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.”
Ash Padillo, 39, is a “late bloomer”, so to speak – i.e. she may have had an inkling that she’s also (possibly) attracted to women, but she only really fully accepted this when she was already 30. That was, basically, when she started looking for people like herself through groups formed from social media (e.g. Facebook), and – from there, when she found a transgender male partner, and when they eventually both formed their own community-based organization, the United Lesbians of Davao.
The interesting thing is, in hindsight, Ash said she may self-identify as bisexual. But “this is just a term,” she said. This is because, now that she thinks about it, she’s not really attracted to women per se. Instead, she’s attracted to transgender men. This, then, makes her a straight woman.
But she still feels like she belongs to the LGBTQIA community, not only because of her self-identification, though also because – by loving a member of the LGBTQIA community – she then has to deal with all the socially created ideas about this relationship (e.g. for some, a transgender man is a “biological female”, so that they may be erroneously seen as “butch women”, also erroneously labeling their lovers as “women who have sex with women”/lesbians/etc.).
The difficulty, said Ash, is due to many people still not familiar with SOGIESC concepts, so that traversing gender and/or sexuality continues to be challenging.
“Why can’t you accept us? Is there anything that’s wrong with us? I don’t think anything’s wrong with us. It’s just that your way of seeing is limited, believing only two kinds of people exist in the world. But if you think about it, different people have different heights, have different body shapes. There are sexy people, fat people, and very skinny people. This is similar to people’s gender identities; they vary. You can’t dictate people’s feelings. You can control. But you can’t tell people to do what they don’t like,” Ash said.
LOVE FROM FAMILY
As the eldest of two kids, Ash wasn’t immediately accepted by her family. “My brother is cool with my identity; we live in modern times. But it was very difficult for my parents to accept it,” Ash said.
Her father was like a pastor, while her mother was the president of the local chapter of Gagmay’ng Kristohanong Katilingban (GKK), ecclesial communities at the grassroots level.
“I was asked, ‘What are you doing with your life?’,” Ash said.
Ash stayed away from her family for a year.
“Terribly missing them. Crying on Christmas. Crying on New Year,” Ash recalled.
It was, in fact, her partner who helped fix her relationship with her family.
“My partner forced me to face my fears. Face facts. Face the truth. If we are accepted, good. If not, good,” Ash said. And “now I’m one of the lucky LGBTQIA people loved by their family. I know it was very difficult for them. But they accepted it. They may have said, ‘That’s already there. Let’s just accept it’.”
FINDING A COMMUNITY
Growing up in Digos City, Ash said things weren’t always easy. “In my time, I saw a lot of trans men and women, and we were not allowed to say: ‘I prefer wearing a skirt.’ ‘I prefer wearing pants.’ You had to follow the dress code.”
But the community isn’t the only source of the LGBTQIA community’s problems.
“Within the LGBTQIA community, there’s partiality,” Ash also said, adding as an example how “bisexual women are not fully acknowledged.”
Based on her experience, for instance, she – along with other bisexual-identifying women – were discriminated, even shunned in LGBTQIA-related events. She said there is this seeming assumption that “it’s just for lesbians and gays”, so that other members of the rainbow community are ostracized.
“A lot of people still do not understand that SOGIESC is for everyone. For them, when you say SOGIESC, that’s just for gays and lesbians. We need to teach SOGIESC not just to LGBTQIA people but to everybody. This way when people are asked about their SOGIESC, they know the answer.”
For Ash, “I believe it is important to have local organizations specifically for LGBTQIAs. Not all LGBTQIA people are as gutsy as us. Not all LGBTQIA people are confident, or brave to come out. There are many LGBTQIA people who are really afraid, and their only safe haven is an LGBTQIA organization. The organizations serve as shields. Not only as safe haven to be who they are, but be their voice in what they want to express.”
She added: “So the LGBTQIA community in any local area has an important purpose. This is what organizations should also remember. Don’t create one just for the sake of creating one. They should always understand that people join organizations not just for them to make friends, or to find a love life, but for the organization to be their voice to represent their rights.”
LESSONS TO LEARN
“I think the first thing we need to address is the internal conflicts within the LGBTQIA community,” Ash said. “My point is: LGBTQIA people should not discriminate each other. Before we can ask others to accept us, LGBTQIA people should first be unified and understanding of one another.”
As advise to younger bisexual people, or those still afraid to admit that they are, Ash said: “First of all, research about SOGIESC so you’d know who you are and what you are. It’s also not about what you are, but about what you do in the community. So be a good child, a good student, a good member of the community. Try to help as much as you can. The acceptance and the love will come after. But first of all, love yourself.”
Ash is of course aware that not all families fully accept LGBTQIA members.
“To families who can’t accept, or have yet to accept LGBTQIA members, consider this: How will others accept them if you can’t? So it is important for families to accept them as they are. Guide them to be good people. Often, your discrimination is what ruins the lives of LGBTQIA people. When parents don’t accept them, they may develop inferiority complex. They stop believing themselves. They stop loving themselves. Even when they love, they give everything, leaving nothing for themselves. So I just have one wish: For you not to discourage your children to explore who they are. But guide them, please; don’t neglect them. We never wanted to be born. So accept your child, whatever your child may be. And guide them in their lives.”