I had to console a friend yesterday. He called to tell me he was f*ed up – literally and figuratively. He fell in love with someone, and – thinking he found his forever – he gave his supposed prized virginity to that person. With his frame of mind largely built by stereotypical hetero expectations, he thought that by doing so, they could then build a life together.
Unfortunately for my friend, that’s all that this person wanted: to pop his cherry. He does not love my friend. He now does not even want to have anything to do with him (he is now seen-zoned in FB). And so my friend now feels used and abused.
I told my friend I could empathize with him – albeit my experience has to do with ideological corruption.
See, I was a a young LGBT activist who moved to Metro Manila from (somewhat far-flung) Lucena City. And as a young and, well, “virginal” LGBT activist, I was so naïve in my expectations. I thought that I could come here and help make change happen. I wanted so much to help inject some fresh blood in the LGBT movement.
And then I was faced with realities. I encountered different organizations composed of LGBT people, or those eyeing to serve the LGBT community.
Check the “grassroots” organizations led by people from the privileged classes who – ironically – cut out the very people they claim to represent. There are organizations whose main reason for existence seems to corner available funds; dare to ask them how they give back to the community, and their usual response is to shut you out.
I also got to know different LGBT leaders and “leaders” (the latter seem to tend to “compete” with each other for the spotlight). Some you wouldn’t hear of until you meet them at the fringes of society – helping gay farmers fight for land reform, removed from jobs due to contractualization that is supposed to be illegal but is still practiced by many businesses, or organizing LGBT people who are also members of lumad communities. And then there are those who do not have grassroots works/do not even integrate with impoverished LGBT sectors, yet claim to be the spokespersons of the entire LGBT community in the Philippines. For them, there’s this sense of “everyone for him/herself”.
When I saw this situation, I realized that there is a problem.
Suffice it to say, everything is too fragmented to be even called a movement.
However, I may be new, but I don’t think everything’s hopeless.
Maybe we can start with going beyond the over-emphasis on identity politics – on credit-grabbing on who gets to “speak” on behalf of the entire community, instead of taking actions first. Follow that up with bridging the divides – for instance, if you want to speak about the HIV situation in the Philippines, at least go to a treatment hub and see how Filipinos living with HIV wait for hours to access treatment, care and support; or if you want to speak about the difficulties experienced by transgender people who were removed from employment because they want to be regularized, at least visit them (more than once) in the picket lines (instead of just sending them a few hundreds, as if to “pay” for their stories).
The moment, too, that some politician appeases us (by mentioning us in speeches, or inviting us to dinners), let’s not forget we’re not there for these politicians but for the LGBT community.
We are blatantly used as political pawns, yet – I am surprised – so many of us are easily swayed into believing that these politicians will move heaven and hell for us (they won’t; they never do).
And maybe we have to stop isolating the LGBT struggle to the wider struggle of the majority of the Filipino people. We should see our movement as part of the broader political move to end (often gender-based) oppression.
My now not-a-virgin friend said that my realizations are making me jaded. “Too jaded,” he said, “when I just want you to comfort me.”
But I remain hopeful. I know that after identifying the disconnects, we can still make things right. And so I am still looking forward to that day when there will be a united LGBT movement that has genuine aspiration on liberating our community, pushing not just individual rights but also for economic and political rights of all. I will continue hoping (and also make efforts to build) real transformation instead of perpetuating fragmentation.
And of course, I hope that my friend wakes up and recover from his stupor and realized he’d just been f*ed. As such (and much like our community), there’s no way but to move forward.