With so much weight given to it to represent the LGBT community in the Philippines, the defeat of Ang Ladlad in two consecutive elections left many in the LGBT Filipino community in the middle of the battleground (so to speak), not knowing what the next actions will be. This may be because the path to LGBT equality continues to be a long and seemingly unending struggle; in fact, many advocates have already aged and retired, some have been killed along the way, and still some just lost hope and gave up.
Looking closely, this is not at all surprising. Twenty years already passed since the first LGBT Pride March was held in the Philippines, and yet, beyond the cheerful chants, hopeful smiles and parties, and the optimism of LGBT people, the protection of our basic rights remain evasive. Consider that when LGBT people attempted to seek representation in Congress, they were called “immoral” by a Commission on Election commissioner. When they reached out to the media, they were continuously labeled as “third sex”, as if there’s a hierarchy in shelling out who to respect.
It was in 2010, the same year when Ang Ladlad first lost in the elections, when the country turned “yellow” by voting for Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. But four years since then, are there any significant changes particularly for the LGBT Filipinos?
PNoy, of course, famously said that he believes LGBT people should not be discriminated. Yet he also expressed apprehension when it comes to allowing LGBT people to adopt. The disconnect was not noticed; it’s a case of “I don’t have issues with you, but…”
And so while there may be people who will claim that under PNoy’s term (so far) many changes have been made, just as many can claim that many Filipinos are left out in the long-term plans of the Aquino administration. And this includes members of the LGBT community.
Do you remember when, in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, PNoy said that “it feels good to be Filipino these days”?
But, I also ask:
How can it feel good when – as members of the LGBT community – we still experience discrimination, and the perpetrators get away with what they do?
How can other LGBT people feel good when companies would rather deny their application because of their gender identity rather than hire them for their skills/talents?
How can an HIV-positive Filipino feel good when he’s unsure of what’s going to happen to him after the Global Fund ends? For that matter, when the security of his medical supplies waver, even if membership to PhiHealth is supposed to cover the same.
How can families of slain LGBT people feel good when justice is being denied to them?
How can we feel good when suffering – solely because we are LGBT – is fast becoming a norm for us?
How can we feel good when an anti-discrimination law that will protect our basic rights continue to languish (since 1999!) in either Houses of Congress? If it were not for the efforts of local governments – like the cities of Quezon, Bacolod, Angeles, Cebu and Davao – some version of anti-discrimination policy wouldn’t see the light of the day.
And so the question remains: is celebrating Pride in a country where corrupt people are being escorted by bodyguards and are called honorable, and where prosecuted officials who are receiving VIP treatment in their fully air-conditioned rooms, still relevant?