common LGBT people – that chance to share their stories.
As Outrage Magazine editor Michael David C. Tan says: “All our stories are valid – not just the stories of the ‘big shots’. And it’s high time we start telling all our stories.”

“I feel accepted.”

That, said Mandy Madrigal, is the main appeal of joining beauty pageants.

“I feel so loved when I join pageants. Especially when people clap for us, cheer for us. And when you win… it (just) feels different.”

FINDING ACCEPTANCE

Assigned male at birth, Mandy was in primary school when her father asked her if “I was a boy or a girl”. That question scared her, she admitted, because – as the only boy among six kids – she thought she did not really have “any choice”. “So I answered my father, ‘I am a boy’.”

But Mandy’s father asked her the same question again; and this time, “I said, yes, I am gay.”

No, Mandy is NOT gay; she is a transpinay, and a straight one at that. But the misconceptions about the binary remains – i.e. in this case, she is associated with being gay mainly because she did not identify with the sex assigned her at birth.

In a way, Mandy said she’s lucky because “I believe he (my father) accepted (me) with his whole heart.”

The rest of her family did, too.

Though – speaking realistically – Mandy said this may be abetted by her “contributions” to the family. “Hindi naman aka basta naging bakla lang (I’m not a ’typical’ gay person),” she said, “na naglalandi lang o sumasali lang ng pageant (who just flirts, or just joins beauty pageants). Instead, Mandy provides financial support to her family by – among others – selling RTW clothes and beauty products. In fact, some of her winnings also go to the family’s coffers. By helping provide them with what they need, “it’s easy for them to accept me as a transgender woman.”

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Growing up, Mandy realized that while “makakapagsinungaling ka sa ibang tao, pero sarili mo, hindi mo maloloko. Kaya mas magandang tanggapin mo ang sarili mo para matanggap ka ng ibang tao (you may be able to lie to others about who you really are, but you can’t lie to yourself. So it’s better to accept your true self so that others will be able to accept you too).”

Mandy was “introduced” to beauty pageants when she was 13 or 14. At that time, a friend asked her to join a pageant; and “I won first runner up.” She never looked backed since, even – at one time – earning as much as P20,000 after winning a title. Like many regular beauconeras (beauty pageant participants), she also heads to distant provinces to compete, largely because – according to her – prizes in provincial competitions tend to be higher. The prize money earned helps one buy more paraphernalia for the next pageants, and – in Mandy’s case – also helps support her family.

Generally speaking, Mandy Madrigal said that “ang tunay na queen ay may malaking puso (a real queen has a big heart).”

FORMING A FAMILY

Beauty pageants are competitions, yes; but for Mandy, pageants also allow the candidates to form bonds as they get close to each other. Pageants, she said, can be a way “na maging close kami, magkaroon ng magagandang bonding… at magkakilala kami (for us to be close, to bond and get to know the others better).”

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Pageants can be costly, Mandy admitted – for instance, “you have to invest,” she said, adding that a candidate needs to be able to provide for herself (instead of just always renting) costumes, swimsuits, casual wear, gowns, and so on.

In a way, therefore, having people who believe in you helps. In Mandy’s case, for instance, a lot of people helped (by providing necessities she needs) because “naniniwala sila na I am a queen inside and out,” she smiled.

But this support can also rack the nerves, particularly when people expect one to win (particularly because of the support given).

One will not always win, of course; and this doesn’t always give one good feelings. In 2017, for instance, Mandy joined Queen of Antipolo, and – after failing to win a crown – she said many people told her she should have won the title, or at least placed among the runners-up. “naguluhan ang utak ko (That confused me),” she said. “‘Bakit ako ang gusto ninyong manalo?’ But that’s when I realized na marami ako na-i-inspire na tao dahil marami nagtitiwala sa akin (I ask, ‘Why do you want me to win?’ But that’s when I realized that I inspire a lot of people, which is why they count on me).”

This gives her confidence; enough to deal with the nervousness that will also allow her to just enjoy any pageant she joins.

A TIME TO SHINE

Mandy believes pageants can help LGBTQI people by providing them a platform to showcase to non-LGBTQI people why “hindi tayo dapat husgahan (we should not be judged).”

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Generally speaking, Mandy said that “ang tunay na queen ay may malaking puso (a real queen has a big heart).”

And she knows that not every pageant is good for every contestant. There will be pageants where you will be crowned the queen, she said, just as there will be pageants where you will lose. But over and above the winning and losing, note “what’s most important: that there’s a lot of people who supported you in a (certain) pageant.”

At the end of the day, “sa lahat ng patimpalak, pagkatandaan natin na merong nananalo at may natatalo. Depende na lang yan sa araw mo. Kung ikaw ay nakatadhanang manalo ay mananalo ka; kung nakatadhanang matalo ay matatalo ka talaga. Yun lang yun. Isipin mo na lang na meron pang araw na darating na mas maganda para sa iyo (in all competitions, remember that there will always be a winner and a loser. It all depends on your luck for the day. If you are fated to win, you will win; if you are fated to lose, you will lose. That’s that. But still remember – even when you lose – that there will always come a day that will be great for you).”

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Iloilo City passes anti-discrimination ordinance on final reading

The city of Iloilo has joined the ranks of local government units (LGUs) with LGBTQI anti-discrimination ordinances (ADOs), with the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) unanimously approving its ADO mandating non-discrimination of members of minority sectors including the LGBTQIA community.

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IMAGE DETAIL FROM jahcordova FROM PIXABAY.COM

Pride comes to the “City of Love”.

The city of Iloilo has joined the ranks of local government units (LGUs) with LGBTQI anti-discrimination ordinances (ADOs), with the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) unanimously approving its ADO mandating non-discrimination of members of minority sectors including the LGBTQI community.

The ADO was sponsored by Councilor Liezl Joy Zulueta-Salazar, chair of the SP Committee on Women and Family Relations. Councilor Love Baronda helped with the content/provisions of the ordinance.

“Everyone deserves equal protection under the law. This local legislation reinforces the Constitutional rights and the inalienable human rights of everyone to be treated equally,” Zulueta-Salazar said to Outrage Magazine. “It has always been a question of equality versus equity. Your government is a duty-bearer to protect everyone under the law. Moreso those who have time and again, been victims of injustice borne out from bigotry and indifference. That has to change now. Discrimination has no place in the ‘City of Love’.”

The ADO defines acts of discrimination to include: refusal of employment, refusal of admission in schools, refusal of entry in places open to general public, deprivation of abode or quarters, deprivation of the provision of goods and services, subjecting one to ridicule or insult, and doing acts that demeans the dignity and self-respect or a person because of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, color, descent, ethnic origin, and religious beliefs.

Penalties range from P1,000 for the first offense, P2,000 for the second offense and imprisonment of not more than 10 days at the discretion of the court, and P3,000 and 15 days imprisonment on the third offense.

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The ADO also mandates the creation of the anti-discrimination mediation and conciliation board headed by the mayor. This board will initiate the filing of cases against violators.

“Discrimination… violates basic human rights thus making it our duty as public servants to protect our citizens from unwarranted and unfair treatment coming from their fellow citizens, or worse from their own government. We respect and give emphasis to the right of every person because what matters is for us to be humane and to do everything in love,” Baronda said to Outrage Magazine.

Zulueta-Salazar added that “having worked with the marginalized sectors of our society through non-government organizations like the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines Iloilo Chapter and the different barangay local governments in Iloilo City, we have seen how the struggles of the LGBTQI, of the urban poor, of the religious minorities including the Indigenous Peoples displaced in the city. This ordinance is for them, not for special or preferential treatment from their government, but to give them what they truly deserve: a more just and equitable treatment by providing an enabling environment for them to be equally productive members of the society.”

For Zulueta-Salazar, the salient points in the Iloilo ADP may be the same as the other ADOs across the country, “but the one we have here in Iloilo City is a product of hard fought struggle for equality not just for one sector of the society, but generally as a statement that the ‘City of Love’ does not discriminate based on gender, age, race or religion. That in the ‘City of Love’, truly it can be said now that love wins.”

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For Iloilo City-based Rev. Alfred Candid Jaropillo, who heads the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), the ADO “is a step for the ‘City of Love’ in creating a community where the rights of all its constituents are respected and protected. As a clergy of the UCCP, I commend our government officials for passing the said ordinance (to show that) Iloilo is indeed a safe city for our sisters and brothers coming from the LGBTQI community.”

The Iloilo City Legal Office has 60 days from approval to promulgate the implementing rules and regulations (IRR), while the Public Information Office shall conduct an information drive 30 days from approval. The ordinance takes effect 10 days after its publication in a local newspaper.

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Mandaluyong City passes LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance

With the continuing absence of a national law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQI Filipinos, the city of Mandaluyng passed Ordinance 698, S-2018, which seeks to “uphold the rights of all Filipinos especially those discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).”

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IMAGE DETAIL FROM JUDGE FLORENTINO FLORO FROM WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

With the continuing absence of a national law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQI Filipinos (largely – at least for this year – because of a weak political support from the Philippine Senate via the non-leadership on this issue by Senate Pres. Vicente Sotto III and Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri), localized anti-discrimination efforts are again in focus. This time around, the city of Mandaluyng passed Ordinance 698, S-2018, which seeks to “uphold the rights of all Filipinos especially those discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).”

With this, it is now “the policy of the Mandaluyong City government to afford equal protection to LGBTQI people as guaranteed by our Constitution and to craft legal legislative measures in support of this aim.”

According to Dindi Tan, secretary general of LGBT Pilipinas, which helped push for the passage of this anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO), said that “the tactic now is to shift from a national lobby to local lobby, which is more pragmatic and feasible given the prevailing political environment in Congress.”

The Mandaluyong City ADO is specific to he LGBTQI community. Other ADOs in other localities lump the LGBTQI community with other minority sectors, including persons with disability (PWDs), seniors, cultural minorities, et cetera. But this city ordinance is specific to LGBTQI people, focusing on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

“We continue to relentlessly lobby for the passage of local ADOs and similar policies such as this one from the Tiger City of Mandaluyong pending the enactment of a national law made for (this) purpose,” Tan said. “We can’t afford to wait forever for the Anti-Discrimination Bill (ADB) to pass in the Senate and the bicam while our LGBTQI sisters and brothers on the ground continue to be the targets of gender-based violence and discrimination.”

READ:  We know we can do more

Mandaluyong City’s ADO specifically prohibits such discriminatory acts as: denying or limiting employment-related access; denying access to public programs or services; refusing admission, expelling or dismissing a person from educational institutions due to their SOGIE; subjecting a person to verbal or written abuse; unjust detention/involuntary confinement; denying access to facilities; and illegalizing formation of groups that incite SOGIE-related discrimination.

For the city to attain its goals, activities lined-up include: incorporating LGBTQI activities in Women’t Month celebrations; hosting of seminars in private and public spaces; and month-long Pride celebration in November, culminating on World AIDS Day on December 1.

The ADO also “strongly” encourages the Mandaluyong City Police District “to handle the specific concerns relating to SOGIE through existing Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) desk in all police stations in Mandaluying City.”

A Mandaluyong City Pride Council will also be established to oversee the implementation of the ordinance.

Any person held liable under the ADO may be penalized with imprisonment for 60 days to one year and/or penalized with P1,000 to P5,000, depending on the discretion of the court.

Pushed by Sangguniang Panglungsod councilor China S. Celeste, Mandaluyong City Mayor Carmencita A. Abalos signed the ADO on May 17.

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