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The train to Stockholm was full of people and rainbows. It was my first time to Scandinavia’s largest LGBTQIA+ pride parade and lucky me, it was also EuroPride.

I marched at my first LGBTQIA+ pride event in Metro Manila seven years ago. As a gay man, it was a liberating, happy, and proud moment. Every pride event always has its share of impressive moments.

Here are four that I had at #EuroPride2018 in Stockholm.

1. Sweden may be the world’s most LGBTQIA+ friendly place

We were changing trains to get to the Stockholm Stadshus (city hall). Two people in elaborate Filipinianas passed by.

They were Eric from Bulacan and Dianne from Mindanao. They both are now living in Sweden for more than two and five years, respectively.

Sa mga taga-Mindanao, diri sa Sweden dawat ang mga bayot. Dawat ang tanan. Pare-pareha lang ang tanan, babaye, lalaki, bayot, tomboy. Tanan, Bongga (To people in Mindanao, here in Sweden gays are accepted. Everyone is accepted. Women, men, gays and lesbians are the same. Everything is fabulous)!” said Dianne to my camera.

It was surreal to realize the contrast of Mindanaons like Dianne and me living in LGBTQIA+ friendly Sweden. “Pagdawat” (Acceptance) was always something we always wondered if “matinuod ba gayud” (could it be real)?

In 2019, Sweden will celebrate 75 years of the decriminalization of homosexuality (since 1944) and 10 years of marriage equality. Sa Pinas, siguro puhon (Maybe eventually in the Philippines).

Eric also shared a message, “Today is Europride where all LGBT families gathered to celebrate this gift from above. To all the gays and members of our society back in our country, we are getting there and we are doing this for you.”

If Sweden is the benchmark, I am not sure how far “there” is.

See this chronological list of LGBT rights progress in Sweden:

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1944 Homosexual relations are legalized

1972 Sweden becomes the first country in the world to legally allow gender change

1979 The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) decides homosexuality is no longer a mental disorder

1987 Ban on discrimination against homosexuals by businesses and government officials takes effect

1988 Homosexuals included in the cohabitation law

1995 The Registered Partnership Act (domestic partnership law) passed

1999 HomO, an ombudsman for LGBT persons, is established (later brought in under DO)

2003 Constitutional change to outlaw hate speech based on sexual orientation

2003 Adoption rights for same-sex couples

2005 Insemination rights for lesbian couples

2009 Transgender identity and expressions included in anti-discrimination act

2009 Gender-neutral marriage law in effect

2011 Prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation is added to the Swedish constitution

2013 Mandatory sterilization stricken from law regarding change of legal gender

In the Philippines as of 2018, legislative advocacy of anti-discrimination bills based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) has reached its 18th year.

18 years in the Philippines.

74 years in Sweden.

Do you think this is how far we are from making significant progress in the legal front?

Tan’awon ta. (Let us see).

 

2. LGBTQI+ Pride is still very relevant for Europe

It did make me wonder though. With all these amazing progresses for LGBTQIA+ people in this part of the world, is there need for Pride?

Apparently yes.

Sweden is among the 29 of the 50 countries and 8 of the 9 dependent territories in Europe who recognize some type of same-sex unions. Also, among them most members of the European Union (23/28).

EuroPride, inaugurated in London in 1992, is one of the events that serve as a reminder of the more work that needs to be done. It is attended by estimated crowds of over 100,000 and is hosted by a different European city each year.

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Here are some facts that show that not all of Europe is LGBTQIA+ friendly.

Constitutions of Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine recognizes marriage only as a union of one man and one woman.

In the Balkans (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia) 88% think LGBTI marriages unacceptable according to a 2015 NDI public opinion poll.

8 Ways to know we’ve sold ‘Pride’

3. LGBTQI+ Pride events are getting bigger

EuroPride Parade Stockholm is the largest pride event I have been to so far. News releases say that it broke all records with an estimated amount of 55,000–60,000 participants along the road.

For some time, I marched with Eric, Dianne, and other queer Pinoys. I saw their Filipinianas were big hits. The roads of Stockholm were their runways and their screaming fans were endless.

In those heels, I just wondered how their calves and feet were after. The march was officially declared three hours and 15 minutes long from start to finish! #Kebs #TiisGanda

Metro Manila Pride 2018, which I missed this year, also broke records. 25,000 people in attendance easily topped last year’s 8,000 participants in Marikina City for two years now.

4. Pride is solidarity in opposing any forms of discrimination

Pride may it be in Stockholm or Metro Manila means different things to different people. Some expressions I prefer and some I don’t.

I see through a lens that we live in a system that breeds inequality and commodification. Competition has been a defining relationship of our individual and community relations.

I am not happy to see the irony of Pride whose rallying cry is for “equality.” It shows when priority is given to the celebration/partying, access, and mileage of LGBTQIA+ people who paid more money, are more famous, more connected, or able-bodied. In effect, giving token or sometimes hindering participation to those who don’t fit that criteria.

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Pride can always be reclaimed as the protest to this unequal and commodified system.

I am happy in Pride as a chance not only for people to show who they truly are but also to deepen understanding on people’s equal value and rights. I celebrate Pride as opportunity to show solidarity in actively opposing any forms of discrimination based on socio-economic status, race, health status, etc.

In #EuroPride2018, LGBTQI+ people who were refugees, asylum seekers, and differently-abled were present . The contingent of Marching for those who can’t include a flag that showed countries where there is still not enough legal protection for LGBTQI+ people. Labor unions, churches, government agencies, academe, and political parties also marched in unity.

In time for #MMPride2018, Metro Manila Pride and Bahaghari Metro Manila joined the call to #BoycottNutriAsia and to #SupportNutriAsiaWorkers. They echoed calls for job regularization, decent wages, and safe working conditions.

“Standing in solidarity with other marginalized sectors is important. Not just because LGBTQIA+ people are part of these sectors too. But because, as human rights activists, we must not stay quiet or stand idly by as oppression happens,” said Metro Manila Pride in a statement.

Bahaghari Metro Manila marched with a multi-sectoral (youth, church, workers, academe, indigenous peoples) contingent at #MMPride2018. Together they emphasized that “the fight of LGBT people is the fight for people’s rights; and the fight for people’s rights is also the fight of LGBT people.”

As I said goodbye to Eric and friends at EuroPride, he said, “This is actually my third pride and the feeling is still the same. I feel so proud and so happy.”

Indeed, Pride can still be a liberating, happy, and proud moment.

A registered nurse, John Ryan (or call him "Rye") Mendoza hails from Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao (where, no, it isn't always as "bloody", as the mainstream media claims it to be, he noted). He first moved to Metro Manila in 2010 (supposedly just to finish a health social science degree), but fell in love not necessarily with the (err, smoggy) place, but it's hustle and bustle. He now divides his time in Mindanao (where he still serves under-represented Indigenous Peoples), and elsewhere (Metro Manila included) to help push for equal rights for LGBT Filipinos. And, yes, he parties, too (see, activists need not be boring! - Ed).

Health & Wellness

Sexual minority women less likely to receive appropriate sexual, reproductive health support

A research emphasizes the importance of considering both sexual orientation and recent sexual behaviors when addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of sexual minority women.

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Lesbian women were less likely to report receiving a birth control prescription or birth control counseling compared with heterosexual women. This is according to a new study that used data from the National Survey of Family Growth 2006-2015 in the US, and which highlighted sexual and reproductive health care disparities among women.

In “Do Sexual Minorities Receive Appropriate Sexual and Reproductive Health Care and Counseling?”, Bethany Everett, PhD, University of Utah (Salt Lake City) and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin (Madison) and the University of Chicago (IL) investigated sexual orientation disparities in the use of sexual and reproductive health services and receipt of contraceptive counseling in clinical settings in the past 12 months.

The researchers also explored whether having male sex partners influenced sexual minority women’s use of sexual and reproductive health services and the types of sexual health information that they received.

The findings – published in Journal of Women’s Health, a peer-reviewed publication from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. –  noted that in a clinical setting, lesbian women were less likely to report receiving birth control counseling at a pregnancy test, and lesbian women without recent male sex partners were less likely to report receiving counseling about condom use at an STI-related visit compared with heterosexual women.

However, they were more likely to report having received sexually transmitted infection (STI) counseling, testing, or treatment, after adjusting for sexual partners in the past 12 months.

“This new research emphasizes the importance of considering both sexual orientation and recent sexual behaviors when addressing the sexual and reproductive health needs of sexual minority women,” said Susan G. Kornstein, MD, editor in chief of Journal of Women’s Health and executive director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Women’s Health, Richmond, VA. “Using inclusive sexual and reproductive health counseling scripts may facilitate the delivery of appropriate sexual health-related information.”

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Many single men may not have developed necessary social skills to find a partner

Today, men must be able to turn on the charm if they want to find a partner. And many men who have difficulty flirting, or are unable to impress others may remain single because their social skills have not evolved to meet today’s societal demands.

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Photo by Alejandro Escamilla from Unsplash.com

You’re single because – yes – you may not have the looks and/or confidence; but also because you may also lack the necessarily skills to find a partner.

This is the gist of the study – entitled “Why men stay single? Evidence from Reddit” that appeared in Evolutionary Psychological Science – done by Menelaos Apostolou of the University of Nicosia in Cyprus.

Apostolou quipped that those from the past may have had things somewhat easier – i.e. forced or arranged marriages meant that socially inept, unattractive men did not have to acquire social skills in order to find a long-term love interest. But today, men must be able to turn on the charm if they want to find a partner. And many men who have difficulty flirting, or are unable to impress others may remain single because their social skills have not evolved to meet today’s societal demands.

For this study, Apostolou analyzed over 6,794 (out of13,429) comments left by men on the popular social news and media aggregation internet site Reddit, where he posted (anonymously) this question: “Guys, why are you single?”

Apostolou’s findings sadly indicate that most of the men commenting on the thread were not willingly single but wanted to be in a relationship.

Apostolou established at least 43 reasons why these men thought they were single. These reasons included:

  • Having poor looks and being short or bald (the most frequent reasons put forward)
  • Lacking confidence
  • Not making the effort
  • Simply not interested in long-term relationships
  • Lacking flirting skills and being too shy
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Still others said that they had been so badly burnt in previous relationships that they did not dare to get into another; while others felt that they were too picky, did not have the opportunity to meet available women or had different priorities. Still some of the men experienced mental health issues, sexual problems, or struggled with illness, disability or addiction.

Apostolou cited the so-called mismatch argument, where the existing social skills do not align with the qualities needed today to make a good impression. “Single modern men often lack flirting skills because in an ancestral pre-industrial context, the selection pressures on mechanisms which regulated mating effort and choosiness were weak,” Apostolou was quoted as saying. “Such skills are needed today, because in post-industrial societies mate choice is not regulated or forced, but people have to instead find mates on their own.”

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

Moments when hashtag activism really worked

Every now and then, a new cause encourages users to send in a flurry of social media posts, all backed by a common tag used to grab the users’ attention to the issue. While some campaigns have backfired, some have really, really worked creating defining moments.

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It’s been more than 10 years to the use of this so small and unprepossessing symbol – #. Little did its users know that it would contribute to changing the world. It’s emerged as the prelude to every important online conversation.

While some campaigns have backfired, some have really, really worked creating defining moments.
Image by irfanahmad from Pixabay.com

The phenomenon of using this symbol is popularly referred to as hashtag activism. Every now and then, a new cause encourages users to send in a flurry of social media posts, all backed by a common tag used to grab the users’ attention to the issue. While some campaigns have backfired, some have really, really worked creating defining moments. Let’s take a look at some of them:

1. #DressLikeAWoman

When President Trump was alleged for asking his staff to dress like women, the internet was flooded with suggestions and opinions. Gendered clothing is available everywhere but unlike hashtags, their purpose is to only divide. Some women voiced their preference to dress their best for work while some pointed out how black is the new black. The campaign received extensive female support for obvious reasons.

2. #StopFundingHate

This UK-based campaign aimed at taking action against the anti-migrant position of several British newspapers. It started somewhere around 2016 and has repeatedly gone viral several times. It has also made some great victories in the process. For instance, Lego ended its agreement with The Daily Mail and now does not offer any promotional giveaways with the newspaper.

Every now and then, a new cause encourages users to send in a flurry of social media posts, all backed by a common tag used to grab the users’ attention to the issue.
Photo by KoalaParkLaundromat from Pixabay.com

3. #YouAintNoMuslimBruv

The British respond to tragedy with both class and honesty. In fact, the Londoners like hashtag activism because it always keeps to the left. The #YouAintNoMuslimBruv campaign was the reaction to an incident that took place a few weeks before Christmas 2015. A man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia cut the throat of a passenger at a London tube station. The judge denounced the act to be motivated by Islamic extremism and sentenced him to life imprisonment at a high-security psychiatric institution.

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However, before the papers went all gaga over Islamophobia, a young man gave the perfect reply to this religious criticism since the culprit was arrested by a Muslim policeman.

4. #HeForShe

Gender equality has been talked about for generations. It affects everyone. The HeForShe campaign is just about that. The UN Women Campaign, supported by Emma Watson and Justin Trudeau, encouraged men and boys to support the women in their lives and actively involve themselves in the struggle that had previously been regarded as a ‘woman’s thing.’

Several countries participated in the campaign with their pledges and commitments to support the cause. Some of the leading countries worth mentioning are Rwanda, the UK, the US, Mexico, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The hashtag has emerged as a prelude to every important online conversation.
Photo by Lum3n.com from Pexels.com

5. #WomensMarch

The Women’s March in 2017 was a powerful campaign as women across the world united to fight for their status-quo and optimistically change the future. It focused on demanding an equal footing in society. The uniting power of the hashtag proved that women are not alone and can create a euphoric moment that will change history.

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Travel

China’s ban on online LGBTI content deemed lawful

A court in Beijing, China ruled on October 23 that the country’s ban on online LGBTI content was lawful.

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Backward step in China.

A court in Beijing, China ruled on October 23 that the country’s ban on online LGBTI content was lawful. This was first reported by GayStarNews.com.

In January, Fan Chunlin challenged China Netcasting Service Association’s (CNSA) June 2017 decision to label homosexuality “abnormal sexual behavior” and ban it from China’s internet. Fan filed a case with the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court.

But in the last week of October, the court ruled against the 30-year-old Fan from Shanghai.
Banning LGBT-related content has been making news in China.

In July 2017, China also banned gay content from the internet, with the regulator calling it “abnormal”. As published by the China Netcasting Services Association, the regulation censors online content ranging from movies and documentaries to cartoons and educational videos. The new rules “will edit or ban content if it displays ‘abnormal sexual behaviors’.”

Along with LGBT content, also to be removed are those that promote ‘luxurious lifestyles’, show ‘violent and criminal processes in details’, or demonstrate ‘obscenity’ including masturbation.

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Health & Wellness

Trauma increases heart disease risk in lesbians, bi women

Women were 30% more likely to suffer from anxiety if they experienced any forms of adulthood trauma and 41% more likely to be depressed if they faced childhood trauma.

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Trauma, including abuse and neglect, is associated with higher cardiovascular disease risk for lesbian and bi women.

This is according to preliminary research presented in Chicago in the US, at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2018, a global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians. The research – led by researchers from the Columbia University – showed that sexual minority women with increased severity of childhood, adulthood or lifetime trauma had higher risk for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a perception of less social support.

For this, the researchers studied 547 sexual minority women. They measured three forms of childhood trauma: physical abuse, sexual abuse and parental neglect; three forms of adult trauma: physical abuse, sexual abuse and intimate partner violence; and lifetime trauma, which was the sum of childhood and adulthood trauma. They analyzed how increasing trauma severity was associated with higher report of several cardiovascular risk factors.

They found that women were 30% more likely to suffer from anxiety if they experienced any forms of adulthood trauma and 41% more likely to be depressed if they faced childhood trauma.

Other findings included:

  • 22% more likely to be depressed if they had experienced more forms of lifetime trauma.
  • 44% more likely to report overeating in the past three months if they experienced increased forms of childhood trauma.
  • 58% more likely to have diabetes if they experienced increasing severity of childhood trauma, and lifetime trauma notably increased their risks of obesity and high blood pressure.
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These findings suggest healthcare providers should screen for trauma as a cardiovascular disease risk factor in this population, according to the researchers.

The results were presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Chicago.

The research was recognized as the “Cardiovascular Stroke Nursing Best Abstract Award.”

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Travel

Tanzania’s anti-gay initiatives worsening HIV situation

Key populations are particularly at risk of HIV infection. While national prevalence among adults in Tanzania is 4.5%, 17.6% of the country’s men who have sex with men are living with HIV.

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Photo by jambogyuri from Pixabay.com

Identified as a major barrier to ending AIDS, homophobia, the irrational hatred, intolerance, and fear of LGBT people, is worsening the HIV situation in Tanzania.

On 31 October 2018, the Regional Commissioner for the capital city, Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda, announced the creation of a task force to identify and arrest people suspected of being gay and he appealed to the public to identify and report them. This follows a broader pattern of arrests and state-sponsored harassment of LGBT Tanzanians that includes the forced closure of HIV clinics accused of promoting homosexuality. In the wake of this announcement, 10 people were unjustly arrested in Zanzibar on spurious charges.

These actions are contrary to Tanzania’s stated commitment to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. In its National Guideline for Comprehensive Package of HIV Interventions for Key Populations from 2014, the government declares: “To ensure an effective and sustainable response to HIV there is a need to reach out to KPs (key populations) with a comprehensive package of prevention, treatment, care, support interventions and other public health services.” It goes on to acknowledge: “Public discussion of MSM elicits strong reactions of fear, hatred and disgust. MSM and transgender people have remained largely invisible to many of the ongoing interventions for HIV prevention, treatment and care.”

Key populations are particularly at risk of HIV infection. While national prevalence among adults in Tanzania is 4.5%, 17.6% of the country’s men who have sex with men are living with HIV.

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On behalf of the International AIDS Society (IAS), the IAS Governing Council Africa Regional Representatives expressed “grave concern regarding the reported anti-gay initiative underway in Tanzania.”

The IAS Governing Council Africa Regional Representatives added: “Institutionalized discrimination, such as the public scapegoating now occurring in Tanzania, drives many people away from the services that can save their lives. The climate of fear created by such stigmatizing official actions undermines the ability of HIV programs to reach those in greatest need. Barring vulnerable communities from specialized services that play a critical role in linking them to essential HIV services leaves them with few options for accessing lifesaving and medications and information.”

Tanzania is said to have made some important gains in its response to HIV, with new infections dropping by 22% from 2010 to 2016 and AIDS-related deaths dropping by 54%. Indeed, its national guidelines – based on the principle that “services and programs implemented are non-stigmatizing, non-discriminatory, accessible, acceptable, affordable and equitable for all” and that “the legal, policy, and social environment [should] allow access by KP to available health services” – exemplify this capacity. The epidemic among key populations including gay men and other men who have sex with men, however, continues unabated.

“Now is the time for Tanzania’s government to take seriously its human rights-related responsibilities as stewards of the public health. As colleagues in the global HIV response, we call on Tanzania to end this initiative that threatens to hobble the national HIV response at a moment of such promise. We plead that our colleagues in Tanzania heed their own government’s advice – stated so clearly in its national guidelines – and commit to providing equitable, unobstructed access to high-quality, non-stigmatizing prevention, treatment and care services to all communities, including gay and other men who have sex with men,” IAS Governing Council Africa Regional Representatives ended.

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