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.”
“To people who discriminate against LGBTQIA people, learn to respect. We do not burden the community; we even make people happy. We even organize most events (for you). So respect us. We’re also human; we don’t have hearts of stone like you.”
So said Flong Flong Baculio – 28 from Cabalantian, Manticao, Misamis Oriental – who, as a person who identifies as “trans queer” (since “sometimes I wear clothes worn by men, at times by women”), is familiar with LGBTQIA-related discrimination.
When she was in Grade 6, for example, schoolmates mocked her “because I used to sometimes wear women’s clothes in school.”
And then later, there were people who taunted her, calling her “’Faggot, faggot!’. And that I’m a walking source of money of straight men.”
The latter is based on the traditional beliefs that:
- Gay or bi men and transgender women – by defying the gender binary – want to be “like women”; and
- They can only have transactional relationships with heterosexual identifying men (i.e. they need to “pay up” for these men to be/stay with them).
But Flong Flong said she learned to cope.
“To face (discriminatory acts), I set goals for myself. For instance, even in my first year in high school, I already offered hair and make-up services. I was already a dance instructor. I was a Zumba instructor. They stop mocking you when you have talents, when you’re educated. You also stop caring about discrimination.”
Flong Flong has three siblings; she is the youngest.
“I was 12 years old when I realized I am part of the LGBTQIA community. At that time, I already wore women’s clothes. I even turned my Mom’s curtains into gowns,” she laughed. “But I always take pride in what I wear because I’m really like this, a part of the LGBTQIA community.”
Her Mom died when Flong Flong was 11. Her Dad eventually remarried.
“Dad didn’t support me at first because LGBTQIA people are discriminated. In our barangay, most LGBTQIA people are treated crudely… even if not all of us. So Dad didn’t like it,” Flong Flong said.
She didn’t, couldn’t change. Besides, “in the end, he discovered I have many talents. He eventually relented… along with my siblings.”
For Flong Flong, LGBTQIA people should look after their parents.
“We don’t get married; don’t form families. So we really have to look after the families we were born into, and our parents,” she said.
In her case, her Dad – who passed away last year – got so sick, and “I took care of him. I bought his medicines. I spent for his dialysis. I did everything – gave financial and physical support,” she said.
Asked if she thinks this is fair to LGBTQIA people, Flong Flong was adamant: “I think it’s just fair; they’re our parents.”
Flong Flong finished her tertiary education in Iligan City, at IMCC, taking up Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant Management.
Looking back, “I didn’t experience discrimination while in Iligan City,” she said, adding that the difference may be because of the geography. For LGBTQIA people, “think it’s different when you’re in a municipality, or you’re in a city,” she said, adding that in her experience, “in the city, they are more respectful. Maybe because there are more LGBTQIA people there.”
A difference can also be seen in finding love.
Right now, for instance, Flong Flong said she has “fuck buddies” (“Though we don’t label our relationships”; and even if “I have a fiancé now; he’s overseas, an American”). But she noticed that “in the province, straight guys take advantage of us. You have to give men money, give them drinks. Otherwise, you won’t have them. If you want them, you have to exert effort – buy drinks, give them money, woo them to get their attention. So it’s hard finding love here.”
But Flong Flong takes pride in her longer term relationship, with the guy she met online two years ago.
“Now, my sources of income were affected by the pandemic – the wedding gigs, hair and make-up services… I don’t earn as much as I did before the pandemic because I have less clients. My fiancé supports me; even now we’re together,” she said, adding that they have an “open relationship.”
For Flong Flong, “The one issue we should focus on is our need to be united.”
For her, for example, lesbians represent the first letter in ‘LGBTQIA’, so they should also be encouraged to join the LGBTQIA community. But for the local LGBTQIA organization in her place, “only three to five lesbians joined our group” even if “in my barangay, there may be 10 lesbians here.”
She recognizes that LGBTQIA people have priorities – e.g. some of them are busy working, or looking after their parents. “But given the chance, I want to tell them to allocate some time to join our organization so we can be united.”
There is also a need “to convince those in other barangays to join the LGBTQIA community,” she said. This is to share opportunities – e.g. HIV awareness, and livelihood trainings.
In the end, “My message to younger LGBTQIA people – particularly to those I mentor, and there are many of them – is to finish schooling. People can’t discriminate against you if you’re educated. It also teaches us to respect other people. Even if they belittle you, I tell you, just finish your education. Reach your goals to show them that they should not hurt us, abuse us or discriminate against us,” Flong Flong ended.