We are told to remember the idea not the man, because man can fail, but an idea persists even after his death.
The idea to continue fighting until equal rights is something not to be fought for anymore. The idea to educate people about the truth and what’s been happening in the LGBT community.
It is the same idea that gave hope to the LGBT community last election to be represented and be heard in the Congress. It is the same idea that is lost but not forgotten. It is the same idea that translates to democracy.
May 10, 2010. The country voted the Bicolanos, the security guards, the tricycle drivers their party list representatives – they were among the top choices of voters. But a gay party list that stands on the platform of equal rights, retirement homes for the aged, and the chance for anyone to enrol for a loan to start a small business was not prioritized by voters.
When in fact the members of which are the gays in the salons they rely on to get their regular grooming every weekend; the lesbians who you come across every time you ride the MRT; who works so hard to experience a normal life; and the “straight-acting” gays who monopolizes the call center industry in the country. People who dream that one day, they can come out to their families and be accepted for what they really are. All disregarded and forgotten.
When being different became immoral, the country turned yellow.
Everyone was smiling. Everyone was hopeful. It was 1986 when the first Aquino made a promise to an idea – to have an honest government that will answer every citizen’s cry for a democratic country every Filipino can be proud of. She died fighting for it. Twenty-four years since, the idea still exists.
What makes a President?
Will the Aquino euphoria keep Noynoy’s image as the “Messiah” for six years?
Or will the people, eventually, wake up from their illusions and see reality?
Will the promises he made during his speeches save us from hate and inequality?
Words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning.
But will his actions offer the same meaning as his words?
Nicole is a 26-year-old transgender. She didn’t finish college and it was not her choice, her family didn’t have enough money for her to continue.
At 24, she grew tired of waiting for her family to send her back to college. She strived on her own. She borrowed money from her friends and applied in different offices, but she was either turned away or ignored.
A friend of hers gave linked her to the call center agency where he was also employed, asking Nicole to apply.
She passed the exam and the interviews, she trained for three months. She got good reviews from her team leader, and his colleagues admired her patience when attending to calls. Her evaluations were satisfactory.
And just before the fourth month entered, one Monday morning, Nicole got a message from the account supervisor, asking her to meet him at exactly 1:00 PM in his office.
Nicole wore her best dress, fixed her long shiny hair, painted her lips with red and topped it with gloss. She entered their building perky, smiling at everyone. She thought this is the day that her supervisor will ask her to become regular.
She walked slowly in the hallway leading towards the office. She went in.
After 30 minutes, she went out. Her head held down. Her smile faded. She rushed out of the building and waited for a cab.
Nicole was requested not come to work the next day or ever. According to the account supervisor, their company have a good reputation and was afraid to gamble it by hiring a “ladyboy”, and even though she was qualified for the job, the company’s reputation is far important than her.
Months later, Nicole got a job in a television show as an assistant of the executive producer.
Until now, Nicole still feels insulted.
When the country turned yellow, Nicole was unsure; will she be afraid or be hopeful that the discrimination will stop?
There’s something terribly wrong in this country.
Mr. Aquino, Nicole is the most hardworking person in her family, and she didn’t deserve what happened to her. She only wants to have an honest and decent job to buy food for her family and medicine for her dad.
The previous government never showed any concern for the LGBT group. No matter how many rallies were made to scream and protest that the LGBT group is not immoral, and that we are just as normal as you – nothing has been done.
Mr. Aquino, Winton Lou Ynion is a Palanca winning writer. He was murdered, he was found with nylon cords around his neck and hands. He didn’t deserve what happened to him. He could have written the best novel piece of this generation and be kept in the library next to Shakespeare.
No one showed compassion to Father Robert Tanghal, Melchor Vergel de Dios, Enrique Esguer and many others, when they were strangled and left to die. Their cases were unsolved; the suspects are still at large. The government called it as petty crimes.
Mr. Aquino, the LGBT killings will not stop, the hate will not stop, until the government finally imposes something.
They only have different perspectives that they openly express, and perspectives are to be listened to and not reason to be killed.
Mr. Aquino, have you met Humphrey Gorriceta? He’s HIV positive. He came out in the open to educate the LGBT community about the danger of the disease. He speaks in different forums and events to let everyone know that being HIV positive is something one shouldn’t be ashamed of, but something to deal with. We salute him.
Wanggo Gallaga, son of critically-acclaimed filmmaker Peque Gallaga, came out in the open as HIV positive, so people will hear his story and be educated, to remind everyone that being HIV positive doesn’t mean it’s the end of their lives. We salute him.
Mr. President, do you have plans for the growing number of HIV cases in the country? Will the HIV patients in San Lazaro Hospital be attended to properly and received proper medical supplies? Have you finally decided what your stand is on the RH Bill?
This is an appeal to the government to make everything right.
A man as smart as you, Mr. Aquino, has already made a plan. A man as smart as your, Mr. Aquino has already made a decision. We just hope the LGBT community is part of it.
This country needs more than a “Promised President”. This country needs more than hope not promises, but results.
At the end of the day, no one is to blame. It was never really the fault of the previous government fully. If you’re looking at whose fault it is, who’s guilty why things didn’t go the way they should be, no need to look anywhere, just look in the mirror. And when the people start to realize it, that’s when the government should come in, to be the backbone of every citizen who stood up.
An idea is an inch of everything. It is small and fragile; we should never let them take that away from us. It is the only thing in the world worth having. It is the only thing in the world that we should never be allowed to be taken away from us. Ideas are bullet-proof.
Drags will continue to sing. Impersonators will continue to perform. Advocates will continue to write. Activists will continue to rally. Until, “equal rights” is for everyone to enjoy.
When the country turned yellow, the LGBT community was (once again) awakened.
There’s no certainty, only opportunity.
Pass it on.
To come out or not to come out? That is the question
For a “conservative culture” like in the Philippines, where the influence of religion and the opinion of the elders are greatly valued, should the idea of coming out be on the table whenever possible?
Gone are the days when hiding or staying inside the closet is the “ideal thing to do” — or is it?
Many members of the LGBT community are saying that coming out and being proud of one’s true self may be the best way to fully enjoy everything. There are others who are claiming that it can even help transform one’s life.
But for a “conservative culture” like in the Philippines, where the influence of religion and the opinion of the elders are greatly valued, should the idea of coming out be on the table whenever possible?
On Facebook, discussions about this topic had attracted many users – where people from different walks of life share their reactions and thoughts about it.
One person said that the process of coming out is lifelong.
Another user posted a message saying that there is no right time or right way to do it.
And there were those who asked why some people express hate towards someone who chooses to stay in the closet.
At least in the recent months, the issue of coming out had also been one of the subjects of some of the non-fiction stories in the Philippine media.
For instance, on iWant’s “Beauty Queens” the topic was discussed in almost all six episodes.
Rica, the youngest child of Dahlia, came out as a transgender woman. It blindsided the entire family. Dahlia disowned her daughter after leaning it. While the oldest sibling, for the longest time, refused to call her “Rica”.
The plot thickened when it was revealed that Dahlia was in a relationship with another woman. And that she was just waiting for the right time to tell it to her family.
“Isa lang ibig sabihin nito, Mommy (This only means one thing, Mommy): You have been a practicing lesbian. But you rejected me when I came out. How could you?” Rica asked her mother.
In the Pinoy BL (boys love) web series “Gameboys”, the topic of coming out was also tackled in some episodes.
Cairo, one of the main characters, was partly blamed by his brother London for the health condition of their father.
“Dahil sa selfishness mo, nandito tayo sa ganitong sitwasyon. Hindi ko nga alam kung ano ang pumasok sa isip mo at ginawa mo ‘yun (Because of your selfishness, we are in this situation. I do not know what you were thinking when you did that),” London said.
“Alam ko naman na kasalanan ko ito lahat. Araw-araw ko sinisisi ang sarili ko. Ako nga, ako nga ang may kasalanan. Hindi ko dapat ginawa ‘yun eh. Sana ako na lang. Alam ko, mali nga ako, kuya. Kuya alam ko mali ako, pero hindi ko ginusto ‘yung kay Papa. Hindi ko ginusto na magkasakit siya (I know that everything was my fault. I blame myself everyday. It was me, it was my fault. I should not have done that. I wish it was me. I know that what I did was wrong, but I did not want that to happen to Papa. I did not want him to get sick),” Cairo responded.
The story took a turn when he had a conversation with his mother after his father passed.
“Ma, I am sorry,” Cairo said.
“Why are you apologizing?” his mom asked.
“I am sorry I am gay,” Cairo answered.
“Cairo, do not be sorry. You do not need to apologize for being who you are. Kung dapat may mag-sorry dito, ako ‘yun. Anak, walang mali sa iyo. Ako ‘yung nagkulang (If there is anyone who needs to say sorry, it should be me. There is nothing wrong with you, son. I was the one who had shortcomings). I knew all along. I did not make an effort to gain your trust para maramdaman mo na puwede ka magsabi sa akin (I did not make an effort to gain your trust so you can feel that you can tell me), his mom said.
Coming out is one of the biggest and most important decisions any person will make. Finding the right moment can be as crucial as the decision itself.
Studies show that there are benefits in revealing one’s identity, including feeling good by the person coming out (i.e. he/she will experience less anger, less depression, and higher self-esteem).
“In general, research shows that coming out is a good thing. Decades of studies have found that openness allows gay people to develop an authentic sense of themselves and to cultivate a positive minority sexual identity,” said Richard Ryan, co-author of one such study.
It is also believed that when a person comes out, it will allow him/her to develop as a whole individual, have greater empowerment, and makes it easier to develop a positive self-image.
Another study also noted that when a person accepts his/her true self, it will not only bring happiness but can also be good for the health.
“Coming out might only be beneficial for health when there are tolerant policies that facilitate the disclosure process,” said Robert-Paul Juster, author of yet another study.
While there are countless positive effects of coming out, there are also some disadvantages when someone decides to leave the closet – to a name a few: bullying, harassment, rejection from society, and violence.
In a 2018 survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 65% of the 7,233 15-year-old respondents said that they were bullied at least a few times a month.
In a school setting, it is a known fact that someone who demonstrates a “different” behavior may be susceptible to bullying.
Coming out is one of the biggest and most important decisions any person will make. Finding the right moment can be as crucial as the decision itself.
DECIDING TO COME OUT
According to The Cass Theory by Vivian Cass, there are six stages that a person will go through when he/she decides to come out.
Stage 1 – Identity Confusion: This is where you begin to ask yourself if you identify differently than what you were assigned at birth.
Stage 2 – Identity Comparison: You start accepting the possibility that you may have a different gender identity and face social isolation that come with it.
Stage 3 – Identity Tolerance: Your acceptance of your new gender identity increases and you begin to tolerate it.
Stage 4 – Identity Acceptance: At this point, you have resolved most of the questions concerning your gender identity and have accepted it.
Stage 5 – Identity Pride: By this stage, you begin to feel proud of being part of the community.
Stage 6 – Identity Synthesis: Finally, you start integrating your gender identity in all aspects of yourself and life.
And in the end, this is what coming out is: A long — and sometimes endless — journey to finding oneself.
5 Ways to empower kids to end bullying
For members of Gen Z, bullying was a top concern, with 86% of respondents saying that not being bullied is a daily priority and 30% saying that out of 20-plus societal issues, bullying is the problem they most want solved globally.
From the classroom to the internet, bullying can lead to children developing a poor self-image or lead to bullying others. In fact, members of Generation Z believe bullying is the biggest issue facing their generation, according to a survey of American youth ages 6-17, commissioned by the Boy Scouts of America*.
The interesting thing, though, as stressed by this study: 84% of those surveyed said they want to be a part of the solution. In fact, the survey similarly found:
- 97% said being kind to others is important.
- 79% said improving their community is important.
- 50% said the reason they focus on some of these issues because their parents are passionate about them.
- Bullying was a top concern among respondents, with 86% of respondents saying that not being bullied is a daily priority and 30% saying that out of 20-plus societal issues, bullying is the problem they most want solved globally.
- Other top concerns respondents want to help solve are hunger (28%) and care for elders (27%) at the local level; animal rights (28%) and recycling (28%) at the national level; and poverty (28%) and human rights (26%) at the global level.
Now how to help kids learn how to overcome, avoid and break down the cycle of bullying:
Promote more time unplugged and outdoors.
It is important for parents to promote healthy, face-to-face social interactions. Outdoor activities allow children to work together, solve problems and bond in a way that typically can’t be achieved through a screen. They also give children a break from the cyber-world, where bullying is often prevalent.
Ninety-seven percent of Gen Z members surveyed said being kind is important. Encourage kids to act on that feeling and remind them that it doesn’t take any extra energy to be kind. Serve as a role model by making kindness a foundation in your family.
Educate and equip.
Parents should educate their children about why bullying is never OK, equip them with the knowledge they’ll need to recognize it and encourage them to report and safely respond to all forms of bullying they observe.
Use the buddy system.
In scouting, the buddy system pairs kids together to help ensure the well-being of one another. This approach is used for practical and safety reasons that can also be applied to everyday life. A pair or group of kids are less likely to get bullied, and buddies can be supportive by being an upstander.
As a family, look for ways to get involved in activities that include families from different backgrounds and cultures. Introducing kids to ideas and lifestyles different from their own can be an enlightening experience, and that knowledge can help break down some of the barriers that contribute to bullying, such as fear and misunderstanding.
*Yes, yes, the Boy Scouts of America (and scouting as a whole, for that matter) continues to have issue particularly with openly accepting LGBTQIA people – i.e. it is a “bully” itself. But… here’s hoping it learns its own advise.
Acceptance and love as sources of Pride
For many LGBTQIA people, self-acceptance is difficult to achieve, even if it is generally accepted that only when one lives one’s own truth can he/she/they know true self-acceptance and the joy that comes with it. Lucky for Ahds who met Anna who loves him, even as they get the support of accepting families.
In 2015, Ada (or Ahds, as his friends and close relatives call him), was working in Toronto when he met Anna, the best friend of a cousin.
It “completely changed my life,” he beamed.
Ahds recalled that there were people who doubted their relationship.
During their first year together, he admitted that they experienced difficulties in terms of finances (and adjustments to being together). But Ahds said that even though things were a bit tough, it was okay because at least they had each other.
“May mga kaibigan kami na nagsasabi na hindi kami magtatagal, na maghihiwalay din kami (There were some friends who said that we would not last, that we would just part ways),” he said.
But they gave being together a try, eventually proving the the naysayers wrong.
On June 18, 2016 Ahds and Anna got married.
“Nag-decide kami na magpakasal kasi gusto ko ma-experience kung ano ang pakiramdam ng kinakasal, at gusto ko rin may kasama ako sa buhay habang tumatanda ako (We decided to get married because I wanted to experience how it feels like. I also want to have someone in my life while growing old),” Ahds said.
When they celebrated their wedding anniversary this year, Ahds said in a Facebook post: “The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know it is right if you love to be with that person all the time.”
“Basta anniversary namin, nagse-celebrate kami kahit kami lang dalawa. Mababaw lang ang kaligayahan namin. At bawal sa amin ang mga nega, ang gusto naming pareho masaya lang kami (Whenever we celebrate our anniversary, it is okay even if it is just the two of us. We find happiness in simple things. And we do not like negative things, we just both want to be happy),” he said.
Ahds added: “Tsaka masaya kami dahil tanggap kami ng family namin pareho (Further, we are happy because our families accepts us).”
But for as long as he can remember, his family was always supportive of him and his decisions – at least as long as he doesn’t put himself in harm’s way.
“When I was three years old, lalaki na ako (I already identified as a boy). I still remember when I was in elementary, I was already attracted to girls. Masaya ako kapag nakikita ko ang crush ko na malaki ang tanda sa akin (I was happy when I saw my crush, who was older than me).”
He can actually still remember how things were when he was young.
“Noong bata ako, naaalala ko kung paano ako tinanggap na walang pag-aalinlangan ng tatay ko. Madalas niya ako dinadalhan ng bola ng ping pong. Tanggap ako ng pamilya ko kung ano talaga ako (When I was young, I remember how I was accepted without reservations by my father. He also liked to give me ping pong balls to play with. My family accepted me for who I am),” Ahds shared.
He was able to grow up “normally”, in a sense that his family supported whatever he wanted to do, as long as it would not harm him.
“When I was growing up, naririnig ko palagi na sinasabi sa akin na ‘Tomboy ‘yan’, siguro dahil na rin sa kilos at pananamit ko. Minsan, masakit sa pandinig (I always heard people call me ‘lesbian’, perhaps because of how I acted and the way I dressed. Sometimes, it pained me),” Ahds continued.
But it was not something he dwelled on. He knew that the people who mattered most in his life – his family – did not have a problem with who he really was and accepted him regardless of what other people said.
And that type of love has helped Ahds reach for his dreams, while providing for his family.
Ahds left to work overseas (for 22 years now); first heading to UAE in 1998 when Mt. Pinatubo erupted. After several years, he found his way to Canada… and Anna’s arms.
ACCEPTING AND LOVING
For many LGBTQIA people, self-acceptance is difficult to achieve, even if it is generally accepted that only when one lives one’s own truth can he/she/they know true self-acceptance and the joy that comes with it.
Equally important is acceptance [NOT mere tolerance] within the family – e.g. a study on LGBT youth acceptance and rejection revealed that it directly affects identity development, behaviors, physical and mental health. Those who experience rejection may experience serious consequences on physical and mental health.
And here, Ahds said he’s somewhat luckier, finding both acceptance and love, now his two sources of Pride.
Ahds believes that, yes, things will get better… eventually.
But while the road there may prove challenging, it starts with self-acceptance at least.
“Huwag kayo mahihiya na ipaalam sa madla kung sino kayo at kung ano ang totoong nararamdaman ninyo. Lalo na sa sarili mo, ilabas mo kung ano ka talaga. At para sa pagmamahal naman, para makamtam ang tunay na kaligayahan, dapat walang lihiman (Do not be afraid to let other people know who you are and what you really feel. Especially to yourself, show what you really are. And when it comes to love, for you to achieve real happiness, there should be no secrets),” Ahds said.
And who knows – like Ahds – this could also help others be led to having Pride.
‘Let us reclaim our crown, or what that represents, our right to be recognized as women’
STRAP: “Everyone’s opinion matters but if that was done without grounding yourself in the intersectional narratives and the lifelong struggles that speaks of our personhood, that you are contributing to the exacerbation of our problem.”
Statement of The Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (which was established in 2002), in reaction to the stance of Kevin Balot, Miss International Queen in 2012, who 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).”
“If I can teach the world acceptance and love, I don’t need to win Miss Universe, I only need to be here.”
Miss Universe Spain 2018
Angela Ponce’s mere presence in the presentation of candidates for the 2018 Miss Universe was already enough to spark debate not only within pageant circles but within the greater society. But to many other Filipina transwomen, 2018 was doubly special not only because Catriona won Miss Universe but because some of us were also rooting for Angela to win.
Angela is the first out transwoman to compete in the Miss Universe pageant and the first from Spain, a Catholic nation which colonized many countries including the Philippines; and with colonization and the Christianization came the enforcement of gender binary and restrictive ideas on gender and sexuality as well as the erasure of gender transcending pre-colonial identities such as the Babaylanes, the Asogs, the Bayoguins among other names use in pre-colonial Philippines.
So with Angela winning Miss Universo Spain and officially representing her country in the 2018 Miss Universe, it becomes such a reflective and introspective moment for many Filipino queers who are within themselves trying to make sense of decolonization.
Angela failed to snag the crown or at least a spot in the finals; however, an unprecedented special walk and segment became the most touching moment for many if not cathartic for some. Angela’s powerful last line that “…she does not need to be Miss Universe, she only needs to be here” was enough to break the hearts of many transwomen who for many decades have been fighting for recognition and inclusion in all spaces, including pageantry.
That moment in Miss Universe and the 2012 case of Miss Canada finalist Jenna Talackova were very important moments wherein transwomen or transpinays as we call ourselves, needed to heed others for recognition and acceptance of our self-determined gender identities.
If you come to think of it, Jenna and Angela among some other transwomen over the years, needed to explain fervently why we are women too, and why we need to be recognized and allowed to participate in events for women. The immutability of our birth registration and sex assignment and the absence of gender recognition deprived us of many opportunities, including scholarships, jobs, career advancements, proper media representation and inclusion, travel, marriage, adoption among so many others.
It is already a long process of discrimination and even violence that we experience everyday growing up as trans in our society. From the catcalls, to the heckling, dead naming to the occasional brutality that usually leads to murder such as that of Jennifer Laude who had to be a poster child of transphobia and transmisogyny. Incidentally Jennifer was nicknamed “Ganda” for she was indeed beautiful, yet vilified and mutilated not only by her American murderer but our fellow Filipinos who seemingly enjoyed dead-naming and misgendering her in social media platforms.
Jennifer’s case is still connected to Angela’s, because this proves, it is not only in pageantry do we experience exclusion and discrimination, we experience it everywhere else.
How many times have transpinays shared experiences of being humiliated in immigration counters around the world for the mismatch of their gender presentation and passports? Many of them detained and deported and other undocumented cases of violence in the process of proving their humanity not just womanhood. How many times have transpeople been rejected from jobs especially those not identifiable with being queer ( e.g. beauty salons, fashion design, cultural dancer, etc.) just because their gender presentations are viewed as unprofessional or unacceptable in work spaces? How many countless times, other than that of Gretchen Diez’s case, wherein transpinays were not allowed to use the female toilets and changing rooms because they are not considered to be “real women”?
In the plight for gender recognition, transpeople are viewed as fake versions or impostors of the gender they are identifying as.
Take note that the issues of transpinays don’t end in the recognition of gender but looking at other areas of life, oppression takes shape in the form of color, race, socio economic class, level of education, religion, etc.
Well, not only transpinays experience discrimination in those areas, everyone does, maybe implicitly. But transpinays go through more because we must first be accepted as women, beautiful or not. Now imagine if you are a transpinay, from the province, with dark skin, poor, did not finish high school, Christian, could not speak in English. I bet her life is going to be tremendously difficult.
Having said all of these, we want to educate everyone especially our fellow transpinays, that the inclusion of transwomen in pageants and the recognition of their gender identities is a simple step towards equality, diversity and inclusion, it is not in any way asking for “too much”. For maybe we are asking something “little”, just allow us to be here for our battle for that crown is still uncertain. But at least we are battling for it just like other women, for we are women too.
We have the right to self-determination and self- identification. It is nice to have a pageant of our own as they say, but we created those since other pageants are not allowing us to join for we are not women.
Angela’s battle is every transwoman’s and transpinay’s for that matter. Just because some of you are content with joining “Miss Gay” or other exclusive pageants, do not forget that our battle for equality does not end with pageants, it is only beginning. It is a simple step of recognizing our rights to be women and a platform to educate society that gender is not between your legs, that your anatomy is not why you will wear that crown.
It is even difficult to write a piece on pageantry and defending it while we are not even dissecting the issues of beauty and womanhood and how pageants are not exactly the end-all, be-all of being a woman. But for transpinays, it is a platform for recognition and inclusion. Don’t take away our sash.
As we continue to position ourselves everywhere in our society because we have as much right, we seek our fellow transpinays and the greater Philippine queer society to engage with us on discussions of our human rights issues. Everyone’s opinion matters but if that was done without grounding yourself in the intersectional narratives and the lifelong struggles that speaks of our personhood, that you are contributing to the exacerbation of our problem.
We ask our fellow transpinays to listen to us if you don’t know much, now that is not asking for too much. Because honestly, transpinays have been here, even before Spain came. Now we want to reclaim our crown, or what that represents, our right to be recognized as women.
‘All women – cis or trans – ought to enjoy the same fundamental rights and opportunities’
“Denying trans people access to a single-sex space when they fully identify as the sex to which it is confined, risks perpetuating forms of oppression that we would never tolerate if they applied to other groups.”
Reaction from Mujer LGBT+ Organization on the stance of Kevin Balot, Miss International Queen in 2012, who 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).”
By Toni Gee Fernandez
President/Executive Director, Mujer LGBT+ Organization
Equality is defined as the state of being equal, especially in status, rights and opportunities. That means, one right and opportunity can both be exercised and enjoyed by two or more individuals. The same principle is true in the context of womanhood.
Treating trans people as individuals of the gender identity they claim to be is a sign of basic respect. A recognition of their authenticity. Denying trans people access to a single-sex space when they fully identify as the sex to which it is confined, risks perpetuating forms of oppression that we would never tolerate if they applied to other groups.
While their anatomy and surgical history may be relevant in the context of medical care, it is not supposed to be relevant in everyday life. At the same time, by breaking down sex into ambiguous components and arguing that trans women lack some of them, or have too many residual male components, we imply that trans women are not women, or not the right kind of women — which is utterly discriminatory and oppressive.
This is why Mujer LGBT Organization, Inc. denounces the segregationist remarks of Kevin Balot.
We have to realize that pageant contestants and pageant queens are more than their ravishing long gowns, two-piece suits and national costumes. More than anything else, they are their causes and the issues they want to shed light on.
Besides, a trans woman in a socially deemed single-sex competition like pageants – i.e. Miss Universe – allows a room for debunking myths, shattering stereotypes and educating the public, and therefore reforming an oppressive status quo one step at a time.
Covid-19 and the freelancer’s dilemma
The Philippines is home to a “vibrant gig economy”, with an estimated 1.5 million freelancers in the country. But Covid-19 responses actually do not include them, so what happens to them now?
Kate is a visual artist. She resigned from her day job to pursue her passion two years ago. Painting and creating origami, her income mainly came from the sales of her artworks; supplemented by home-based art classes to elementary and high school students.
Nicole is a freelance makeup artist. Her clients varied from celebrities to socialites to brides and debutantes… and everything in between. Nicole used to earn a minimum of P3,000 per client, with the amount increasing depending on the type of service being offered.
Lumina is a drag artist, a common face in dance clubs and in events. Aside from her “talent fee”, she also used to get “tips” from customers.
But when the Covid-19 related Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) took effect in Luzon starting last March 17, their capacity to earn a living was also put on hold. And people like them – a.k.a. “freelancers” – are many.
In May 2019, PayPal (the payment system company) reported that the Philippines is home to a “vibrant gig economy”, with an estimated 1.5 million freelancers in the country. In fact, this is a segment that is fast becoming an influential part of the Filipino workforce and a key engine driving the growth of the country’s economy.
The terms used to refer to them may vary – e.g. In October 2019, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that of the 73,528,000 population in the Philippines, ages 15 years and over, 95.5% are employed. And 25% of them are “self-employed workers”. Freelancers also fall under PSA’s categorization.
And ECQ has been devastating to these Filipinos.
“The current lockdown left us, freelance workers, in a complete halt — events and shows were cancelled. It technically made us jobless since we do not have the option of working from home,” Lumina said.
Like Lumina, Kate said freelancer workers are “so tied to the situation.”
“Even if I want to sell my work or earn a living, I cannot do anything right now,” Kate added.
What gov’t support?
There are supposed to be government support for workers affected by the ECQ.
In a statement released last March 17, for instance, the Department of Labor and Employment stated that they “may be able to address the pressing needs of the rest of the affected workers in the quarantined areas.”
DOLE developed the following mitigating measures: “Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program” (CAMP), “Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers” (TUPAD), and “DOLE-AKAP for OFWs”.
CAMP will serve “affected workers regardless of status (i.e. permanent, probationary, or contractual), those employed in private establishments whose operations are affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic.” TUPAD “aims to contribute to poverty reduction and inclusive growth.” The program is “a community based (municipality/barangay) package of assistance that provides temporary wage employment.” And the DOLE-AKAP specifically caters to overseas Filipino workers who have been displaced due to the imposition of lockdown or community quarantine, or have been infected with the disease.
DOLE reiterated that the only qualified beneficiaries are the underemployed, self-employed and displaced marginalized workers. To help these people, “employment” is offered – i.e. the nature of work shall be the disinfection or sanitation of their houses and its immediate vicinity, and the duration will be limited to 10 days. The person will be receiving 100% of the prevailing highest minimum wage in the region.
Another government body eyeing to supposedly help is the Social Security System (SSS), where employees of small businesses may apply to be considered for the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) Program.
To add, the government agency is also geared up to pay some 30,000 to 60,000 workers projected to be unemployed due to possible layoffs or closures of Covid-19 affected private companies.
Some arts-focused institutions like the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) also developed their own “disaster-triggered funding mechanism” to help address the “lack of support from the government.” In FDCP’s case, the program aims to help displaced freelance audio-visual workers—from talents, to production staff and technical crew members.
But note how all efforts are mum on freelance workers.
Making ends meet
And so many are left to do something they never did – i.e. rely on others just to survice.
In the case of Nicole, she relies solely on what her barangay provides: relief goods and minimal ayuda.
“Sobrang hirap ng sitwasyon ngayon. Hindi ko alam kung saan ako kukuha ng panggastos. ‘Yung ipon ko paubos na, tapos kailangan ko pa magbayad ng renta sa bahay at ibang bills (The situation now is very hard. I don’t know where to get money to spend. My savings are almost gone, and yet I still have to pay for my rent and the bills),” she said.
Lumina, for her part, is “lucky” because she still lives with her family, and “they have been providing for my basic needs since the lockdown started.”
Her luck isn’t necessarily shared by many – e.g. Human Rights Watch earlier reported that “added family stresses related to the Covid-19 crisis – including job loss, isolation, excessive confinement, and anxieties over health and finances – heighten the risk of violence in the home… The United Nations secretary-general has reported a ‘horrifying‘ global surge in domestic-based violence linked to Covid-19, and calls to helplines in some countries have reportedly doubled.”
To add: “In a household of six members, I think the goods that we are receiving from the government is not enough,” Lumina said, hoping that “every freelance worker also receive benefits from the government that would in a way cover the earnings that we lost.”
In 2017, when PayPal conducted a survey of over 500 freelancers in the Philippines, the results showed that the country had a “very optimistic freelancer market”, with 86% of freelancers claiming they anticipate future growth in their businesses. In fact, at that time, 23% of the respondents said their business is growing steadily, while 46% said their business is stable.
But Covid-19 turned everything upside-down for many.
There are rays of hope.
A Toptal survey, for instance, pointed out that 90% of companies depend on freelancers to augment their professional workforce, and – get this – 76% of surveyed executives intend to increase use of independent professionals to provide expertise either to supplement full-time talent or to access skills and experiences they lack in their workforce.
This may be particularly true to those whose works do not involve face-to-face engagement (e.g. graphics design, BPOs).
And so for the likes of Kate, Nicole and Lumina — and many other freelance workers for that matter, whose works rely on being with people — the way to get through now is to just to make do with what they can grasp on… while trapped inside and hoping for a better future, where reliance (including in a non-responsive government) is not in the picture…
Hedonism can lead to happiness
Jobs for the boys: How children give voice to gender stereotyped job roles
How women and men forgive infidelity
Academic achievement is influenced by how pupils ‘do’ gender at school
Research from Lenovo & Intel finds that tech could be great equalizer among different cultures
Text messaging as the next gen of therapy in mental health
When it comes to happiness, what’s love got to do with it?
Right rights: Is it fair for businesses to have rights?
Frequent social media use influences depressive symptoms over time among LGBTQ youth
52% of LGBT people worried about financial future – study
Wedding essentials you mustn’t forget
The masseur who gives ‘happy endings’
How the Vic Fabe issue highlights that we can be our worst enemies…
15 Reasons Philippines is not gay friendly
Meeting a Cebuano ‘call boy’
Outrage Magazine links up with Cagayan de Oro’s LGBT, HIV activists
Lea Salonga reiterates support to LGBTs by tackling inconsistency of haters
Mandaluyong City passes LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance
Now illegal to discriminate against LGBTs in Baguio City
The road leads to Dap-ay Massage and Bar – LITERALLY
Pansexual in Mindanao: ‘Falling in love with a person’s soul, not the body parts’
At what cost? HIV service disruptions at the time of Covid-19
Keeping the faith at the time of COVID-19
Being trans at the time of Covid-19 lockdown
Living with HIV at the time of Covid-19 lockdown
LGBTQIA people as Covid-19’s hidden victims forced to choose between risking infection or starving
Trans kagawad at the COVID-19 frontline
Gay under COVID-19 monitoring
No less human
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK
NEWSMAKERS2 weeks ago
Pushing for a culture of equality… beyond Pride month
NEWSMAKERS2 weeks ago
Study stresses some men are really bisexual
Travel1 week ago
Norway to prioritize LGBT refugees
Health & Wellness2 weeks ago
Intimate partner violence, history of childhood abuse worsen trauma symptoms for new moms