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Training on community-based HIV screening held for Deaf community in Mnl

To empower members of the Deaf community in the Philippines to start helping other Deaf Filipinos know their HIV status, and thereby – if they tested HIV-positive – access available treatment, care and support, a training on community-based HIV screening was held for Deaf community members in Manila.

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To help empower members of the Deaf community in the Philippines to start helping other Deaf Filipinos know their HIV status, and thereby – if they tested HIV-positive – access available treatment, care and support, a training on community-based HIV screening was held for Deaf community members in Manila.

The training is actually one in three that will be provided by a project by the Bahaghari Center for Research, Education an Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center), backed by collaboration between Youth LEAD and Y-PEER (Asia Pacific Center), which eyed to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)needs of Young Key Populations (YKPs) In Asia and the Pacific.

Disney Aguila, who heads the project, and is the concurrent president of Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, is first to admit that “problems regarding access to HIV-related services (particularly in this case) by Deaf Filipinos remain numerous.” This is why, for Aguila, “every effort to immediately help deal with these issues count.”

These challenges are multi-pronged, yet interconnected.

On the side of the Deaf Filipinos:

1) Knowledge about HIV remains low.

In 2012, Michael David C. Tan – publishing editor of Outrage Magazine, the only LGBTQI publication in the Philippines, and head of Bahaghari Center – conducted “Talk to the Hand”, the first-of-its-kind study that looked at the knowledge, attitudes and related practices of Deaf LGBT Filipinos on HIV and AIDS. The study had numerous disturbing findings.
To start, majority of the respondents (33 or 54.1%) were within the 19-24 age range at the time of the study, followed by those who are over 25 (21 or 34.3%).

Most of them (53 of 61 Deaf respondents) had sex before they reached 18, the legal age of consent in the Philippines. Many (36.1%) of them also had numerous sexual partners, with some respondents having as many as 20 sex partners in a month.

Only 21 (34.4%) use condoms, and – worryingly – even among those who used condoms, 12 (19.7%) had condom breakage during sex because of improper use.

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Perhaps the unsafe sexual practice should not be surprising, considering that not even half (29, 47.5%) of the respondents heard of HIV and AIDS, with even less that number (23, 37.7%) knowing someone who died of HIV or AIDS-related complications. And with not even half of the total respondents (29) familiar with HIV and AIDS, not surprisingly, only 19 (31.1%) consider HIV and AIDS as serious, with more of them considering HIV and AIDS as not serious (20, 32.8%) or maybe serious (22, 36.1%).

The study also noted that the level of general knowledge about HIV and AIDS is low, with 40 (65.6%) of them falling in this category. Only about 1/5 of them (12, 19.7%) had high level of knowledge about HIV and AIDS. Even fewer (9, 14.8%) may be classified as having moderate knowledge level.

2) Continuing neglect of inclusion of Deaf community members in HIV-related discussions.

For instance, there may have been HIV-related projects including Deaf Filipinos in the past, but these have been very limited to Deaf LGBTQI people.

It is worth noting that this issue is not limited ONLY to the LGBTQIA members of the Deaf community. This issue also affects the SRHR of the Deaf community, as a whole.

For the World Health Organization (WHO), health is a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Specific to reproductive health, WHO stresses that it “implies that people are able to have a responsible, satisfying and safer sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.”

It is nonetheless unfortunate that various studies – including Tan’s – highlight how the Deaf community continues to be left behind because they are not able to access safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of fertility regulation/s of their choice.

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For instance, a study carried out by Deafax (EARS Campaign, 2012) revealed “higher than average levels of STIs, pregnancy and inappropriate behavior within the Deaf community.” This study specifically showed that: 35% of Deaf people did not receive any sex education at school; 65% said that sex education was inaccessible; and 36% learned through direct sexual experience.”

Dealing with SRHR vis-à-vis HIV is obviously just as tricky in the Philippines.

From January 1984 to July 2018, sexual contact among men who have sex with men (MSM) was the predominant (84%, 44,929) mode of transmission among males. Just as that moniker suggests, many of these MSM are not necessarily gay/homosexual, but also engage in sex with opposite sex partners.

This is connected to the population of those most vulnerable to risks associated with sexual activity getting younger, including HIV. But while this has been noted in the Hearing population, the Deaf community is largely ignored, with no existing data on HIV prevalence among them.

In fact, also from January 1984 to July 2018, 16,074 (28%) of the reported cases were 15-24 years old; and broken down, 1,813 were infected through male-female sex, 9,031 from male-male sex, and 4,662 from sex with both males and females.

This means that so long as the HIV infection rate among MSM increases, so do the risk for infection among women.

As it is, the number of diagnosed HIV infections among females in the Philippines has already increased. Females diagnosed with HIV from January to July 2018 (362) was almost three times the number of diagnosed cases compared to the same period of 2013 (126). Ninety-three percent (3,426) of all female cases were in the reproductive age group (15-49 years old) at the time of diagnosis.

With the dearth – if not complete absence – of information for the Deaf community in the Philippines about HIV, Deaf Filipinos (irrespective of their SOGIE) continue not to be informed of and have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of birth control; as well as appropriate health care services of sexual, reproductive medicine and implementation of health education program.

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3) Lack of HIV-related materials in Filipino Sign Language (FSL).

According to Aguila, still many people – including service providers – do not know that the Deaf community has its own language (with its own grammar and syntax). And so HIV-related materials are often produced with the assumption that “everyone can already immediately understand them, which is not necessarily true.”

Aguila recommends the development and production of materials specifically targeting the Deaf community to ensure “that the messages being relayed are truly understood,” she said.

Already, Bahaghari Center has released PSAs on the basics of HIV.

PSA on HIV basics released in Filipino Sign Language

On the side of Filipino Sign Language interpreters:

1) There is still a lack of interpreters in the country (particularly in far-flung areas.

2) Also, even among the available interpreters, not many actually know about HIV.

3) There is also the lack of interpreters who can accompany Deaf Filipinos who end up testing HIV-positive when they access treatment, care and support services.

4) And there – currently – are no HIV-related programs being offered to ensure that willing interpreters are also given HIV-related knowledge and skills.

Aguila admitted that “we definitely still have a long way to go; but we do what we can, and starting with one step – such as training Deaf community members to start testing other Deaf Filipinos is but one good step.”

The training in Manila – as well as in Cebu City in the Visayas and Davao City in Mindanao – is provided by The Red Ribbon Project, Inc.

Other supporters of the project include: Outrage Magazine, Fringe Publishing, Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, TransDeaf Philippines, Deaf Dykes United and Pinoy Deaf Queer.

Call him A.M. (short for Albert Magallanes, obviously; though - he says - also to "signify being on the go, as people tend to be in the mornings"). A graduate of BS Physical Therapy (in DLS Health Sciences Institute), he found his calling ("Sort of," he laughed) attempting to organize communities ("While having fun in the process," he beamed). For instance, in Las Piñas where he is based, he helps helm an MSM group that has evolved from just offering social events to aiding its members as needed. He now writes for Outrage Magazine as the Las Piñas (and southern) correspondent.

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Still discriminated for having untraditional families, children also need empowerment

For filmmaker Cha Roque, “until now there are still instances where children are discriminated for having untraditional families.”

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While browsing through old footage and photos for a documentary she was making, filmmaker Cha Roque saw her daughter’s old speech at the 2014 Pride Speaks under the (now more commercial – Ed) Metro Manila Pride. The video, she said to Outrage Magazine, made her realize “that for the past few years, I have been sharing my own inconveniences and experiences about being discriminated as a lesbian”, but that while “it has been almost five years since this was filmed, until now there are still instances where children are discriminated for having untraditional families.”

“Kids with LGBTQI parents are still discriminated and that is the most painful part of being a parent for me,” Roque said.

Now – as the world marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia – Roque shares her daughter Kelsey’s video as she hopes that “that sharing this will enlighten people’s minds – that we are not a special case, that we are not crazy, that we are not sick, and that we are as much of a family as you are.”

Roque is a filmmaker, educator, and LGBT advocate. She has been teaching audio and video production, scriptwriting, post-production, and multimedia subjects at various universities in Manila since 2014. A grantee of BChange Organization for the Stories of Being Me, representing the Philippines in an Asian documentary series, Roque is a returning fellow of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum under the Salzburg Global Seminar from 2016 to 2018. She is also a fellow of the Ricky Lee Scriptwriting workshop. In 2018, she was awarded the Art that Matters for Film Award by Amnesty International Philippines under Amnesty’s Ignite Awards. Her recent films “What I Would’ve Told My Daughter if I Knew What to Say Back Then“, and “Slay“have been making the rounds in both local and international film festivals.

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Teen girls more vulnerable to bullying than boys

Bullying among boys is often physical. Among females, the bullying is often the kind that’s not visible. It’s often relational bullying, such as excluding someone from activities and social circles, or spreading rumors about them. The actions are not overt, Pontes explains, so they could go on for a long time without anyone else knowing.

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Photo by Michał Parzuchowski from Unsplash.com

Girls are more often bullied than boys and are more likely to consider, plan, or attempt suicide, according to research led by a Rutgers University-Camden nursing scholar.

“Bullying is significantly associated with depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, suicide planning, and suicide attempts,” says Nancy Pontes, an assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden. “We wanted to look at this link between bullying victimization, depressive symptoms, and suicidality by gender.”

In an examination of data from the Centers for Disease Control’s nationally representative Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 2011-2015, Pontes and her fellow researchers conducted analyses of the data and found that more females are negatively affected by bullying.

Pontes says that, in general, girls are more often bullied than boys, and girls are also more likely to consider, plan, or attempt suicide compared with boys, regardless of being bullied or not–although boys are more likely to die by suicide. In this study, Pontes and her fellow researchers looked at significant associations and not direct causal links.

Using two methods of statistical analysis, the researchers showed the probability of a link between bullying and depressive symptoms and suicide risk, and then compared the results of the two methodologies.

Through the more commonly used multiplicative interactions method, their findings matched the findings that some other researchers have used in previous studies, which showed no difference between males and females being bullied at school and having depressive symptoms or suicide risk behaviors.

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However, when using the International Journal of Epidemiology-recommended methodology of additive interactions, Pontes and her team found the effects of bullying are significantly higher in females than males on every measure of psychological distress or suicidal thoughts and actions.

The study, “Additive Interactions between Gender and Bullying Victimization on Depressive Symptoms and Suicidality: Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2011-2015” by Pontes and her colleagues, is published in the journal Nursing Research.

The researchers acknowledge limitations with the study, such as the nature of its retrospective design and the inability to change or alter the design of the CDC study.

The study similarly did not specifically segregate respondents based on their SOGIE. However, earlier studies have already stressed that most gender nonconforming students reported higher levels of being bullied, were more likely to report missing school because they feel unsafe, and are most likely to report being victimized with a weapon on school property; and that still nearly half of LGBT pupils (45%) – including 64% of trans pupils – are bullied for being LGBT in schools.

All the same, Pontes hopes the results of her team’s examination will help draw attention to how researchers conduct analyses of data and how crucial it is to carefully consider which methods are the best fit, or to use both methods and compare them.

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Bullying among boys is often physical. Pontes says while many schools are cracking down on physical bullying which people can see, those actions probably are preventing and stopping bullying that’s more common among males.

Among females, Pontes says, the bullying is often the kind that’s not visible. It’s often relational bullying, such as excluding someone from activities and social circles, or spreading rumors about them. The actions are not overt, Pontes explains, so they could go on for a long time without anyone else knowing.

Preventing bullying should begin at a young age. Parents should start teaching preschool children that bullying is unacceptable.

“Our school interventions should understand the differences in bullying and how we might better address females who are bullied,” says Pontes.

The Rutgers-Camden nursing researcher believes that preventing bullying should begin at a young age. She says parents should start teaching preschool children that bullying is unacceptable.

“There are parents who see it as a rite of passage,” says Pontes. “They say, ‘Everyone gets bullied. You have to buck up. Stand up for yourself.'”

She says pediatricians and nurse practitioners should talk about the harmful effects of bullying with parents so that they can intervene early and reduce the victimization that causes adolescents to consider suicide, so they will be able to live happier and healthier lives.

Pontes’ co-authors of the study are Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden colleague Cynthia Ayres and Manuel Pontes of Rowan University.

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Bullying among adolescents hurts both victims and perpetrators

Victims and their perpetrators both suffer as a result of these attacks: They are more inclined to consume alcohol and tobacco, are more likely to complain of psychosomatic problems and their chances of having problems with their social environment increase, too.

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Photo by Timothy Eberly from Unsplash.com

Name-calling, hair pulling or cyberbullying: About a tenth of adolescents across the globe have been the victim of psychological or physical violence from classmates at least once in their lives.

A new study carried out by researchers at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) has shown that victims and their perpetrators both suffer as a result of these attacks: They are more inclined to consume alcohol and tobacco, are more likely to complain of psychosomatic problems and their chances of having problems with their social environment increase, too.

In the scientific journal “Children and Youth Services Review“, the researchers plead for prevention programs to place more emphasis on cohesion within the classroom.

Dr Anett Wolgast and Dr Matthias Donat, two of MLU’s educational psychology scientists, wanted to find out whether there were any differences in the way various countries’ cultures handled being bullied and whether boys dealt with it in a different manner than girls. To do this, they compared data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), who had asked approximately 3,000 adolescents from each country about their lives as part of an extensive study conducted over a number of years. The data included information on any bullying the adolescents had experienced from other students, but also details of alcohol and tobacco consumption, psychosomatic complaints, how easy they found it to talk to their friends and how they viewed the social support of their classmates.

The researchers looked at the responses from adolescents living in Germany, Greece and the USA and were collected during several different survey periods. The scientists picked these three countries, because they believe these nations each manifest togetherness very differently: They see the USA as rather individualistic, Greece as very collectivist and Germany as somewhere in between.

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The analysis revealed that adolescents’ behavior and problems are similar in all three countries, as approximately 9% of boys and girls had repeatedly experienced physical or psychological attacks from other students.

Dr Wolgast said: “None of the three countries can be used as a model for dealing with the problem. We were shocked by this stability that transcends cultures and different periods of time.”

Another thing the researchers wanted to take a closer look at was the connection between bullying from students and various other factors: Here, they focused on the adolescents’ risk behaviour, especially their alcohol and tobacco consumption, and whether they had suffered or were still suffering from psychosomatic complaints, such as stomach aches, headaches, back pain or depression.

The scientists also analyzed how perpetrators and victims interacted with their social environment: Did they find it easy to talk to friends? How did they view support from within their class in their social environment? The results indicate that boys and girls are just as likely as each other to consume alcohol and smoke cigarettes when they have been the victim of verbal or physical attacks. “Girls are slightly more inclined to internalize problems and therefore have more stomach aches or headaches,” added Dr Wolgast.

The academics were surprised by the fact that perpetrators and victims both mentioned similar problems with their environments. Both groups found it difficult to talk to friends and classmates and they also both felt they had little support from their environment.

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“The fact that perpetrators and victims experience similar problems to each other is remarkable,” Dr Wolgast continued. “These findings could be used to devise new prevention strategies.”

By this, she meant that current measures should target communication between adolescents more to improve the atmosphere in classrooms and said that one way of encouraging this could be asking students in a class to adhere to rules that they have come up with themselves. Mutual support would play a major role here, she explained in conclusion.

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Pinoy wins Mr. Gay World 2019

John Jeffrey Carlos won as Mr. Gay World 2019, the second time the title went to the Philippines (and Asia).

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Screencap from John Jeffrey Carlos' video for Mr. Gay World 2019

Pinoy rainbow pride.

John Jeffrey Carlos won as Mr. Gay World 2019, the second time the title went to the Philippines (and Asia).

The 41-year-old local of General Trias, Cavite is not new to pageantry, first trying his luck to represent the country in the same pageant in 2016. He placed fourth runner-up then, losing to John Raspado, who ended up winning the first Mr. Gay World title for the country.

Carlos is actually also already relatively known in various circles – e.g. in Facebook and Instagram, where his repeatedly “liked” photos range from showcasing living a luxurious lifestyle in Manila, traveling from one country to another, flexing his muscles during a workout, or wearing swimming trunks and posing provocatively for no other reason but to satisfy the fantasies of his social media followers.

Carlos – who obtained his bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management at the Cavite State University, where he also played for the men’s varsity volleyball team – also appeared in some movies directed by the late Wenn Deramas, such as “Moron 5.2: The Transformation” (2014) and “Wang Fam” (2015).

“When it comes to pageantry, the best trait of Filipino representatives [in general] is they always surprise people with their biggest ideas, just like what Catriona Gray did [in Miss Universe],” he said to Outrage Magazine in an earlier interview.

Perhaps typical of many beauty titlists who are new to their advocacies, Carlos only recently partnered wth Mental Health PH, an organization that promotes awareness about mental health through social media, a few days after winning the Mr. Fahrenheit 2019 title.

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All the same, he said that “I think it’s a very good platform for me to push my advocacy, as it is very timely and relevant, especially with the LGBTQI community… We’ve heard so much about mental health issues and things are getting worse. In my own little way, I want to spread awareness about depression, so people will know what to do in case they feel some of the symptoms of this mental illness, affecting us and our loved ones.”

As Carlos wears the second Mr. Gay World title for the Philippines, he stressed: “We have to reach out to people with depression. Together, we can turn this illness to wellness.”

Carlos – who competed with 21 other contestants in Cape Town, South Africa – has a partner and they’ve been living together for the past seven years.

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Gay and lesbian spaces in the city becoming more diverse, not going away

Data shows that the emergence of “mini-enclaves” and “little planets” could be a more significant development than the so-called decline of gayborhoods.

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Gay and lesbian spaces in cities are dispersing and diversifying; they are not disappearing.

This is according to research from the University of British Columbia, published as part of a special symposium in City & Community, the official journal of urban sociologists.

A common perception is that major urban centers have just one, singular gay neighborhood–or “gayborhood”–where all gay people live, and the rest are straight spaces. However, based on data from the US, only 12% of LGBTQ aged 18 and older currently live in a gayborhood, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. The survey also shows that 72% of LGBTQ people have never lived in a gayborhood.

“LGBTQ (people) are an incredibly diverse group of people. Why wouldn’t we expect that diversity to express itself in the places they live and call home as well?”
Photo by Tanushree Rao from Unsplash.com

The UBC research shows that LGBTQ people are increasingly living in “cultural archipelagos” beyond the gayborhood.

“LGBTQ (people) are an incredibly diverse group of people. Why wouldn’t we expect that diversity to express itself in the places they live and call home as well?” said Amin Ghaziani, associate professor in UBC’s department of sociology.

Ghaziani’s research used data from the 2010 US census to examine location patterns of lesbians, transgender people, same-sex couples with children, and LGBTQ people of color. While members of these subgroups don’t always feel welcome in the nation’s gayborhoods, the data shows that they do have their own places.

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In many cities, clusters of same-sex couples with children have sprung up in areas well outside of gayborhoods. Still in the US, for instance, in Chicago and the outer boroughs of New York, queer communities of color have emerged. Places like “Chocolate Chelsea” and “Hell’s Cocina” in New York provide alternatives to the predominant whiteness of traditional gayborhoods. African-American individuals in a same-sex partnership are more likely to live in areas where there are higher populations of other African-Americans, rather than other LGBTQ people.

Data shows that the emergence of “mini-enclaves” and “little planets”.
Photo by Josh Edgoosefrom Unsplash.com

Rural areas draw more same-sex female couples than male couples, and female couples tend to live where the median housing price per square foot is lower–perhaps a reflection of the gender pay gap. In the US, the top zip codes for lesbian couples include Provincetown, Mass.; Northampton, Mass; and the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. Gay men, however, are more likely to live in the Castro or West Hollywood.

Ultimately, the data shows that the emergence of “mini-enclaves” and “little planets”–as one of Ghaziani’s interview subjects dubbed them–could be a more significant development than the so-called decline of gayborhoods.

In the Philippines, for instance, Malate in the City of Manila used to be the gay enclave; but with its eventual demise, other gay “areas” opened, including in Cubao in Quezon City, and even in areas outside of Metro Manila.

“We talk so much about the decline of the gayborhood,” said Ghaziani. “These areas are undoubtedly changing, but if we over-emphasize loss then we will not see the dynamic new developments that are taking place. We need to broaden our view beyond the gayborhood.”

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LGBT people ‘fundamental part of fabric of rural communities’

The most important goal was to work against the stereotype that LGBTQIA people only live in the cities or on the coast and to shine a light on the millions of LGBT people living in rural areas.

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Photo by Bash Carlos from Unsplash.com

No, not all members of the LGBTQIA people are in the city, or even gravitate towards the big cities.

This is according to “Where We Call Home: LGBT People in Rural America , a study from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) that – while focusing on members of the LGBTQIA community in the US – still deal with a long-held assumption that the rainbow can almost always just be found in big cities.

“The most important goal was to work against the stereotype that LGBTQIA people only live in the cities or on the coast and to shine a light on the millions of LGBT people living in rural (areas),” said Logan Casey, a policy researcher for the Movement Advancement Project. “They are a fundamental part of the fabric of rural communities across the country.”

In the US, between 2.9 million and 3.8 million LGBTQIA people live in rural areas, and this is up to 5% of the rural population and up to 20% of the LGBTQIA community’s population. For the most part, they chose that life for the same reasons other people do, including tight-knit communities with a shared sense of values that typically revolve around places like the church, schools or local businesses.

Same-sex parents also reportedly gravitate to life outside the cities. The report stated that “the highest rates of parenting by both same-sex couples and LGBTQIA individuals are in the most rural regions of the country.” It highlights to data from The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law that stated that 24 out of the 30 states in the US where same-sex couples are raising children are mostly rural in the Midwest, the South and the mountain regions of America.

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Hard figures are hard to come by in the Philippines, where LGBTQIA-related data are still not (extensively) collected. But while Metro Manila, for instance, only has an overall population of 12.8 million (per the 2015 Census), the entire country already has over 110 million people. Many of them – including LGBTQIA Filipinos – live outside urban areas, including LGBTQIA people who are also members of indigenous tribes, those belonging to informal workforce, youth sector, people living with HIV, Muslim LGBTQIA people, et cetera.

The challenges faced by those who opt to live in rural areas (including limited access to health care, housing shortages and job loss) are made more difficult by the SOGIE of LGBTQIA dwellers. For instance, there are fewer protections for LGBTQIA people in rural areas.

MAP stressed that it’s incredibly important to improve life for all rural dwellers, such as by creating better access to health care, employment and the Internet, as well as by protecting the most vulnerable by passing “LGBTQIA-inclusive nondiscrimination protections.

“When you don’t have those non-discrimination protections, it disproportionately impacts LGBT people in rural areas,” Casey said. “LGBT people… shouldn’t have to choose between these basic rights and protections and where they call home.”

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