In April 2014, Patricia “Trish” Muli, a community development student in the University of the Philippines in Diliman (UPD), was choosing a gender class for her summer semester. Trish was advised by a friend to take the class of Prof. Bernadette “Det” Neri from the UPD College of Arts and Letters.
“Teacher ko siya na super crush ko,” said Trish who also saw it as normal for a student to have a crush on his/her teacher/mentor.
Trish credits Det for giving her a new perspective on gender. “Siya ang nag-discuss sa akin ng tatlong layers ng kaapihan ng mga LGBT. Ang kaapihan sa kasarian, ang kaapihan sa uri, at ang pambansang kaapihan. For the longest time identity politics ang alam natin sa gender. Mas naka-contextualize ni Det ito sa Pilipinas (It was her who discussed with me the three layers of discrimination experienced by LGBT people. The discrimination based on gender, discrimination based on class, and social injustice. For the longest time, we know gender as identity politics. But Det helped contextualize this for me in the Philippines),” said Trish.
The classes lasted for two months, but the two didn’t even become friends. Det did not add students on Facebook during the semester, so they became Facebook friends only when the semester ended.
Sometime in September 2014, Trish contacted Det for information on organizations to work with for her course’s fieldwork requirement on community organizing. The two then met in what Trish said was a memorable meet-up since they were able to share “mga personal na bagay (personal stuff).” With that meeting, “nag-start na maging friends kami (started our friendship).”
Det and Trish started to meet more often during the launch of a campaign for justice for slain transwoman Jennifer Laude.
But even if Trish admitted her attraction, Det was apprehensive not only because she’s Trish’s (former) teacher, but also because she was in another relationship then. Det eventually came up with a “three-page PDF file” mapping her “physical, emotional and logical reactions” to Trish’s attraction to her. Det ended her relationship in December 2014; and in January 2015, they became a couple.
Trish’s family already moved to Australia, but she wanted to stay over to “manilbihan sa Pilipinas (serve in the Philippines),” she said. She joined her family in Australia in August 2015, but she returned to the Philippines five months later.
Here, “sa family ni Det, happy (in Det’s family, I’m happy),” Trish said.
Det already met some members of Trish’s family, and “pinaglaban ko talaga. Tinanggap na rin nila (I fought for what we have. They’ve learned to accept it),” said Trish.
A LIFE TOGETHER
Det and Trish are happy they share the same principles for social change. This, according to Trish, is what keeps their relationship intact.
But conflicts arise, also usually on principles, though the differences are seen as chances to “learn to grow together.”
“‘Yun ang pinaka-meaningful. Dahil nago-grow kami together, natututo kami sa isa’t isa (That’s the most meaningful thing. That we grow together, learn from each other),” Det said.
But forming a family isn’t necessarily easy. For instance, in UP where they both work, they are not afforded the same privileges as opposite-sex couples – e.g. “Sa lahat, hindi namin pwedeng gawing beneficiary ang isa’t isa – sa GSIS man o PhilHealth (In everything, we can’t make the other a beneficiary – in GSIS or PhilHealth),” said Trish.
There are positive efforts both highlighted – e.g. the UP Gender Office and the College of Women Studies mainstream LGBT issues as awareness and academic discourses.
Future plans together include making a documentary on LGBT people in indigenous, as well as community organizing.
For now, it’s to savor each other’s company, “motivated by our shared desire to contribute to the movement for social justice and social change,” Det ended.