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Magdalena Robinson: Not your ordinary beauty queen

Meet Magdalena Robinson, a beauty queen turned LGBTQI activist, who highlights the difficulties encountered by members of the LGBTQI community in central Philippines. “Please don’t ignore our reports, complaints and even our visits in your offices. We are never a nuisance but your proactive partner in your move to uphold and promote basic human rights for all people,” says the founder of Cebu United Rainbow LGBT Sector.

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By Magdalena Robinson

PHOTO BY TROY ESPIRITU, COURTESY OF MAGDALENA ROBINSON

PHOTO BY TROY ESPIRITU, COURTESY OF MAGDALENA ROBINSON

The lady speaking before all of you is a proud transgender woman and a beauty queen. I am Magdalena Robinson, coming all the way from the queenly city of the south, Cebu, in central Philippines.

It’s not all just beauty and glamour that you see in me. Each day of my life has been subjected to difficult, traumatic and some terrible experiences from my past, present – though hopefully not in my future.

One unforgettable incident happened sometime in 2013. After a pageant, I was waiting for a bus to go back home and a man passed by behind me and suddenly hit me with a very strong punch at my back for no reason. That moment caused a commotion in the neighborhood, though the people advised me to just go home since that guy was known to be violent in their community. So I went home with a pain at my back, traumatized and with a heavy heart for not getting any justice, and in fear for my life.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF MAGDALENA ROBINSON

PHOTOS COURTESY OF MAGDALENA ROBINSON

But I’m not here for beauty and drama. I’m here to share with you a positive story that happened in our locality. Way before my organization started its actions back 2010, there were already negative incidents that made big news in our island.

In 2001, the human rights commission dismissed a complaint by a transwoman who was refused entry due to a club’s dress code/policy for its patrons. In 2008, Janjan, a gay man, filed a case against members of a hospital staff for illegally publishing a video during the operation that saw the removal of a perfume canister in his rectum; that video showed the medical team giggling and laughing at the operating room. Sometime from the 7th to 13th of October in 2011, 13 transgender women reported being targeted by an unidentified vehicle whose passengers shot them using pellets. And then there are the brutal killings of our trans sisters – Francis Lariosa was stabbed and her throat slit in 2003; Bernadette was killed with her face crushed in 2005; Sima, a trans youth, was stabbed to her death on her way to watch a pageant in 2007; Pinpin was stabbed to death with an icepick in 2010; Danica was stabbed 14 times in 2010; and Luningning was hit with a bat until she died, with that same bat reportedly inserted in her anus, and right before the Pride March revival in 2011.

With those pressing concerns, we realized that stage could serve to increase awareness about our issues; but we also realized that lofty answers to the Q&A portions of the pageants we joined never really went beyond the stage.  We wanted to translate our pageant answers to actions.

That was when we were invited to a stakeholders’ consultation and luckily met Councilor Alvin Dizon of the Cebu City Council. He agreed and committed to sponsor a local law to address LGBT issues, especially discrimination.

From then on, the community became active, speaking with the local government and other stakeholders. The lobbying lasted for 11 months, when a number of consultations were conducted, Pride March was revived, a Cebu LGBT congress convened, and localized efforts of international LGBT events (such World Civil Rights March and IDAHOT) were held along with other campaigns in barangays and schools. We also formed alliances in the city council, with a total of six authors agreeing to be co-authors of the local legislation. I sat as one of the members of the technical working group and pushed for the inclusion of other vulnerable sectors since discrimination is multi-dimensional. It wasn’t easy as we went through the process.

There were two legislators who posed their reservations, and the church was vocal in its opposition to the law in the media. But on October 17, 2012, the final reading came and the council unanimously approved the first comprehensive anti-discrimination ordinance in the Philippines.

The ordinance provided the Cebuano LGBTI people the redress we need during instances of discrimination, and a legal language that recognizes experiences of discrimination of diverse people of sexual orientations and gender identities. It mandated the city to develop and implement counter-discrimination programs.

An Anti-Discrimination Commission ordinance was also passed in 2014 and have already been appropriated a budget for its 2015 implementation. It is still a challenge to make it a working ordinance. There are still reports of discrimination incidences but no one wants to come out and file a formal complaint. There’s continuing community partnership and constant collaboration with the city legislature in government activities.

Another progress is cooking up the neighboring city’s anti-discrimination legislation. The Mandaue City Council unanimously approved on its first reading the proposed Diversity Code/LGBTIQ Code of Mandaue last February 11, 2015. This ordinance reaffirms the principles of human rights of LGBTI people and recognition as a sector. Also included are provisions on anti-discrimination, integration and inclusivity of LGBTI in city programs and implementation. A Diversity Affairs Office is mandated to implement programs for the empowerment of the sector.

As of the moment, we are optimistic for the ordinance to get adopted. So now, I am calling the help of national human rights institutions and State agencies to issue official directives supporting local policies on equality and non discrimination in the government. This is a way to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and trans advocates like me in my work in lobbying for LGBTI-affirmative policies in the ground. The government should also be the bridge in engaging the private sector.

Please don’t ignore our reports, complaints and even our visits in your offices. We are never a nuisance but your proactive partner in your move to uphold and promote basic human rights for all people.

This is the speech delivered by Magdalena Robinson at the regional dialogue on LGBTI rights and health in Asia and the Pacific, held in Bangkok, Thailand. Robinson is the founder of Cebu United Rainbow LGBT Sector (CURLS).

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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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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! 🥰🏳️‍🌈

A post shared by Pia Wurtzbach (@piawurtzbach) on

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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Screencap from Instagram

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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Screen capture from the Instagram account of emmawatson

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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Eddie Redmayne joins Daniel Radcliffe in opposing J.K. Rowling’s anti-trans comments

Eddie Redmayne joined “Harry Potter” lead actor Daniel Radcliffe in criticizing J.K. Rowling comments about transgender people. “Respect for transgender people remains a cultural imperative, and over the years I have been trying to constantly educate myself. This is an ongoing process.”

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Screencap from "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them"

Eddie Redmayne joined “Harry Potter” lead actor Daniel Radcliffe in criticizing J.K. Rowling comments about transgender people.

In a statement, Redmayne said: “Respect for transgender people remains a cultural imperative, and over the years I have been trying to constantly educate myself. This is an ongoing process.”

Rowling wrote the “Harry Potter” series that starred Radcliffe, and the “Fantastic Beasts” series that starred Redmayne. In a series of tweets starting June 6, where she actually owned the TERF tag (trans-exclusionary radical feminist), Rowling used the “I know and love trans people, but” argument by tweeting to her 14.5 million Twitter followers that transgender people are “erasing the concept of sex”.

Redmayne – who similarly starred in “The Danish Girl”, the 2015 biopic of Lili Elbe, one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery – said: “As someone who has worked with both JK Rowling and members of the trans community, I wanted to make it absolutely clear where I stand. I disagree with Jo’s comments. Trans women are women, trans men are men and nonbinary identities are valid.”

Redmayne continued that “I would never want to speak on behalf of the community but I do know that my dear transgender friends and colleagues are tired of this constant questioning of their identities, which all too often results in violence and abuse. They simply want to live their lives peacefully, and it’s time to let them do so.”

Radcliffe said as much earlier, when he wrote for The Trevor Project that “transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations, who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”

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Transgender women are women – Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe

“Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations.”

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Screencap from "What If" (2013)

Following the backlash the “Harry Potter” author, J.K. Rowling, got for statements deemed transphobic, Daniel Radcliffe wrote on The Trevor Project that “transgender women are women.”

On June 6, Rowling used the “I know and love trans people, but” argument by tweeting to her 14.5 million Twitter followers that transgender people are “erasing the concept of sex”.

In response, Radcliffe said: “Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo (i.e. J.K. Rowling) or I.”

He added that with 78% of transgender and nonbinary youth reporting being the subject of discrimination due to their gender identity, “it’s clear that we need to do more to support transgender and nonbinary people, not invalidate their identities, and not cause further harm.”

Radcliffe stressed that while certain press outlets may paint his statement as proof of infighting between J.K. Rowling and himself, “that is really not what this is about, nor is it what’s important right now.”

In closing, Radcliffe said: “To all the people who now feel that their experience of the books has been tarnished or diminished, I am deeply sorry for the pain these comments have caused you. I really hope that you don’t entirely lose what was valuable in these stories to you.”

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