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Finding pride as a gay lawyer in the province of Capiz

Felizardo Tapleras Demayuga, Jr. – a #gay lawyer in the Province of Capiz – believes #LGBTQIA #discrimination will continue existing. But to deal with hate thrown to the rainbow community, he believes many internal issues should first be addressed.

This is part of #KaraniwangLGBTQIA, which Outrage Magazine officially launched on July 26, 2015 to offer vignettes of LGBT people/living, particularly in the Philippines, to give so-called “everyday people” – in this case, the common LGBTQIA people – that chance to share their stories.
As Outrage Magazine editor Michael David C. Tan says: “All our stories are valid – not just the stories of the ‘big shots’. And it’s high time we start telling all our stories.”

Felizardo Tapleras Demayuga, Jr., 29, knew he’s gay at 21; somewhat of a late bloomer. “After my girlfriend and I broke up, a guy from Macau started chatting with me (online). He filled the void that was lacking in me.”

But even then, Felizardo’s friends already knew he’s gay, and so the coming out happened to his family, something he said is “very important”. It took him a year to come out to his father in particular; and “at first it was very difficult for him to accept it. But eventually he embraced it. And this is the thing he wanted me to remember, as long as I do not ruin the family reputation.”

His Mom, on the other hand, is very supportive. “She says that as long as I am happy, then that’s okay.”

There are three of them kids in the family; Felizardo has an elder heterosexual brother, and an elder lesbian sister. “My sister was always supportive. I don’t know; probably because we share the same feelings. My brother, on the other hand, until now still struggles to accept me. (This surfaces) every time he’s drunk. I think that’s a normal thing for men to have that idea that gays are unacceptable. But I think that since he’s my brother, and I am still his brother, he has no choice but to accept the fact that I am not straight, that I am gay.”

DEALING WITH HATE

“Perhaps when I was younger I encountered bullying,” Felizardo said. “Because unlike others who acted straight, my actions were a bit soft. And in the way I talk, especially in the native language.”

However, when it comes to the respect of the community, “I think because of my educational achievements and what I contributed to the community, they have learned to love me and respect me for who I am.”

Felizardo added: “I think what made them respect me a lot is the fact that I respect them as well. I always believed that respect begets respect. And how you treat people will also be the way they will treat you.”

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Felizardo knows that discrimination will always be there regardless of whether one’s a professional or not. Or regardless of one’s economic background. “I think discrimination will always be there as long as people are not informed, as long as people are not educated,” he said. “Regardless of whatever fight we do for the acceptance of LGBTQIA people, there would still be individuals who probably have not accepted the reality that it’s the 21st Century already.”

Suffice to say that even now that he’s a lawyer, “yes, I still – at times – am bullied; most especially if they don’t know me.”

Sans an anti-discrimination law for the land, “I am very happy that R.A. 11313, or the Safe Spaces Act, is already enacted into law,” Felizardo said. “It has really helped the LGBTQIA community to be accepted by the community by not judging them, by not being sexist, by not being homophobic, by not being misogynistic. Because in R.A. 11313, if you catcall an individual, or if that person you constantly call ‘Faggot!’ or ‘Dyke!’ got hurt emotionally, then he or she could file charges against the perpetrator.”

“I think what made them respect me a lot is the fact that I respect them as well. I always believed that respect begets respect. And how you treat people will also be the way they will treat you.”

FINDING HIMSELF

“Believe me or not, I have been in three straight relationships,” Felizardo said. The last of the three was, of course, the one preceding that finding of himself when another guy gave him comfort. “I was very sure of myself then. That I’m just soft. However, the feeling transitioned after the (third) breakup. Probably it was also an eye-opener for me. That I should not prevent myself from being who I am.”

Looking back, “I think I felt a lot of fear when I came out,” Felizardo said. “Well, that was the big difference that happened to me. After coming out, I felt more alive; I felt more free.”

Felizardo admitted that there was a time when he felt pressure from his Dad. “There was one time when my father told me he wanted a grandchild coming from me. This was even though he already knew that I’m gay. I told him, ‘Okay, I’ll think about it. I’ll go to church thrice.’ I said, I’ll have drinks while pondering this; I’ll go to the beach. But it’s not meant to be. I think the calling of having a kid with a female did not occur to me anymore. Probably before, when I had my last relationship with my high school classmate. Perhaps then I could see myself (father a child); I’d have been more pressured. That’s it; the one thing that pressured me. But I told my father, ‘Pa, I prayed it over. But God didn’t respond.’”

Looking back, “I think I felt a lot of fear when I came out,” Felizardo said. “Well, that was the big difference that happened to me. After coming out, I felt more alive; I felt more free.”

LEGAL & PINK

At the moment, Felizardo is a private law practitioner and a professor; on the side, he does professional hosting. 

He finished law school in 2016; took the bar in the same year; and became a full-fledged lawyer in 2017.

“I think being a member of the LGBTQIA community in the legal profession doesn’t matter,” he said, “As long as you adhere to the rules and regulations of the Supreme Court. And (existing) mandates as well; the governing rules and regulations.”

For Felizardo, “Maybe if there’s an advantage to being a gay lawyer, it’s being more

Compassionate, being more understanding to both sexes, or to all genders. Being a member of the LGBTQIA community gave me the advantage of being more understanding to people. And not to be too judgmental; to know their story first before giving them an opinion or an advice.”

FINDING LOVE

At the moment, Felizardo is single. “I am looking for one, but I don’t have a partner now,” he smiled.

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In his experience, looking for a relationship is not difficult; love will always be there. 

But “looking for the right one… is very difficult. Finding the one who will accept you; the one who will stay. And the one who will return the favor, return the love that you’d show him. I think that’s what’s really hard,” he said.

“I think being a member of the LGBTQIA community in the legal profession doesn’t matter,” he said, “As long as you adhere to the rules and regulations of the Supreme Court. And (existing) mandates as well; the governing rules and regulations.”

RAINBOW COMMUNITY

For Felizardo, having LGBTQIA organizations in various places is important. “Because – the same as with straight people – LGBTQIA people also face challenges. And we all know how difficult it is to face challenges alone.”

Locally, their organization is called the Kataw LGBTQ+ Youth Organization, which helps dictate the direction of the province’s youth-specific government-rendered services.

And this, said Felizardo, is relevant, considering the many issues the LGBTQIA community still faces.

At least some of the more defined issues affecting the LGBTQIA community are actually internal – e.g. “I think what needs to be focused on is how LGBTQIA community members treat each other. Even in our Facebook group chat, it’s very sad to know and to hear that there are LGBTQIA members who scam others. They are also the very people tricking their fellow LGBTQIA people.”

Aside from this, “I think issues within the community itself that need to be resolved include infidelity, and jealousy.”

For Felizardo, “I think in general that’s it. Because outside of the LGBTQIA community, when talking of issues like discrimination and the like, it’s already the 21st Century, and people have already accepted the LGBTQIA community. Although there are few who still don’t accept us, majority of the people learned to love us and accept us.”

For Felizardo, having LGBTQIA organizations in various places is important. “Because – the same as with straight people – LGBTQIA people also face challenges. And we all know how difficult it is to face challenges alone.”

WORDS TO LIVE BY

“I think my message for the younger LGBTQIA people is to not be afraid of showing the entire world, or the universe, who you really are,” Felizardo said. “Learn to love yourself, embrace yourself in such a way that the people around you – your community, or the world – will embrace you back.”

He knows that it may not always be easy particularly for those who are still in the closet. “But I’m pretty sure someday somehow you’ll get there. And believe me, the feeling will be very, very different if you come out instead of hiding in your shell.”

To the families who still do not accept a family member who is part of the LGBTQIA community, “be in their shoes. Then you’d know and understand how it feels not to be accepted. It’s very difficult to be judged by people. But it’s harder to be judged by your family.”

And for Felizardo: “If you truly love your family members, you would accept them regardless of who they are and what they are. We only live once. Why spread hate? Why spread discrimination? Spread love and positivity.”

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