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.”
Aivan Alvarez, now 31, was still in the 4th Grade when he started asking himself about his identity. But “I received early support from LGBTQIA relatives,” he said, adding that this helped him confirm to himself in high school that, indeed, he’s part of the LGBTQIA community.
Looking back, he remembered how his mom didn’t always know how to react to him being gay. “Talking about my mother’s reaction first, since my father was an OFW then, I actually didn’t come out to my mom. It was like: What she saw, that was that. In those days, I brought friends at home. She’d get flabbergasted; not knowing what to do. After high school, I brought home my partner at that time. She didn’t know how to ask me about it; maybe it was challenging for her, too. But by the time I went to college, we could already talk about it. This included my romantic encounters.” Nonetheless, “I also confirmed that she accepted me in my second year in college. I was heartbroken at that time, and we cried together. She told me if we’re meant to be together, we’d be together. I can’t forget that.”
When his father came home, it’s the same since “I didn’t have to come out to him. I just heard from an aunt that my father accepts me. An aunt actually told him that his son is ‘not straight’. In the way we speak in Batangas, she meant I could be a closeted gay guy. But my father told her: ‘Whatever he is, I accept him.’”
While his family has been accepting, Aivan was not spared from discrimination.
“I experienced discrimination from relatives. It hurt me, but it helped that my parents accepted me,” he said.
When talking of discrimination from the community, “I actually became a youth official in our barangay before, and because of my different SOGIESC, some people questioned my ability to lead the youth.”
There was also discrimination at school, in college. “Discrimination comes in different forms. This version in school, they’d just off-handedly mock LGBTQIA people. But this had a big impact to me, particularly as a student,” Aidan said.
For Aivan, when talking of discrimination, “I go back to the belief that LGBTQIA people are accepted in the Philippines. In Batangas, we’re more tolerated than accepted. People here put up with you if you act according to their notion of what’s ‘proper’. Or if you comply with their notion of what’s moral. But when you mention LGBTQIA people, we’re still treated differently here.”
Aivan says that people need to realize that being LGBTQIA is not an illness. “Science has long proven that this is not an illness. Instead, this is one’s identity; how one sees oneself. You can’t change this through therapy. This needs to be understood, to be accepted. To be LGBTQIA is normal.”
Aivan finished schooling in Batangas, completing BS Information Technology at the Batangas State University. But he now works as a non-government organization staff. “I entered this field after seeing that our community still needs a lot of help.”
He is now partnered. But “when it comes to looking for relationships, LGBTQIA people in Batangas have different experiences. For the discreet, or those who are not out, it’s challenging for them. I noticed that here, it’s different from – say – Metro Manila where you’d see same-sex couples. There, they can show their love in public. Here in Batangas, that’d be challenging.”
CREATING A COMMUNITY
For Aivan, “having an LGBTQIA group is important in provinces. These community-based organizations serve as safe spaces. These community-based organizations serve also offer support. These organizations usually evolve from just offering friendship to knowing about advocacy issues, like HIV since many from the key affected populations are also from the LGBTQIA community. So from being a support group, these LGBTQIA organizations make services available.”
Aivan stressed: “When talking of the LGBTQIA community, we talk of intersectional issues. You can be gay, but you can also be a person with HIV. And when these multi-layered issues are ignored, it could impact their mental wellness.”
An issue that’s close to Aivan’s heart is the plight of senior LGBTQIA people.
“When you’re LGBTQIA, you grow in your community; and there, we have ‘mothers’. These are people who guide us while we discover who we are. Our aged ‘mothers’, or those who are starting to get old, also need attention. They may have special needs.”
Aivan believes in asking for help from the State… though support provision is only one facet of the help that should be advocated, he said.
“Those in the government now may help because they accept LGBTQIA people. But what if our local champions are no longer there? So we push for local policies. Institutionalize policies that will ensure sustainability of programs that ensure the well-being and protection of human rights of LGBTQIA people.”
WORDS TO LIVE BY
“To younger LGBTQIA people in Batangas, or even those not in Batangas, don’t be afraid. What you’re feeling, what you’re experiencing, these are normal. You are valid. Whatever your identity is, whatever your SOGIESC is, that’s valid,” Aivan said.
But he knows there are people – including family members – who continue to hate LGBTQIA people.
“To family members, particularly parents of LGBTQIA people, no one else will accept your LGBTQIA families but you. It’s hard when discrimination comes from the family. You should be the first to protect LGBTQIA family members,” Aivan ended.