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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.

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Lester Cristal’s wish to highlight minorities through films

Meet Lester Cristal, who eyes to make films that touch people… while pushing the issues of minority sectors.

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When he was six years old, Lester Cristal remembered being woken up by the “loud annoying laugh of my father and his friends in the military.” He rolled out of bed, rubbed the sleep off his eyes, and then went down the stairs to see his father and his friends laughing at Dolphy portraying a stereotypical gay man in some movie.

“Right there and then I told myself that I was going to become a director,” Lester said, though at that point in time, it was just to elicit the same reaction he saw from his father and his friends, stereotypical “macho” men who did not openly show emotions.

Seemingly providential, Lester eventually studied filmmaking at De La Salle University-College of Saint Benilde. There, he started to embrace his queerness. This added a layer to his desire to make films – i.e. he realized did not only want to make people laugh, but to also tackle – this time “properly” – queerness (as opposed to the stereotypical depictions of Dolphy).

Lester recognizes that “films have always been a powerful medium in… influencing and educating people about certain topics and personal experiences.” But for decades, “stereotypical films about us have been (made and marketed to cater to the) taste of predominantly heterosexual audiences, which included my father and his friends. No one really took the time to really get to know us and our stories.” But with the emergence of queer cinema, this is changing and “I want to take part in it.”

QUEER ONSCREEN

With him behind the camera, the first film Lester made was SWELAS (2018), a short film that first landed on CineMaybank 2018, winning second best film and best screenplay. Showcasing the “famed craft of my hometown, Marikina”, it was also “a love letter to my father and to all our Filipino craftsmen.” 

This was followed by KLOSETA (2019), which starred Ramon Busa, the president of the Home for the Golden Gays, and Zar Donato. This was “drafted out of my remorse towards my grandmother’s death.”

Lester also produced other short films and music videos, such as TONIGHT! (2019) and ANG’GULO (2019). The latter earned him and his production top prizes at local and intercollegiate film festivals, such as the .giff Festival of New Cinema, INDIE-UN Film Festival; as well as participating in international film festivals like Audience Awards LGBTQ Film Festival and Asian Pacific Film Festival.

PLUS.MINUS. is Lester’s latest film, telling the story of minority people in the already minority LGBTQIA community – i.e. a shoemaker owning a failing business amid an innovating industry, an urban migrant who’s trying to redeem herself from failing to fulfill her Manila dream, a lonesome gay watchmaker in his golden age thriving to be alive again, and an aspiring drag queen who desires to be loved.

Similar to his other films, “I always intend to present the concept of micro within the macro, personal stories against a backdrop of a larger one, a face in the crowd, human stories in the context of a societal one,” Lester said.

The movie was nominated for the 2020 Best Short Film on the Philippines’s oldest award-giving body for cinema, FAMAS Awards. It was also a finalist for last year’s Gawad Sining by the University of the Philippines.

INSPIRED BY EXPERIENCE

“I’m always open (to) experiencing new things, and these new experiences are my sources of inspiration,” Lester said, adding that these sources may be as “trivial” as talking to random strangers. But for him, “this approach enables me to make films that is relatable somehow.”

As a queer person making queer films, Lester knows he may be pigeonholed as a queer-centric filmmaker. But he’s not worried.

“I will not mind if I will be pigeonholed as an LGBTQIA filmmaker solely making films for this market because there’s a need for it,” he said. “We need diversity in representation and I can contribute to it, along with my fellow queer filmmakers.”

This also touches on his dream to at least be remembered as a filmmaker “who made a difference,” and as someone who “contributed somehow to the good of cinema and of this world.”

In the end, Lester believes that film can push LGBTQIA-related discourses forward.

“First, it is important to make positive LGBTQIA representations in cinema. Second, while it is important to tell coming out stories that are key to LGBTQIA experiences, it is just as important to present LGBTQIA characters in ‘normal’ situations. We are an oppressed group, it is important for us to frame our issues we feel passionate about in a way that connects to people on a personal level. This way, we can show who we really are and hopefully will open doors to a conversation about our experiences,” Lester ended.

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Here comes… Gothic drag

Patruni Chidananda Sastry started doing drag at the age of 12, “though I didn’t know it was drag,” they said. Now, Patruni says that drag is equivalent to sports, drama, dance, music and more. “It’s a package of all in one. So if you don’t like our art, I believe you should have a better reason; and to get one, you should dress up one day.”

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PHOTO: MANAB DAS; MODELS: PATRUNI SASTRY AND SAJIV PASALA

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.”

Patruni Chidananda Sastry started doing drag at the age of 12, “though I didn’t know it was drag,” they said. At that time, “I was learning and pursuing Indian classical dance, ‘Kuchipudi’, where the young boys dress up as girls and perform on mythological contexts. It was through this that… I dressed as a girl to present a dance piece.”

It took Patruni more time to “conventionally call it drag”, when – starting 2019 – they started to “imbibe the idea of drag in Hyderabad.”

Patruni also recalled that at that time, Hyderabad didn’t have any drag culture.

“Conventional drag has been (reported on) pretty late in India, around 2018-2019,” they said.

This was also the time when Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (the archaic British “anti-buggery law” that prohibited sexual contact between two men even if they consent) was decriminalized.

“Before that, drag was there as a part of multiple art forms, but not many people used the word ‘drag’. It was not a separate entity of art,” Patruni said.

As such, Hyderabad had never seen someone perform drag and “in an interim discussion with a couple of friends, the idea of hosting a drag show crossed my mind. I was looking for drag queens who can perform for the show and was desperate to get someone… to dress up. Irritated by my constant push, a friend got back to me saying, ‘If you can’t do it yourself, don’t ask others to do it!’.”

That was when Patruni decided to do drag.

“After performing on the first show in June 9, 2019, I found the intersectionality of dance, performance art and theater in drag; and I felt it relevant to pursue it from thereon,” they said.

And so with the passing of time, “my drag has been my way to showcase a visible medium of gender nonconformity and the politics of fashion within the country.”

PHOTOS: MANAB DAS; MODELS: PATRUNI SASTRY AND SAJIV PASALA

GOTHIC DRAG

Here’s an interesting thing, though: Patruni actually once referred to what they do as “Gothic drag”.

“My style of drag is inspired by the Tranimal Drag style by Austin Young and Speaky Blonde,” they said, adding that “I was also inspired by Daniel Lismore, who’s style gave me a new way to reflect drag.”

In Tranimal drag, the idea of beauty, glamour and fashion is questioned to the core; the notions of what is aesthetic and what’s not are tossed; and the gender is wiped out of the body to ensure the body is genderless.

“The art of Tranimal becomes available as we use available objects from trash bags to big liners, broken jewelry to face paints… and put it on the body in a non-choreographic way to create an image,” Patruni said.

And so “Gothic drag was one of my explorations where I could bring my Tranimal soul to dwell with the nature of Black and Red, drag and mixed gendered representation of the spooky soul. This style of drag dismissed the idea of beauty, privilege and glamour of the conventional drag, and points out that drag is away from the idea of perfectness. (It is) anti-beauty and privilege less.”

FAMILY… FOR ART

It was actually Patruni’s mom who “helped me dress up as a woman at my first drag show when I was 12 years of age,” they smiled. “And even when I started doing drag as an adult, they were interested in knowing the purpose of art than my choice of choosing the art. They have been extremely supportive and have never stopped me from my gender expressions. At times they are curious to know the why, what and how about the art form and encourage me to push my boundaries time and again.”

FROM INDIA… TO THE WORLD

Patruni – who identifies as a gender fluid pansexual person – recognizes that much of the world that’s exposed to Western culture will be familiar with drag via the likes of RuPaul and Hollywood iterations.

But they said that “drag as any other art form is supposed to be diverse.”

This may be particularly true when “looking through the compass of Indian drag history, where drag has always been diverse and evolving.”

“Sometimes I feel that drag was something which was picked up from India, where men were dress up as women and women dress up as men in more than 50 art forms for centuries,” they said.

The first citation of Roopanurupam (which is drag in Sanskrit) was in Natya Shastra around 200 BC; and because of the colonization, the art transcended to Victorian Era, which then followed to other parts of the world.

“Hence for me, the Indian context has a lot more space worth researching,” they said.

PHOTOS: MANAB DAS; MODELS: PATRUNI SASTRY AND SAJIV PASALA

Patruni added: “In Indian drag, there is glamour as well as performance. But when I see the representation in Western drag as shown in RuPaul, I find glamorization as something which is ‘given’, as ‘important’. There is no harm to be beautiful, and there is no right and wrong since art is personal, but drag is way more than that. And when only one aspect of it is highlighted across the world and other versions are not equally given opportunity, that brings up the idea that ‘This is the only right way to do’, which is wrong.”

For Patruni, “I believe all the drag is valid and matter, and we all have to be represented and respected (to) share a holistic vision of drag.”

IS DRAG ANTI-WOMEN?

Drag has also been criticized for being anti-women. For instance, the very definition of drag often excludes women dressing up as men; and drag may be (mis)construed as “playing woman”.

But Patruni said that “drag is both gendered and genderless.”

In India, for instance, there is a very rich culture of having drag in all gender forms – e.g. in Manipuri dance, a woman performs a man’s roles; while in Jatra drag, a man performs in roles of women. There are also forms like Buta Kola and Theeyam where the performing body is neither man nor a woman.

However, perhaps because of the limitations of drag as often portrayed in the West, the “anti-women perspective” is bound to surface.

“Though women perform as bio-queen or drag kings, their entry into the mainstream culture is not so visible,” Patruni said. “It’s equally important to have multiple bodies come and explore the art, and restricting it for only one body/gender type is equivalent to killing the art. Drag can be performed by anyone irrespective of their gender sexuality, caste, race or privileges; and it’s high time we include all performing bodies into the mainstream drag.”

PHOTOS: MANAB DAS; MODELS: PATRUNI SASTRY AND SAJIV PASALA

RAISING A CAUSE

Drag artists/performers have also been criticized for “hijacking” many of women’s issues – for example, male drag artists/performers become the “spokespeople” of women’s issues.

In Patruni’s case, for instance, one of their endeavors was to deal with witch-hunting as an issue still affecting many Indian women. It is easy to argue that women, not drag artists/performers, should be speaking about their own issues.

Patruni said that “as an artist, it is important to question oneself about how we are doing it, why we are doing it, and for whom we are doing it. And one should also keep in mind the spaces artists are standing at while raising a cause. It is important to understand what these spaces are where we can articulate a certain thing, and what are some spaces which we should.”

Patruni recognizes that “when it comes to women’s issues, we need to understand that the (most) drag performers are not biological or transgender women, and hence cannot claim the spaces of women. Their issues are real (and it should) come from them, and not be snatched (by those doing) drag.”

However, adding to the conversation can be done by drag queens.

“As drag is a visual medium, they can add more value to a cause. As a society, all the genders need to have awareness and co-work to make the changes,” Patruni said, stressing – all the same – that “we need to step aside to give space to women to talk about women’s issues.”

And while women voice their issues, “let the men clean up their patriarchal mess. And that’s where drag can help.”

UNDER THE LENS

To highlight Gothic drag, Patruni worked with ace photographer Manab Das for a “photo performance”.

In India, “Goth” hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons – e.g. in connection with a Bollywood actor passing away while staying in a Gothic hotel (“Palazzo Magnani Feroni”) Italy.

“The Goth culture has always been tabooed… in Indian context,” Patruni said.

Patruni likened this Goth shaming with witch shaming, particularly as used in India to refer to self-aware women.

With the merging, therefore, came this output that highlighted everything Patruni is about – e.g. the interdependencies of the illusioned gender and the spooky esthetics of Goth.

PHOTOS: MANAB DAS; MODELS: PATRUNI SASTRY AND SAJIV PASALA

ACCEPTANCE THROUGH DRAG

That drag continues to be misunderstood goes without saying. And so if there’s a lesson about drag that Patruni thinks people should know of, it’s “the lesson of acceptance… as it builds, survived and made the art of drag visible. And all individuals – may that be performers, audience, curators, event organizers, TV promoters, et – need to practice that art of acceptance to make it more popular, diverse and heartful.”

For those who continue to look down on drag, “maybe you should consider taking drag therapy,” they said. “Dress up someday and you will fall in love with your self.”

For Patruni, drag is equivalent to sports, drama, dance, music and more. “It’s a package of all in one, and drag performers are happiest people in the world. So if you don’t like our art, I believe you should have a better reason; and to get one, you should dress up one day.”

And so for those who want to do drag, Patruni said for them to just do it.

“Drag is very easy. All you need to do is to do it. The rest comes as you go along. Anyone can be a drag performer and no one can keep you away from being one,” Patruni ended.

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Constant challenge for a gay man of faith to highlight Pride

The church – generally speaking – is a challenging context because it may have a pro-LGBT position, but it can still continue to have anti-LGBT practices, said Rev. Alfred Candid M. Jaropillo of UCCP. “The church should repent and detoxify herself from the long history of toxic interpretation of the scripture that fuels discrimination and othering of the homosexual community.”

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PHOTO COURTESY OF CARLO GABRIEL EVIDENTE OF HUMANS OF ILOILO

“We cannot deny the fact that to discuss faith is challenging in the LGBT community because the church has a long history of demonizing gender non-conforming people,” said Rev. Alfred Candid M. Jaropillo of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). 

This is why for Rev. Jaropillo, as “an openly gay minister of the UCCP and student of theology”, observing LGBT Pride is not easy because of the challenges in crying out/getting LGBT voices heard and in listening to the voices of the people who need God the most.

“As a church person, Pride reminds me of the Exodus story that provides the movement from victimization to resistance: crying-out,” Rev. Jaropillo said. “The Hebrew word for this is ‘za-ak.’ It is not a crying out that comes from resignation to defeat or a sense of helplessness. ‘Za-ak’ is a cry that demands a response; a cry that calls for justice; a cry that calls for liberation. It is only after ‘crying out’ of the Hebrew people in Exodus story that God responds saying: ‘I have seen the affliction of my people… have heard their cry… know their suffering and have come down to deliver them [Raquel, L. G. T. (2015). Crying-out Resisting Asserting Celebrating Proclamation and Poetry].”

Photo courtesy of Rev. Alfred Candid M. Jaropillo

The church – generally speaking – is a challenging context because it may have a pro-LGBT position, but it can still continue to have anti-LGBT practices.

Rev. Jaropillo started working to promote LGBT-related issues in the faith community in 2015, after experiencing for himself “gender discrimination from my former parish assignment in Iloilo City.” But he also found support from UCCP, which has a pro-LGBT statement called “Let Grace Be Total”, which “means that LGBTs should not be discriminated against, but should be unconditionally accepted in the fellowship and membership of the church,” Rev. Jaropillo said. 

In UCCP’s case – and in his experience – “until now, many members and clergy still dwell in the heteropatriarchal interpretation of the scriptures, which leads to an exclusivist interpretation of the Bible.”

And so “the challenge now for advocates like me within the UCCP is how to educate our faithful on how to approach the scripture in the spirit of great reverence, humility and life affirming, nurturing and inclusive hermeneutics.”

Rev. Jaropillo eyes this as an opportunity to educate as it can be “an opportunity to put our faith into action and to be inclusive and all embracing community. The church cannot claim to be a progressive or prophetic church unless it deliberately works for inclusivity and acceptance, not mere tolerance of LGBTQ people.”

To evidence an affirming and welcoming position in the church, Rev. Jaropillo recommends:

  1. The creation of a gender desk in national offices, jurisdictional areas and conferences or dioceses tasked with the oversight of the church’s gender equality advocacy;
  2. Designing of a continuing study for the clergy and church workers on the Biblical theological reflections on LGBT and sexual Orientation and gender identity and expressions (SOGIE);
  3. Creation of a Christian education and nurture committee to supervise the liturgical life of the church;
  4. For the church to work for equal gender representation in the higher judicatories in the church up to the local church leadership; and
  5. Supporting the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill in legislative bodies.

“The church should repent and detoxify herself from the long history of toxic interpretation of the scripture that fuels discrimination and othering of the homosexual community,” Rev. Jaropillo ended.

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#KaraniwangLGBT

Pride beyond the sash and the crown

“Beauty can influence people,” Miss International Queen 2015 Trixie Maristela said, somewhat succinctly, but also realistically. “But education is power.”

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All photos courtesy of Ms Trixie Maristela

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.”

The arguments against and for beauty pageants continue to rage on. On the one hand, there are those who would (rightfully) argue that pageants disempower particularly candidates (and even the viewers) through their objectification as they try to emulate an established “set” of often Western-defined notion of what’s beautiful. But on the other hand, there are those who would defend the “power” (over their bodies, personhood, et cetera) that the contestants choose to wield by joining these pageants.

And even while the discourse continues, Miss International Queen 2015 Trixie Maristela sees joining a pageant, and eventually winning a title as a means to push an advocacy. 

In her case in particular, it is to highlight the relevance of education to empower the members of the LGBT community. “Beauty can influence people,” Maristela said, somewhat succinctly, but also realistically. “But education is power.”

MAKING A NAME

Maristela was a regular beauconera (beauty pageant contestant) prior to joining Miss International Queen in Pattaya City, Thailand. She won, for instance, the (erroneously named) Miss Gay Manila also in 2015, and “Eat Bulaga’s” Super Sireyna Philippines beauty pageant in 2014.

But when she became the second transpinay to win Miss International Queen (after Kevin Balot), “members of the LGBT community from different parts of the world took notice,” she said.

With that attention also came an awakening… that she can do so much more for the community.

“It fueled me to work harder and show everyone how great we can be if we will not be limited and if we will be allowed to be who and what we want to be in life,” Maristela said.   

THOSE WHO CAN, TEACH

Maristela believes in the value of education.

“(Education) gives you a voice that actually matter,” she said. “People will listen (when you’re learned). And I guess that is what the transgender community needs – so that everyone, especially non-LGBT people, will lend their ears and listen to our stories.”

Maristela is currently finishing her Master’s Degree in Professional Accounting in Australia; afterwards, she plans to do more volunteer works for LGBT Filipinos.

It can be argued that while education is integral, accessing it can be a challenge. The Human Rights Watch, for instance, stated that LGBT students across the country experience bullying and discrimination in schools because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. This – along with lack of economic capacity, among other reasons – forces many LGBT youth to discontinue or take their education for granted.

This is why for Maristela, despite the obstacles that you may encounter when it comes to education, finding a way to gain access to it is important. “Education, regardless what academic degree you (end up taking), can help you be more in life,” she said.

LENDING A HAND

Getting educated may also be informal – e.g. Maristela, for one, believes that learning can happen from “idea sharing”, so that she hopes she can also “coach young transwomen on how to empower themselves, be respect(ed), and be able to speak up so that their voices will be heard,” she said.

This is particularly important for her because the Philippines “continues to lag behind our neighbors like Taiwan and Australia, which are more progressive in terms of gender-related topics.” Maristela noted that to date, the Philippine government does not even provide any form recognition, much more protection of the rights of LGBT Filipinos.

And because there is still a lack of tangible support for Filipino LGBTs, Maristela believes that Pride ought to be taught, and this Pride “can be as basic as having the dignity and self-esteem whenever we go outside – knowing that we are productive beings and we contribute something to the society.”

So Maristela wants particularly the younger LGBT Filipinos to “keep your head up high and never be ashamed of who you are. Now is the high time to forge unity among our ranks. Show love and understanding, even to those who don’t understand us. Never let anyone bring you down. We are strong and resilient; and yet patient. We are all loved.”

And again, Maristela may be speaking as a beauty queen, but one who is aware that Pride can be taught by moving beyond the stereotypical beaucon narratives.

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Lifestyle & Culture

Celebrities who are helping the LGBT cause

Here are some of these celebrities and athletes who are openly supporting the LGBT community.

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With social media being as widespread as it is, we all have a platform we can utilize to encourage social change and show our opinions and beliefs. Some celebrities are taking it upon themselves to use their platform to bring LGBT causes to the mainstream and help spread awareness.

Here are some of these celebrities and athletes who are openly supporting the LGBT community.

Kevin Durant 

Kevin Durant is known for being the NBA all-star that single handedly brings strong NBA betting odds to his team, the Brooklyn Nets, according to the main licensed US betting platforms. Outside of being an NBA superstar, he’s also well known for his philanthropic and his campaigns for social justice.

His outspoken efforts promoting BLM, and donations to causes that support this movement, as well as his positive support for LBGT, have brought Durant into the spotlight for reasons other than basketball in recent years. 

While these issues have become important topics in our personal lives, for some, like Durant, the issue is just as prevalent in his professional life. When the Golden State Warriors openly gay president, Rick Welts, announced he was marching in a NYC pride parade, Durant was the first person on Twitter to congratulate him and voice his support. 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle 

The pro-LGBT movement certainly has one strong and famous ally in Prince Harry. Since Prince Harry married Meghan Markle in 2018, he has become a much more outspoken public figure on a variety of issues. 

In the same year as his marriage, both Prince Harry and Meghan attended the Commonwealth Youth Forum, where they spoke with numerous activists about the importance of paving the way to LGBT acceptance. Meghan has even made numerous Twitter posts on occasions like pride month. In 2019, she tweeted “We stand with you and support you, because it’s very simple: love is love.” Some media outlets have even gone as far as to call Prince Harry and Meghan the most “pro-gay royal couple” of all time. 

Lady Gaga

Of course, all members of the LGBT community can say right away that Lady Gaga has been a tremendous supporter who has done a lot with her platform to raise awareness and spread acceptance. She has done numerous public appearances and speeches in support of LGBT and has also done a lot in her professional career as well. Lady Gaga has numerous songs that are centered around the LGBT community and themes like acceptance for everyone regardless of race or sexual orientation often run through her music. She has also been commended for her use of “drag queen” costumes and culture in mainstream media.  

Justin Trudeau 

When it comes to LGBT friendly politicians, Justin Trudeau has set a new standard over his years as Canada’s Prime Minister. From the beginning, he has always remained very vocal and supported the LGBT community, going as far as to raise the pride flag at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. He has also been commended for his support of the ban on controversial “gay conversion” therapy techniques. This legislation was reintroduced in October of this year, and there have been other measures introduced that will help curb the LGBT discrimination on social media that is sadly all too common in today’s world. Trudeau is a regular figure at pride parades and is certainly doing his part across the country to gain support for the LGBT community. 

Ariana Grande 

While there are many pop stars and musicians that can be considered an ally of the LGBT movement, Ariana Grande is one name that certainly comes up a lot. Since her major breakthrough around 2013, she has been a vocal and positive supporter in her career and online, where she stands up against cyber bullying. 

Several of Ariana Grande’s songs have lyrics that promote awareness and encourage her audience to think deeper about these issues, like the tracks “Break Your Heart Right Back”, and “Break Free.” In 2016, she teamed up with the popular cosmetics line MAC to release her line of GLAM lipsticks. These were sold to benefit the MAC AIDS Fund, which donates profits to various HIV/AIDS research organizations. Grande has been a fervent supporter of the LGBT community for her entire career and will stay that way. 

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NEWSMAKERS

Oscar nominee and ‘Umbrella Academy’ star Elliot Page announces he is transgender

Actor Elliot Page, one of the stars of “Umbrella Academy”, posted a public letter on Twitter and Instagram to announce that he is transgender.

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Screenshot of the Twitter account of Elliot Page

Actor Elliot Page, one of the stars of “Umbrella Academy”, posted a public letter on Twitter and Instagram to announce that he is transgender.

Previously known as Ellen Page, Elliot received an Oscar nomination for his performance in the 2007 film Juno.

“I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot. I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived in this place in my life… I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self,” Elliot wrote. “I’ve been endlessly inspired by so many in the trans community. Thank you for your courage, your generosity and ceaselessly working to make this world a more inclusive and compassionate place.”

But Elliot also asked “for patience. My joy is real, but it is also fragile.” This is because he also fears of transphobic sentiments arising. “I am also scared,” Elliot acknowledged. “The discrimination towards trans people is rife, insidious and cruel, resulting in horrific consequences.”

“To all trans people who deal with harassment, self-loathing, abuse and the threat of violence every day: I see you,” Elliott also wrote. “I love you and I will do everything I can to change this world for the better.”

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