Raising the rainbow flag.
Metro Baguio’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community raised the rainbow flag as it held the 9th Baguio LGBT Pride parade that highlighted the “continuing battle against oppression and discrimination.” Joined by ally groups from other parts of the Philippines, this year’s gathering – which was themed “Out and Proud. One Pride. One Celebration” – also coincide with World AIDS Day and the International Human Rights Day.
According to Gregory Rugay, spokesman for Amianan Pride Council – a network of LGBT and ally organizations that organized Pride in Baguio and the Cordilleras this year – Pride remains important because “it is a reminder of Pride fought and Pride won.” However, “for some, it is still a struggle and it gives them hope to continue the battle against oppression and discrimination, that one day they will be proud of themselves and be able to march the streets as themselves without putting a mask on.”
This year’s Pride, therefore, wanted to “shed light on the many things that (cause discrimination), be it gender identity and gender expression, sexual orientation, age, physical (dis)abilities, health status (including HIV status), or ethnicity.”
Pride this year also aimed to elevate the issues of lumads particularly from Mindanao in southern Philippines.
Officially, 26 organizations participated in the parade, including: HAPI, Lezboy, Amnesty International Philippines – Baguio City, UP Babaylan – Baguio, Akma – UP Baguio, Baguio Boys, MYNP (Make Your Nanay Proud), Rainbow Barracks, MCC-Metro Baguio, Family Planning Organization of the Philippines, Benguet’s Finest Lilies Civic Action, TransIgorota, Baguio Lesbians, Dap-ay, Baguio Bi-Nation, Trippers Philippines – Baguio, Ozark Diner, Provident Polytechnic Institute, Baguio Lesbians Out & Proud, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Bakat – Tropang Bi ng Baguio, The Bachelors, Baguio Bears, Bahaghari LGBT Organization, and Kaisa Ka.
The need to emphasize the intersectionalities of the issues of the LGBT community with other sectors was also stressed during the gathering.
“Pride should be a venue of solidarity of not just within the LGBT community, but also with other sectors of society. We should always acknowledge that many LGBT people are also farmers, workers, church members, indigenous and urban poor, among others. We should value these intersections to highlight that our fight for equality and non-discrimination as LGBT is part of the broader people’s struggle for justice and peace,” said Outrage Magazine managing editor John Ryan Mendoza, also with the Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy (Bahaghari Center), and the NCCP.
This year’s gathering was also marked by the participation of religious organizations.
For instance, joining for the first time was NCCP, the largest fellowship of mainline Protestant and non-Roman Catholic churches in the country. Joined by clergy and youth of the Regional Ecumenical Council of the Cordillera, Episcopal Church in the Philippines, and United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), NCCP particularly celebrated its statement, “Create Safe Spaces for Understanding Human Sexuality,” that was unanimously approved by its 24th General Convention, its highest policy making body, held last November.
The NCCP statement cites that people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are “met with discrimination and condemnation, alienating them from the rest of society. Most are denied of educational and employment opportunities. Worse, they are subjected to hate crimes, torture, harassment, sexual assault, rape, and other forms of human rights violations.”
“Our public call to create safe spaces for LGBT people is a challenge to deepen our understanding as churches that the diversity of human sexuality is a gift from the Creator, a truly good and perfect gift that must be affirmed and celebrated,” said Rev. Rex RB. Reyes, Jr., general secretary of NCCP.
The NCCP further calls to address the discrimination of LGBT people in the ministries of its churches.
“We want to proactively and intentionally draw in persons with different sexual orientations and gender identities into activities of the church and church organizations where they can share their gifts and graces,” said Rev. Reyes. “We can ensure this by developing biblically-based/theologically sound materials on human sexuality to be used for study and reflection in the churches toward a more welcoming environment for those who are perceived to live outside the social norms of sexuality.”
Already, Amianan Pride Council is looking at strengthening the ties among LGBT people in the Cordillera region and in northern Luzon, even as it hopes that the strengthened community will advocate for the implementation of anti-discrimination laws.
“We wish to have all those sectors who experience discrimination to come together and get into one big fight to have those laws enacted and implemented – LGBT people, elderly, youth, the differently-abled, indigenous peoples, those living with HIV and AIDS. I believe that we could never win against discrimination unless all of us unite and until all of us discriminated sectors are free from it,” Rugay ended.