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.”
In college, transgender woman Alvin Toni Gee Fernandez was elected as Governor of the College of Liberal Arts in the Western Mindanao State University in Zamboanga City. “I noticed that LGBTQIA issues were never given priority,” she noted, and so during her term, she made sure “we… put emphasis to LGBTQIA human rights within the university.”
In a way, that was Toni Gee’s “entry” into LGBTQIA advocacy.
Eventually, Toni Gee helmed the establishment of the Mujer-LGBT Organization Inc., which she held as its president/executive director. In Zamboanga City, it was this organization that successfully lobbied for a legislation that would protect the human rights of the LGBTQIA people there.
“For many years, the local LGBTQIA community was… maligned, demeaned, degraded and abused just for being true to themselves,” Toni Gee said, so that pushing for the passage of the anti-discrimination ordinance made sense.
STILL A LOT TO DO
That the LGBTQIA community still has a lot to do is a given, said Toni Gee.
Some of the key issues she believes the local LGBTQIA community should focus on include “equal rights, equal opportunities and access to social services.” For Toni Gee, “I think these are the key issues we have to focus on since the LGBTQIA community has never been given priority on opportunities, equal rights and access to social services.”
Some of the major issues facing the LGBTQIA community actually come from within.
For instance, there’s “discrimination within the community,” said Toni Gee. “How will we be able to achieve our common goal if we, within the community, have different mindsets towards acceptance and equality?”
Looking back, aside from forming – and then helming – the pioneering LGBTQIA organization in Zamboanga City, the Mujer-LGBT Organization Inc., Toni Gee is proud to have pushed for the passage of the comprehensive anti- discrimination ordinance of the city of Zamboanga.
“Since there is no existing statutory law that protects our rights, at least we have an ordinance that prohibits discrimination on the basis of SOGIESC,” she said, adding that she takes pride in knowing that “there is no place of discrimination here in our city.”
But there’s more work to do, as Toni Gee hopes to establish and popularize their temporary community center for LGBTQIA people who are displaced or who have been discriminated and abused by their own families. With this, they have created a safe space for all for persons with diverse SOGIESC here in their locality. And truly… they’re a step closer to promoting better living for LGBTQIA people in Zamboanga City.
Toni Gee remains hopeful.
The LGBTQIA community, she said, is resilient. “Despite the fact that we are bombarded with different social issues, we still stand together as one community.”
For more information on Mujer-LGBT Organization Inc., visit their Facebook page.