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Heart to Heart

From ordinary life to instant celebrity status, Heart Diño, the newly elected USC Chair of UP Diliman opens up about life and her plans in this heart-to-heart, no holds barred, exclusive Outrage Magazine interview by Mae Emmanuel Hernandez.

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By Mae Emmanuel Hernandez

Sass Rogando Sasot, Rica Paras and Raquela Rios – these are just few of the names of those who made history when it comes to transgender activism in the Philippines. But more recently, we saw, heard and read on the news a new addition to this coveted list. Her name is Heart Diño, the first transgender chairperson-elect of the student council of University of the Philippines Diliman.

It seems she was destined to achieve greatness at a very young age. At 22, Heart graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, Magna Cum Laude. She is an incumbent USC councilor and the head of its Gender Committee, the head of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) Gender Committee, and is also a council member of the youth and student sector of the National Anti-Poverty Commission. She is now on her first year taking up Masters of Science in Applied Mathematics.

THE BARBIE YEARS

But all of these achievements did not come overnight. Born Gabriel Paolo, growing up while getting to know herself was a struggle. She always knew she was a girl but it confused her why everybody around her was reacting negatively to it.

Bata pa ako, mga five, pinapalo na ako ng Dad ko kapag nahuhuli niya ako nagme-makeup. So medyo confused ako kasi ito yung gusto mo pero mali (daw). Nakaka-confuse yung kung paano ka aarte, kung ano yung nararamdaman mo. So ever since na bata ka, medyo constrained ka talaga. You are working on your limitations in such a way na kailangan mong i-please yung parents mo at yung grandparents mo. Noong nalaman ko na ganito talaga ako, dati ‘bakla’ pa yung term natin, di ko pa alam yung transgender. Kailangan ko siyang itago kasi baka ma-disappoint grandparents ko sa akin, baka ma-disappoint yung Mom ko and yung Dad ko. I had to really act doon sa ine-expect nila sa akin (When I was younger, around five, my dad hit me every time he caught me wearing makeup. I was really confused because this was what I wanted but I was told it’s wrong. It’s confusing how are you going to act, what you’re supposed to feel. Ever since you’re a kid, you’re definitely constrained. You are… limited since you need to please your parents and grandparents. When I found out that I’m really like this, the term we use was still ‘bakla’, we didn’t know the term transgender. I needed to hide it because I’s disappoint my parents and grandparents. I really had to act as they expected of me),” Heart says.

Albeit confused at the time, Heart had a happy and lenient childhood. She was third among the four siblings: two older sisters and a younger brother. She grew up playing Barbie, Claydoh, Lego, matchboxes and even robots with them and with her cousins. A self-confessed grandparents’ daughter, Heart stayed at her grandparents’ house until she reached high school.

It was during this time that she came to terms with who she is. Heart reveals, “siguro that time na-feel ko na iba talaga ako, nung nagkaroon na ako ng crush sa neighborhood. Kung grade one ako noon, mga fourth year high school sya. So imposibleng maging kami, ‘di ba? Na-feel ko na sobrang iba na, seryoso talaga ‘tong nararamdaman ko na hindi talaga ako lalaki at all (I felt I was different when I had a crush in our neighborhood – I was in first grade, while he was maybe in his fourth year in high school, so it’s impossible for us to be together, right? (But then) I felt that so different, that I am not a boy at all).”

It was then that she was ridiculed and verbally bulled; at school, she was incessantly called “bakla” and “salot”.

IF I WERE A BOY

After finishing grade school, Heart went to an all-boys school to continue her studies – it was her mother’s wish. “Nung high school na, medyo matanda na ako, sabi ng mom ko: ‘This time ako na magdedesisyon for you, mas maayos dito sa (all-boys school), exclusive ‘to, mas marami kang matututunan. (When I reached high school, my mom said this time she was going to decide for me, and that it’s more decent to study in (an all-boys’ school) since it’s exclusive, I’ll learn a lot there).” Heart did not object; in fact, it was at this point when she tried to become the “man” everybody believed she was supposed to be.

“It was a new start for me – (naisip ko na) siguro nga mali ang pagiging gay and this time I had (a chance) to change it. Sa pagbabago ng school na all-boys na walang nakakakilala sa ‘kin, (naisip ko na) baka dito ko kayang baguhin ang sarili ko. Sabi ng Dad ko mali, sabi rin ng Mom ko. Lagi akong napapagalitan kapag nabri-bring up yung issue. Nag-succumb ako sa kanila (It’s a brand new start for me, and I thought that maybe being gay is really wrong and this time I have to change it. In moving to an all-boys’ school where no one knew me, I thought I can change. My parents said it’s totally wrong. I get reprimanded every time the issue is brought up. I just succumbed to their wishes),” Heart confesses.

“GENTLEMAN’S POLICY”

The first few months at the new school were never easy for her. Timid and soft-spoken, she tried to find friends and get accustomed with her new environment. Eventually, she met students who had the same interests like hers. However, just like any other exclusive, private schools out there, Heart and her buddies were subjected to what they called the “Gentleman’s Policy.”

Meron kaming kontrata na bawal tumili, bawal mag-makeup signed by me. Pero may mga ka-batch ako na hindi nakapirma pero sabi kahit ‘di ka nakapirma, mandatory yun, parang social contract yun. Hindi porke’t wala kayong papel na pinasa, excuse na kayo. Subject kami to expulsion, to suspension kapag na-violate namin yun. I think alam ng parents ko yun. So napaka-limiting niya and all. Luckily, hindi naman ako na-expel or na-suspend dahil sa contract na yun. But the fact na may special rules sa iyo na ini-implement just because ‘gay’ ka, napaka-discriminating niya (We had a contract that prohibited us from screaming and to put on makeup. But I have batchmates who didn’t sign but it was mandatory, like a social contract. It didn’t mean that you didn’t sign you’re already excused. We were subject to expulsion, to suspension if we violated it. I think my parents were aware about it. It’s very limiting. Luckily, I was not expelled nor suspended because of that. The fact that there were special rules just because you’re gay was so discriminating),” Heart says.

To make things worse, Heart was forced to out herself to her parents due to an unexpected instance. She recalls how a teacher – even if well-meaning – outed her to her mom during a student evaluation meeting. Looking back, Heart asks: “Bakit niya ako in-out? Hindi niya ba alam yung repercussions ng ginawa niya? Pwede akong palayasin, pwede akong mag-stop sa pag-aaral; yung welfare ko hindi niya inisip talaga. (Looking back, why did she out me? Didn’t she know the repercussions of her actions? I could have kicked out of the house, stopped from going to school; she didn’t really think of my welfare).”

Through it all, she relied on her inner strength and moved on with utter optimism. She just enjoyed her stay at the said school and excelled in her academics, believing that being a transgender person or LGBT in general is not relative to one’s intellectual capacity.

Inclined with her inclination to solve complicated math problems, Heart decided to take up BS Mathematics at University of Santo Tomas in 2006. Having learned that University of the Philippines was offering Actuarial Science the same as UST, she transferred the following year. It was as if she was meant to go to UP. Prior to her going to UST, she passed UPCAT and she was considering Food Technology at UP Los Baños.

I AM… TG

Heart had no idea that entering UP will change her life. In the second semester of 2007, Heart decided to join UP Babaylan, the pioneering LGBT organization in the country, where she first encountered the term transgender. She was initially confused since “di ba sa Pilipinas kapag transgender ka na male-to-female, bakla ka lang na pa-girl, kapag female-to-male butch ka lang? Hindi pa talaga ako ganon ka-receptive sa idea, pero nung na-engage talaga ako sa mga discussions and all, nakakatuwa kasi mas naging open ako dun sa ano nga ba ang LGBT, ano yung rights natin, ano yung mga advocacies natin dapat (in the Philippines, if you are a transgender male-to-female, you’re considered as gay and feminine; if female-to-male, you’re just butch. But when I engaged in discussions, then I became more open on the issues of LGBTs, what rights we have and what our advocacies should be),” she recalls.

However, it was love that strongly convinced her to start transitioning from male to female. She admits: “May crush talaga ako. Sobrang patay ako sa kanya. Tapos yung crush niya sobrang ganda.” One time, Heart remembers telling the guy that if she transitioned, “mas maganda pa ako (at) baka siguro gugustuhin niya talaga ako (I had a crush. I really like him but he had a crush on a beautiful girl. [One tile I told him] that if I transitioned] I’d be more beautiful than her and maybe he would like me that much too).”

As part of her transitioning, Heart is undergoing hormone replacement therapy by taking over-the-counter contraceptive pills such as Yasmin, Diane 35, Premarin, et cetera. While she admits to experiencing mood swings, sleepiness and weight gain, she said she has never been this ecstatic. When she started transitioning, she discloses that her insecurities have gone away and she is more empowered than she used to be. And with the confidence, even her family has become more open to the fact that they have a daughter and a sister all along.

HEART AT YOUR SERVICE

Joining organizations like UP Babaylan and later on UP Math Majors Club exposed her to advocacy work and training. She met new people and learned how to interact with different kinds of students. It did not take long for Heart to find her purpose.

In 2010, she won a council seat at the College of Science Student Council elections under the party MATTER. It was a dream-come-true as it was her first time to participate in such election.

Masasabi ko nga na even in high school, hindi ako nakakatakbo kasi nasa all-boys (school) kami. So kahit tumakbo ako, wala rin akong chance na manalo. Noong in-offer sa akin na tumakbo ako as college councilor, gusto ko talaga. Nanalo naman tayo (In high school, I did not have the chance to run for office because it was an all-boys’ school. Even if I ran, I had no chance of winning. When I was offered to run as college councilor, I said yes right away and won),” she says.

Because of the success she earned from the preceding year, Heart was offered to run for the second time. But it would be in a much larger and competitive arena, the University Student Council. She took the challenge without hesitation.

Even before deciding to run for office, Heart says she already had job offers. “Pero sabi nga ng mga tao, by running lang, nakakapag-send ka ng substantial equality message na kahit sino ka man, ano man ang sexuality mo, if you believe in yourself, kaya mong mag-take ng lead. If manalo ako, yung opportunity hindi lang para sa akin, hindi lang para sa transgender, hindi lang para sa LGBT, para sa lahat ng marginalized sectors. Siguro ito yung pinaka-nag-encourage sa akin na dapat hindi muna ako maging selfish, one year lang naman eh (People convinced me that by running alone, I can send a substantial equality message that whoever you are, whatever your sexuality is, you can take the lead. If I win, it’s not only for me, for transgenders, for the LGBTs, but for the marginalized sector. I think this really encouraged me that I should not be selfish this time, just for a year).”

With hard work and sheer determination, she topped the race for council seat last year. She won as the first transgender chairperson in the recent student council elections. She was the standard bearer of the student party ALYANSA (Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran) where she garnered 3,290 votes against her other rivals.

A HEARTY FUTURE

In the top posts, Heart’s immediate concerns are not even LGBT-related, such as working on the university’s budget, with the council intending to be included in the drafting of the UP budget passed to the Department of Budget and Management; and coordinate efforts to deal with security concerns in the UP campus.

When asked about her critics, Heart has nothing but gratitude. “Hindi ako perfect. Dahil sa mga haters and critics natin, naco-continue natin na i-mold ang sarili natin, na i-develop ang skills natin, i-strengthen yung faith natin, and even yung character. Sabi ko nga I cannot please everybody talaga. Nung nanalo ako as chair, hindi na ako LGBT community lang, kailangan dapat nire-represent ko yung 21,000 UP students. We can do that through consultations. Sabi ko nga as transgender, naramdaman natin na no matter how loud we scream, hindi tayo pinapakinggan kasi nga transgender tayo, nobody cares. So this time, I’m taking the lead, no matter how loud students scream, no matter how soft they whisper, pakikinggan sila ng USC. This time, mas alam ko yung value ng pakikinig sa mga estudyante kasi ako mismo naranasan ko na hindi pakinggan (I’m not perfect. Because of our haters and critics, we continue to mold ourselves, develop our skills, strengthen our faith and build our character. I cannot please everybody. When I won as chair, I’m not just for LGBT community, I represent now the 21,000 UP students. We can do that through consultations. As transgender I feel that no matter how loud we scream, we are not heard because we’re transgender. Nobody cares. So this time I’m taking the lead, no matter how loud students scream, no matter how soft they whisper, USC will listen to them. Now I value more listening to students because I myself experienced not to be heard),” Heart ends.

People You Should Know

Living with HIV in Digos City

Meet Robin Charles O. Ramos, a person living with HIV in Digos City in Davao del Sur. There are numerous challenges there – e.g. they still have to go to Davao City for their laboratory tests, and get monthly supplies of life-saving ARVs. But they are starting to organize so PLHIVs can help each other.

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“We cannot deny the fact that there are people who will really discriminate us (people living with HIV),” said Robin Charles O. Ramos, who is based in Digos City in Davao del Sur in Mindanao, southern Philippines. “(But) think twice… before you discriminate because (everyone can be infected with) HIV.”

BI AWAKENING

Charles, 33, used to be only attracted to girls. But when he was nine years old, “I (was also) attracted to boys. I realized that I am attracted to both sexes.”

Charles’ family teased him for this. But he added that it’s not like they can prevent him from being bisexual; this “runs in the family,” he said, with other family members also LGBTQIA.

“It was somewhat difficult for me to come out,” he said. This is because he lives in a “relatively small community (where people know me).”

Digos, a 2nd class city and the capital of the province of Davao del Sur, has a population of only 169,393 people (in 2015).

But Charles eventually told others, realizing the relevance of being true/honest to oneself. “I know it (may not be easy) but… the community will (eventually) understand who and what we are.”

FINDING OUT ABOUT HIS HIV STATUS

On November 30, 2017, Charles found out he has HIV.

Prior to the diagnosis, he recalled having bad health – e.g. his cough wouldn’t go away, he had lymph nodes in his throat, he easily got tired/stressed out, and he had recurring fever. He self-medicated, “taking paracetamol” and antibiotics.

“I lost a lot of weight,” Charles recalled, “from 56 kilograms to 48 kilograms.”

At that point, his mother told him: “It’s time to rush to the hospital.”

The attending physician had Charles undergo more tests… including HIV antibody test.

The person who gave him the news about his HIV status was “actually a friend of mine.” In fact, he pre-empted the counselor from telling him the result; “I told her myself, ‘It’s positive, right?’.”

EVERYONE CAN BE INFECTED

Even before then, Charles actually worked in HIV advocacy.

So the person who gave him the news about his HIV status was “actually a friend of mine.” In fact, he pre-empted the counselor from telling him the result; “I told her myself, ‘It’s positive, right?’.”

That was also “mind conditioning” for him, he said. “I conditioned my mind that I’m positive already… it’s a way of acceptance of the matter.”

Right there and then, Charles opted to tell family members. And they had one question for him: Why him, considering he’s in HIV advocacy, and should know better?

“Anyone can be infected,” Charles said to them.

“Think twice… before you discriminate because (everyone be infected with) HIV.”

BEING OPEN ABOUT LIVING WITH HIV

If there’s one thing Charles said that’s good about being out, it’s being able to get external help as needed.

“I lose nothing by coming out,” he said. And for him, “PLHIVs need to come out… as a strategy for us to eradicate stigma and discrimination.”

At this stage in his life, “I don’t care if they talk about me. This is already here. Just accept it.”

Charles is also a teacher, and he opted to tell his supervisors and peers about his medical condition. This honesty paid off since “they support me.” His workmates always remind him to “not be stressed” and “have time to rest”.

HIV-RELATED ISSUES IN DAVAO DEL SUR

HIV screening and/or testing is, at least, accessible to the people of Digos City, said Charles. The social hygiene clinic (SHC) of the local government unit (LGU), for one, offers this; and “every time we conduct (gatherings) about HIV, there is HIV testing (given).”

It is the access to life-saving medicines (the antiretroviral treatment, or ARV) that is problematic.

“Here in Digos City, ARV is not yet available,” Charles said.

And so PLHIVs from there have to go to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City, which is 62.5 kilometers away (or approximately an hour of commute).

If there’s one thing Charles said that’s good about being out, it’s being able to get external help as needed.

Many of the PLHIVs from Digos City go to SPMC together, renting a van to take them to and from Davao City for their regular tests and ARV supplies.

A related issue: PLHIVs have to go every month because they are only given a month’s supply because of procurement issues. The usual practice is to give PLHIVs supply for three months. And – even if the Department of Health denies that there are issues concerning ARV supplies – at least the Digos City experience highlights the continuing difficulty with accessing life-saving medicines.

The dream for PLHIVs like Charles is for a refilling station to be established in Digos City to serve not only those living there, but also the nearby localities of Kidapawan City, Davao Occidental, et cetera.

EMPOWERING THE HIV COMMUNITY

Charles recognizes that many try to help PLHIVs, but he also thinks that empowering PLHIVs to help each other is essential.

“We have formally created a group: Bagani Southern Davao,” he said. The name was derived from the word “Bagani”, the peacekeeping force of the Manobo tribes and other indigenous groups in Mindanao. Akin to the word, “we’re warriors; we’re fighting against this illness.”

There are currently 20 active members; though, of course, not all PLHIVs in the area are members.

The dream for PLHIVs like Charles is for a refilling station to be established in Digos City to serve not only those living there, but also the nearby localities of Kidapawan City, Davao Occidental, et cetera.

To other PLHIVs in the area, Charles said he recognizes that it may take time before they can decide if they’d come out. “I respect (this) decision… But coming out as PLHIV is a way of educating people that they shouldn’t fear us, and that (having HIV) isn’t the end of our lives or the end of anything.”

As PLHIVs, he said, “we have more to offer, more to do” particularly in educating people.

And to non-PLHIVs or those who do not know their HIV status: “Know your status. Get tested. And stop discriminating people. It’s not like we wanted this to happen to us. But this is already here. We just need your support, and the respect that we want because we’re still human beings.”

“I lose nothing by coming out,” he said. And for him, “PLHIVs need to come out… as a strategy for us to eradicate stigma and discrimination.”

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People You Should Know

L.A. musician and author Ross Victory gets candid about blackness, masculinity and bi-sexual heroes

Author and musician Ross Victory uses his story to entertain readers while pulling back the curtain of the under-, mis- and total lack of representation of bisexuality—black bisexuality—in social discourse. Without a community to fall back on to process pain and trauma, holding intersectional identities can create tension stemming from not being seen, heard, or believed.

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Paulo Freire said, “The oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors.” 

How often do our storylines, the narratives that make our life experiences unique, get lost in broader social discourse? How often does the oppression we encounter on our path compete with the oppression experienced right next to us? 

We need not look very far for the proof of patriarchal, misogynistic, racist, homophobic structures that provoke nationwide protests in America. #BlackLivesMatter, #Loveislove, #MeToo are cultural moments that reveal the United States’ ache for progress, and the public’s willingness to create new systems that support and uplift disadvantaged groups. 

Societal progress is slow. All too often, an experiencer’s oppression requires evidence to be accepted as valid. As a black or indigenous person of color, as a woman, as a bisexual in a straight/gay binary, or as a part of any disadvantaged group, each generation strives to do better than the last.

  • In 2020, George Floyd and BLM protests have pushed forward laws to prevent police brutality. 
  • In 2020, The Supreme Court has upheld the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protections that prevent employers from firing individuals based on their sexual orientation and transgender status.

Author and musician Ross Victory uses his story to entertain readers while pulling back the curtain of the under-, mis- and total lack of representation of bisexuality—black bisexuality—in social discourse. Without a community to fall back on to process pain and trauma, holding intersectional identities can create tension stemming from not being seen, heard, or believed.

Panorama: The Missing Chapter tells the story of two men of color, both bisexual, who bond together to escape familial dysfunction. The book observes race, masculinity, and orientation by taking readers on a fast-paced, cerebral journey through South Korean temples and Brazilian cartels. 

Victory both bites and soothes readers with memories that pop off the page like scenes from a film. Despite his hilarious descriptions and the irony he dresses as salaciousness and intellect, there are underlying expressions of resentment that grow as the book progresses.

Victory, the principal character, suggests that being black and visible as bi-sexual is not for the spiritually weak. 

Victory says, “Being black, you normalize being on high alert with police or employment interactions. Sometimes you catch a microaggression and have to decide if you have the energy to confront it or let it go. Then there are interactions where people say, “you’re different than other black people,” or “you’re incredibly articulate.” I was called the N-word once by someone on the street in LA, and even black people have described my blackness as “white-washed.” 

He continues, “Bisexuality, as an identifier, can be a double-edged sword. The mention of bisexuality can activate a damaging reflex from both straight and gay people of all races. You are immediately put on the defense. People instinctively have 21 questions and lose manners. I understand it’s not me, and it’s their idea of being bi, but those interactions make me feel that society needs to be categorized differently. There were black heroes to cling to, but no visibly bisexual heroes and surely no black bisexual heroes.”

Survey data from Stanford University and the Pew Research Center reports that “Bisexual adults are much less likely than gays and lesbians to be visible as bisexual to the important people in their lives.” Victory, and Alvi, a Brazilian immigrant, also bisexual, compare notes on the discrimination and stereotypes they’ve faced that may personalize Stanford’s research. 

“People under the bi umbrella (notably bisexuals and pansexuals) are the only segment of people whose attractions are multi-gendered,” Victory says. “That’s hard to understand if you believe your attractions to be singular…Naturally people who aren’t bi cannot fathom what that means. Some who do understand tend to uphold bi women as ‘more’ valid that bi men, both of us still subjected to patriarchy that reads: bi women are for men’s pleasure, and bi guys simply do not exist—if they do, it’s in proximity to gay men who were initially bi-curious. The double speak is wild.”

Both men, Victory, and Alvi, identified their bisexuality as virginal pre-teens without words to acknowledge how they felt. After years of trial and error, they learned that being open was not in their favor. Victory points to an African American religious and hyper-masculine Hip Hop culture that made his bisexuality hard to verbalize and accept. Alvi, despite being an immigrant of color, had a less challenging path.

Panorama gives readers an insight into the complex nature of the oppression that bi men face: the idea that they cannot commit, that their bisexuality is a choice or is preference-based, being hypersexualized by gay men, and being a topic of contention for straight women. “Between what I’ve experienced and also seen on YouTube, when you know you can “pass” as straight, why bother saying anything?! People want authenticity if it accounts for their biases. But I physically got to a place where I couldn’t erase myself anymore.”

“Bisexuality, as an identifier, can be a double-edged sword. The mention of bisexuality can activate a damaging reflex from both straight and gay people of all races… I understand it’s not me, and it’s their idea of being bi, but those interactions make me feel that society needs to be categorized differently. There were black heroes to cling to, but no visibly bisexual heroes and surely no black bisexual heroes.”

According to the Bisexual Resource Center (BRC), approximately 40% of bisexual people have considered or attempted suicide. The Human Rights Campaign has cited bi-erasure and biphobia as the leading causes. Heteronormativity is real, and straight people do not think about being straight, regardless of being sexually active. However, when someone who is not straight identifies themselves, they tend to be pegged as oversharing or sexualizing unnecessarily. 

At around nineteen years old, Victory writes that he began to experience heightened stress and mild depression. Victory links the period to the same time he discovered the word bisexual, began asserting it, then learned to suppress it.

Victory says, “There was a sense that being a man, a ‘real’ man, is based on how homophobic you can be. Don’t act feminine, bully feminine guys, don’t speak about same-sex attractions, don’t be sinful, and if you are doing some gay sh*t, definitely don’t speak about it. When you can pass as straight, you hear a lot of problematic stuff from men and women.”

Oppression is interlocked, but to be a healthy person, one need not split themselves into parts. Victory states that black people tend to support each other because we are all experiencing racist systems in this country. Men support each other based on cliques, ego-affirming activities, and female conquests. Bisexuals feel invisible because we chameleonize or get pigeonholed based on our partner’s sex. For example, I am the only visible bi person I know, but I am defaulted to straight.

Victory suggests that we need more stories that show the scope of bisexuality. Bi virgins, bi people in same-sex relationships, bisexuals in different-sex relationships, poly bisexuals, elderly bisexuals, celibate bisexuals, and more to show people the range of experiences that have gone invisible for too long. Representation will help society to learn not to pre-judge by the person’s relationship status and feminine or masculine qualities, and to break bisexuals away from explicit and promiscuous connotations. According to GLAAD’s inclusion report of 2018 & 2019, Director of Entertainment Research, Megan Townsend, stated that “Television still has work to do when it comes to telling our [bi] stories. Bisexual+ women far outnumber bisexual+ men on every platform.”

Ross Victory suggests that we need more stories that show the scope of bisexuality: bi virgins, bi people in same-sex relationships, bisexuals in different-sex relationships, poly bisexuals, elderly bisexuals, celibate bisexuals, and more to show people the range of experiences that have gone invisible for too long.

Not all is bleak. Victory closes Panorama with relief for readers who may relate to his story or have been triggered to look at themselves. Victory concludes the book artfully and soulfully. He uses inclusive language and employs the “divine masculine” and “divine feminine” to make a case for personal liberation. He underscores the importance of grace between humans, even those who harm us, by encouraging readers to build bridges between thought islands and to be the change they seek.

He suggests that all intersections—racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, gender, ableism, wealth, etc. —exist to be connected by bridges. Victory says, “Real men are bridge builders. Yes, society gives us labels – straight, bi, gay, black, white, Asian, etc.; labels are realities and come with certain connotations. But could you imagine if we men prioritized a commitment to buildto build each other up no matter the labels we inherit? Can you imagine if we congregated around how to reduce anger and heart attacks? Can you imagine how healthy we would be and how safe women would feel interacting with us?” Paulo Freire warned that, yes, the oppressed become oppressors, but also that peace is found through dialogue and language.

Victory image and words remind us that alienation can be a bona fide lesson in self-love. After the back-to-back loss of his dad and brother, he understands that all he can do is build the best he can, and let the rest go.

The last two pages of Panorama include mental health resources and articles to support people with multi-gendered attractions, their families, and friends.

Head to https://rossvictory.com for more information.

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NEWSMAKERS

VP Robredo extolls LGBTQIA community’s spirit; recognizes a lot of work still needs to be done

Vice President Leni Robredo expressed her support to the LGBTQIA community, even as she acknowledged that a lot of work still needs to be done, including passing an anti-discrimination law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQIA Filipinos.

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Screencap from the Facebook-uploaded message of VP Leni Robredo to the LGBTQIA community

Vice President Leni Robredo expressed her support to the LGBTQIA community, even as she acknowledged that even as the LGBTQIA community marks June as Pride month, a lot of work still needs to be done, including passing an anti-discrimination law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQIA Filipinos.

In a messages posted on her Facebook page, Robredo noted the uncertain times. “many of the things we once cherished and held on to are now being questioned and challenged,” she said in mixed Filipino and English. “Sa kabila nito, marami pa ring bagay ang di nagbabago at nagpapatuloy: tulad ng ating laban para sa patas na karapatan, dignidad at kalayaan.

Robredo noted that “for many decades, the LGBTQIA+ community has been tirelessly fighting for equal rights and representation at the frontlines. It has provided a shelter to the oppressed, a voice to the marginalized, and a family to those who have been abandoned by their own communities. Ito ang dakilang ambag ng LGBTQIA+ community sa ating (b)ayan.

She added: “Sa bawat Pride March na inyong inoorganisa, isang teenager ang mas nagiging proud na yakapin kung sino siya. Sa bawat awareness campaign na inyong sinisimulan, isang komunidad ang mas nagiging bukas ang isipan. At sa bawat pagpiglas ninyo sa tangkang pag-agaw ng ating mga kalayaan, isang bayan ang mas natututong lumaban.

There are – nonetheless – members of the LGBTQIA community “who hold positions of power in our society”, such as lawyers, executives, doctors, educators, artists, policymakers and public servants. The VP hopes that they will “use your influence to change mindsets, promote acceptance, and push for reforms on the ground. Now more than ever, we need to set an example to the younger generation. Ipakita natin sa kanila, na wala silang dapat ipangamba at na malaya silang maging kung ano at sino sila,” Robredo said.

The VP similarly recognized that teaching people to open their minds may be challenging, but “huwag sana kayong panghinaan ng loob.”

She suggested doing small steps to push for Pride, including forming support groups; reaching out to the needy; and introducing concepts re SOGIESC to relatives who may not be well-versed on the same.

Darating din ang araw na babalikan natin ang lahat ng ito at sasabihing, everything was worth the effort. Everything was worth the sacrifice. Everything worth the fight. Push lang ng push, mga besh,” Robredo added.

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Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach voices support for LGBTQIA community

Pia Wurtzbach said she’s making a stand so “that our friends and family in the LGBTQIA community have the right to take up space in our society… that their voices should be heard, that we don’t invalidate trans women as women.”

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Screencap from the Instagram account of Pia Wurtzbach

Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach voiced her support for the LGBTQIA community.

Via an Instagram post, Wurtzbach said she’s making a stand so “that our friends and family in the LGBTQIA community have the right to take up space in our society… that their voices should be heard, that we don’t invalidate trans women as women.”

She added: “We can learn to accept these concepts by having a dialogue. By listening and understanding our differences. we will grow and uplift one another as one community in strengthening equality and diversity.”

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Learning is always a two-way process.. we listen as we understand each other’s points of view. This #PrideMonth, we stand for the rights and advocacies of the LGBTQIA+ community. 🏳️‍🌈 Being an ally is someone who gives a sense of a safe and affirming space for our loving community… Let’s provide higher platforms for community members to openly discuss issues and concerns that affect us. 🙏 Here we can discuss our differences and remind ourselves that we are together on this journey, and achieve our shared goals for equality. ❤ . I know we may differ in opinions today.. but our constant discourse will make our tomorrow better because we understand one another better. This will also enable our broader community, especially those with differing views, to ponder on things that matter to our fellowmen. . Let me just make a stand that our friends and family in the LGBTQIA+ community have the right to take up space in our society…that their voices should be heard, that we don’t invalidate trans women as women. We can learn to accept these concepts by having a dialogue. By listening and understanding our differences.. we will grow and uplift one another as one community in strengthening equality and diversity. 😊🙏❤ Happy Pride! 🥰🏳️‍🌈

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Wurtzbach’s statement of support came after she co-hosted an online discussion involving Kevin Balot, who was crowned Miss International Queen in 2012. Balot reiterated her segregationist perspective, saying that when transgender women ask to join beauty pageants traditionally only for those assigned female at birth, “hindi na siya equality eh, parang asking too much na (this is no longer about equality; it’s already asking too much).”

In her Instagram post, Wurtzbach said that even if people had different opinions, it’s still important to provide platforms for community members to openly discuss “issues and concerns that affect us.”

For Wurtzbach, “this will also enable our broader community, especially those with differing views, to ponder on things that matter to our fellowmen… [O]ur constant discourse will make our tomorrow better because we understand one another better.”

This isn’t the first time Wurtzbach expressed her support to the LGBTQIA community.

In 2017, for instance, she called out the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) following a drug bust involving 11 men in Bonifacio Global City. “Because of what PDEA and the news outlet have done, some people are now associating drugs and immorality with being gay. It’s ridiculous,” she said then.

In 2018, she urged decision makers to address the causes that put young people at risk of HIV.

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‘Riverdale’ actress Lili Reinhart comes out as bisexual

Lili Reinhart – from “Riverdale” – announced that she is a “proud bisexual woman” in a post on Instagram.

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Lili Reinhart – who plays Betty Cooper in “Riverdale” – announced that she is a “proud bisexual woman” in a post on Instagram.

Reinhart’s revelation was linked with her post that she would be attending an “LGBTQ+ for Black Lives Matter” protest in West Hollywood in the US. Underneath a poster for the march, she wrote: “Although I’ve never announced it publicly before, I am a proud bisexual woman. And I will be joining this protest today. Come join.”

Reinhart dated co-star and onscreen partner Cole Sprouse, who played Jughead in “Riverdale.” The two had recently split.

Visibility, obviously, matters.

Earlier in June 2020, a study noted that those who have seen LGBTQIA representation are more accepting of gay and lesbian people than those who haven’t (48% to 35%). They are also more accepting of bisexual people (45% to 31%), and of non-binary people (41% to 30%).

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Emma Watson speaks out for trans rights after J.K. Rowling’s transphobic comments

“Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned.”

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Screen capture from the Instagram account of emmawatson

Emma Watson – who played Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” series – is the latest actor to speak out in support of transgender rights after author J.K. Rowling made controversial comments on Twitter that were deemed transphobic.

On June 6, Rowling posted a tweet equating womanhood with being able to menstruate.

When called out, she seemed to own up to the TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist, or women who claim to be feminist but do not believe transgender women are female). She also backed her perspective via a lengthy post that cited a study criticized for its transphobic bias.

Claiming to have read “all the arguments about femaleness not residing in the sexed body, and the assertions that biological women don’t have common experiences, and I find them, too, deeply misogynistic and regressive,” Rowling wrote. “Women (are told they) must accept and admit that there is no material difference between trans women and themselves… But, as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume.”

Watson appeared in all eight of the big-screen adaptations of the books by Rowling. By expressing her support for transgender rights, she joins former costar Daniel Radcliffe (who played Harry Potter), and “Fantastic Beasts” star Eddie Redmayne who also voiced their disagreement to Rowling’s warped thinking and defense.

“Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are,” Watson tweeted.

In a subsequent tweet, she added that she wants “my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are.”

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