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The great divide…

International gatherings always provide a glimpse of a great “divide” – i.e. the segregation of those who do/take actions (but do not get any credit for their efforts) versus those who do not necessarily do/take actions (but always get the credit/are internationally known because they belong to the “in” crowds). For Michael David dela Cruz Tan, “more than being sad, this could be our unmaking.”

At a session in ILGA Asia Conference 2015, this one highlighting creative services for LGBTQI people, which may benefit their target populations greatly but do not always get the hype they deserve.

TAIPEI, TAIWAN – For advocates and/or activists (no matter the field they belong to), international gatherings provide us a glimpse of the big – if not great – divide. And this is the segregation of those who do/take actions (but do not get any credit for their efforts) versus those who do not necessarily do/take actions (but always get the credit/are internationally known because they belong to the “in” crowds).

Those working in LGBTQI advocacy and/or activism are not exempted here, as may be gleaned in a gathering like the ILGA Asia Conference 2015 in Taipei, Taiwan (ongoing until Friday).

Here, although we all openly claim to be “working together” to attain a “common goal” (i.e. advancement of human rights of LGBTQI people), everything isn’t all rosy because – in so many ways – we aren’t REALLY working together.

Note how we have the (supposed) “noise makers”/complainers/whingers – often criticized as those whose very existence seems to be premised only on creating havoc, at times even picking fights with just about everyone because nothing (no effort) seems to be good enough. And then we have the “positive spinners” (a.k.a. “conference activists”) – these are often those who claim (particularly in international gatherings) to be doing most of the efforts in their respective localities/contexts, even if the “noise makers” will (constantly) beg to differ.

Call it an in-fighting – or more nicely, a “disagreement” (if you will) from within the movement.

More than being sad, this could be our unmaking.

The cliché that we need to get our acts together by working together needs to be stressed over and over and over again.

But – let’s be completely honest here – the bickering will really only stop if steps are taken (also serving as important lessons that ought to be learned here), e.g.:

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  1. Learn credit-sharing, instead of credit-hogging. There is too much work to be done for us to focus on who-gets-what. The cause, after all, is bigger than a single person’s ego.
  2. Funders/donor agencies need to stop having so-called “favorites” (in the US, the terms they use to refer to these people/organizations include the “A-Gays” and the “golden children”; I also heard EU-based activists call them “LGBT Inc.”; while in Asia, among the terms I heard being used is “Bangkok beauties”). If you keep supporting only select groups of people, then you are helping create the “divide” by building/strengthening the “in” versus the “not so in” crowd within the movement.
  3. Support grassroots advocates and/or activists. Yes, we know the celebrity LGBTQI “leaders” – we have mainstream media to thank for that. But so much of the efforts are done by people who continue to remain unnamed. And these people need to be recognized; better yet, they need to get funded. Because, really, these are the people who put their lives in danger by effecting changes, not just for the glam that comes with the work.
  4. We need REAL inclusion of people we claim to represent – e.g. in ILGA’s Asia conference, there’s a talk about “intersectionality with other marginalized groups”, but there’s no noticeable presence of other marginalized groups from within the LGBTQI community (e.g. differently-abled and senior citizens).

I was in Mindanao in southern Philippines a few weeks back, and while there, I met up with LGBTQI and HIV organizations who lamented how their stories were being “hijacked”. That is, many metropolitan city-based LGBTQI leaders “visit” them and “interview” them, and then “promise” to give them “future support”. And then – after the visit – they’d hear how their stories were shared in international gatherings.

“Don’t get us wrong,” a trans grassroots activist (from Cagayan de Oro City) said to me, “we’re happy to share our stories.” After all, “it isn’t every day someone comes over to hear us out.”

But since – to date – the “support” they’ve been waiting for has yet to come, the feeling of being used can’t be shaken off.

And so we need to close/link, and not widen, the divide.

Continue doing YOUR work wherever you may be, and then LINK UP (stop just building yourself up; raise others up with you).

As John Ryan N. Mendoza, Outrage Magazine managing editor, keeps stressing: “We need a collective movement, not a fragmented personality-based advocacy.”

Because, for F’s sake, I thought we’re all in this together!?

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan completed BA Communication Studies from University of Newcastle in NSW, Australia. He grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City), but he "really came out in Sydney" so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing, and a developed world". Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies), and converse in Filipino Sign Language. He authored "Being LGBT in Asia: Philippines Country Report", and "Red Lives" that creatively retells stories from the local HIV community. Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism, and Arts that Matter - Literature from Amnesty Int'l Philippines in 2020. Cross his path is the dare (guarantee: It won't be boring).


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