It was while holding a videoconference over Skype, while “we were holding up corny handwritten signs and laughing – we laugh a lot; it’s spontaneous and hilarious”, that Rob Garner of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) “pretty much knew” that she’s in love with Angie Umbac, president of the Rainbow Rights (R-Rights).
That was in the earlier part of 2011.
It actually doesn’t vary much for Angie, too. “We (used to) keep Skype windows open and worked and had meals together, sent over Roxette songs, and shared a laugh on articles we found online. At times when I got sick, she stayed up online to watch over me while I slept,” she recalled. “She is my constant companion and confidant on any core issue that I need to address, as she and I are aligned on principles of human rights, gender, integrity, even a love for dogs and karaoke. Despite the distance, she was always with me.”
In November 2011, Rob moved to be with Angie in the Philippines.
Rob and Angie first met professionally online, through LGBT advocacy – Rob was based in Mongolia running an LGBT center, and Angie in Manila running the R-Rights. “We would periodically take part in Skype conferences organized by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC),” Rob recalled. Then one day, “I was online and Angie popped up and said hello, and we started chatting. We had an instant connection, and pretty soon were chatting every day.”
For Angie: “We kept in touch, cheering each other on, celebrating each other’s achievements, and commiserating on challenges with phobic groups. We consulted on strategies, talked about security concerns, and expressed pride for our respective teams of activists. We were each other’s #1 fan. I showed her on Skype some of the trophies that Rainbow Rights received, and in return, she flashed me the prestigious Felipa de Souza Award for courage and activism in fighting for sexual orientation and gender identity rights that LGBT Centre Mongolia received in 2010. I was very impressed – I have not met anyone as brave, self-sacrificing, hardworking. Through it all, I worried about the activist as a human being, the dangers she has to deal with; all I could think of was whether she was eating right and if she was safe and warm.”
As a couple, “I think we face the same challenges with acceptance that most other lesbian couples face. We’re both activists though, so I think we tend to view challenges in general within a broader framework and from a perhaps less-personal perspective,” Rob said.
For Angie, the challenge is in “not having enough time together. Evenings are particularly hard as our workday ends rather late; we both are tired at the end of the day. We debrief in the morning, over breakfast, which is our ‘together’ time. It is also perfect time to talk about plans for the day and week and synchronize schedules.”
For activists, there are no lax times, too. Added Angie: “Weekends, we oftentimes find ourselves still busy at work; but we make it a point to be by each other, and when we can, cook for each other.”
The best thing in this relationship?
“Waking up each morning next to the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on. That, and the laughter – I dearly love Angie’s warped sense of humor,” Rob said.
For Angie, “Rob is intelligent and knows her worth. We also have the same sense of humor so we would spend most times just laughing and making up private jokes. Since she is also an activist, we have very similar perspectives, and know where we draw our energies from. For example, when she or I say it is for the LGBT community, we both know that the other will not stand in her way. We can always count on each other’s support without having to ask.”
Asked about their future plans together, Angie said: “Something I have always dreamed of: Making the world a better place by fight discrimination together, side by side.”
Rob’s is more generic – reflection of LGBT relationships as like all other relationships: “To have a long and happy life together.”