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Op-Ed

Where’s the fire?

Reighben Labilles notes that the movement has only succeeded on a surface level. “It seems as if its reduced the queer struggle as a regular yearly narrative – a PR thematic during Pride Month, or something that resurfaces when a famous Pinoy queer couple gets married abroad, or when a queer Filipino becomes a victim of a violent crime… It’s time to go beyond the echo chambers of FB and Twitter.”

By Reighben Labilles

When the rocks were soft and I had more hair, I used to be active in the local efforts for LGBT rights.  But shit happens and I had to move on.

I’ve led a colorful adulthood since then: balancing work in a very queer-friendly IMC firm, enjoying a quiet, private life with my partner, and participating in the testosterone-dominated MTG gaming community which I deeply love. In short: this lady hasn’t been fulfilling her role (no matter how small) as a civilian participant in social issues – hanggang FB-FB na lang and the occasional rally pagpasok sa schedule.

But it did allow me insights into the shared Filipino psyche when dealing with social issues. It can be summed-up into two observations: (1) people don’t care enough; and (2) people don’t know how to care for issues that don’t directly affect them.

Now this leads to my opinion on the state of progressive movements in the country. Given the public’s almost apathetic attitude towards dealing with society’s problems outside of furious FB and Twitter posts – movements struggle to make a dent in the status quo. When the population barely participates in these efforts, it cannot facilitate lasting change in the nation within the timeframes we need – which is dapat now na.

Case in point: this administration reacts when people have adverse online responses to their policies – but they still find ways to move forward with their plans because push-back from the citizenry isn’t strong enough. What’s even shocking is that there is a non-zero percentage of the population that actually likes what’s happening!

In my opinion, these are the same harsh truths faced by groups that continued the fight for queer rights. They have rallies, online and offline campaigns, press events, and even the occasional nods from “allies” in the government. But the groups, in their various forms and iterations and evolutions, have been at this endeavor for decades now. So why is it we don’t have major victories in the pursuit of progressive changes in the country?

Years of reflection and observation have led me to this realization: The movement has only succeeded on a surface level. It seems as if its reduced the queer struggle as a regular yearly narrative – a PR thematic during Pride Month, or something that resurfaces when a famous Pinoy queer couple gets married abroad, or heaven forbid when a queer Filipino becomes a victim of a violent crime. The approach so far has its benefits, as it has encouraged more Filipinos to come out and pursue their own truths despite adversities. There is more queer visibility in the media. And we even live in an age where we have a proud transwoman serving in Congress.

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But there is something I sorely miss. Something that I am guilty of no longer possessing. Gone is the fire and fury of old, of screaming at the wholesale injustices of the world against everyone from the poor to the queer. Where is that blaze that consumes people’s hearts – the passion that drives us to spill into streets until the elect gives us the rights and benefits and opportunities we all deserve. And finally, where is the push for greater compassion and understanding between all Filipinos – so we can make the most out of this struggling country.

As I am far removed from the forces that actively continue the fight for our rights, I can offer no practical solution to what we face. I only offer these thoughts: We can only succeed in enacting change now when all of us finally understands that changing how the world works requires sacrifice.

It’s about taking time in our day to participate in causes that matter, of going beyond the echo chambers of FB and Twitter, of actually going to the streets, into communities, with our personal efforts evolving into finally working with each other for our shared aspirations.

And ultimately this: ending the culture of US vs THEM, as true and lasting progressive change can only be achieved when we are unified by shared goals while celebrating each other’s uniqueness and diversity.

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