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Libay Linsangan Cantor: Life Formations

Olivia (Libay) Linsangan Cantor believes there are “different approaches to doing advocacy work. I am not like the usual hardcore (usually fulltime) advocate/activist out there. I try to do my advocacy directly in the work that I do, or integrate it in the arts I am involved in.”

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“I get inspired by the new people I meet, those who have just come out to themselves and are searching for their queer niche in the world. Sometimes they are curious and they ask questions. That is why I entertain some who come up to me or email me or read and comment on my blog or Twitter about queer stuff. This means people are willing to discover more and learn, and I am always for that, for education and learning.”

“I guess before I labeled myself as an LGBTQ advocate, I was a women’s rights advocate first,” said genderqueer Olivia (Libay) Linsangan Cantor, a faculty member (Assistant Professor 1) of the University of the Philippines Film Institute and contributing writer of The Philippine Online Chronicles‘ (POC) Pinoy LGBT channel. “It’s because growing up, I witnessed inequalities in my living spheres which were not giving justice to being a woman in Philippine society. Be it in school, the church, even in my own family, I see this gender imbalance. In the process, I didn’t even know the definition of a feminist but I was already being a feminist at that time pala.”

Before Libay turned 24, she “discovered that I prefer women than men. This was when the concept of lesbian-feminism was introduced to me. I guess it’s not a far cry from what I have observed growing up as a feminist. Only this time, another layer was added to the feminist struggle: that of being a lesbian. In essence, you really don’t just ‘become’ an advocate of any sort unless you make it a point in your life to fight the social injustices and inequalities you see/hear/experience in your life and in the lives of others, even in a very simple manner, such as trying to educate people about gender inequalities or standing up to a person with macho thinking, things like that. Advocacy doesn’t have to be grand, or grandstanding.”

It can be said, therefore, that “the same thing that triggered me to be a women’s rights advocate: when I saw and felt social injustices for myself, this time because I identified as a woman-loving-woman already.” Libay sees the need to stress the key word “love” in that phrase, since for many “narrow-minded people”, this is just equated with “sex/lust, with abnormality, and with hate,” she said.  “And when I saw that many women like me were experiencing the same thing, I thought something should be done in order to correct these misconceptions and lies.”

It was then when Libay saw organized groups of women – and “not just your stereotypical stone butch type of women – organize because they were lesbians. I met lesbians who were mothers, who were professors, who looked like your average girl next door. I saw that when I was introduced to the Baguio-based org Lesbond in 1997. And the same year, during the Manila June Pride March, I met and saw other groupings based in Manila. And then in 1998, there was this Asian Lesbian Networking Conference in Quezon City, where I saw other Asians and Westerners of Asian descent who were lesbians. I realized that I am in good company, and that there’s more to being a lesbian than just ‘merely’ being with a woman. I learned issues, concerns, and human rights being denied us. I guess those events culminated into my becoming an advocate.”

ADVOCACY WORK

Libay believes there are “different approaches to doing advocacy work. I am not like the usual hardcore (usually fulltime) advocate/activist out there. I try to do my advocacy directly in the work that I do, or integrate it in the arts I am involved in.”  For example, “I think the biggest challenge still lies with how people are being misinformed about queers because of the way we are depicted/represented in media. My being a queer advocate goes hand in hand with my being a media advocate. We should still do something in this sphere because media’s far-reaching effect is undeniable. So whenever I work on TV or in print, I try to incorporate that kind of awareness either directly or indirectly depending on the medium.”

Libay and her peers even tried to come out with the very first LGBT lifestyle glossy magazine in the Philippines, an effort she said is “right up my alley”. A move like this “doesn’t fly sometimes,” she admitted, so that she decided to keep the content she produced for the defunct publication in a blog.

“Some exes in the past castigated me for being so out in the open in my blog. But what if, in a random search, some lesbian who feels lonely and who is looking for others like her to connect with find linkages through my blog? What if, in my random writings about lesbian lives, they also get encouraged to face their own lesbian life? You know, small stories could matter like that. And I have gotten many emails in the past from lesbians who tell me these things, like how my ‘simple blogging’ over the years have affected them in some manner. Sometimes they even write to me for advice about their situations, usually about love, of course. Some readers I even met and became my friends eventually,” Libay said.  “This is why I write the stories I write – to be read by people who may have use for them, who may find something of value in my thoughts, who could use these thoughts and elevate them to better thoughts for their own good. Whatever helps.”

Libay Linsangan Cantor said: “I also get inspired by those who have been there in the advocacy circles for ages yet they are still not tired to entertain the new ones. Like I said, we need to help each other because this is all our fight, ‘young’ or ‘old’.”

LGBTQ ISSUES

Libay believes that “there are still a lot of issues we have to face, but I think what we need to sort out first is how we work with each other, and how we will engage those within the LGBTQ community but who are outside the advocacy circles,” she said. “There are more people outside than inside, and that has to be addressed.”

Libay noted that “sometimes there is some kind of inner discrimination happening here, an advocate/non-advocate divide, and advocates just tend to stay within their side of this line. We shouldn’t be exclusionary like that because we’re all in this together.”

On how to reach everyone, Libay admitted that “that’s a challenge. That’s why I think it’s crucial to kind of segment our efforts first and then come together later on in a clearer forum/arena maybe where we can intersect our issues to achieve a common goal.” For Libay, a good example is in the pressing need to address the HIV situation, “but in the gay/MSM community first perhaps, and then bringing this campaign to a wider audience. I’ve seen this happen (e.g. The Red Whistle), and this could be a start.”

Libay added: “The lesbians also have to face certain issues within their sphere. For instance, the problem of poorer lesbians who get discriminated in their jobs or workplace because they are lesbian. Upper class lesbians don’t have this job security problem, but they still have their own issues, especially about coming out to their families and in the workplace, as well. How could we help each other? The transwomen are a good example of how they are working within their own sphere in order to make some changes, and then translating that to a larger context by applying it to the larger LGBTQ community. Things like that.”

What could prove to be most effective, however, “is if we get the law on our side as well. Too many queers have been hurt by existing laws that harm us, or some laws are bent in order to harm us. Like the Anti-vagrancy Law used to extort money from gay men; and also the absence of laws that recognize us as legal partners, or even as common-law partners. We should at least have that. Like when partners end up not having visitation rights when their partners get sick, just because they’re not recognized by the law as an entity, that really irks me. Simple things like that should be addressed. This is why I think there should be some kind of anti-discrimination law to protect us in social spheres, and to guarantee the practice of the rights denied us,” Libay said. “We should really work on the ADB being passed; let’s look beyond color/political lines. Let’s look at lives. Queer lives. Our lives. That’s more important than politicking, ‘di ba?”

FACING CHALLENGES

Libay is “sometimes disappointed at the lack of awareness of even just the gender-specific issues of certain sectors in the local LGBTQ community,” she said, though she acknowledged that “I know I shouldn’t be. We shouldn’t be outright judgmental in that manner because we also have to understand that each sector within the community has their own specific strategies for survival in a patriarchal, homophobic society such as ours.”

However, Libay added that “if their lack of awareness already borders on hurting others, then that’s where I draw the line. For example, there are lesbians who are victims of domestic abuse by their girlfriends. Isn’t it basic human knowledge that we should love our partners and not beat them up to a pulp, just because we sometimes feel that we need to be ‘macho’ or whatever? Or if there are ‘papogi’ or ‘pa-macho’ lesbians out there who will try to steal another person’s girlfriend just to show/prove that they can, just to add to their so-called pogi points? Things like that irritate me.”

As far as LGBTQ advocacy in the community goes, there are also major disappointments for Libay. “I think we have to focus more on being issue-based rather than personality-based. Sometimes we are forgetting that we are fighting for a common cause and that it doesn’t matter whoever gets shoved in the limelight. But the light blinds some of us, and therefore we often think that we should always be in it. Visibility is really great, especially with what’s happening now in traditional media and new media technologies, but there should also be advocacy in this visibility we carry. There’s a difference between being a public figure and being a celebrity.”

Nonetheless, Libay also finds the LGBTQ community a source of inspiration.

“I get inspired by the new people I meet, those who have just come out to themselves and are searching for their queer niche in the world. Sometimes they are curious and they ask questions. That is why I entertain some who come up to me or email me or read and comment on my blog or Twitter about queer stuff. This means people are willing to discover more and learn, and I am always for that, for education and learning.

There are also those who want to start projects or are starting projects, and I also encourage that as well. Whatever helps raise our image is cool.”

Libay added: “I also get inspired by those who have been there in the advocacy circles for ages yet they are still not tired to entertain the new ones. Like I said, we need to help each other because this is all our fight, ‘young’ or ‘old’.”

LOOKING FORWARD

Libay is most proud of “my arts and work… of recognition given by peers and esteemed individuals/organizations/institutions in the fields I am involved in,” she said.

Libay Linsangan Cantor believes there are “different approaches to doing advocacy work. I am not like the usual hardcore (usually fulltime) advocate/activist out there. I try to do my advocacy directly in the work that I do, or integrate it in the arts I am involved in.”

Recently, her alma mater, the University of the Philippines, honored her with a UP Artist II award to recognize her body of work in the last five years, which involves her directing/scriptwriting work for TV, and her “handful” of short films/documentaries and literary publications. “To be honored this way as a UP faculty and a media/arts practitioner is something that elates me to this day,” Libay said. “It means my life work is being recognized and I appreciate that very much. The same goes for my earliest award as well, my two Palanca Awards for literature. That somewhat validates that I am indeed an effective writer and I am happy with that kind of validation.”

This kind of recognition is, however, “taken to a higher level whenever the recognized work of mine is queer-oriented. An example of this is when my lesbian-themed screenplay was cited for an honorable mention in a national scriptwriting competition before. That somewhat validates the advocacy, that it’s okay to write a film about lesbian lives. The same goes for my stories that get picked up for publication in book anthologies. I am happy whenever a story about the lives of women-loving-women get featured this way; this shows more visibility, and also educates others about us, about how we are. Hopefully, such exposures will lead to the eradication of discriminatory views against us. This is why I do the things I do, write the things I write.”

When all is said and done, Libay said “it wouldn’t hurt if I am remembered as that queer woman writer who writes about women-loving-women in literature, online, and in blogs. And that queer professor who also tries to inculcate proper queer awareness in the university where she circulates,” she said.  Then with a smile: “Or, if that’s too much to ask, puwede na rin to be remembered as ‘that age-defying cute queer’?” She laughed.  “Chos! Shucks bahala na sila, teh! Kebs. Basta happy-happy lang. Keri na anumang kembot.”

Fortunately for the LGBTQ community, Libay still intends to “just continue doing what I’m doing – write stories and essays about queer women’s lives. To just be. And to be there.”

Read Libay Linsangan Cantor’s take on life here

People You Should Know

Living with HIV in Digos City

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

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

BI AWAKENING

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

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

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

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

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

FINDING OUT ABOUT HIS HIV STATUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

EVERYONE CAN BE INFECTED

Even before then, Charles actually worked in HIV advocacy.

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

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

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

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

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

BEING OPEN ABOUT LIVING WITH HIV

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

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

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

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

HIV-RELATED ISSUES IN DAVAO DEL SUR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EMPOWERING THE HIV COMMUNITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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People You Should Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NEWSMAKERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NEWSMAKERS

Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach voices support for LGBTQIA community

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

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Screencap from the Instagram account of Pia Wurtzbach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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‘Riverdale’ actress Lili Reinhart comes out as bisexual

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

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

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

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

Visibility, obviously, matters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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