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Angie Umbac: Big Pride

Angie Umbac admits to having a knack for legal and legislative advocacy, which is her primary passion. She now uses this to help LGBT Filipinos through R-Rights, among others.

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Angie Umbac
President, R-Rights

MORE THAN THE PARTS
“Being a lesbian is one part of who I am; but nonetheless, it is a very important part. It cannot be separated from the rest of me. No matter what role I play, what hat I wear, I am a lesbian,” says Angie Umbac.
PHOTO BY JED YUMANG

On April 11, 2008, Angie Umbac delivered a speech for a group of Accenture employees, at its FLAG Diversity Conference on Gender and Sexuality. “My name is Angie Umbac,” she said then, “and I have several facets, among them are being a government worker, a rights activist, a lesbian.” Then she added: “Being a lesbian is one part of who I am; but nonetheless, it is a very important part. It cannot be separated from the rest of me. No matter what role I play, what hat I wear, I am a lesbian.”

And the pride in the self – in her case, as a lesbian (and part of the GLBTQI community) – is what Angie believes should be pushed/advocated.

“I have two questions for you: Are you afraid that people would find out you are lesbian or gay? Do you think that when they do, it will get in the way of your promotion; that it would be better for you career-wise to stay in the closet? If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions, I understand. After all, the world can be very cruel, and your fears have basis,” Angie says. But she added, “if you ask me, I say ‘no,’ I am not afraid they would find out; in fact, I make it a point to tell them before they hear it from others. If career-wise it would be better in the closet, then it is the wrong career for me.”

TRUE SELF, REAL WORTH

Up to August 2009, Angie used to work at the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the central personnel agency of the government, which she likens to “your human resources office, but for over a million government workers.” Her work afforded opportunity to interact with the Senate and the House of Representatives. Since she also served as chair of the External Gender Concerns of the Commission, she did her best to ensure that on her watch, there are no discriminatory provisions in the laws that are passed by the Philippine Legislature, as well as in the policies concerning employees in the government service.

In Angie’s case, “when I was being considered for promotion, I was sure people would start poking around, checking my background to determine my fitness to serve. If I stayed away from the spotlight, there was no risk,” she recalls. But she asked herself: “’What is more important to me, acknowledging my true worth or just staying safe?’ I decided to take the plunge: I came out at the office and told them I am a lesbian. That way there will be no surprises, they will understand why I would feel strongly on certain sensitive issues and legislative measures.”

It was also, for Angie, a test of societal acceptance, as “I also wanted to know if they will trust me. Yes, I too had my fears.” Nonetheless, “I got my promotion; being a lesbian was not an issue among the people who mattered in the Commission.”

FOCUS ON ADVOCACY

Angie – a Bachelor of Laws graduate of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City (1998), and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (cum laude) of Silliman University, Dumaguete City (1992) – has been making the GLBTQIA advocacy rounds (so to speak) for quite some time now. She served in various capacities in government and non-government organizations. She admits to having a knack for legal and legislative advocacy, which is her primary passion. Preferring to work in the background, she likens it to being a specialist quietly finding cures in labs, and leaving the glam to high-profile surgeons and ER doctors.

NO FEAR.
Not just in expressing her gender/sexuality (“I am not afraid they would find out; in fact, I make it a point to tell them before they hear it from others. If career-wise it would be better in the closet, then it is the wrong career for me”), Angie Umbac takes life’s reins in her hands.

She has worked as a deputy chief of staff of a senator, as a team member on paralegal involvement in a study of the Supreme Court, The Asia Foundation and LIBERTAS – Lawyer’s League for Liberty on addressing “Affordability Constraints on Access to Justice” and as co-Secretary General of the Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network or LAGABLAB.

Angie believes that hiding who you are or talking about it is a personal choice. “Although admittedly there are those who had negative experiences on this, I try to remember that when some people ask us about our sexual orientation or gender identity, sometimes they simply want to know, and not necessarily because they want to harm us,” she says.

For Angie, allies and supporters can be found everywhere. She found allies in the top brass of her government office when in July 2006, she travelled to Montreal, Canada to present a paper at the LGBTQI International Human Rights Conference.

“I did so not only as a rights activist, but also as a government representative. Travel tax by the Philippine government and visa payments at the Canadian embassy were waived; small courtesies afforded to one traveling with an official passport. So there I was speaking on discrimination against lesbians in the Philippines with the full backing of my government agency. From that time on, I never assume that people or institutions are against our cause; there are pleasant surprises out there if we have the patience and courage to seek out good and supportive people,” she recalls.

“The citation for the awards credited me for practicing gender fairness in my professional and personal life. In short, they gave me awards for being true to myself, and for standing up for what I believe in,” Angie Umbac says.

PROUDLY DISTINCT

Angie is actually not as confrontational as some in pushing for acceptance. “Coming out can be very formal, or structured, or casual. It all depends on you and what the situation calls for. I have often been asked by family, friends, colleagues, ‘Did you really appear on TV or where you featured in a magazine, discussing lesbianism?’ There is the risk of being ridiculed and a general denial is admittedly tempting. But my answer is consistently in the affirmative. Oftentimes, their response would be to look uncomfortable and so I would ask them back, ‘How did I look? Was my make-up ok?’ And you could see the tension lift; they would be relieved and would say I looked fine. They would even suggest a more colorful shirt, a better shade of lipstick, and that is the end of yet another stressful coming-out episode,” she says.

Angie has been repeatedly recognized for her efforts. Among others, she was given the Gawad Kawayan para sa Katangi-tanging Kasapi ng Gender and Advocacy Networking Group (Bamboo Award for Outstanding Member of the Gender and Advocacy Networking Group) for championing the issues of gender and development in both her personal and professional lives; and the Gawad Kawayan para sa Katapatan (Bamboo Award for Loyal Service) to the Gender and Advocacy Networking Group, both given by the Civil Service Commission on March 28, 2008.

“The citation for the awards credited me for practicing gender fairness in my professional and personal life. In short, they gave me awards for being true to myself, and for standing up for what I believe in,” Angie says.

For Angie, “No matter what happens, do not be afraid to take risks. Keep pushing the limits. Know that you are not alone, there are people who will support you, and many of them are even straight. We make choices every day and in the end, it is up to you to choose what is best for you. Remember, your orientation, your identity, are not barriers. You have the power to be everything you want to be,” she says. “Live with no regrets and follow your heart.”

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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VP Robredo extolls LGBTQIA community’s spirit; recognizes a lot of work still needs to be done

Vice President Leni Robredo expressed her support to the LGBTQIA community, even as she acknowledged that a lot of work still needs to be done, including passing an anti-discrimination law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQIA Filipinos.

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Screencap from the Facebook-uploaded message of VP Leni Robredo to the LGBTQIA community

Vice President Leni Robredo expressed her support to the LGBTQIA community, even as she acknowledged that even as the LGBTQIA community marks June as Pride month, a lot of work still needs to be done, including passing an anti-discrimination law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQIA Filipinos.

In a messages posted on her Facebook page, Robredo noted the uncertain times. “many of the things we once cherished and held on to are now being questioned and challenged,” she said in mixed Filipino and English. “Sa kabila nito, marami pa ring bagay ang di nagbabago at nagpapatuloy: tulad ng ating laban para sa patas na karapatan, dignidad at kalayaan.

Robredo noted that “for many decades, the LGBTQIA+ community has been tirelessly fighting for equal rights and representation at the frontlines. It has provided a shelter to the oppressed, a voice to the marginalized, and a family to those who have been abandoned by their own communities. Ito ang dakilang ambag ng LGBTQIA+ community sa ating (b)ayan.

She added: “Sa bawat Pride March na inyong inoorganisa, isang teenager ang mas nagiging proud na yakapin kung sino siya. Sa bawat awareness campaign na inyong sinisimulan, isang komunidad ang mas nagiging bukas ang isipan. At sa bawat pagpiglas ninyo sa tangkang pag-agaw ng ating mga kalayaan, isang bayan ang mas natututong lumaban.

There are – nonetheless – members of the LGBTQIA community “who hold positions of power in our society”, such as lawyers, executives, doctors, educators, artists, policymakers and public servants. The VP hopes that they will “use your influence to change mindsets, promote acceptance, and push for reforms on the ground. Now more than ever, we need to set an example to the younger generation. Ipakita natin sa kanila, na wala silang dapat ipangamba at na malaya silang maging kung ano at sino sila,” Robredo said.

The VP similarly recognized that teaching people to open their minds may be challenging, but “huwag sana kayong panghinaan ng loob.”

She suggested doing small steps to push for Pride, including forming support groups; reaching out to the needy; and introducing concepts re SOGIESC to relatives who may not be well-versed on the same.

Darating din ang araw na babalikan natin ang lahat ng ito at sasabihing, everything was worth the effort. Everything was worth the sacrifice. Everything worth the fight. Push lang ng push, mga besh,” Robredo added.

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Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach voices support for LGBTQIA community

Pia Wurtzbach said she’s making a stand so “that our friends and family in the LGBTQIA community have the right to take up space in our society… that their voices should be heard, that we don’t invalidate trans women as women.”

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Screencap from the Instagram account of Pia Wurtzbach

Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach voiced her support for the LGBTQIA community.

Via an Instagram post, Wurtzbach said she’s making a stand so “that our friends and family in the LGBTQIA community have the right to take up space in our society… that their voices should be heard, that we don’t invalidate trans women as women.”

She added: “We can learn to accept these concepts by having a dialogue. By listening and understanding our differences. we will grow and uplift one another as one community in strengthening equality and diversity.”

View this post on Instagram

Learning is always a two-way process.. we listen as we understand each other’s points of view. This #PrideMonth, we stand for the rights and advocacies of the LGBTQIA+ community. 🏳️‍🌈 Being an ally is someone who gives a sense of a safe and affirming space for our loving community… Let’s provide higher platforms for community members to openly discuss issues and concerns that affect us. 🙏 Here we can discuss our differences and remind ourselves that we are together on this journey, and achieve our shared goals for equality. ❤ . I know we may differ in opinions today.. but our constant discourse will make our tomorrow better because we understand one another better. This will also enable our broader community, especially those with differing views, to ponder on things that matter to our fellowmen. . Let me just make a stand that our friends and family in the LGBTQIA+ community have the right to take up space in our society…that their voices should be heard, that we don’t invalidate trans women as women. We can learn to accept these concepts by having a dialogue. By listening and understanding our differences.. we will grow and uplift one another as one community in strengthening equality and diversity. 😊🙏❤ Happy Pride! 🥰🏳️‍🌈

A post shared by Pia Wurtzbach (@piawurtzbach) on

Wurtzbach’s statement of support came after she co-hosted an online discussion involving Kevin Balot, who was crowned Miss International Queen in 2012. Balot reiterated her segregationist perspective, saying that when transgender women ask to join beauty pageants traditionally only for those assigned female at birth, “hindi na siya equality eh, parang asking too much na (this is no longer about equality; it’s already asking too much).”

In her Instagram post, Wurtzbach said that even if people had different opinions, it’s still important to provide platforms for community members to openly discuss “issues and concerns that affect us.”

For Wurtzbach, “this will also enable our broader community, especially those with differing views, to ponder on things that matter to our fellowmen… [O]ur constant discourse will make our tomorrow better because we understand one another better.”

This isn’t the first time Wurtzbach expressed her support to the LGBTQIA community.

In 2017, for instance, she called out the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) following a drug bust involving 11 men in Bonifacio Global City. “Because of what PDEA and the news outlet have done, some people are now associating drugs and immorality with being gay. It’s ridiculous,” she said then.

In 2018, she urged decision makers to address the causes that put young people at risk of HIV.

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‘Riverdale’ actress Lili Reinhart comes out as bisexual

Lili Reinhart – from “Riverdale” – announced that she is a “proud bisexual woman” in a post on Instagram.

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Screencap from Instagram

Lili Reinhart – who plays Betty Cooper in “Riverdale” – announced that she is a “proud bisexual woman” in a post on Instagram.

Reinhart’s revelation was linked with her post that she would be attending an “LGBTQ+ for Black Lives Matter” protest in West Hollywood in the US. Underneath a poster for the march, she wrote: “Although I’ve never announced it publicly before, I am a proud bisexual woman. And I will be joining this protest today. Come join.”

Reinhart dated co-star and onscreen partner Cole Sprouse, who played Jughead in “Riverdale.” The two had recently split.

Visibility, obviously, matters.

Earlier in June 2020, a study noted that those who have seen LGBTQIA representation are more accepting of gay and lesbian people than those who haven’t (48% to 35%). They are also more accepting of bisexual people (45% to 31%), and of non-binary people (41% to 30%).

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Emma Watson speaks out for trans rights after J.K. Rowling’s transphobic comments

“Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned.”

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Screen capture from the Instagram account of emmawatson

Emma Watson – who played Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” series – is the latest actor to speak out in support of transgender rights after author J.K. Rowling made controversial comments on Twitter that were deemed transphobic.

On June 6, Rowling posted a tweet equating womanhood with being able to menstruate.

When called out, she seemed to own up to the TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist, or women who claim to be feminist but do not believe transgender women are female). She also backed her perspective via a lengthy post that cited a study criticized for its transphobic bias.

Claiming to have read “all the arguments about femaleness not residing in the sexed body, and the assertions that biological women don’t have common experiences, and I find them, too, deeply misogynistic and regressive,” Rowling wrote. “Women (are told they) must accept and admit that there is no material difference between trans women and themselves… But, as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume.”

Watson appeared in all eight of the big-screen adaptations of the books by Rowling. By expressing her support for transgender rights, she joins former costar Daniel Radcliffe (who played Harry Potter), and “Fantastic Beasts” star Eddie Redmayne who also voiced their disagreement to Rowling’s warped thinking and defense.

“Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are,” Watson tweeted.

In a subsequent tweet, she added that she wants “my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are.”

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Eddie Redmayne joins Daniel Radcliffe in opposing J.K. Rowling’s anti-trans comments

Eddie Redmayne joined “Harry Potter” lead actor Daniel Radcliffe in criticizing J.K. Rowling comments about transgender people. “Respect for transgender people remains a cultural imperative, and over the years I have been trying to constantly educate myself. This is an ongoing process.”

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Screencap from "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"

Eddie Redmayne joined “Harry Potter” lead actor Daniel Radcliffe in criticizing J.K. Rowling comments about transgender people.

In a statement, Redmayne said: “Respect for transgender people remains a cultural imperative, and over the years I have been trying to constantly educate myself. This is an ongoing process.”

Rowling wrote the “Harry Potter” series that starred Radcliffe, and the “Fantastic Beasts” series that starred Redmayne. In a series of tweets starting June 6, where she actually owned the TERF tag (trans-exclusionary radical feminist), Rowling used the “I know and love trans people, but” argument by tweeting to her 14.5 million Twitter followers that transgender people are “erasing the concept of sex”.

Redmayne – who similarly starred in “The Danish Girl”, the 2015 biopic of Lili Elbe, one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery – said: “As someone who has worked with both JK Rowling and members of the trans community, I wanted to make it absolutely clear where I stand. I disagree with Jo’s comments. Trans women are women, trans men are men and nonbinary identities are valid.”

Redmayne continued that “I would never want to speak on behalf of the community but I do know that my dear transgender friends and colleagues are tired of this constant questioning of their identities, which all too often results in violence and abuse. They simply want to live their lives peacefully, and it’s time to let them do so.”

Radcliffe said as much earlier, when he wrote for The Trevor Project that “transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations, who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”

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Transgender women are women – Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe

“Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations.”

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Screencap from "What If" (2013)

Following the backlash the “Harry Potter” author, J.K. Rowling, got for statements deemed transphobic, Daniel Radcliffe wrote on The Trevor Project that “transgender women are women.”

On June 6, Rowling used the “I know and love trans people, but” argument by tweeting to her 14.5 million Twitter followers that transgender people are “erasing the concept of sex”.

In response, Radcliffe said: “Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo (i.e. J.K. Rowling) or I.”

He added that with 78% of transgender and nonbinary youth reporting being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity, “it’s clear that we need to do more to support transgender and nonbinary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm.”

Radcliffe stressed that while certain press outlets may paint his statement as proof of infighting between J.K. Rowling and himself, “that is really not what this is about, nor is it what’s important right now.”

In closing, Radcliffe said: “To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you.”

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