In 2007, Ron de Vera had an opportunity to “join an affinity group for gays, lesbians and allies at work (in a corporate setting),” he recalled. But while it gave him an opportunity to connect with LGBT people and his network, in 2010, Ron decided to leave the corporate world, when he applied for a position in the human rights organization Amnesty International, and “it was there that I started what I consider real LGBT advocacy.”
“I can’t pinpoint a specific person or incident that made me decide to become an LGBT activist,” Ron said. “My work in human rights has exposed me to a spectrum of human rights issues, including LGBT rights. I’ve always been interested in fighting for causes close to my heart, so when I helped revive the LGBT group of Amnesty International Philippines, I knew it was just a matter of time before I would be immersed in LGBT activism.”
As an LGBT rights advocate, Ron believes there is a key issue that the LGBT community in the Philippines should focus on. “A lot of you might not agree with me but my opinion is that LGBT efforts in the Philippines can’t be considered a movement yet. It is a wide-scale activism that has several moving parts across the country, but without a harmonized vision and direction. I think that’s what we need to focus on in the LGBT community. We need a manifesto. We need united leaders. We need to channel these efforts and turn this activism into a nationwide LGBT movement,” he said.
Because of the non-harmonized vision and direction, “it can get frustrating when personalities and personal interests get in the way of progress,” Ron said. He waxed positive, nonetheless, adding that “given that LGBT activism is relatively young in the country, I’m hopeful that these growing pains will become a minor issue in the near future.”
The LGBT community itself, said Ron, can be a source of inspiration. “I find my inspiration in the people around me. I am inspired to work harder when I hear about friends finding the courage to come out. I am inspired when I see activists who used to be followers taking larger and more crucial roles. I am inspired when I see new faces joining our activism and finding a safe place within the community. These people inspire me because they are proof that activism changes lives in ways we can instantly see and feel.”
A graduate of the University of the Philippines, Diliman (BA European Languages, Major in Spanish), Ron used to work for Convergys Philippines Services (2004 to 2010) and ItouchPoint Pvt Ltd (2003). He also served as a foreign correspondent of Digital Journal, contributing writer of Filipino Freethinkers, and a member of Teachers without Borders.
Now as an LGBT rights advocate, “I like to think that I contribute to the LGBT movement in two ways: as a writer and as the national coordinator of our LGBT group,” Ron said. “I think my work as a writer sends the message that in today’s reality, we all have a voice, we can challenge anyone who attempts to violate our rights no matter how powerful or popular they may be. As an LGBT group coordinator, I contribute by providing LGBT education to our members and rights-holders and by providing them with opportunities to do LGBT activism. I think that’s something I’m particularly proud of – reviving, strengthening, and giving strategic direction to Amnesty International Philippines – LGBT Group.”
Ron is first to admit that “I feel that my knowledge of LGBT issues at this point is still a few levels detached from reality.” As such, “there are two things I want to dive deeper into. I see myself getting more and more involved in HIV and AIDS work and in providing direct services at the grassroots level (urban and rural). Getting into these circles will give me a better, more accurate picture of the needs of the marginalized members of the LGBT community.”
When asked how he wants the LGBT community to know, and remember him, Ron quipped: “This is a tall order, but I would like to be remembered by the LGBT community the way the feminist movement remembers my mother: an opinionated, circumspect, passionate, brave, loving friend and leader. Okay, maybe just the opinionated part,” he laughed. Then turning serious: “But seriously, I want to play a role in turning this activism into a movement and in preparing the next generation of activists. I want to be there to see that happen. I want the community to remember me as one of the people who helped change the face of activism and helped groom our future leaders.”