In March 2018, I attended a session in the Senate, where the SOGIE Equality Bill (the latest iteration of the anti-discrimination bill) was up for interpellation.
As FYI: after any bill passes the committee level, it is then taken up in the session, where politicians “interpellate” (basically, dissect) it. ONLY if and/or when these politicians “agree” on the bill can it progress to – hopefully eventually law. And so for as long as there are politicians who manifested that they plan to interpellate, no bill can “move”; this can, thereby, not be a means to learn more about any bill, but way to delay or even kill a bill.
At that time, religious conservative senator Joel Villanueva was supposed to interpellate. His name was subsequently changed with the name of Sherwin Gatchalian, who – get this – walked out before interpellating. And so this tag team killed the anti-discrimination bill (aside from giving us faces of who LGBTQIA people SHOULD NOT vote for).
The tossing around like football of LGBTQIA human rights is bad enough. But let’s state that just as bad is the hijacking of the struggle to pass an anti-discrimination law by self-assigned “elites” in the LGBTQIA movement.
At the end of the session that day in March 2018, an “exclusive” group of LGBTQIA “leaders” were gathered for a salo-salo. These were members of a by-invite only “network” of LGBTQIA organizations, the same faces of those who have continuously failed to deliver the anti-discrimination law and yet still continue to control the direction taken in the push to pass the anti-discrimination law. The other LGBTQIA people who showed up at that session (and there weren’t even THAT many) were snubbed, as if given the “thank you for showing up by you’re not part of the ‘in’ group” treatment. This is so… high school, yes; but that’s the LGBTQIA “community” for you.
Of course, it is only right that we blame the weak leaders we’ve had particularly related to the protection of LGBTQIA human rights.
Noynoy Aquino comes to mind, believed to be pro-LGBTQIA for aligning himself with (some) Left-leaning politicians. In 2013, he even signed the “Anti-Bullying Act of 2013” into law, which criminalized “gender-based bullying”. BUT Aquino failed the LGBTQIA community big time, openly stating his opposition of marriage equality, erroneously linking it with legalizing abortion (DUH!). Aquino also believed allowing LGBTQIA to adopt could endanger children.
Then there’s Digong Duterte, who portrayed himself as pro-LGBTQIA as a presidential candidate, even pledging to help push the anti-discrimination law. Alas, aside from an Executive Order supposed to boost LGBTQIA representation, LGBTQIA Filipinos were – again – left in the gutters under his term.
And now you have Bongbong Marcos who has been throwing parties for his chosen LGBTQIA people, and mimicking Duterte with the issuance of another EO, when he could just make a bigger move by citing the anti-discrimination bill as urgent.
Of course there are also politicians who tout to support human rights… just not those for LGBTQIA Filipinos. The father-and-son Villanueva tandem easily comes to mind, with the younger Villanueva in the Senate even “selling” himself as pro-LGBTQIA while campaigning, only to show where he really stands on our issues the moment he won. Rep. Abante in the House of Representatives, even leading a committee on (GASP!) human rights that, it could seem, do not cover LGBTQIA human rights.
But – here’s the biggest twist of all – blame should also be given to LGBTQIA “leaders” who have hijacked the cause. These are the people who desire that you attend the sessions; that you repost their anti-discrimination graphics, memes, posts, et cetera; that you follow their lead (e.g. vote for their political candidates, attack those they find offensive, et cetera); and so on. But often, these same people do not want you on the table.
Worst: if you call them out for what they’re doing, they “blame” you for being “not cooperative” and “picking fights” with them; they play the “victim” for not being understood, particularly by “ungrateful” people, supposedly considering they have been pushing for the anti-discrimination law for over 20 years now; and they actually “erase” you from the case, no longer engaging with you, and even taking steps you don’t take part in activities related to the anti-discrimination law (the power of “gatekeeping”).
And this is a HUGE part of why the anti-discrimination bill will continue to face difficulties.
- Make the fight inclusive. Meaning: deal with the “exclusivity” of those pushing for the anti-discrimination bill by including/engaging those who may not agree with you on everything, who do not belong to the same political colors as the so-called “leaders”, et cetera.
- Better yet: do not just “broaden” the exclusive groups by inviting more LGBTQIA orgs; instead, dismantle the cliques, the in-crowds. Because seriously: this isn’t Mean Girls.
- Donors should stop funding those who continue to use the same approach/es for 24 years now in “promoting” the anti-discrimination bill. If you go to the provinces and discuss the anti-discrimination bill with grassroots LGBTQIA communities, I promise you’d notice that many still do not know about this even after 24 years. It’s time to admit that those given the budget to promote this isn’t doing a good job.
The absence of a law protecting our human rights affects us all, no matter our political affiliations, social class, SOGIESC, et cetera. It’s time we all “own” this issue. But it’s time, too, for those who gatekeep this as if it’s their issue alone to let go of their stranglehold. Because if not… then seriously, sila na mismo ang balakid ng (they are, themselves, the obstruction/stumbling block of the) LGBTQIA community.