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‘Deaf Talks’ charts new paths for differently-abled LGBTs

To help Deaf LGBTs help themselves, R-Rights and the CHR held Deaf Talks for members of the Deaf Rainbow Philippines. The gathering was supported by Outrage Magazine.

Hoping to empower the “minorities among the minoritized”, Deaf Talks provided members of the Deaf Rainbow Philippines a chance to learn about human rights, as well as safer sexual health.

Filipinos who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) already face major life challenges because of social discrimination, homophobia or transphobia. For those who are also differently-abled, such as those with blindness, deafness, or speech impairment, the discrimination is more than doubled.

“We should work with them as equal partners in developing society and not treat them as helpless recipients of assistance from others,” said Germaine Trittle Leonin, founding president of R-Rights.

This theme was explored among the community of deaf LGBTs and human rights activists on Saturday in a human rights learning forum dubbed Deaf Talks: A Forum for Deaf LGBTs on Human Rights and HIV, organized by the Rainbow Rights Project (R-Rights) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for the benefit of the Deaf Rainbow Philippines (DRP), an organization of Deaf Filipino LGBTs.  Outrage Magazine supported the event.

“We organized Deaf Talks as our contribution to the Deaf LGBTs so that hopefully they learn about human rights laws and use this knowledge to advance and protect their human rights both as LGBTs and as persons with disabilities. We should work with them as equal partners in developing society and not treat them as helpless recipients of assistance from others,” said Germaine Trittle Leonin, founding president of R-Rights.

Bibo Lee Perey, founder and president of the DRP, shared the stories of living with hearing loss and how this compounds and at the same time challenges individual group members to help each other out overcome multiple layers of discrimination. Speaking in Filipino Sign Language (FSL), he said that the most overwhelming problem is the lack of jobs and employment for Deaf LGBTs, which in turn breeds other complex problems.

“With no job, there is no money. Then it is difficult to find a partner. Even on Facebook, gay men who (belong to the Hearing community) ridicule us because of (our) broken grammar,” Perey explained. FSL actually has its own syntax and grammar, which could appear “erroneous” when compared with English as used by Hearing people.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Executive Director lawyer Jake Mejia welcomed some 30 participants to a whole day capacity building on international human rights mechanisms and services that can strengthen the deaf LGBTs’ ability to defend their own rights. Meanwhile, Dr. Renante Basas, CHR Director for Assistance and Visitorial Office, provided a basic primer on the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its manifestation in Philippine law.

Michael David C. Tan, publishing editor of Outrage Magazine, has been helping the Deaf group since it was founded two years ago. He noted that one of the effects of marginalization is the lack of appropriate information materials among health advocates to train the Deaf LGBTs to practice preventive measures against HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

“Whenever programs are developed for LGBTs, we assume that it reaches all the members of the community. This isn’t so – and this is even more untrue when we include the Deaf LGBTs in the picture,” Tan said. “We should not forget that there are members of the LGBT community who are even more disadvantaged than the others, and we should help them as much as we can.”

Deaf Talks is the third event launched by R-Rights for the project called Outgames Philippines 2012: Leveling the Playing Field, a sports and human rights festival that highlights the aspirations of the neglected LGBT sectors, considered the “marginalized within the marginalized.” The other two events are a sports tournament among low income transgenders in Caloocan City, and a scuba training for gays and lesbians in Batangas.

According to R-Rights program manager Oscar Atadero, the Outgames sports and human rights activities aim to provide some safe space for disadvantaged sectors of the LGBT community. The activities use fun and sports to show the participants ways to access services and justice mechanisms that are out of their reach.

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The 2nd Asia Pacific Outgames were held Wellington, New Zealand in March 2011 and featured sports events, a human rights conference and cultural events for LGBT leaders from all over Asia, the Pacific and Australia. The Outgames created a fund to help LGBT organizations in the region such as R-Rights to create local Outgames events to promote their human rights advocacies.

The Outgames was launched in Montreal, Canada in 2007, inspiring regional sports and political conferences for LGBTs in many cities of the world.

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