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Gerson Estrada Perales: Happiness as a part of the community

Gerson Estrada Perales, a volunteer for Cebu City-based LGBT organization Bisdak Pride Inc., finds happiness in being part of the community he serves. If there’s one thing he can tell LGBT people, it’s for them to be real. “Just be yourself,” Perales says. “Be proud. Ikaw man na (That’s who you are).”

In 2013, Cebuano Marc Jay Estrada started getting involved in the LGBT advocacy after noticing people discriminating against non-cisgender people. On a personal level, he said that “they couldn’t discriminate against me solely based on how I appeared/looked; but I had friends who experienced discrimination because they didn’t conform to society’s concept of ‘normal.”

He first joined a clan – that is, an informal gathering of men who have sex with men whose primary mode of staying in touch is via the use of technology (e.g. mobile phones and the Internet). That clan volunteered its services to Bisdak Pride Inc., a Cebu City-based LGBT organization, “and that was when I was introduced to Bisdak Pride, eventually becoming a volunteer (for it).”

With Bisdak Pride, Perales was able to help reach LGBT people in far-flung areas – for instance, after the typhoon Yolanda hit the country, he was sent to Hinabuyan, Leyte for relief operations. The move was of particular importance for Bisdak Pride because of the seeming lack of attention given to the fact that LGBT people were also affected by the devastating natural calamity.

Luoy uy (They were pitiful),” he said, noting how “wala nay tanom nga nag-barog; mahal kaayo pamiliti; walay pagkaon (no trees were standing; the prices of goods were high; there weren’t food).”

As a volunteer for Bisdak Pride, Perales’s link with the LGBT organization was – however – cut when he started working for a pharmaceutical company. He stayed there for a year, all the time “missing Bisdak Pride and what it did for the community.”

Not surprisingly, he ended up going back to LGBT advocacy – particularly, he returned to Bisdak Pride. Nowadays, Perales is involved in Bisdak Pride’s theatrical production of a play that touches on human rights, HIV and SOGIE.

Going back to the community, “I became happier then,” Perales said.

Perales is, by the way, open about his SOGI. As a bisexual man, “lisod siya at first; si papa dili mu-dawat. ‘Bayot ka, dili ko mudawat nimo, kaulaw ra ka’, sulti niya (it was difficult at first; my father didn’t accept me. ‘You’re a faggot, I can’t accept you, you’re an embarassment’, he said).” Fortunately, his mother and the other relatives were more accepting. His mom even said: “Okay ra ingun-ana ka, basta dili lang mag-inamaw (It’s okay to be gay; just don’t be foolish/an embarrassment).”

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Perales already had boyfriends and girlfriends – they all knew he’s bisexual. None of them ever complained. “Usually, sila naguyab (they wooed me),” Estrada laughed.

Perales intends to continue serving the community – “It makes me happy,” he said. But at the same time, he has “personal” plans, e.g. finish his schooling.

If there’s one thing he can tell LGBT people, it’s for them to be real. “Just be yourself,” Perales said. “Be proud. Ikaw man na (That’s who you are).”

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