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Brian Shane Gorrell: The Accidental Advocate

In 2007, an Australian landscape designer started a blog, The Talented Mr. DJ Montano (delfindjmontano.blogspot.com from blogger.com), which spilled the beans on everything about the socialites and social climbers of Metro Manila. Soon, the blog stopped becoming just personal, as it started helping better HIV awareness.

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PHOTO BY GLENN AFALLA, COURTESY OF BRIAN GORRELL

Gucci Gang.

That, sans any argument, was what started it all.

The fame, that is, of Brian Shane Gorrell.

In 2007 (March 4, to be exact), the Australian landscape designer started a blog, The Talented Mr. DJ Montano (delfindjmontano.blogspot.com from blogger.com), which spilled the beans – so to speak – on everything about the socialites and social climbers of Metro Manila, from Celine Lopez to Tim Yap to, yes, Delfin DJ Montano, whose relationship with Gorrell served as the impetus to the whole story.

“I started my incredible blogging journey under the most dire of circumstances, when my Filipino ex-lover Delfin DJ Montano fraudulently obtained my life savings (of $70,000), leaving me with nothing (as he) eventually fled the Philippines for San Francisco in disgrace,” Gorrell states in his site, adding, nonetheless, that while Montano allegedly stole everything from him, he didn’t take from Gorrell “my ability to write and warn others through my blogging campaign for the truth.”

And so an advocate was born.

“I live proud with my HIV. I rarely have real issues with my status expect for the ignorance that continues to exist all over the world with regards to the new HIV information and facts,” Brian Gorrell says. “You must own your HIV and wear it like a badge of courage. We must not ever be afraid to be free and continue to grow and evolve with our HIV. It truly is a new life.”
PHOTO BY GLENN AFALLA, COURTESY OF BRIAN GORRELL

MAKING OF AN ADVOCATE

Allegedly, Montano swindled Gorrell of his life savings totaling $70,000 – supposedly sent to Montano as a silent investor for two investments, a failed restaurant (to be called Bonza) in Makati City, as well as a tour booking company in Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan. After discovering that his contributions were used to pay up Montano’s personal debt, the ensuing confrontation of Gorrell of Montano led to the now infamous Gucci Gang controversy.

There was, to begin with, the initial charging of Gorrell of assault, said to be “through the help of Montano’s (well-connected) friends,” as now states Wikipedia.org (which, interestingly, has an entry of the controversy). Seemingly as if to show Gorrell their power over everything in the Philippines (And, seemingly, how everything in this country can be bought – Ed), the then ruffled socialites/social climbers were allegedly able to have the Australian kept in custody for a while, even if, in the end, the case was just dismissed.

Then there was the storytelling of everything about the, yes, socialites and social climbers of Metro Manila – from infidelity to pervasive drug use to… everything; among the juiciest, of course, was the alleged pervasive drug use (and see how they remain untouched by the law enforcers of the Philippines) in home parties, in clubs, in… everywhere.

Then there were the eventual media coverage – gossip blog ChikaTime.com, of course, first carried the story (in February 2007); ABS-CBN News Channel, through Korina Today (of broadcaster Korina Sanchez), interviewed Montano and his family; and ABS-CBN’s Media in Focus tackled Gorrell’s blog, among others.

And then there were the, well, repercussions – e.g. in March 2008, Gorrell stated in his site that officials from the Philippine Consulate in Sydney, Australia, as well as the Australian Federal Police took him in for questioning; and the correspondences between the parties involved [Lopez’s lawyer supposedly wrote Gorrell that “she is no longer in communication with Montano, and, in as much as she wants to help (him) with (his) problem with the latter, (she) does not have the capacity to assist (him) as she was not privy to the transaction which only (him) and Montano can properly resolve”].

No matter the stance taken regarding the issue, though (i.e. for or against Gorrell), what cannot be denied about the hullabaloo is its popularity. When Technograph (technogra.ph), reviewed the site in 2007, it begrudgingly admitted (the site is not for Gorrell, who was seen to use technology to blackmail or at least arm-twist people) that the blog has attracted a total of 200,000 (then, for the first two months of the blog’s existence in 2007), “making it one of the most popular Filipino-related Web sites.”

Wikipedia.org is more generous, pegging the visits of the blog to have reached 270,000, amounting to 36,600 visits a day, with each lasting an average of 52 minutes – at least for the first 10 days of the blog’s online existence. The site adds how the blog has been visited over two million times as of end-June 2007.
To date, it counts approximately 30 million hits.

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As for Gorrell: “Well over 30 million people have read my blog now, and it has broken every blogging record in the Philippines, including unique hits and page reads. No other blog has even come close to these incredible numbers, which I’m very proud of.”

It is this number that is now Gorrell’s intended market as the blog diversified.

While “I’ve (slain) my enemies and destroyed their theories” through the blog that “is my healer, and ultimately brought me to this wonderful place where I find myself today,” Gorrell’s “fight for justice” continues as he now recognizes “the responsibilities of being a blogger-advocate. I know myself to be the voice for many people. People who may never be heard, or have their passions acknowledged without a conduit like a blog,” he says.

POSITIVE LIFE

Gorrell is, by the way, HIV positive – a fact he never hid in his blog, and, for that matter, in his life (even Montano, while they were lovers, knew of Gorrell’s seropositive status, Gorrell stresses).

Thus, while “mindful of others (particularly when traveling abroad), taking into consideration that they may have a lack of knowledge and understanding of the HIV virus, I had no problems whatsoever when I lived in the Philippines. I have never had a problem with my HIV while travelling anywhere in the world.”

“I live proud with my HIV. I rarely have real issues with my status expect for the ignorance that continues to exist all over the world with regards to the new HIV information and facts,” Gorrell says. “You must own your HIV and wear it like a badge of courage. We must not ever be afraid to be free and continue to grow and evolve with our HIV. It truly is a new life.”

In his own words, therefore, Gorrell has become a “very proud HIV-positive writer/blogger/advocate/activist and humanitarian.”

“I’m a deeply devoted vehicle for change. Being such a passionate communicator is easy and my objectives are lofty but achievable nonetheless. Assisting faithfully the HIV/AIDS advocacy community to help eliminate HIV/AIDS related stigma is a primary goal that is closest to my heart,” Gorrell says.

The advocacy has, nonetheless, spread to include “a wide range of issues. Nothing is off limits or out of bounds. I write free with no commercial ties or restraints, which gets me into some trouble at times,” Gorrell says, smiling. But “I always prevail.”

EARLY BEGINNINGS

In hindsight, “I can say with 100% confidence (due to the fact that I was born into a very small homophobic ‘red neck’ infested northern Canadian trailer park town of Thunder Bay) that I’ve spent most of my life’s journey, in one way or another, fighting, battling and advocating against all forms of homophobia and sexually based discrimination. I’ve been beating my ‘I’m gay and fabulous’ drums since my early teens after I’d already endured so many years of torture and hate during my earliest days at school,” Gorrell says. “Having been on the receiving end of juvenile homophobia at such a young age prepared me for my life of advocacy and eventually sowed the seeds for the work I do.”

Gorrell adds: “As soon as I was old enough, I found myself rallying hard for more honest tolerance, unconditional understanding and complete compassion from all those around me not just for myself, but for my entire global GLBTQIA family. I craved early for a more altruistic acceptance toward any individuals who might find themselves positioned ‘outside’ of what society deemed to be ‘normal’.”

The “serious” advocacy, nonetheless, started in 2001, when Gorrell was diagnosed with HIV.

“I felt or rather I knew immediately, that I had a much bigger purpose in life, which was to help others who were perhaps not as equipped as I was when coming to terms with their own diagnosis and the stigma more often than not attached to it,” he says.

The notion of having a hard life, but still having it better than others has been, to Gorrell’s recollection, influenced by a fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Felix, “who was the first black person I’d ever seen in my life,” Gorrell recalls. “One day, only minutes before lunch bell, I said out loud – and obnoxiously I’m sure – for my classmates to hear, ‘I’m so starving.’ Upon hearing this, my teacher Mrs. Felix, in all her black African goddess glory, proceeded to approach my desk with a look of total and utter disgust (which I can still clearly see when I close my eyes) on her face. ‘Brian,’ she bellowed as she glared directly at me, ‘you are NOT starving young man, you are simply famished.’ I knew on that very day, because of this amazing special teacher, that I actually had it so much better than many other kids in the world.”
Gorrell remains a friend of Mrs. Felix, the person to teach him “the big difference between being starved as opposed to being famished – and there is a BIG difference,” he says.

“I felt or rather I knew immediately, that I had a much bigger purpose in life, which was to help others who were perhaps not as equipped as I was when coming to terms with their own diagnosis and the stigma more often than not attached to it,” Brian Gorrell says.
PHOTO BY GLENN AFALLA, COURTESY OF BRIAN GORRELL

Deciding to become an advocate has not been difficult.

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“The decision to become a passionately driven full time HIV/AIDS advocate came very naturally to me, almost automatic, in fact,” Gorrell says, even if he laments that “the extreme exposure can be difficult at times due to the ‘sense’ of total loss of privacy, especially when I feel I’m sorely lacking it. I do feel over exposed at times and worry that people only perceive me as an HIV positive man due to my advocacy for change.”

The over exposure is needed, nonetheless, since even if “there is so much more to me than just my HIV status,” Gorrell says, “I continue to do battle against the old world stereotypes which are continually being perpetuated all around the globe (for people to realize the seropositive status is just an aspect of a seropositive individual).”

Gorrell is the first to admit his goals are lofty. “My objectives are so lofty because there is so much to be done. I need to help people come to terms with not only being HIV positive, but also how to move forward with the news,” he says, wanting to effect changes because “I dealt with it so well on my own; I’m a strong powerful guy when it comes to being honest about my HIV status.”

But the advocate believes “I’m already starting to achieve my main goals. Actually, I started to achieve them the very first day I began advocating against HIV related stigma. I feel my biggest achievement so far is having reached out and being accepted by the Philippines HIV advocacy community as well as other global advocates who write me asking me for help and my opinions. The thousands of e-mails I receive provide me with all the impetus I need to continue advocating and education people who need it.”

Gorrell adds: “I only want to help others now. I want HIV to be sexy. I want people to change their perception of it. And I am determined to do just that by showing people how healthy and happy I am every day. I want to smash those stereotypes into a million little pieces.”

LOVING LOVE

Gorrell is in a loving serodiscorant relationship now – i.e. he is HIV positive, his partner is seronegative. “Of course I am very concerned from time to time with regards to my relationship. My boyfriend is HIV negative so we face our own set of hurdles, which we jump over every single day,” he says. So “we have to work constantly on our relationship, which everyone has to do if you want it to last forever. You must find that special person who completes you and work constantly at it. I’m so proud of my relationship and I’m honoured to have a Filipino partner.”

Gorrell adds: “And you must practice VERY safe sex, which means blowjobs with condoms. I don’t ever want to give my boyfriend HIV so we are extremely careful and yet we still have an incredible AMAZING sex life. HIV does NOT stop you from having great sex. You must just be very mindful of your HIV negative partner.”

That Gorrell is in another relationship after the very public crash of his partnership with Montano is, well, refreshing.

“I believe in true love and everlasting love, and that would never change,” he says. “Love and stupidity got me into the mess I found myself in (in 2008). However, having said that, I would NEVER let another person stop me from achieving bliss in my life. I made a mistake and I learned a very valuable lesson – my mistake cost me $70,000, (but) I believe it to be the most important lesson I’ve learned in life so far, and I will never ignore my gut instincts again. The destructive man in question already took everything from me, and I was not about to let him stop me from moving on with another Filipino lover. My relationship with my current partner is the very thing that helped me recover and stand tall again. My beautiful relationship reminded me that not everyone is evil.”

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Gorrell’s lover, Emmanuel, just moved to be with him in Canada, where he now works at an exclusive resort in British Columbia. The two plan to wed before the end of 2009.

“We’re so excited to start our new life together here. The best thing about being in a relationship is being loved so deeply. I need to be loved because I’m so insecure, generally, as a person. With a boyfriend, I feel wonderful and happy because I hate being alone. The relationship I am in now is full of life force and passion and I’ve never been happier in my life,” Gorrell says.

HEAD ON

The GLBTQIA community, says Gorrell, still has much to achieve. “Until a transgendered person can walk into a restaurant in Greenbelt (at Ayala Center, Makati City) without being harassed or refused entry, there is still so much to be done. I feel the lack of concern for our transgendered brothers and sisters is both upsetting and shocking, (so much so that) we should boycott and march (against) the establishments that refuse to allow our GLBTQIA family through their doors simply because they are not dressed ‘normal,’” Gorrell says, adding that while the Philippines is very tolerant of homosexuals, “it is still a very homophobic country as long as (it is generally accepted that God is supposed to have said that) we are all going to hell.”

On being gay, “I’ve always been a fiercely open proud gay kid, teenager, and now adult. I grew up in an environment where you had to be loud in order to be heard, which suited me fine. I’ve never allowed society to squash my determination to live my life to its fullest potential with both dignity and purpose,” Gorrell says. “God made me gay so I am His glorious creation, born of His eye and His magnificent heart. It’s as simple as that. I’m living the life God wanted me to live – a life full of love, consideration, and deep compassion for others who may need some education, information, assistance, and, of course, comfort. I have a sense of duty to live the life God wanted me to live. A life to serve others the best way I know how. My challenge is to live God’s will, and to make Him proud of me.”

On his life thus far, Gorrell says he has no regrets. “I’ve absolutely no regrets. None whatsoever because every decision I ever made has brought me to this wonderful place where I find myself today. I’m thrilled with where I am in life, and immensely proud of my HIV advocacy work. I’m in love with the most incredible man and my friends and family love and support me. I lost my life savings to a man who swindled me and I never thought I would recover. But I have and I’m thrilled,” he says.

It is also good to note, he adds, of the “many positive things in our global GLBTQIA community, (e.g.) I’m deeply inspired by other HIV positive people who are not afraid to be open and free with their knowledge and journey; I am deeply inspired by unselfish people, who freely help others in desperate need of emotional support, tolerance, honesty, compassion and understanding; et cetera.”

For now, the focus continues to be on increasing awareness on HIV and/or AIDS – particularly in the Philippines. “My most immediate goal is simple. I want to be there for anyone who is having problems with their HIV status no matter where they live in the Philippines,” Gorrell says. “So much of my work happens behind the scenes, answering hundreds and hundreds of emails full of questions posed by others not as informed as I. Perhaps they are scared and in me they find a friend who they can trust.”

It is, Gorrell says, ignorance that continues to make people infected and/or affected by HIV and/or AIDS suffer. “HIV related stigma is killing people. Carriers are too afraid to tell other people they are HIV positive and this MUST stop. No shame. No shame. No shame,” Gorrell says, adding as a message to would-be advocates that “there is nothing more rewarding or fulfilling then helping others through advocacy. Information and education is the key. The more people we have out there in the advocacy community, the better. People thrive on the honesty of others so please share your experiences with those around you because you never know whom you could be helping.”

Brian Shane Gorrell is running the Anti Stigma Campaign. Visit him at:
http://delfindjmontano.blogspot.com/
http://donavictorina.blogspot.com/
http://twitter.com/TheBrianGorrell
http://picklies.multiply.com/

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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Inter-Agency Committee on Diversity and Inclusion created via executive order

An executive order intends to create an inter-agency committee on diversity and inclusion, as well as establish the Diversity and Inclusion Program (DIP) that will consolidate efforts and implement laws “towards the identification and adoption of best practices in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”

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Photo by daniel james from Unsplash.com

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is flexing his supposed anti-discrimination cred with the signing of Executive Order (EO) 100, which focuses on minority sectors, including members of the LGBTQIA community, Indigenous Peoples, youth and persons with disability (PWDs).

The EO – titled “Institutionalizing the diversity and inclusion program, creating an inter-agency committee on diversity and inclusion (IACDI), and for other purposes – intends to create the aforementioned IACDI, as well as establish the Diversity and Inclusion Program (DIP) that will consolidate efforts and implement laws “towards the identification and adoption of best practices in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”

The order was signed on December 17, prior to Duterte meeting with a politicized organization composed of LGBTQIA Filipinos that eye to win seat in Congress in the next elections via the country’s partylist system; but was only released to the media on December 19.

The to-be-established IACDI will be composed of: Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Budget Management (DBM), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Commission on Women (PCW), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), and National Youth Commission (NYC).

Worth noting: No LGBTQIA representation is specifically mentioned/included in the committee.

The committee is expected to work with “relevant stakeholders, advocacy groups and NGOs” to develop a DIP; dictate the direction of the DIP; “encourage” local government units to issue ordinances promoting diversity and inclusion; and recommend possible legislation to address gaps in existing laws.

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Meanwhile, the to-be-established DIP is supposed to “consolidate efforts and implement existing laws, rules and issuances against the discrimination of persons on the basis of age, disability, national or ethnic origin, language, religious affiliation or belief, political affiliation or belief, health status, physical features, or sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, towards the identification and adoption of best practices in the promotion of diversity and inclusion.”

For trans activist Naomi Fontanos, who helms GANDA Filipinas, there are provisions in the EO that are problematic.

“(It) looks good on paper but has problematic provisions,” Fontanos said.

For example, “the composition of the IACDI excludes key government agencies like the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Civil Service Commission (CSC). Instead they have consultative status. This is surprising since based on RA No. 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women (MCW), the CHR is the Gender and Development (GAD) Ombud.”

Fontanos noted that with “funding for the implementation of EO No. 100, s. 2019 will either be from sources identified by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) or through Gender and Development (GAD) funds, why then does the GAD Ombud only have consultative status?”

Also excluded from the IACDI is the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, “which is unfortunate since the EO seeks to prohibit discrimination based on religious affiliation or belief,” Fontanos said.

Fontanos similarly questioned the chairmanship of the IACDI by the DILG.

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“The DILG’s main function is to ensure peace and order, public safety, and building the capacity of local governments for basic services delivery. Implementing a nationwide DIP better fits the mandate of the DSWD, which is to empower disadvantaged sectors in our country. The DSWD is only the committee’s Vice Chair.”

For Fontanos, “also most telling is that the committee is tasked to consult relevant stakeholders and NGOs to develop the DIP. Given that EO No. 100, s. 2019 was signed during the oath-taking of officers of LGBT Pilipinas Party-List at Malacañang Palace, will they be the default ‘stakeholder’ to be consulted on LGBT issues? If they are running for a congressional seat in 2022, won’t that give them undue advantage given that they will be working with LGUs through the chairmanship of the DILG?”

Following the release of the EO, future steps to be taken have yet to be announced.

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Province of Capiz holds first Pride parade

The city of Roxas in the Province of Capiz held its first LGBTQIA Pride parade, a “historic event that was organized for and by the LGBTQIA people of Capiz.”

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All photos courtesy of Charmel Delfin Ignacio Catalan

Pride in Capiz.

The city of Roxas in the Province of Capiz held its first LGBTQIA Pride parade, a “historic event that was organized for and by the LGBTQIA people of Capiz,” said Charmel Delfin Ignacio Catalan, who helmed the organizing of the event via Queens of all Queens and LGBT Community Capiz.

The local LGBTQIA community is not exactly completely “invisible”, admitted Catalan, having participated in the city’s/province’s past gatherings – e.g. last August 12, 2019, when a contingent joined the parade for the International Youth Day. But this Pride is “important – particularly as it is being held as the world observes World AIDS Day – because it highlights what’s solely relevant to our community.”

As is common with non-commercialized Pride events, “the main problem (we encountered) was financial,” Catalan said. This is because “we only relied on donations of generous individuals (to be able to hold this event).” But since “it had the backing of the community… we were able to push through.”

With Catalan in organizing the Pride parade were Atty. Felizardo Demayuga Jr. and Sandro Borce.

For Catalan: “I believe we still need Pride in this day and age to celebrate the unique individuality of the members of the LGBTQIA Community, and – of course – to continue the advocacy of equal rights and mutual respect and the causes that we are fighting for.”

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Roxas City, in particular, still records LGBTQIA-related hate crimes. In a 2015 interview with Outrage Magazine, Catalan recalled the bashing of a trans woman na napag-tripan (because some people just felt like it); sex work-related ill-treatment; and even killings.

This is why Catalan said she hopes for (particularly local) LGBTQIA people to attend the gathering as a show of strength that “we’re in this together.”

Catalan, nonetheless, recognizes that many non-LGBTQIA people still detest/discriminate LGBTQIA people. And so to them she said: “To all our bashers/haters, please take note that we have no ill feelings towards you; we love you and you are always in our prayers. Please take note that sticks and stones may break our bones but you won’t see us fall.”

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‘We need inclusive responses to HIV’ – Bahaghari Center

For Ms Disney Aguila, board member of Bahaghari Center, “it needs to be emphasized that HIV can only truly be dealt with if everyone is on board.”

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In early 2019, Jay (not his real name), a Deaf gay man who lives outside Metro Manila, was encouraged by his friends who knew community-based HIV screening (CBS) to get himself tested. It was, he recalled, “the first time someone offered me this service; so I caved in.”

Jay was reactive; and “my world crumbled,” he said.

Though his friends tried to comfort him, telling him that knowing his status is good, “since at least now I can take steps to get treatment and live a normal, healthy life,” Jay wasn’t assuaged. His friends had to eventually go back to Metro Manila, and he worried that he would be left on his own to “find ways to access treatment.” And the same issue that did not make testing accessible for him – i.e. him being Deaf – is now the same issue he believed would hinder him from getting treatment, care and support (TCS).

Jay’s case, said Ms Disney Aguila, board member of the Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy Inc. (Bahaghari Center), highlights how “numerous sectors continue to be ignored in HIV-related responses.”

Aguila, the concurrent head of the Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, the pioneering organization for Deaf LGBTQIA Filipinos, added that “it needs to be emphasized – particularly today as #WAD2019 – that HIV can only truly be dealt with if everyone is on board.”

WORSENING HIV SITUATION

As reported by the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) of the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippines has 35 new HIV cases every day. The figure has been consistently growing – from only one case every day in 2008, seven cases per day in 2011, 16 cases per day in 2014, and 32 cases per day in 2018.

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In July, when HARP released its (delayed) latest figures, there were 1,111 newly confirmed HIV-positive individuals; this was 29% higher compared with the diagnosed cases (859) in the same period last year.

Perhaps what is worth noting, said Aguila, is the “absence in current responses of minority sectors” – e.g. when even data does not segregate people from minority sectors, thus the forced invisibility that used to also affect transgender people who were once lumped under the MSM (men who have sex with men) umbrella term.

For Aguila, this is “detrimental to the overall response re HIV because specific needs are not answered.”

DEAF IN FOCUS

In 2012, Bahaghari Center conducted “Talk to the Hand”, the first-of-its-kind study that looked at the knowledge, attitudes and related practices (KAP) of Deaf LGBT Filipinos on HIV and AIDS. The study had numerous disturbing findings.

To start, majority of the respondents (33 or 54.1%) were within the 19-24 age range at the time of the study, followed by those who are over 25 (21 or 34.3%). Most of them (53 of 61 Deaf respondents) had sex before they reached 18. Many (36.1%) of them also had numerous sexual partners, with some respondents having as many as 20 sex partners in a month.
Only 21 (34.4%) use condoms, and – worryingly – even among those who used condoms, 12 (19.7%) had condom breakage during sex because of improper use.

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Perhaps the unsafe sexual practice should not be surprising, considering that not even half (29, 47.5%) of the respondents heard of HIV and AIDS, with even less that number (23, 37.7%) knowing someone who died of HIV or AIDS-related complications. And with not even half of the total respondents (29) familiar with HIV and AIDS, not surprisingly, only 19 (31.1%) considered HIV and AIDS as serious, with more of them considering HIV and AIDS as not serious (20, 32.8%) or maybe serious (22, 36.1%).

The study also noted that the level of general knowledge about HIV and AIDS is low, with 40 (65.6%) of them falling in this category. Only about 1/5 of them (12, 19.7%) had high level of knowledge about HIV and AIDS. Even fewer (9, 14.8%) may be classified as having moderate knowledge level.

For the Deaf community, at least, accessing testing and – if one tested HIV positive – the TCS is challenging because “we’d need Filipino Sign Language (FSL) interpreters who can help make sure we’re getting the right information/treatment/et cetera, Aguila said. And in the Philippines, the numbers of service providers who know FSL remain very limited.

Already there are Deaf Filipinos trained to conduct CBS particularly for other Deaf Filipinos – here in “Stop HIV Together“, a photo campaign stressing the need for inclusion.

INCLUDING OTHER MINORITIES

Aguila stressed that forced invisibility, obviously, does not only affect the minority Deaf community as far as HIV-related responses are concerned – e.g. “other persons with disability continue not to have HIV-related interventions,” she said.

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For Aguila: “To truly stop HIV and AIDS, we need to be inclusive.”

Back in the city south of Metro Manila, Jay was forwarded to a counselor who knows FSL so that he can be supported in accessing TCS. Even that was “problematic,” said Jay, because “I was ‘forced’ to come out to someone I didn’t necessarily want to disclose my status only because I had no choice.”

For him, this highlights “how we just have to make do with what’s there; and there really isn’t much that’s there to begin with.”

He feels “lighter” now, however, having started his antiretroviral treatment (ART). But he knows he’s one of the “lucky people with contacts”; and that “not every one has access to the same support I had… and that’s something we need to deal with.”

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‘Ang laban ng LGBT ay laban ng mamamayan’

As Baguio City holds its 13th #Pride March, there is emphasis on the de-commercialization of Pride to ficus on issues affecting all minority sectors including the #LGBT community. As stressed by Nico Ponce of Bahaghari-UP Baguio, hopefully other sectors join the fight for human rights for all because “ang laban ng LGBT ay laban ng buong mamamayan.”

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All photos by Michael David dela Cruz Tan

The struggle of the LGBTQIA community is the struggle of the people/nation.

So said Nico Ponce, chairperson of the UP-Baguio University Student Council and of Bahaghari-UP Baguio, which helmed Amianan Pride Council (APC), the organizer of the 13th Pride March in Baguio City.

This is why, Ponce added, at least particularly for Pride in Baguio City, there was an intent to veer away from commercializing Pride, to instead focus on the issues of all LGBTQIA people no matter the sector they belong to. There was also an emphasis on intersectionality – i.e. that other minority sectors have a stake in the fight for equal treatment of LGBTQIA people, also a minority sector.

“We are against the commercialization of Pride,” Ponce said, “since naniniwala tayo na ang historic roots of Pride ay… sang protest (we believe in the historic roots of Pride as a protest).” And so, to maintain the militant nature of Pride, we “make calls that… are comprehensive; and that affect not just LGBTQIA people but all Filipinos.”

The position, of course, is relevant considering the seeming (if not eventual) move towards commercialization of Pride events – e.g. cash-dependent Metro Manila’s Pride parade was able to gather over 50,000 participants in this year’s party/gathering; though the same number won’t surface to push for the anti-discrimination bill (ADB) that has been pending in Congress for 19 years now.

“There is still no equity,” said transgender activist Ms Santy Layno, which makes hosting Pride still relevant.

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“We still march,” added Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero of MCC-MB, “because even if people say that LGBTQIA people are already tolerated in the Philippines, we continue to suffer discrimination… with our transgender siblings still killed/murdered. We still need to march for Pride… as a form of protest.”

‘We (still) need Pride because of the apparent need of the LGBTQIA community (for acceptance) in all sectors of society,” Ponce added.

Baguio City already has an anti-discrimination ordinance, passed in April 2017, that wants to ensure that “every person… be given equal access to opportunities in all fields of human endeavor and to equitable sharing of social and economic benefits for them to freely exercise the rights to which they are rightfully entitled, free from any prejudice and discrimination.”

But the city also has anti-LGBTQIA history. For instance, in 2011, eight pairs of LGBTQIA people had commitment ceremony there, under MCC-MB. Oppositions were raised by the Catholic Church and a group of pastors from Baguio and Benguet. Bishop Carlito Cenzon of the Baguio-Benguet Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Church, for one, stated that “these unions are an anomaly.”

In the end, said Sotero, Pride is a way to inform society “that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people.”

“To people who ridicule/mock us, we’re open to discussions,” said Ponce. “Hindi sila kaaway… kaya sana makiisa kayo dahil ang laban ng LGBTQIA ay laban ng buong mamamayan (We are not enemies… so we hope you join the struggle because the fight for equality of LGBTQIA people is similar to the fight for social justice of the entire nation).” – WITH ALBERT TAN MAGALLANES, JR.

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Baguio marks 13th LGBTQIA Pride

The “City of Pines” marked its 13th LGBTQIA Pride March, themed “Diverse but equal” to stress that “despite diversity, everyone remains inherently equally human.” According to Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero of MCC-MB, Pride is a way to inform society “that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people.”

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ALL PHOTOS BY MICHAEL DAVID dela Cruz TAN

Equally diverse; equally human.

The “City of Pines” marked its 13th LGBTQIA Pride March, themed “Diverse but equal” to stress that “despite diversity, everyone remains inherently equally human.”

According to Rev. Pastor Myke Sotero, who helms Metropolitan Community Church-Metro Baguio (MCC-MB), which is part of the Amianan Pride Council (APC), the organizer of the annual event, even now that LGBTQIA issues (continue to) gain traction in mainstream awareness, holding a Pride event remains relevant because “kahit na sinasabi nating tolerated na ang mga LGBTQIA dito sa Pilipinas (even if it is said that LGBTQIA people are already tolerated in the Philippines), we continue to suffer discrimination.”

Sotero noted that, in fact, “patuloy pa din ang pagpatay sa mga kapatid natin na transgender (our transgender siblings are still being murdered/killed).”

Only in September, for instance, the lifeless body of Jessa Remiendo was found on the shore of Patar in Bolinao, Pangasinan – only approximately 94 kilometers away from Baguio City (just over two hours of road trip).

A few weeks before the gruesome murder, LGBTQIA people have been highlighting the need to pass an anti-discrimination law in the Philippines, particularly since the bill that eyes to protect the human rights of sexual minorities have been pending in Congress for 19 years now.

Kailangan pa ring ipagpatuloy ang pagmamartsa sa Pride bilang sang protesta (Marching for Pride is still needed as a form of protest),” Sotero said.

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Sotero added that Pride is also a way to inform society “na andito kami, hindi kami aalis, at dapat i-accept ang mga LGBTQIA people (we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, so society should accept LGBTQIA people).”

Baguio City actually already has an anti-discrimination ordinance, passed in April 2017, and notes that “discrimination is a crucial and serious issue” and it wants to ensure that “every person… be given equal access to opportunities in all fields of human endeavor and to equitable sharing of social and economic benefits for them to freely exercise the rights to which they are rightfully entitled, free from any prejudice and discrimination.”

But the city also has anti-LGBTQIA history – e.g. in 2011, when eight pairs of LGBTQIA people had commitment ceremony there, under MCC-MB, there were oppositions from the Catholic Church and a group of pastors from Baguio and Benguet.

In reaction, Bishop Carlito Cenzon of the Baguio-Benguet Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Church stated at that time that “these unions are an anomaly.” Meanwhile, the Guiding Light Christian Church maintained that “marriage should be between a man and woman only”.

And so for Det Neri, chairperson of Bahaghari-Metro Manila, a multisectoral militant and nationalist LGBTQIA organization based in Metro Manila (and whose arm in UP Baguio healed this year’s gathering), even now, LGBTQIA people are still mocked and “ginagawang katatawanan (made fun of).” And so celebrating Pride is “mahalaga para hindi tayo nawawala sa kasaysayan, hindi tayo mawawala doon sa hinaharap (we aren’t erased in our history, and we aren’t neglected as we head into the future).”

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Neri added that Pride’s essence remains militant, and should remain as such. – WITH ALBERT TAN MAGALLANES, JR.

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Dumaguete City passes SOGIE equality ordinance

In a victory for members of the LGBTQIA community in the City of Dumaguete, an ordinance was passed in the City Council to ensure non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).

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For Pride.

In a victory for members of the LGBTQIA community in the City of Dumaguete, an ordinance was passed in the City Council to ensure non-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).

Dumaguete is a 3rd class city in the province of Negros Oriental. According to the 2015 census, it has a population of 131,377 people.

It is the capital and most populous city of the province of Negros Oriental, it has a population of 131,377 people, according to the 2015 census.

Authored by Councilor Rosel Margarette Q. Erames with co-authors Councilors Lei Marie Danielle Tolentino, Bernice Ann Elmaco, Edgar Lentorio Jr., Lilani Ramon and Nelson Patrimonio, the anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) penalizes actual or perceived SOGIE-based discrimination in the workplace, school and other similar acts that undermines and harms the rights of the LGBTQIA people.

City passes own SOGIE protection In a significant victory for members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and…

Posted by HEADZ UP NegOr on Sunday, October 27, 2019

Under the ordinance among the prohibited acts include:

  • Actual or perceived SOGIE-related discrimination from employment, training, promotion, remuneration;
  • Delaying, refusing or failing to accept a person’s application for admission as a student;
  • Expelling or any penalty on the basis of SOGIE;
  • Harassment and intimidation committed by teachers, administrators and fellow students;
  • Refusing to provide goods or service, or imposing onerous terms and conditions as a prerequisite for such;
  • Denying access to health services and facilities;
  • Refusing or failing to allow LGBTQIA to avail of services or accommodations;
  • Denying application for licenses, clearances, certifications or other documents;
  • Vilifying, mocking, slandering or ridiculing LGBTQIA people through words, action and in writing; and
  • Executing any activity in public which incites hatred towards or serious contempt for or severe ridicule of LGBTQ and other analogous acts.
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The bill didn’t have smooth sailing before it passed. For instance, the Diocesan Commission on the Laity (whose members consist of 42 Parish Pastoral Councils from the different parishes of the Diocese of Dumaguete, covering the provinces of Negros Oriental and Siquijor, with the exception of the municipalities of La Libertad and Vallehermoso, and the cities of Guihulngan and Canlaon), as well as the Diocesan Organization of Renewal Movements & Communities (composed of 14 organizations) expressed their opposition of the ADO.

When the passage of the ADO also made the news, a handful of locals expressed their disapproval, stating – among others – that LGBTQIA people do not face discrimination in Dumaguete (thereby contradicting their own statement), prioritizing other issues of the city, and that protecting the human rights of LGBTQIA people is against the will of God.

But now with the ADO, first time violators will be made to attend a gender sensitivity training. Second time offenders may be jailed for not less than 60 days but not more than one year, or be fined with not less than P2,000 but not more than P 5, 000 (or both at the discretion of the court).

With the ADO, SOGIE-related concerns will be incorporated in the functions of existing Barangay Violence Against Women and Children (VAW) Desk, which will document and report cases of discrimination against LGBTQIA persons.

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