Sometime around 1995, Atty. Germaine Trittle PeBenito Leonin, the 3rd Congressional Nominee of Ladlad Partylist, got together with her friend, Atty. Angie Umbac, to do a legal research paper on gay marriage, as well as look for a supportive LGBT community. At that time, the LGBT community (as it is known nowadays) was largely inexistent, or at least largely obscure, so that in the latter part of the 1990s, Atty. Germaine got involved with the Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network (LAGABLAB).
Soon after, Atty. Germaine co-founded the original Lesbian Advocates Philippines (LeAP!) in 2000, and the Rainbow Rights (R-Rights) in 2005 with four other lawyers “when we realized we can use law to our advantage, instead of seeing it being used as a tool of oppression against LGBTs,” she said.
Atty. Germaine graduated from the UP Law school. She is also involved with Ladlad Partylist, the only LGBT political party in the Philippines, as the 3rd Congressional Nominee for the 2013 national elections.
“Advocacy must focus on the commonality of values, priorities, and rights LGBTs have with ‘regular’ people – that we’re not asking for special treatment but equality and respect for basic human rights; that we’re aware of our ‘differences’ but ask for tolerance and respect,” Atty. Germaine said. “LGBTs must realize their strength lies in their resilience and in respect for diversity.”
After all these years of working for LGBT rights in the Philippines, Atty. Germaine noted one disappointment in the LGBT community. “Sadly, sometimes we forget (our strength) and allow our own differences to tear us apart,” she said. Nonetheless, “I am very proud of how far we’ve all come, and the courage that everybody shows by being out and speaking bravely on issues. I am awed by the personal sacrifice some of us have made and the vigilance we continue to show.”
Atty. Germaine is “especially proud of my establishment of R-Rights and continuing relevance of the kind of advocacy work we do, the usefulness of the Rainbow Cards, the popularity of our Dyke Dialogues/Rainbow Exchanges, and the effectiveness of our paralegal trainings,” she said. “How many LGBT individuals have become empowered, how many LGBT groups have been strengthened and connected with each other (because of these)?”
When all is said and done, Atty. Germaine wants to just “be acknowledged for the unique contributions of R-Rights to LGBT advocacy by using law and legal mechanisms; want to be remembered for being instrumental in developing new and more LGBT activists, that I was all for grooming LGBT second-liners; as well as for generating more allies and supporters amongst government agencies,” she said. Thus, “we (intend to) continue doing these things which have proven effective, and also branch into more ‘international’ work using United Nations bodies and human rights reporting systems.”
Thus – and thankfully – the local LGBT community can expect to see more of the needed presence of Atty. Germaine.