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Shaun Kirven: Equality through a human rights lens

Meet Shaun Kirven, who first came to the Philippines in 2012. “I don’t think of myself as an LGBTI advocate. I find those acronyms now to be too limiting; I prefer to think that for the most part my work is focused on two fundamental rights, the right to equality and the right not to be discriminated against,” he says.

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Shaun Kirven first came to the Philippines in 2012 and served as the expert on International Humanitarian Law of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) based in Cotabato City in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, which monitors the implementation of the peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“I don’t think of myself as an LGBTI advocate. I find those acronyms now to be too limiting; I prefer to think that for the most part my work is focused on two fundamental rights, the right to equality and the right not to be discriminated against,” Shaun Kirven says.

“I don’t think of myself as an LGBTI advocate. I find those acronyms now to be too limiting; I prefer to think that for the most part my work is focused on two fundamental rights, the right to equality and the right not to be discriminated against,” Shaun Kirven says.

Before coming to Mindanao, he did human rights work in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Argentina, Belgium, the UK, Spain, South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, and the US.

Shaun’s international human rights activism, particularly on LGBTI issues, is deeply anchored on two fundamental rights.

“I don’t think of myself as an LGBTI advocate. I find those acronyms now to be too limiting; I prefer to think that for the most part my work is focused on two fundamental rights, the right to equality and the right not to be discriminated against,” Shaun said.

Shaun remembers starting fighting for equality and non-discrimination when he was in university in the UK.

“I could pinpoint one meeting with a local group of the Socialist Workers Party in my university town where I challenged a homophobic statement. The group fell silent. I felt almost guilty. A friend squeezed my hand. I didn’t look back,” Shaun said.

ACTIVISM AS A PROCESS

He recalls his journey on human rights activism as a formative process that came in stages from his childhood to his teenage years.

“I don’t think we start out concerned for the rights of others rather at looking at ways we can feel better within ourselves. At least most of us… (internalize) a lot of other people’s misconceptions and hatred of our sexual and gender identities. Advocacy, I think, comes a later stage. If I were to begin with becoming an advocate, I would be ignoring some of the most formative processes in my early and teenage years that led me to the point of activism,’’ Shaun said.

Shaun’s formative years were spent in a small fishing town in the UK, where men were “real” men and teenage boys were expected to become so.

“I was bullied in and out of school because I was effeminate. It was the 80s, the post punk era of the new romantics was in fashion, men on TV wore make up and dyed their hair. Emulation was not wise in that small town. Parts of this very quintessential English town became out of bounds because of the way I expressed my teenage self,” Shaun said.

ON SELF-EXPRESSION

Shaun dissociates himself from the term “gay.”

“I don’t think this adequately represents either my sexuality or the way I express myself. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue now with femininity or the feminine, and by extension gay men’s expression of self that doesn’t fit with masculine stereotypes our society’s construct. If I am honest to myself, I did as a teenager – conscious of the way others thought of me – shy away from open expressions of what I understood as camp,” Shaun said.

Growing up different from most of his peers, Shaun admits that the very real threat of violence curtailed much of his youth, and yet he found ways to resist.

“I resisted in the only way I knew, and that was to harden the outer image. Flamboyant clothes gave way to rags, diamante earrings gave way to piercings, mostly done at home with a needle and wine bottle cork, 80s hairstyles gave way to harder punky Mohicans,” Shaun said.

In his new found self-expression, Shaun started to meet other people who experienced exclusion and who have a different take on justice.

“I was an anarchist. I moved to Madrid to live in a squat and learn Spanish. I ate my lunch in the Casa Communista. I began to read. I went back to school and read social and economic history. I learnt about Marx. I loved Marx. I marched. I protested. I felt almost free. Anarchist and Marxist communities are not very tolerant of difference. My sexuality, though providing for some great sexual adventures, remained largely hidden and desires mostly unacted upon. It took me a long time to reconcile my political beliefs and my sexuality and challenge the obvious discrimination that those proposing change employed,” Shaun said.

HUMAN RIGHTS LENS

Shaun’s drive for fighting for human rights has been a cumulative process that for him was triggered by a point in his life when enough became enough.

“I hated the feeling inside that being bullied left me with. That feeling that I was helpless and totally exposed to the threats of violence and intimidation. Home life wasn’t much different. The only place that felt secure, safe was me. The resilience behind the piercings, crazy haircuts, the rags and the ‘fuck you’ attitude was what kept me going. By this time I also had tattoos and like many of my chosen community, a healthy appetite for drink and drugs. I justified my youthful self-obsession because I had been bullied, ridiculed, hated,” Shaun said.

In Shaun’s university years, he was sent abroad to study. He traveled through Central America and met other lesbian and gay organizations that made him realize that experiences apart from a few cultural exceptions were fundamentally similar.

“I swapped my ideological view of change for a human rights perspective. Anarchism and Marxism had never made good bedfellows, to be honest I think I thought at the time I was saving myself a big headache. I was wrong. Viewing the world and the need to change through a human rights lens has not been an easy job,” Shaun said.

LEARNING FROM FEMINISMS

Shaun believes that the LGBTI movement has a lot to learn from feminisms.

“I use the plural as I don’t see the schools of thought fitting comfortably under the singular. Much like the feminist movement the LGBTI movement has suffered separatism and conflict but we have not learnt to embrace that difference in an enriching way,” Shaun said.

Shaun understands that much like women, the LGBTI movement has put up with much challenges over the years, hence the over-concentration on identities.

“What we don’t seem to realize is that if we looked beyond our noses, stopped staring at our own navels, feminisms and queer theory have given us the tools to deconstruct the power bases of those who deny us our rights to equality and non-discrimination,” Shaun said.

Shaun points out two issues of the movement’s work that need to be looked at with greater rigor.

First is marriage equality.

“Wasn’t marriage created by patriarchy and institutionalized by politico-economic regimes such as capitalism and communism? Isn’t the access to social benefits an argument only for those privileged middle class people living in the West? People who have bought the capitalist model and placed it alongside their 52-inch interactive TV. What would Marx say about the gay channels on Netflix if he were around? Something about opium for the gay masses maybe? We are not the same as anyone else, so why pretend to be? We – above all the LGBTI community – should be pushing the diversity agenda,” Shaun explained.

The second is third gender.

“Queer activists have been trying to rid the world of the binary gender construct that most feminists and a growing number of masculinists would agree have prevented people from reaching their full potential as human beings. Now we have people actively campaigning for legal recognition of a third. Along with the third comes the other status box to be ticked in official documents that proponents say will facilitate travel abroad and prevent violent responses from state security forces. Aware that I speak from a position of cisgendered privilege here, I have discussed this at great length with trans activists both for and against the third category. I am not convinced,” Shaun discussed.

The experiences of migrant worker populations from some developing countries show how LGBTIs are affected.

“If we take the case of Nepal or even the Philippines, which have huge migrant worker populations comprised of, I would imagine, a large number LGBT folks, is being able to mark ‘other’ on your passport actually going to help you gain employment in a foreign country? 4.5 million people are without citizenship in Nepal. The other status on trans folks passports will benefit it is said around 10 people linked to NGOs. Transwomen migrant workers looking to work in the Middle East are going to continue to bind breasts and travel as close to their male gender marker as possible. If I could track down the Filipino transwomen in Afghanistan, I would love to ask her if ‘other’ status on her passport would actually help. Doing away with gender markers altogether surely is a better way to go,” Shaun discussed.

DESIRE TO BE “NORMAL”

Shaun expresses disappointment on how far the LGBTI movement is from being what he understands is a community.

“Despite all the noise about how wonderfully we are doing really, we haven’t moved an inch. Some 20 years later I am reading the Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf, (and) this book is making me more and more angry at the way companies go to war with women’s bodies and minds. As a confirmed ‘Clinique boy,’ I was somehow rather shocked at my own naivety. As with everything I read, a discussion with a friend ensued who stated that the book is old and outdated by now and they went on to suggest that I read another more modern take on the corporate war against being woman,” Shaun said.

Shaun’s retort is that 20 years on, apart from a few figures, the book is still relevant and that for him is extremely saddening.

“All the gains we have made in the LGBT movement have not stopped this war against our bodies and minds. We have just become willing targets of patriarchy and capitalism due to our desire to be ‘normal’,” Shaun said.

INCLUSIVITY IN PRIDE

Despite all the differences in the LGBTI movement, Shaun is inspired of the ways people can still come together and do some amazing work.

“I recently went to Brighton Pride, by mistake, with my mother in tow. It was her first Pride march. While she delighted in the fun people were having, I could not get away from corporate slogans all over people’s bodies. What I took away from that day was my mother’s almost childish sense of freedom that this march gave her. Her sense that she belonged not because of her identity but because she, like so many others, believes people should be free. Inclusive Pride marches that are truly welcoming of everyone who wants to be there really are the manifestation of our movement’s spirit. If we can do that without the corporate branding, even better,” Shaun said.

For his proudest moment, he walked in eight-inch stiletto heels to prove a point.

FUTURE PLANS

After decades of human rights work, Shaun speaks of a simple legacy.

“I have been working on my ego for some time with limited success but with still enough to know that people don’t get remembered. I would like to think that during my time, I have loved and been loved and shown love in the face of hatred,” Shaun said.

For future plans on his human rights work, Shaun continues his activism in the Philippines and in Asia.

“I am super interested in engaging with a broad bodily rights and bodily autonomy campaign with the Coalition of African Lesbians. That is going to take up most of my spare time. Closer to home, I will be wearing my Proud T-shirt on my first day in the office in Cotabato City when I take up my new job with the Regional Human Rights Commission,” Shaun ended.

Shaun Kirven is currently the United Nations Development Programme expert on human rights at the Regional Human Rights Commission based in Cotabato City in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in the Philippines. He continues to serve on the boards of LOOM-Nepal (a feminist organization) and Protection Desk Nepal (a local organization that works on protection of human rights activists).

A registered nurse, John Ryan (or call him "Rye") Mendoza hails from Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao (where, no, it isn't always as "bloody", as the mainstream media claims it to be, he noted). He first moved to Metro Manila in 2010 (supposedly just to finish a health social science degree), but fell in love not necessarily with the (err, smoggy) place, but it's hustle and bustle. He now divides his time in Mindanao (where he still serves under-represented Indigenous Peoples), and elsewhere (Metro Manila included) to help push for equal rights for LGBT Filipinos. And, yes, he parties, too (see, activists need not be boring! - Ed).

People You Should Know

Living with HIV in Digos City

Meet Robin Charles O. Ramos, a person living with HIV in Digos City in Davao del Sur. There are numerous challenges there – e.g. they still have to go to Davao City for their laboratory tests, and get monthly supplies of life-saving ARVs. But they are starting to organize so PLHIVs can help each other.

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“We cannot deny the fact that there are people who will really discriminate us (people living with HIV),” said Robin Charles O. Ramos, who is based in Digos City in Davao del Sur in Mindanao, southern Philippines. “(But) think twice… before you discriminate because (everyone can be infected with) HIV.”

BI AWAKENING

Charles, 33, used to be only attracted to girls. But when he was nine years old, “I (was also) attracted to boys. I realized that I am attracted to both sexes.”

Charles’ family teased him for this. But he added that it’s not like they can prevent him from being bisexual; this “runs in the family,” he said, with other family members also LGBTQIA.

“It was somewhat difficult for me to come out,” he said. This is because he lives in a “relatively small community (where people know me).”

Digos, a 2nd class city and the capital of the province of Davao del Sur, has a population of only 169,393 people (in 2015).

But Charles eventually told others, realizing the relevance of being true/honest to oneself. “I know it (may not be easy) but… the community will (eventually) understand who and what we are.”

FINDING OUT ABOUT HIS HIV STATUS

On November 30, 2017, Charles found out he has HIV.

Prior to the diagnosis, he recalled having bad health – e.g. his cough wouldn’t go away, he had lymph nodes in his throat, he easily got tired/stressed out, and he had recurring fever. He self-medicated, “taking paracetamol” and antibiotics.

“I lost a lot of weight,” Charles recalled, “from 56 kilograms to 48 kilograms.”

At that point, his mother told him: “It’s time to rush to the hospital.”

The attending physician had Charles undergo more tests… including HIV antibody test.

The person who gave him the news about his HIV status was “actually a friend of mine.” In fact, he pre-empted the counselor from telling him the result; “I told her myself, ‘It’s positive, right?’.”

EVERYONE CAN BE INFECTED

Even before then, Charles actually worked in HIV advocacy.

So the person who gave him the news about his HIV status was “actually a friend of mine.” In fact, he pre-empted the counselor from telling him the result; “I told her myself, ‘It’s positive, right?’.”

That was also “mind conditioning” for him, he said. “I conditioned my mind that I’m positive already… it’s a way of acceptance of the matter.”

Right there and then, Charles opted to tell family members. And they had one question for him: Why him, considering he’s in HIV advocacy, and should know better?

“Anyone can be infected,” Charles said to them.

“Think twice… before you discriminate because (everyone be infected with) HIV.”

BEING OPEN ABOUT LIVING WITH HIV

If there’s one thing Charles said that’s good about being out, it’s being able to get external help as needed.

“I lose nothing by coming out,” he said. And for him, “PLHIVs need to come out… as a strategy for us to eradicate stigma and discrimination.”

At this stage in his life, “I don’t care if they talk about me. This is already here. Just accept it.”

Charles is also a teacher, and he opted to tell his supervisors and peers about his medical condition. This honesty paid off since “they support me.” His workmates always remind him to “not be stressed” and “have time to rest”.

HIV-RELATED ISSUES IN DAVAO DEL SUR

HIV screening and/or testing is, at least, accessible to the people of Digos City, said Charles. The social hygiene clinic (SHC) of the local government unit (LGU), for one, offers this; and “every time we conduct (gatherings) about HIV, there is HIV testing (given).”

It is the access to life-saving medicines (the antiretroviral treatment, or ARV) that is problematic.

“Here in Digos City, ARV is not yet available,” Charles said.

And so PLHIVs from there have to go to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City, which is 62.5 kilometers away (or approximately an hour of commute).

If there’s one thing Charles said that’s good about being out, it’s being able to get external help as needed.

Many of the PLHIVs from Digos City go to SPMC together, renting a van to take them to and from Davao City for their regular tests and ARV supplies.

A related issue: PLHIVs have to go every month because they are only given a month’s supply because of procurement issues. The usual practice is to give PLHIVs supply for three months. And – even if the Department of Health denies that there are issues concerning ARV supplies – at least the Digos City experience highlights the continuing difficulty with accessing life-saving medicines.

The dream for PLHIVs like Charles is for a refilling station to be established in Digos City to serve not only those living there, but also the nearby localities of Kidapawan City, Davao Occidental, et cetera.

EMPOWERING THE HIV COMMUNITY

Charles recognizes that many try to help PLHIVs, but he also thinks that empowering PLHIVs to help each other is essential.

“We have formally created a group: Bagani Southern Davao,” he said. The name was derived from the word “Bagani”, the peacekeeping force of the Manobo tribes and other indigenous groups in Mindanao. Akin to the word, “we’re warriors; we’re fighting against this illness.”

There are currently 20 active members; though, of course, not all PLHIVs in the area are members.

The dream for PLHIVs like Charles is for a refilling station to be established in Digos City to serve not only those living there, but also the nearby localities of Kidapawan City, Davao Occidental, et cetera.

To other PLHIVs in the area, Charles said he recognizes that it may take time before they can decide if they’d come out. “I respect (this) decision… But coming out as PLHIV is a way of educating people that they shouldn’t fear us, and that (having HIV) isn’t the end of our lives or the end of anything.”

As PLHIVs, he said, “we have more to offer, more to do” particularly in educating people.

And to non-PLHIVs or those who do not know their HIV status: “Know your status. Get tested. And stop discriminating people. It’s not like we wanted this to happen to us. But this is already here. We just need your support, and the respect that we want because we’re still human beings.”

“I lose nothing by coming out,” he said. And for him, “PLHIVs need to come out… as a strategy for us to eradicate stigma and discrimination.”

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People You Should Know

L.A. musician and author Ross Victory gets candid about blackness, masculinity and bi-sexual heroes

Author and musician Ross Victory uses his story to entertain readers while pulling back the curtain of the under-, mis- and total lack of representation of bisexuality—black bisexuality—in social discourse. Without a community to fall back on to process pain and trauma, holding intersectional identities can create tension stemming from not being seen, heard, or believed.

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Paulo Freire said, “The oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors.” 

How often do our storylines, the narratives that make our life experiences unique, get lost in broader social discourse? How often does the oppression we encounter on our path compete with the oppression experienced right next to us? 

We need not look very far for the proof of patriarchal, misogynistic, racist, homophobic structures that provoke nationwide protests in America. #BlackLivesMatter, #Loveislove, #MeToo are cultural moments that reveal the United States’ ache for progress, and the public’s willingness to create new systems that support and uplift disadvantaged groups. 

Societal progress is slow. All too often, an experiencer’s oppression requires evidence to be accepted as valid. As a black or indigenous person of color, as a woman, as a bisexual in a straight/gay binary, or as a part of any disadvantaged group, each generation strives to do better than the last.

  • In 2020, George Floyd and BLM protests have pushed forward laws to prevent police brutality. 
  • In 2020, The Supreme Court has upheld the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protections that prevent employers from firing individuals based on their sexual orientation and transgender status.

Author and musician Ross Victory uses his story to entertain readers while pulling back the curtain of the under-, mis- and total lack of representation of bisexuality—black bisexuality—in social discourse. Without a community to fall back on to process pain and trauma, holding intersectional identities can create tension stemming from not being seen, heard, or believed.

Panorama: The Missing Chapter tells the story of two men of color, both bisexual, who bond together to escape familial dysfunction. The book observes race, masculinity, and orientation by taking readers on a fast-paced, cerebral journey through South Korean temples and Brazilian cartels. 

Victory both bites and soothes readers with memories that pop off the page like scenes from a film. Despite his hilarious descriptions and the irony he dresses as salaciousness and intellect, there are underlying expressions of resentment that grow as the book progresses.

Victory, the principal character, suggests that being black and visible as bi-sexual is not for the spiritually weak. 

Victory says, “Being black, you normalize being on high alert with police or employment interactions. Sometimes you catch a microaggression and have to decide if you have the energy to confront it or let it go. Then there are interactions where people say, “you’re different than other black people,” or “you’re incredibly articulate.” I was called the N-word once by someone on the street in LA, and even black people have described my blackness as “white-washed.” 

He continues, “Bisexuality, as an identifier, can be a double-edged sword. The mention of bisexuality can activate a damaging reflex from both straight and gay people of all races. You are immediately put on the defense. People instinctively have 21 questions and lose manners. I understand it’s not me, and it’s their idea of being bi, but those interactions make me feel that society needs to be categorized differently. There were black heroes to cling to, but no visibly bisexual heroes and surely no black bisexual heroes.”

Survey data from Stanford University and the Pew Research Center reports that “Bisexual adults are much less likely than gays and lesbians to be visible as bisexual to the important people in their lives.” Victory, and Alvi, a Brazilian immigrant, also bisexual, compare notes on the discrimination and stereotypes they’ve faced that may personalize Stanford’s research. 

“People under the bi umbrella (notably bisexuals and pansexuals) are the only segment of people whose attractions are multi-gendered,” Victory says. “That’s hard to understand if you believe your attractions to be singular…Naturally people who aren’t bi cannot fathom what that means. Some who do understand tend to uphold bi women as ‘more’ valid that bi men, both of us still subjected to patriarchy that reads: bi women are for men’s pleasure, and bi guys simply do not exist—if they do, it’s in proximity to gay men who were initially bi-curious. The double speak is wild.”

Both men, Victory, and Alvi, identified their bisexuality as virginal pre-teens without words to acknowledge how they felt. After years of trial and error, they learned that being open was not in their favor. Victory points to an African American religious and hyper-masculine Hip Hop culture that made his bisexuality hard to verbalize and accept. Alvi, despite being an immigrant of color, had a less challenging path.

Panorama gives readers an insight into the complex nature of the oppression that bi men face: the idea that they cannot commit, that their bisexuality is a choice or is preference-based, being hypersexualized by gay men, and being a topic of contention for straight women. “Between what I’ve experienced and also seen on YouTube, when you know you can “pass” as straight, why bother saying anything?! People want authenticity if it accounts for their biases. But I physically got to a place where I couldn’t erase myself anymore.”

“Bisexuality, as an identifier, can be a double-edged sword. The mention of bisexuality can activate a damaging reflex from both straight and gay people of all races… I understand it’s not me, and it’s their idea of being bi, but those interactions make me feel that society needs to be categorized differently. There were black heroes to cling to, but no visibly bisexual heroes and surely no black bisexual heroes.”

According to the Bisexual Resource Center (BRC), approximately 40% of bisexual people have considered or attempted suicide. The Human Rights Campaign has cited bi-erasure and biphobia as the leading causes. Heteronormativity is real, and straight people do not think about being straight, regardless of being sexually active. However, when someone who is not straight identifies themselves, they tend to be pegged as oversharing or sexualizing unnecessarily. 

At around nineteen years old, Victory writes that he began to experience heightened stress and mild depression. Victory links the period to the same time he discovered the word bisexual, began asserting it, then learned to suppress it.

Victory says, “There was a sense that being a man, a ‘real’ man, is based on how homophobic you can be. Don’t act feminine, bully feminine guys, don’t speak about same-sex attractions, don’t be sinful, and if you are doing some gay sh*t, definitely don’t speak about it. When you can pass as straight, you hear a lot of problematic stuff from men and women.”

Oppression is interlocked, but to be a healthy person, one need not split themselves into parts. Victory states that black people tend to support each other because we are all experiencing racist systems in this country. Men support each other based on cliques, ego-affirming activities, and female conquests. Bisexuals feel invisible because we chameleonize or get pigeonholed based on our partner’s sex. For example, I am the only visible bi person I know, but I am defaulted to straight.

Victory suggests that we need more stories that show the scope of bisexuality. Bi virgins, bi people in same-sex relationships, bisexuals in different-sex relationships, poly bisexuals, elderly bisexuals, celibate bisexuals, and more to show people the range of experiences that have gone invisible for too long. Representation will help society to learn not to pre-judge by the person’s relationship status and feminine or masculine qualities, and to break bisexuals away from explicit and promiscuous connotations. According to GLAAD’s inclusion report of 2018 & 2019, Director of Entertainment Research, Megan Townsend, stated that “Television still has work to do when it comes to telling our [bi] stories. Bisexual+ women far outnumber bisexual+ men on every platform.”

Ross Victory suggests that we need more stories that show the scope of bisexuality: bi virgins, bi people in same-sex relationships, bisexuals in different-sex relationships, poly bisexuals, elderly bisexuals, celibate bisexuals, and more to show people the range of experiences that have gone invisible for too long.

Not all is bleak. Victory closes Panorama with relief for readers who may relate to his story or have been triggered to look at themselves. Victory concludes the book artfully and soulfully. He uses inclusive language and employs the “divine masculine” and “divine feminine” to make a case for personal liberation. He underscores the importance of grace between humans, even those who harm us, by encouraging readers to build bridges between thought islands and to be the change they seek.

He suggests that all intersections—racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, gender, ableism, wealth, etc. —exist to be connected by bridges. Victory says, “Real men are bridge builders. Yes, society gives us labels – straight, bi, gay, black, white, Asian, etc.; labels are realities and come with certain connotations. But could you imagine if we men prioritized a commitment to buildto build each other up no matter the labels we inherit? Can you imagine if we congregated around how to reduce anger and heart attacks? Can you imagine how healthy we would be and how safe women would feel interacting with us?” Paulo Freire warned that, yes, the oppressed become oppressors, but also that peace is found through dialogue and language.

Victory image and words remind us that alienation can be a bona fide lesson in self-love. After the back-to-back loss of his dad and brother, he understands that all he can do is build the best he can, and let the rest go.

The last two pages of Panorama include mental health resources and articles to support people with multi-gendered attractions, their families, and friends.

Head to https://rossvictory.com for more information.

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NEWSMAKERS

VP Robredo extolls LGBTQIA community’s spirit; recognizes a lot of work still needs to be done

Vice President Leni Robredo expressed her support to the LGBTQIA community, even as she acknowledged that a lot of work still needs to be done, including passing an anti-discrimination law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQIA Filipinos.

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Screencap from the Facebook-uploaded message of VP Leni Robredo to the LGBTQIA community

Vice President Leni Robredo expressed her support to the LGBTQIA community, even as she acknowledged that even as the LGBTQIA community marks June as Pride month, a lot of work still needs to be done, including passing an anti-discrimination law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQIA Filipinos.

In a messages posted on her Facebook page, Robredo noted the uncertain times. “many of the things we once cherished and held on to are now being questioned and challenged,” she said in mixed Filipino and English. “Sa kabila nito, marami pa ring bagay ang di nagbabago at nagpapatuloy: tulad ng ating laban para sa patas na karapatan, dignidad at kalayaan.

Robredo noted that “for many decades, the LGBTQIA+ community has been tirelessly fighting for equal rights and representation at the frontlines. It has provided a shelter to the oppressed, a voice to the marginalized, and a family to those who have been abandoned by their own communities. Ito ang dakilang ambag ng LGBTQIA+ community sa ating (b)ayan.

She added: “Sa bawat Pride March na inyong inoorganisa, isang teenager ang mas nagiging proud na yakapin kung sino siya. Sa bawat awareness campaign na inyong sinisimulan, isang komunidad ang mas nagiging bukas ang isipan. At sa bawat pagpiglas ninyo sa tangkang pag-agaw ng ating mga kalayaan, isang bayan ang mas natututong lumaban.

There are – nonetheless – members of the LGBTQIA community “who hold positions of power in our society”, such as lawyers, executives, doctors, educators, artists, policymakers and public servants. The VP hopes that they will “use your influence to change mindsets, promote acceptance, and push for reforms on the ground. Now more than ever, we need to set an example to the younger generation. Ipakita natin sa kanila, na wala silang dapat ipangamba at na malaya silang maging kung ano at sino sila,” Robredo said.

The VP similarly recognized that teaching people to open their minds may be challenging, but “huwag sana kayong panghinaan ng loob.”

She suggested doing small steps to push for Pride, including forming support groups; reaching out to the needy; and introducing concepts re SOGIESC to relatives who may not be well-versed on the same.

Darating din ang araw na babalikan natin ang lahat ng ito at sasabihing, everything was worth the effort. Everything was worth the sacrifice. Everything worth the fight. Push lang ng push, mga besh,” Robredo added.

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NEWSMAKERS

Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach voices support for LGBTQIA community

Pia Wurtzbach said she’s making a stand so “that our friends and family in the LGBTQIA community have the right to take up space in our society… that their voices should be heard, that we don’t invalidate trans women as women.”

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Screencap from the Instagram account of Pia Wurtzbach

Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach voiced her support for the LGBTQIA community.

Via an Instagram post, Wurtzbach said she’s making a stand so “that our friends and family in the LGBTQIA community have the right to take up space in our society… that their voices should be heard, that we don’t invalidate trans women as women.”

She added: “We can learn to accept these concepts by having a dialogue. By listening and understanding our differences. we will grow and uplift one another as one community in strengthening equality and diversity.”

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Learning is always a two-way process.. we listen as we understand each other’s points of view. This #PrideMonth, we stand for the rights and advocacies of the LGBTQIA+ community. 🏳️‍🌈 Being an ally is someone who gives a sense of a safe and affirming space for our loving community… Let’s provide higher platforms for community members to openly discuss issues and concerns that affect us. 🙏 Here we can discuss our differences and remind ourselves that we are together on this journey, and achieve our shared goals for equality. ❤ . I know we may differ in opinions today.. but our constant discourse will make our tomorrow better because we understand one another better. This will also enable our broader community, especially those with differing views, to ponder on things that matter to our fellowmen. . Let me just make a stand that our friends and family in the LGBTQIA+ community have the right to take up space in our society…that their voices should be heard, that we don’t invalidate trans women as women. We can learn to accept these concepts by having a dialogue. By listening and understanding our differences.. we will grow and uplift one another as one community in strengthening equality and diversity. 😊🙏❤ Happy Pride! 🥰🏳️‍🌈

A post shared by Pia Wurtzbach (@piawurtzbach) on

Wurtzbach’s statement of support came after she co-hosted an online discussion involving Kevin Balot, who was crowned Miss International Queen in 2012. Balot reiterated her segregationist perspective, saying that when transgender women ask to join beauty pageants traditionally only for those assigned female at birth, “hindi na siya equality eh, parang asking too much na (this is no longer about equality; it’s already asking too much).”

In her Instagram post, Wurtzbach said that even if people had different opinions, it’s still important to provide platforms for community members to openly discuss “issues and concerns that affect us.”

For Wurtzbach, “this will also enable our broader community, especially those with differing views, to ponder on things that matter to our fellowmen… [O]ur constant discourse will make our tomorrow better because we understand one another better.”

This isn’t the first time Wurtzbach expressed her support to the LGBTQIA community.

In 2017, for instance, she called out the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) following a drug bust involving 11 men in Bonifacio Global City. “Because of what PDEA and the news outlet have done, some people are now associating drugs and immorality with being gay. It’s ridiculous,” she said then.

In 2018, she urged decision makers to address the causes that put young people at risk of HIV.

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‘Riverdale’ actress Lili Reinhart comes out as bisexual

Lili Reinhart – from “Riverdale” – announced that she is a “proud bisexual woman” in a post on Instagram.

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Lili Reinhart – who plays Betty Cooper in “Riverdale” – announced that she is a “proud bisexual woman” in a post on Instagram.

Reinhart’s revelation was linked with her post that she would be attending an “LGBTQ+ for Black Lives Matter” protest in West Hollywood in the US. Underneath a poster for the march, she wrote: “Although I’ve never announced it publicly before, I am a proud bisexual woman. And I will be joining this protest today. Come join.”

Reinhart dated co-star and onscreen partner Cole Sprouse, who played Jughead in “Riverdale.” The two had recently split.

Visibility, obviously, matters.

Earlier in June 2020, a study noted that those who have seen LGBTQIA representation are more accepting of gay and lesbian people than those who haven’t (48% to 35%). They are also more accepting of bisexual people (45% to 31%), and of non-binary people (41% to 30%).

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Emma Watson speaks out for trans rights after J.K. Rowling’s transphobic comments

“Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned.”

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Emma Watson – who played Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” series – is the latest actor to speak out in support of transgender rights after author J.K. Rowling made controversial comments on Twitter that were deemed transphobic.

On June 6, Rowling posted a tweet equating womanhood with being able to menstruate.

When called out, she seemed to own up to the TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist, or women who claim to be feminist but do not believe transgender women are female). She also backed her perspective via a lengthy post that cited a study criticized for its transphobic bias.

Claiming to have read “all the arguments about femaleness not residing in the sexed body, and the assertions that biological women don’t have common experiences, and I find them, too, deeply misogynistic and regressive,” Rowling wrote. “Women (are told they) must accept and admit that there is no material difference between trans women and themselves… But, as many women have said before me, ‘woman’ is not a costume.”

Watson appeared in all eight of the big-screen adaptations of the books by Rowling. By expressing her support for transgender rights, she joins former costar Daniel Radcliffe (who played Harry Potter), and “Fantastic Beasts” star Eddie Redmayne who also voiced their disagreement to Rowling’s warped thinking and defense.

“Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are,” Watson tweeted.

In a subsequent tweet, she added that she wants “my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are.”

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