Co-coordinator, Task Force Pride 2010
It was, supposedly, just a partial requirement to complete his undergraduate degree – while in his final year in Uni, Ryan Silverio decided to write a thesis that “dealt with the history of and the dynamics between LGBT organizations in the Philippine,” a topic “I chose because of its novelty, and, yes, because it was a chance for me to find reasons why I feel different from the heterosexist world, and how I can contribute to the change process (in understanding the difference/s).”
Ryan’s involvement eventually broadened as “I got to know the actors within the LGBT community (in the Philippines),” he says, adding that this made him kore “engaged in their activities.”
Before long, and before he knew it, he became an advocate.
While Ryan says that, on a personal level, “I became more confident about myself because the fears of being different from the rest of society somehow diminished,” becoming an activist was – still is – challenging. “There is always a lingering feeling of pressure coming from within the larger LGBT community, this feeling of pressure based on the unresolved issues or problems we all face as LGBTs. Beyond the seemingly tolerant Filipino society which we are a part of, there are unspoken issues that need to be addressed, e.g. internal discrimination within the community, health related concerns such as the HIV problem, and economic concerns. As an advocate, I feel that the community needs to exert more to address these problems,” he says.
Needless to say, Ryan admits there are numerous issues the LGBT community need to put emphasis on, particularly: “Limited access to basic services notably health and education, limited opportunities for work or livelihood for LGBTs, and violence experienced by fellow LGBTs.”
After all, “homophobia and discrimination may be valid concerns, but these may be thought of as secondary concerns among LGBTs who are unemployed or do not have the means to go to school. We need to make our advocacy work relevant to them.”
Ryan attributes “interacting with fellow advocates (for allowing) me to gain new insights about LGBT issues and strategies that helped me sharpen my activism,” he says, as he now also works as a regional coordinator for Southeast Asia for a child rights NGO.
For Ryan, there remain rooms for improvement among LGBT Filipinos. To begin with, “while I value diversity of opinions and positions on issues, I am also quite sad that there remains to be a power struggle even within our community. People always have bright ideas on how to do things but too much assertion of their ideas do have consequences. One of which is the difficulty to come up with a consensus. Hence, efforts remain to be divided, impact then tends to be limited,” he says.
Ryan adds: “I also think that our efforts tend to be concentrated in Metro Manila and perhaps in other key cities. We need to engage local LGBT organizations in rural communities and develop their capacities to engage both local and national level advocacy work.”
He is also saddened by the seeming growing apathy of LGBTs. “Recently, I have encountered some young LGBTs who are quite indifferent towards activism, asserting that there is no need to be out, loud, and critical towards society.
Perhaps they may be blessed to live in a somewhat tolerant Filipino society, or a segment of it. I wish they would look beyond their comfort zones.”
Nonetheless, Ryan is happy – and remains hopeful – that “there are fellow advocates who are silent yet committed to contribute their time and energy for our causes. These are the individuals who may not be mentioned nor photographed, but in their own little ways had created changes.”
Yet another source of inspiration are “fellow advocates, who, true to being beauty queens, relinquish their crown and step into the sidelights as mentors for the young generation of activists,” Ryan says.
Ryan has been an advocate for years now – an achievement he ought to be proud of. Interestingly, just as “I try to be humble most of the time,” he says, the achievement he is most proud of is “successfully defending my Masters thesis, and consequently getting my degree on my 30th birthday. See, more than a decade ago I had dreamed of having an MA degree by the age of 30,” he smiles.
And while, currently, he is “occupied both with work both in civil society, as well as in the academe, in order for me to remain competent, I intend to take on further studies that would lead to a Ph.D. degree.”
Seemingly simple goals – though not too distant to the personality of Ryan, who, after all is said and done, just wants to be “remembered as this elegant and diplomatic gay guy who quietly does something, gracefully pushing buttons here and there, and inspires others to keep their activist flame burning.