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HIV situation in Phl continues to worsen; advocates continue calling for better responses

With just under 700 Filipinos infected with HIV in October, a figure 21% higher compared to the same period last year, HIV advocates and activists are calling for better responses if the country is to fight the epidemic. “The worsening HIV situation in the Philippines is highlighting how far we are from truly ending this problem,” Outrage Magazine’s Michael David dela Cruz Tan said. “And – sad as this may sound – if we continue doing only what we’re doing even if we know that they are not enough, then our situation will not change anytime soon.”

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Just under 700 Filipinos were infected with HIV in October, based on the latest data from the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) released by the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau. For the month starting the last quarter of 2015, there were 651 new HIV Ab sero-positive individuals, a figure 21% higher compared to the same period last year.

Eighty-five percent (24,655) of all the 29,079 diagnosed cases in the Philippines were actually reported in the past five years, from January 2010 to October 2015.

According to Michael David dela Cruz Tan, publishing editor of Outrage Magazine, the country’s only exclusively LGBT publication that also has HIV-related programs, “we can give this a ‘positive’ spin – that is, more people are getting tested for HIV infection, so we now have a ‘clearer’ picture of the impact of the epidemic in the country.”

However, Tan said that “let’s be completely honest here: The continuing upward trend in the number of HIV infection in the Philippines highlights that our efforts – limited as they are – continue not to have the effects that we desire.”

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For Fritzie Estoque, chairperson of the Misamis Oriental-Cagayan de Oro AIDS Network (MOCAN), “we were not surprised at all with the continuing steep upward trend. As a long-time advocate, together with my team, we have anticipated this trend to happen in the Philippines soon(er).”

Estoque said that MOCAN’s engagements and interactions with varied sectors of the society “gave us a picture of what’s going to happen in the next 10 years. Indeed, we are here now.”

Desi Andrew Ching, executive director of HIV and AIDS Support House (HASH), agreed, saying that “on a positive note, this is a sign that more and more people are becoming more educated, more informed and more aware about HIV and AIDS. It is a sign that more and more people are taking initiatives to reach more people towards informing and testing the at-risk population.”

However, the increasing number of people getting infected with HIV in the Philippines is “a realization that we are really far behind the other countries when globally… trends (show that HIV infection rates) are going down. We are among those with an aggressive increasing trend,” Ching said.

WORSENING PROBLEM

Among those who tested positive for HIV this October, 96% were male. The median age was 28 years old (age range: four years to 75 years). Half belong to the 25-34 age group, while 29% were youth aged 15-24 years old.

The regions with the highest number of reported cases for October were: National Capital Region (with 258 cases or 40%), Region 4A (111 or 17%), Region 3 (51 or 8%), Region 7 (47 or 7%), Region 6 (38 or 6%), and Region 11 (31 or 5%).

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Reported modes of transmission were sexual contact (631), needle sharing among injecting drug users (IDU, 18), and mother-to-child transmission (2). Eighty-six percent of the sexually transmitted cases were among males who have sex with males (MSM).

According to Dr. Jose Narciso Melchor Sescon, who helms AIDS Society of the Philippines (ASP), “experts have predicted that HIV cases in the Philippines will continue to rise as a result of scaling up of access and availability of HIV testing and services across the country.”

Sescon, nonetheless, expressed alarm in “the trend (showing the rise in number of HIV infections). This should be taken seriously in terms of the scaling up efforts, as well as the setting of priorities (considering our) resources are still limited.”

Sescon also lamented the lack of political will in the country, particularly because many politicians and government officials ignore science-based solutions in the fight against HIV.

“We have yet to see political leaders with formidable conviction to support, implement and monitor effective programs, and even review and update the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act,” Sescon said.

CHANGING TRENDS

How HIV is affecting Filipinos has been changing. From 1984 (when the first case was reported in the country) to 1990, 62% (133 of 216 cases) were female. Starting 1991, however, more males were reported to be infected with HIV in the Philippines. By the 2010-2015 period, males already comprised 95% (23,458) of the reported 24,655 cases.

Those who are getting infected are also getting younger. From 2000 to 2004, it was 30-39 years; from 2005 to 2009, it was 25-34 years; and from 2010 to 2015, it was 20-29 years. Data from the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau showed that the proportion of PLHIV in the 15-24 year age group increased from 20% in 2005-2009 to 28% in 2010-2015.

The modes of transmission have also been changing. While heterosexual sexual contact was the main mode of HIV transmission in the past, from January 2010 to October 2015, 84% (19,685) of infections through sexual contact were among MSM. Meanwhile, cases among IDU also increased from <1% in 2005 to 2009, to 5% within the past five years.

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Outrage Magazine’s Tan also noted that “just as the country has been ill-equipped with responding to the link between drug use and HIV infection in the Philippines, we are now seeing the same lack of capacity in responding to the link between the sex industry and HIV infection.”

In the Department of Health’s October figures, 11% (73) of those who tested HIV-positive engaged in transactional sex; with most (97%) of them male whose ages range from 16 years old to 61 years old (median: 30 years). Fifty-five percent of males who engaged in transactional sex were the ones who paid for sex.

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As defined, “people who engage in transactional sex are those who report that they regularly accept payment for sex, pay for sex, or do both.”

The Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau further reported that “a total of 2,399 cases reported… from October 2012 to October 2015 were people who engaged in transactional sex. Ninety-six percent were male. Of the 2,399 cases, 1,314 (55%) paid for sex, 707 (29%) accepted payment for sex, and 378 (16%) engaged in both.”

For the month of October, there were 50 reported deaths.

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(EVEN) MORE TO DO

ASP’s Sescon said that “we still have a long way to go in terms of coverage (of HIV testing) and reaching of targeted populations at risk to HIV infection.” For Sescon, to broaden the scope of the existing efforts, “everyone has a responsibility to do; it has to begin with ourselves first.”

HASH’s Ching said that “there is a need to keep pushing for more information dissemination and more education in the community. More programs should be implemented from the grassroots level to strengthen new organizations working on HIV and AIDS. More campaigns should be conducted to promote prevention and early diagnosis and treatment. The youth should be engaged aggressively, considering that the age range of the newly affected are those from 15-24 years old.”

Ching also tasked the PLHIV community in dealing with HIV. “The PLHIV community should demand less and act more, expect less and move more. The health system has a long way to go from becoming at par with our neighboring countries, but other than a more progressive health system is the need for a more mature and more emphatic health service provider program.”

For Outrage Magazine’s Tan, “the solutions we provide to confront this problem should be holistic. Yes, we need to continue promoting means to prevent the spread of HIV – from intensifying campaigns for condom use, introduction of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) in the Philippines, and inclusion of sex-positive messages in educating the public, among others.”

But Tan said that “we should not just ‘put all our eggs in one basket’ – as the saying goes – by over-emphasizing only prevention efforts.” As it is, Tan said that “the HIV discussion in the Philippines is often ‘dictated’, if not hijacked, by those who are not HIV-positive, so that the needs of PLHIVs are generally neglected.”

Tan added: “It is only right that we worry that the numbers of those getting infected with HIV continue to increase, just as it is right for us to take all steps to stop HIV infection. But we should also not forget that there are already so many Filipinos who are infected with HIV, and we need to better their access to quality treatment, care and support services. Solving this epidemic goes beyond people knowing their HIV status. It also means including PLHIVs in the conversations; and ensuring that their needs after they find out that they are HIV-positive are served.”

For Tan, efforts that need to be highlighted, include bettering “access to antiretroviral medicines, uniform implementation of PhilHealth coverage (since PLHIVs in different hubs receive different services, even if they pay the same premium), amendment of the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act to ensure it protects the rights of PLHIV, and dealing with stigma and discrimination that many Filipinos living with HIV now face.”

MOCAN’s Estoque echoed the World Health Organizations’ call for a “bigger response” to bring the epidemic under control, “though, really, we should have next big STEPS.”

Like Tan, Estoque is calling for the “immediate amendment of Republic Act 8504 since there are provisions in this law that somehow hinders the prevention and control program of the government”; and the introduction of PrEP as another choice for HIV prevention.

But Estoque added that there is also a need for the Department of Health to “create/provide more timely training opportunities for dedicated advocates and active organizations to level-up their capabilities and potentials.; share the DOH’ technical support and resources fairly and justly without politics”; and not opt-out people in prison (PiP), women and other key affected populations in the services offered.

Meanwhile, local government units (LGU) “should come up with a functional and a working Local AIDS Council. An effective HIV and AIDS Ordinance should serve as a guiding principle in dealing issues re: HIV & AIDS in every LGU. Apart from treatment, care and support (TCS) and capability building mechanisms, a component on education and prevention and control program must also be given of equal importance. Awareness is power. One can have the power to choose the best option for his/her own health. Positive awareness can save one’s life,” Estoque said.

Estoque said that care should be given to those rendering services/frontline service providers. At least in MOCAN’s observation, site implementation officers (SIOs) and peer educators are not paid on time (delays taking up to four months), which – in turn – affects the quality of care provided by those in the frontline.

Estoque similarly recommended for the health sector to “improve quality service. This sector must not just perform their respective duties merely to comply the expectation and target accomplishments as required, but rather work as effective and as compassionate health providers always serving to the best interest of the patients. Serve with care and respect.”

“As for MOCAN, we continue to do all of these: correct misconceptions, educate properly both the young and general population in schools, in communities, in churches, and in different institutions. We continue to speak, collaborate, and engage with officials so that we can level up our campaigns. We continue to empower providers to give complete and genuine health care, eliminate stigma and discrimination. We continue to inspire more individuals, more organizations to help us deliver the message of hope. Hope that having an HIV is not a life sentence. Hope that there is life after getting infected with HIV. And that the hope is available and free (treatment) and if one seeks for that help voluntarily, we handle one with utmost confidentiality and respect,” Estoque said.

“The worsening HIV situation in the Philippines is highlighting how far we are from truly ending this problem,” Tan said. “And – sad as this may sound – if we continue doing only what we’re doing even if we know that they are not enough, then our situation will not change anytime soon.”

#KaraniwangLGBT

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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LGBTQIA people in violent relations should seek help

LGBTQIA people in GBV/IPV/FV ought to know that their situation can be managed; they just need to – first – not fear seeking for help.

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Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels.com

Never be silent.

In Quezon City, a 13-year-old transgender girl was repeatedly abused by her father, leading to the involvement of the barangay, which has a worker trained by OutRight International and EnGendeRights, Inc. on gender-based violence (GBV)/intimate partner violence (IPV)/family violence (FV).

Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, who helms EnGendeRights, Inc., recalled that – when they helped remove the transgender girl from the abusive situation – they initially encountered some roadblocks, such as finding alternative housing.

But then “we (found out) that her lolo at lola (grandfather and grandmother) were willing to take custody”, thereby allowing for her to be “removed from (the) abusive situation,” Padilla recalled.

And so for Padilla, LGBTQIA people in GBV/IPV/FV ought to know that their situation can be managed; they just need to – first – not fear seeking for help.

This was Padilla’s message at OutTalks, a webinar series helmed by Ging Cristobal of OutRight International.

Posted by Ging Cristobal on Thursday, November 26, 2020

DEALING WITH ABUSE

As it is, Padilla said there are actually already existing remedies for LGBTQI persons. Included here is seeking help from – first – the barangay, or if the case needs to be elevated, then the police and/or even prosecutor’s office/court.

At least in her experience dealing with related cases, Padilla said that decision of complainants on whether to file cases or not vary.

At times, victims want to deal with repeat offenders. Others assess the importance of seeking redress (e.g. empowerment, becoming a survivor from being a victim, prosecution of abuser, holding abusers accountable). And at times, people’s decisions are affected by existing support mechanisms (e.g. family members, government agencies).

No matter the decision, though, Padilla said the country already has some laws that could be useful to victims.

Photo by Joanne Adela Low from Pexels.com

LAWS OF USE

RA 7610, for instance, deals with child abuse. Padilla said that even in the absence of social workers, the Department of Social Worker and Development, police and barangay can actually already “take children into protective custody to remove them from abusive situations.”

RA 9262 (Anti-VAWC or violence against women and children) can also be used by lesbian and bisexual women. The law is, however, limited. For one, it does not benefit abused gay and bisexual men; and whether it can be used by transgender women has yet to be tested.

The Revised Penal Code also sanctions physical injury, unjust vexation, slander by deed, acts of lasciviousness, and rape (e.g. incest, conspiracy, intimate partner violence, date rape).

RA 11313 (Safe Spaces Act) mentions harassment in public spaces based on actual or perceived SOGIESC (sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics).

RA 10175 (Cybercrime Law) also eyes to provide safe space online.

And then there are anti-discrimination ordinances (ADOs). This is obviously not encompassing, considering that many local government units still do not have ADOs (and the country still does not have a law protecting the human rights of LGBTQIA people).

PROACTIVE STANCE

In the end, Padilla said, “huwag mahiyang dumulog (do not be embarrassed to ask for help).”

She said that the number of service providers continue to increase, and so “idulog nyo sa amin at hanapan natin ng solution para maka-seek kayo ng justice (inform us about your issue so we can find solutions as you seek justice).”

To contact EnGendeRights, Inc., call (02) 83762578 or (02) 86645696.

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City of Manila passes LGBTQI anti-discrimination ordinance

The City of Manila finally has an anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) to protect the human rights of LGBTQI Filipinos. Mayor Francisco Moreno Domagoso signed City Ordinance 8695, sponsored by councilor Joel Villanueva, which prohibits “any and all forms of discrimination on the basis of SOGIE”.

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The rainbow rises in the City of Manila… finally.

The City of Manila finally has an anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) to protect the human rights of LGBTQI Filipinos. Mayor Francisco Moreno Domagoso signed City Ordinance 8695, sponsored by councilor Joel Villanueva, which prohibits “any and all forms of discrimination on the basis of SOGIE”.

“No harm will come to you while I’m mayor of Manila. Lahat kayo pantay pantay sa mata ng pamahalaang lokal,” Domagoso said before signing ADO.

Called Manila LGBTQI Protection Ordinance of 2020, the ADO prohibits:

  1. Denying or limiting access to employees the promotion, transfer, training and schooling if these are otherwise granted to others;
  2. Refusing employment based on actual or perceived SOGIE;
  3. Denying access to medical/health programs and services based on actual or perceived SOGIE;
  4. Denying admission, getting expelled or dismissed, or preventing a student from graduating or getting clearance based on actual or perceived SOGIE;
  5. Revoking accreditation or LGBTQI organizations in schools and workplaces;
  6. Subjecting any person to verbal or written insult including on any social media platforms;
  7. Refusing services based on SOGIE (e.g. accommodations, renting dwelling, malls, etc); and
  8. Organizing groups and activities that promote/incite discrimination of LGBTQI people.

The ADO also mandates the creation of the Gender Sensitivity and Development Council, which will be tasked to synchronize the city’s programs for the LGBTQI community. This council is also tasked to facilitate and assist victims of stigma and discrimination so that they get legal representation and psychological assistance.

With the ADO, every barangay is mandated to establish LGBTQI assistance desks to receive complaints related to the ADO.

By 2023, it is expected that gender-neutral toilets will be established in all venues in the City of Manila. This will be made a condition precedent to the renewal of business permits of establishments.

Violation of the ADO will be penalized with a fine of PhP1,000 and/or imprisonment of six months for the first offense; increasing to a PhP3,000 fine and/or imprisonment up to a year for the third offense.

The ADO will be funded by 5% of the appropriation to finance the city’s Gender and Development programs.

According to Naomi Fontanos of GANDA Filipinas, which helped push for the passage of this ADO: “Based on experience, we know that a law won’t end LGBTQI discrimination and violence but can enable access to justice for people who seek redress. The fight isn’t over.”

And since the ADO has no IRR yet, it also “needs to be monitored for proper implementation.”

Since this also comes on the heels of Zamboanga City passing its own ADO on October 14, Fontanos said that credit should be given to the work of LGBTQI advocates and allies in and outside LGUs tirelessly pushing for structural change.

All the same, “the struggle to pass a national anti-discrimination law also continues and our work to hold those in power to account remains,” Fontanos ended.

*This article was amended on October 30, 11.21AM to include the statements of Naomi Fontanos of GANDA Filipinas

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Enter the alter world

Welcome to the alter world, where people tweet and retweet their or other people’s sexual engagements. Though often maligned, it actually also highlights formation of friendships, info sharing, emotional support, and even provision of a ‘safe space’ for those who wish to express their sexuality.

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Some time back, Kurt (a.k.a. @MoanerBottom) opened a Twitter account as a form of revenge. “I found out that my ex had an ‘alter’ account and he was fooling around with different people,” he recalled. And so “I wanted to prove to him that I can also do the same thing.”

Little did Kurt know at that time that he would become a mainstay in the alter world/community. A few months since opening his own alter account, he garnered over 130,000 followers, all of them craving – and even waiting – for what he would post, usually dominated by sexual encounters (“kalat videos,” he calls them) with mostly students, including a basketball varsitarian “who likes to penetrate deeply”, a Blue Eagle who allowed for his orgasm to be videoed, a Tamaraw who also allowed himself to be videoed as he orgasmed, and bending for a Red Lion.

“I must admit that I am a shy person in real life,” Kurt said. But “here in Twitter, it is like I have less shame and more courage to do kalat (contextually: shameless) posts and videos.”

Kurt is, obviously, only one of the people – not just Filipinos – with alter accounts, which many like him, say is similar to a “pseudonym — like Batman to Bruce Wayne, or Superman to Clark Kent; where people can have a separate account from their primary accounts, usually used to express themselves more ‘wildly’ yet more ‘discreetly’/anonymously.”

And so welcome to the alter world, where people tweet and retweet their or other people’s sexual “collaborations”, hookups, fetishes, fantasies and social engagements, with the audiences often never really knowing the content generators/producers/distributors.

Getting noticed

That the alter world is often dominated by sexual content is a given.

Onin (a.k.a. @Onin_NuezPH), for example, sees his alter account “as an avenue for me to express myself and my sexuality. I am able to let everyone know within the community about my sexual desires without the fear of being judged.”

Looking back, it was actually “a friend who is an alter too introduced me in this alter community,” Onin said.

One of the early instances Onin trended was when some of his nude photos circulated on Twitter. Many got curious, asking the person who previously reacted or shared the photos if there were more.

It whetted Onin’s interest; and so he started posting more photos and short videos. His followers quickly increased, reaching more than 145,000.

Taking pride that he is one of the more talked about alters out there, Onin has produced content that may seem trivial… but these have been keeping the alter community and lurkers interested, from balancing a shampoo bottle on top of his erect penis, sharing a photo of his endowment while asking his followers if they want to kneel in front him, a comparison of the length of a deodorant spray with his penis, wearing a see-through underwear, and teasing his latest sexual collaboration.

Standing out

Standing out in a platform where hundreds (even thousands) of alters saturate news feeds is a challenge. After all, it is not an easy feat to attract someone’s attention — what more to make them like, share, or follow an account.

For FUCKER Daddy (a.k.a. @ako_daddy), therefore, it all comes down to the type of content being posted, not just being well-endowed, willing to perform bareback sex, or how often the face is shown.

A licensed professional who has a son, FUCKER Daddy started as a “lurker’ (i.e. one who lurks, or just consumes content/views profiles) on Twitter. At that time, he wrote “my real-life sex stories, hoping it will pick up from there,” he recalled. “Unfortunately, alter peeps seem to be more into live action.”

And so FUCKER Daddy met someone from Telegram, without realizing that the person was “sort of (a) big (personality) on Twitter.” This guy discretely took a short clip of their sexual encounter, and then posted it on his alter account. “It was hit. (And) the rest is history.”

By August 2019, FUCKER Daddy said his inbox started receiving direct messages from different users – e.g. asking for more, congratulating him, wanting to collaborate, and so on.

He actually now has several sex videos in his cam. But he still doesn’t make recording the primary thing when engaging in sex “as my goal is to have hookups; videos are only secondary.”

Besides, he said that “I do not want to spoil the moment for sex and think only of it as merely for Twitter.”

But every time FUCKER Daddy posts a video, he said his over 95,000 followers respond to them “with enthusiasm, getting more curious and intrigued.”

Making a living

The concept of alter, however, isn’t set in stone.

For one, there are actually alter accounts whose owners prefer to use their real names and show their faces (like Onin), mixing their personal and private lives along the way. Following the Batman/Bruce Wayne and Superman/Clark Kent analogy, there are also people who follow the Tony Stark/Iron Man mantra, i.e. openly announcing that they are one and the same.

Secondly, monetizing is actually possible.

Also, one may be part of the alter community without knowing it – i.e. one engages in alter activities without recognizing it as such.

The likes of John (a.k.a. @johnnephelim on Twitter and Instagram), who has over 130,000 followers, comes to mind, using Twitter as a platform “to promote a job.”

“I do not even know that I am involved in the world of alter,” John said, adding that he did not even know what the term meant until it was presented to him. Instead, his account is used to “promote my RentMen and OnlyFans accounts”, just as he also promotes his availability for “personal appointment to people.”

John actually used to work as a brand ambassador, but because of this change in his work, he “can no longer work (in) that (field) because I am doing porn.”

He admitted that “this type of thing is double-edged.” On the one hand, “you can earn a great amount of money,” he said, “but there will be sacrifices.”

He noted, for instance, that the perception of people about me changed; most people judge you right away because of what you do, and not because of who you are as a person.”

But he ignores the naysayers; “I do not mind because this job gives more than what I expected!”

Like John, Onin also promotes his JustFor.Fans (JFF) account on Twitter to respond to the requests of his followers.

“They (my followers) want to see me in action and they are willing to subscribe too,” Onin said, with his exclusive content including: he and his partner having sex, and collaborations with other alters. “You will not earn that much, but pretty enough to compensate for the contents that we are posting.”

Not all alters think alike, obviously. FUCKER Daddy, for instance, won’t monetize his content, saying: “I value sex as it was created. I never sell any (videos) because I think it is something that is worth free. I simply treated it as making memories while those (who) watch put up the numbers.”

Behind the handles

The world of alter has actually already caught the attention of researchers.

For instance, in a study by Samuel Piamonte of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, Mark Quintos of De La Salle University Manila, and Minami Iwayama of Polytechnic University of the Philippines, it was found that the alter community may seem overtly sexual, but there is more to it than that.
“The sexual aspect of alter is the core of alter, but it has been enriched by more complex social benefits to users such as including formation of new friendships, sharing of information and advocacies, reciprocations of emotional support, and provision of a ‘safe space’ for those who wish to express their sexuality but find that doing so outside of the alter community could be met with stigma from their peers and family.”

Kurt sees his alter account as an avenue for him to tap his inner self and show the Twitter universe his kalat. Onin uses his alter account to broadcast his sexual side (together with his partner). And FUCKER Daddy uses his alter account as “a constant source of info, hookups, convo… and to learn social demographics as well.”

The evolution, indeed, continues.

Hate from within the community

Yes, yes, yes… with increasing numbers of followers, multiple likes and shares, and the creation of alter “celebrities”, this has not been spared from criticisms.

And sadly, said Kurt, at least in the Philippine setting, the prejudice against alters comes from within the community. “Kapuwa LGBT ang nagsisiraan at nagpapataasan sa isa’t-isa,” he said. “I know… that I cannot please everyone (but) for me it is okay, as long as I know that I am not doing anything wrong.”

Perhaps a “surprise” is the audience’s inability to “appreciate” the free content given them, with Kurt noting that there are times when “they are also pissed off with the things I post.”

This seems to contradict the findings of Piamonte, Quintos and Iwayama, since – here – the alter community can become a fearful place, too.

John, like Kurt, noted how people resort to demeaning others when they do not fit preconceived notions. But he just laughs this off, saying: “Do not hate me because I look good and make money (from) it. Life is too short to be a bitter person. If you do not like what we do, then shut the fuck up.”

The Pandora’s box, so to speak has been opened; and lessons learned along the way can just “make you stronger and bring out the best in you,” said Onin, who like many alters, “just focus on my goals.” And it is exactly because of the existence of this interchange – the content creation, and the love-hate reaction to what’s created – that alter is not going to disappear anytime soon (or at all).

Details and photos of sexual encounters were lifted from the Twitter accounts of the interviewees.

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Anti-discrimination ordinance passes final reading in Zamboanga City; awaits mayor’s signature

Zamboanga joins the growing number of local government units that now has an anti-discrimination ordinance.

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The rainbow rises in Zamboanga City.

The 1st class highly urbanized city in the Zamboanga Peninsula of the Philippines, Zamboanga, joins the growing number of local government units (LGUs) that now has an anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO).

As helmed by Hon. Lilibeth Macrohon Nuño, the ADO passed the third and final reading at the Sangguniang Panglunsod of the City of Zamboanga on October 6.

The ADO is actually not only specific to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Instead, it is a more comprehensive ADO that also prohibits discrimination based on race, color, civil and social status, language, religion, national or social origin, culture and ethnicity, property, birth or age, disability and health status, creed and ideological beliefs, and physical appearance.

The ADO now goes to the desk of Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar for signing.

As the sixth most populous and third largest city by land area in the Philippines, Zamboanga has a population of 861,799 people (as of 2015). The ADO was pushed by local LGBTQIA organization, Mujer-LGBT Organization Inc.

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Proposed ‘comprehensive anti-discrimination bill’ called oxymoronic, removes need to protect LGBTQIA Filipinos

A proposed “Comprehensive (sic) Anti-Discrimination Act” is being considered in the House of Representatives (HOR), though the bill eliminates LGBTQIA people among those in need of protection. According to Rep. Geraldine Roman, by eliminating SOGIE in the CADB, it contradicts the very claim that it’s CADB. “By eliminating us, you are discriminating against us.”

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A not-so-comprehensive anti-discrimination bill after all.

A proposed “Comprehensive (sic) Anti-Discrimination Act” is being considered in the House of Representatives (HOR), though the bill eliminates LGBTQIA people among those in need of protection.

In a virtual meeting of the technical working group of the Committee on Human Rights of HOR, Rep. Jesus Suntay presented “An act prohibiting discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion or belief, sex, gender, language, disability, HIV status, educational attainment and other forms of discrimination”.

“If you eliminate SOGIE, you can’t call it ‘Comprehensive ADB’. It’s an oxymoron.”

Rep. Geraldine Roman

Another proposed bill, the SOGIE Equality Bill, is getting criticized because it is supposed to be limited to a specific class of people – i.e. LGBTQIA people. And so there is a proposal for it to be included, instead, in the more and supposedly comprehensive anti-discrimination bill (CADB).

According to Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., himself a pastor cum politician: “We are trying to avoid approving any bill that would be classified as class legislation… This is why it is CADB.”

Abante – nonetheless – believes in the inclusion of sexual orientation in the CADB, just not gender identity and expression.

However, the move to exclude “discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression” from the CADB is a win for anti-LGBTQIA people by eliminating SOGIE Equality Bill and then excluding LGBTQIA people from the CADB.

According to Rep. Geraldine Roman, the first transgender congressperson in the Philippines: “If you eliminate SOGIE, you can’t call it ‘Comprehensive ADB’. It’s an oxymoron.”

The proposed bill also removes SOGIE in Sec. 2: Declaration of Policy, and in the definition of terms.

Defending the erasure of SOGIE in the bill he presented, Suntay said that there are already 15 SOGIE-related bills filed with the Committee on Women. For him, if SOGIE is also included in the CADB, it “may be deemed also as SOGIE Equality Bill.”

But Roman does not agree with this.

That argument, she said, “is totally irrelevant… By eliminating SOGIE (in the CADB), it contradicts the very claim that it’s CADB. By eliminating us, you are discriminating against us.”

Roman added: “We have to be brave enough and recognize that there is discrimination happening against people like me who has a gender identity that is considered as different from what’s considered as conventional.”

Suntay noted that an anti-discrimination bill has been passed since the 13th Congress; and he hopes to eventually “steer this to success”, apparently even with LGBTQIA exclusion.

WRITE TO, OR CONTACT THE OFFICE OF REP. JESUS SUNTAY. INFORM HIM OF THE NEED TO KEEP SOGIE IN THE COMPREHENSIVE ANTI-DISCRIMINATION BILL.
FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/congsuntay/
Email provided in FB: congressmansuntay@gmail.com
Mobile no.: 09190847873

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