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What’s Pride got to do with it?

The existing form of Pride should be continuously challenged. Because it continues to be experienced just by a few. Because ways of “observing” Pride are often dictated by the privileged. Because for many, it is but a catchphrase to be brought up to promote personal interests. That we still have a long, long way to go before attaining Pride is a given. And it all starts with revisiting our very concept of Pride.

Photo by Jose Pablo Garcia from Unsplash.com

“Pride has come.”

A 30+ year old friend who attended his first-ever Pride parade in Marikina last June 2019 said.

“I have not seen so many LGBTQIA people – plus some allies, too – in one place.”

And in a way he was right. After all, that year’s iteration of Metro Manila Pride was the biggest ever in its 20+ year history, luring over 50,000 people to join it (as per estimates), largely (I’d argue) because it has long ceased to be a “march” to become as just a “parade”.

I told my friend I had “reservations” with his claim that Pride has, indeed, arrived. 

He looked at me askance, like I was deluded or something.

And to answer his somewhat befuddled face, I summed up my reservation by saying: “Not just this year, but to date, have you ever seen (or even saw particularly through mainstream media coverage) an LGBTQIA person in a wheelchair joining the annual Pride gathering in the Philippines?”

It’s a somewhat simplistic statement, yes; though stressing the exclusion of sectors of the rainbow family in “Pride”.

“Well,” he said, “if you put it that way…”

And this, for me, is why Pride has yet to come; why it remains elusive.

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We observe Pride (or at least a version of it), yes. We’re even getting good at it; that is, if mimicking how Pride is celebrated in Western countries is the basis (e.g. complete with corporate sponsors who get to decide the very order of those joining the parade).

But this version of Pride isn’t for (or by) everyone. 

At least not yet.

And we should never forget this.

***

In the third week of September 2017, right after the House of Representatives passed on final reading the latest version of the anti-discrimination bill (ADB), yet another close friend (a staunch LGBTQIA activist) bluntly told me that “there is actually a faction that hopes for the Senate version of the ADB not to pass.”

NOT – she said – because LGBTQIA people, who’ve been clamoring for the passage of the ADB for 20 years now, need it badly. But because “if ADB is passed, Digong (that’s Pres. Rodrigo Duterte) may sign it into law. And if/when he does, credit will go to him. If/when that happens, that will be a big slap on the faces of those who’ve been pushing for this for 20 years; who can’t even have it passed under the administration of Noynoy (former Pres. Benigno Aquino III), a supposed ally.”

And so this faction’s wish is for the Senate bill not to progress.

I said to her then: “It took 11 years to get this far again; before the ADB passed the final reading in the Lower House. Are we just going to waste that? For that matter, what about the need of the people for an ADB?”

The response: “The LGBTQIA community can wait.”

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Here, we are but dispensable pawns, tokens to be used to advance personal drives… even by people who claim to uphold our Pride.

***

In LGBTQIA advocacy, an oft-repeated cliché is: “None of us is free until all of us are free”. 

This is what Pride is supposed to be.

But while the logic (behind the cliché) still holds true, it remains remote.

And this is why (the existing form of) Pride is continuously being challenged. Because it continues to be experienced just by a few. Because ways of “observing” Pride are often dictated by the privileged. Because for many, it is but a catchphrase to be brought up to promote personal interests (e.g. hashtag every June, or to access some exclusive “club”).

That we still have a long, long way to go before attaining Pride is a given. And it all starts with revisiting our very concept of Pride.

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