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‘Why haven’t we beaten AIDS? Because we value some lives more than others’ – Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron: “AIDS does not discriminate on its own. It has no biological preference for black bodies, for women’s bodies, for gay bodies, for youth or for the poor. It doesn’t single out the vulnerable, the oppressed, or the abused. We single out the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the abused. We ignore them. We let them suffer. And then, we leave them to die.”

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screenshot from youtube of Charlize Theron delivering her address at the International AIDS Conference 2016

Durban, SOUTH AFRICA – Oscar-winning South African Hollywood actress Charlize Theron is no stranger to the fight against HIV, having established the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project that specifically wants to give the spotlight to adolescents affected and/or infected with HIV. At the opening of the International AIDS Conference 2016, Theron noted that “we have not paid attention (to them) at all. We have to stop and say that we might have made a mistake (not including them).”

Adding that the fight against HIV is a “personal passion” because everyone, particularly in South Africa where she originally came from, everyone has been touched by HIV and AIDS whether directly or indirectly, Theron then delivered an impassioned speech on the need to take the fight against AIDS seriously to end this once and for all.

Here is the transcript of the speech of Theron at #AIDS2016:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It is typical, when invited to speak at a conference, to begin by saying, ‘I am honored and grateful to be here.’

And I am grateful to be given a chance to speak, and to be here with such an esteemed group.

But if I’m being honest with myself, and with you, I am also sad to be here at the 21st International AIDS Conference. This is the second time my home country of South Africa has hosted.

That’s not an honor. That’s not something we should be proud of. We shouldn’t have had to host this conference again.

Please understand, I don’t mean to insult anyone here or to belittle the extraordinary work that has been done by this amazing community over the years.

I have seen the impact of your work firsthand. I have been personally inspired by your commitment to this fight. Countless millions would have died without your dedication and your compassion.

But I think it’s time we acknowledge that something is terribly wrong.

I think it’s time we face the truth about the unjust world we live in. The truth is, we have every tool we need to prevent the spread of HIV. Every tool we need.

Condoms. PrEP. PEP. ART. Awareness. Education.

And yet, 2.1 million people, 150,000 of them children, were infected with HIV last year. In South Africa alone, 180,000 people died of AIDS last year. 2.1 million children and counting have been orphaned by this disease. I could go on for an hour with the horrifying statistics we all know so well.

But instead, let’s ask ourselves… Why haven’t we beaten this epidemic?

Could it be that we don’t want to? And by ‘we,’ I don’t mean just the people in this room. I mean humanity – all of us.

Because when you ask why, you get the same answers again and again and again. Ending AIDS is too expensive. Too daunting. Too complicated. Too stigmatized. Too politicized. I’ll stop there, because these aren’t really answers. They’re excuses.

The real reason we haven’t beaten the epidemic boils down to one simple fact: We value some lives more than others. We value men more than women. Straight love more than gay love. White skin more than black skin. The rich more than the poor. Adults more than adolescents.

I know this because AIDS does not discriminate on its own. It has no biological preference for black bodies, for women’s bodies, for gay bodies, for youth or for the poor.

It doesn’t single out the vulnerable, the oppressed, or the abused.

We single out the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the abused. We ignore them. We let them suffer. And then, we leave them to die.

My foundation, CTAOP, and a number of our colleagues, are calling on today’s young people to be the generation that ends this epidemic – to be ‘GenEndIt.’

But let’s be clear about what the ‘it’ in that sentence is. It is not just AIDS.

It is the culture that condones rape, and shames victims into silence.

It is the cycle of poverty and violence that traps girls in teen marriages and forces them to sell their bodies to provide for their families. It is the racism that allows the white and wealthy to exploit the black and poor, then blame them for their own suffering.

It is the homophobia that shames and isolates LGBT youth and keeps them from life-saving healthcare and education.

HIV isn’t just transmitted by sex – it’s transmitted by sexism, and racism, poverty, and homophobia.

If we are going to end AIDS, we must cure the disease in our hearts and minds first. And I believe young people are the ones to do it. Young people have always been drivers of social change. And this generation holds unique promise.

After all, this is the generation of Malala Yousafzai and Anoyara Khatun.

This is the generation that is shattering taboos and redefining old notions of gender, sexuality, and racial justice.

Not long ago, right here in South Africa, I watched a young LGBT activist challenge a bishop to accept ALL people into the church. Her courage and conviction was so inspiring to me.

And I know, her confidence comes from caring adults who create safe spaces to talk about tough issues without judgment; who educate and empower young people to take control of their bodies and ownership of their futures.

You are the world’s leading researchers, grant-makers, medical professionals, and program implementers.

The work you do is vital. It has changed the course of this epidemic. But it will not end it—at least, not on its own.

Yes, we have to all play our parts. We have to work harder, and faster, and smarter than ever before. But…it will not be our generation that ends AIDS. It will be the next generation.

I believe the single most important thing each of us can do after we leave here is to connect with a young person. Listen, truly listen, to what she has to say. Give her a seat at the table. Let her be part of the conversation. And let’s make sure our work reflects her input and her voice.

The solution to this epidemic isn’t just in our laboratories, offices, or conference centers like this one. It’s in our communities, in our schools, and streets—where a smart choice or a helping hand can mean the difference between life and death.

Nelson Mandela said: ‘Young people are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.’

If we support our young people, if we give them the confidence and the space to speak out against bigotry and injustice, and if we take the time to listen and empower them…they will end this epidemic.

In closing, I would like to thank you – all of you –for your amazing work and your commitment to this extraordinary movement. This assembly is truly inspiring. And I will say it again, I am incredibly grateful to be here.

But with all due respect, I hope we won’t keep meeting like this.

Since the first International AIDS Conference in 1985, we have been counting up, all the way to 21. Now it’s time for us to start counting down. We have set a goal to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

There are four more International AIDS Conferences between now and then. They must be our last.

Thank you.

Editor's Picks

5 Ways to #ResistTogether after #Pride

Be constantly reminded that #Pride is never (just) about partying. It’s about the ongoing struggle for the human rights of LGBTQIA people (no mater what sector they may be part of).

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ALL PHOTOS TAKEN DURING METRO MANILA PRIDE PARADE 2019

A few days into July, after the June Pride month, I was chatting with someone from Grindr; he boasted that he was at the “essence of pride: the Pride parade” (his words, not mine). The chat revolved around shaming, particularly of other LGBTQIA people; that now that the one-day celebration is over, things (including his way of “booking”) are “just back to normal.”

See… right after the “very proud” placement of the #ResistTogether hashtag in his pick-up account (particularly while he was in Marikina City), it has been refreshed, reverting back to claiming “NO chubs; NO oldies; NO femmes. Don’t dare me, I have unliblock.”

This got me thinking about this “brand” of exclusivist #Pride; and how we should instead be making (and continuing to make) it inclusive…

And so – off my head – here are five ways to #ResistTogether after the #Pride parade…

1. Stop the shaming from within the LGBTQIA community.

Change should start from within our community; and this can happen if our community members become more aware that – frequently – hatred starts from within.

Stop shaming the “oldies”; we’d all grow old.

Stop shaming the “chubs”; ALL bodies are beautiful.

Stop hating on the femmes; every gender expression is VALID.

Stop discriminating against sex workers; there is no shame in trying to make a living.

Our community is minority, as it is. Stop creating more minorities from within our community with your biases.

2. Donate… not just because you want merchs.

I get this concept of “what’s in it for me?”. This is the “driver” of so many of our actions – e.g. if companies give money to “support” Pride, they expect to get media mileage from it; and if we give money to “make Pride happen”, we may as well have that sticker (or whatever) to prove that… yes, we gave money.

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But helping should be done not because of any return; it should be done because it’s the right thing to do.

And so if/when someone asked you to donate (however small the amount may be) to help establish an actual home for senior LGBTQIA Filipinos, give.

If someone asked you to chip in (no matter how small the amount you can give) to help pay for the PhilHealth of a person living with HIV, give.

And if someone asked you to donate (whatever amount) to help finance the picket line of LGBTQIA workers who were illegally dismissed from their jobs after they (rightfully) asked to be made regular employees, give.

LGBTQIA-related issues happen EVERY DAY of the year, not just in June. So if you’re willing to cough up cash to look glamorous/fab ONLY in June, you should also be willing to do so the rest of the year…

3. Be the voice of other minorities.

This shouldn’t be a divisive issue, but it is becoming that – i.e. the supposed “hijacking of commies of Pride month” by highlighting other issues that those who complain say have nothing to do with the LGBTQIA community.

These issues include: contractualization, wage hike, extra-judicial killings, war on drugs, and so on.

Here’s the BASIC thing though: LGBTQIA people do not live in a vacuum. Some of us are contractual workers (e.g. LGBTQIA people working for – say – Zagu, or Jollibbee, or the baggers in department stores). Many of us LGBTQIA people do not get the wages we deserve (e.g. LGBTQIA people who are also nurses and teachers). There are LGBTQIA people also killed because they were allegedly involved in the drug trade; and this is even if the claim may be true or not.

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We say that LGBTQIA people are EVERYWHERE. Well, WE ARE; including among other minority sectors.

So that we can’t separate THEIR issues from OUR issues.

4. Be seen the rest of the year.

You, like many others, helped create the noise for LGBTQIA issues during Pride month. That’s all good (and thank you, truly, for this). But please, please don’t disappear after June (or worse, don’t be the source of discrimination after June – as noted in #1).

If you can’t be bothered leaving your desk, that’s your call; but continue making noise for the LGBTQIA community.

But if/when you are able to/you are keen to, join the ongoing struggle for our total liberation – e.g. join the call for rally for the anti-discrimination bill, attend gatherings pushing for marriage equality, attend events of LGBTQIA-related NGOs (including HIV-related events), physically support LGBTQIA-related shows/productions/et cetera.

Just BE SEEN BEYOND JUNE; it matters a lot.

5. Go back to the streets… and not just to party.

So you had fun attending the parade; perhaps even more so when you attended the after-parade party/ies. That’s all good. Not one to miss out on fun, I am one with you here…

BUT be reminded that #Pride is never (just) about partying. It’s about the ongoing struggle for the human rights of LGBTQIA people (no mater what sector they may be part of).

After almost 20 (THAT’S 20!) years, the anti-discrimination bill is still languishing in Congress.
Over 80% of the new HIV cases in the Philippines affect members of the LGBTQIA community (particularly gay, bi and trans people).

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Schools (including State-owned/run) still discriminate against LGBTQIA students; a handful of them barring LGBTQIA students from enroling/attending classes because of some bloody haircut or because of what they are wearing.

Because of their HIV status, people living with HIV (many of them LGBTQIA) are: still fired from work; kicked out of their homes; or not given access to life-saving HIV medicines.

LGBTQIA informal settlers – along with hetero-identifying informal settlers – are kicked out of their homes.

LGBTQIA contractual workers are still not regularized.

So – let’s state this – IF THERE IS A CALL TO RALLY FOR OUR RIGHTS, not just a call to parade and party, TAKE HEED. If 70,000+++ people can gather to parade and party, surely the same number (if not more) should also be able to gather when a call is made for us to rise again together to push for equality.

Yes, we have taken progressive steps (corporations are even considering how to profit off us now); but so much still needs to be done. And – to stress- we need to always show our force; to always take to the streets to highlight our issues.

So party on, yes; but never stop fighting as one. This is how we continue to truly #ResistTogether.

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From the Editor

6 Reasons why your ‘pride’ isn’t (necessarily) every LGBTQIA person’s Pride…

Michael David Tan: “We may need budget to pay for the expenses incurred to hold pride-related events; but if we need approximately P1 million to hold a half-day event, and then disappear the entire year (seemingly forgetting the struggles still experienced by members of the LGBTQIA community after claiming we ‘represent’ them), then that’s NOT what pride is supposed to be.”

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Photo by Jasmin Sessler from Unsplash.com

“Make pride happen. Give money.”

That – in not so many words – is what LGBTQIA “pride” has become. And here, we don’t have to look (only) at Western versions of what Pride has become; we just have to consider Metro Manila’s.

Now, now, now, before you hate-click; before you fume with anger for being “attacked”; before you start complaining that those who are complaining “just don’t get it; they’re just getting old”; before you start unfriending those who do not belong in your echo chamber/s, hear some of the counter-arguments why YOUR ‘pride’ (or your concept of it) is no longer every LGBTQIA person’s Pride…

1. When pride organizers party with non-supporters (or even abusers) of members of the LGBTQIA community, or those that are in it just to profit off us because… money and/or fame and/or convenience and/or they’re all in the same “in” group/social circle.

In the Philippines, that LGBTQIA national “conference” that was really just a political tool of a former presidentiable comes to mind. But so is that blind support of pride organizers of this venue in Cubao, where many members of the LGBTQIA community alleged that they were harassed and molested. And so are companies/people who only surface supposedly for us only once a year, but are nowhere to be seen the rest of the year…

This approach has turned this “pride” into a hobnobbing event, helmed by those who have access to powers-that-be (e.g. media, donors, advertisers, et cetera)…

2. When your pride “leaders” claim to represent you, but are not accountable to you.

If, in the past (such as in the case of Task Force Pride in the Philippines), it was the community that decided who would helm Pride, the model has now changed to NGOism with an eye on earning (seemingly without even intending to effect REAL changes anymore since – as noted already – those who turn up for pride do not turn up to push for the passage of the anti-discrimination bill anyway).

I challenge you to listen and hear speakers talk about Lumads/Indigenous Peoples, Muslims, PWDs, seniors, and so on… Great crowd-rousers and sources of newsbytes when delivering speeches, actually; but that’s all they have become. Aside from the so-called (once-a-year) visibility, what has this version of “pride” done (in practical sense) to these communities being mentioned?

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3. When it’s now all about merchs; all of them using nice-sounding hashtags claiming we’re supposedly all in this together.

Did you know that, for 2019, “the total we need to mount the March and Festival is PHP990,050”?

Not surprisingly, we have this in this year’s organizer’s fundraising site: “Donate ₱5000.00 Or More” and get “I Made Pride Happen Sticker, Resist Together Sticker, I Made Pride Happen Pin, I Made Pride Happen Tote Bag, Resist Together Cap and I Made Pride Happen Shirt.”

When you can’t even donate P50 to help the Home for the Golden Gays establish a REAL, physical space for senior members of the LGBTQIA community; or won’t even give P100 to help feed LGBTQIA workers who are holding rallies after they were dismissed from work; or can’t even give a peso even as your token help to Lumad LGBTQIA people who – like other Indigenous Peoples – are fighting to keep their ancestral domains. You have to ask if “pride” – for you – is really just an excuse to party, instead of fighting for the human rights of everyone under the rainbow…

4. When “pride” is a “by-invite” only gathering…

It’s a free event, you say. And in a way it is. But NOT EVERYONE has access to it, or is even made to access it.

In a past pride event in the City of Manila (years and years ago), the attendees were told to leave the venue (where the program was held), only to be allowed back in the same (now gated) venue, though this time with payment already…

Recently, there was an ad from a restaurant that said that it is hosting a “pride” party, so “buy tickets now”…

And don’t get me started with “after parade events” – e.g. in Western countries, accessible only after you pay moolah; and here, via by-invite only parties for the organizers who (apparently) still have spare money to spend to party, party, party…

Also, in modern “pride” events, note who gets to decide who helms “pride”. It’s people belonging to the same close-knit circle (i.e. the “echo chamber), easily disposing those who “don’t think like them”. In this sense, “pride” isn’t exactly inclusive…

At least according to some LGBTQIA people I spoke with, one of the biggest “fears” of some LGBTQIA people who (also) supported Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency if they choose to attend “pride” was their “othering” by the organizers who support the opposition. This is why they choose NOT to go to “pride” anymore; when they are not even given opportunity to air their side, while the “leaders” take every opportunity to tell them (self-righteously) that only they are always right and should be allowed to stay in power…

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In this sense, “pride” is also a “tool” to segregate “them” versus “us”, even if we supposedly belong to the same LGBTQIA community…

Similarly, check the data mining happening so that the organizers can use your info to: A) get money off you, or B) “sell” the same to get money off you…

5. When we are blindsided by the glam and forget we’re being used.

Bench has been criticized for not supporting Ang Ladlad in the past; and yet is (for lack of better word) milking the rainbow to sell goods now. But Bench isn’t alone here, there are so many companies that slap the rainbow on their goods to make LGBTQIA people buy their goods, but don’t do shit to help: their LGBTQIA people staff, and the LGBTQIA community as a whole.

Start asking: Where is the money you are spending (supposedly for “pride”) going?

Check, too, the number of brands suddenly using the rainbow to promote themselves. But just how many actually give money back to the LGBTQIA community particularly in the Philippines (and I’m not just talking sponsoring the one-day parade)?

Still on a related note, we also have supporters who – again, let’s be blunt here – should also be asked the hard question, e.g. Catriona Gray is definitely fabulous for supporting us (she deserves the love she’s getting), but premised on her push/support for @sanmiglight, and this alcoholic brand’s silence re alcoholism (that affects the LGBTQIA community), shouldn’t we also be asking the link between the two? No, you don’t have to not support one just because you oppose the other; you just have to START ASKING THE HARD QUESTIONS…

6. When the concept of “pride” is packed just in June, with the people behind it disappearing the entire year, as if the LGBTQIA community’s issues ceased to exist after the throwing of the glitter bombs via the parade and festivities.

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Jennifer Laude was murdered in October (2014). Not even two weeks later, Mary Joy Añonuevo was stabbed at least 33 times all over her body at her bar in Lucena City (also in October 2014). Bunny Cadag claimed Jollibee discriminated against them in August (2017). Claire Balabbo was dismissed – along with 96 contractual employees – by Tanduay Distillers Inc. in Cabuyao, Laguna in May (2015). And Dats Ventura has been fighting for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, including LGBTQIA Lumads, every day of the year…

The push – and even celebration of – Pride should be done EVERY DAY.

Because the issues involving members of our community still remain after we’re bombarded by glamorous – and well-funded – “pride” events/happenings. Worse, these issues seemingly remain untouched/unsolved EVEN WITH the “pride” events.

Let me say that every time someone says, “Make Pride happen. Give money.”, they’re really just asking you to fund them/their lifestyles.

Because Pride WILL happen with or without the cash (and the selling out because of it); that’s how the riot in Stonewall Inn started in 1969.

In 2014, during WorldPride in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Angie Umbac – former executive director of Rainbow Rights Project, Inc. – was asked about the “struggle” between “pride as a struggle” and “pride as a commercial celebration.”

She said that Pride is always a struggle between the political and the cultural. For many, when they start, it’s always just political; but then, eventually, sponsors come in and at times dictate Pride’s direction.

But “this is how I see it: Pride belongs to everyone… But if you have a cultural pride without the background of why we are having pride, then we would lose the message. Keep it balanced – stay corporate because you need the funds, but remember that in the beginning it was political, and it was political for a reason.”

Nowadays, we may need budget to pay for the expenses incurred to hold pride-related events; but if we need approximately P1 million to hold a half-day event, and then disappear the entire year (seemingly forgetting the struggles still experienced by members of the LGBTQIA community after claiming we “represent” them), then that’s NOT what pride is supposed to be…

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Op-Ed

Walang pinipiling oras o panahon ang opresyon at diskrimininasyon

Aaron Bonette writes about the discrimination still experienced by LGBTQIA Filipinos in these supposedly more aware times.

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Photo by Wesley Tingey from Unsplash.com

Kagabi, habang naglalakad sa Taft, para mag-abang ng jeep papunta sa terminal ng bus pauwi ng Lucena. May apat na lalaking nakasakay ng kotse na bumagal at nagsisigaw ng “Bakla! Bakla! Bakla” habang nakatingin sa akin at nagtatawanan.

Nakakagulat, pero kahit papano ay nagawa ko parin silang pakyuhan, dalawang kamay. Pero pagkatapos ng napakabilis na sandili ay saka ako nakaramdam ng takot at galit.

Hanggang ngayon pala ay mga ganun pa ring tao na naglilipana sa mundo, mga kaedad ko rin siguro o mga nag-aaral lang din sa mga unibersidad na malapit sa area.

Kagabi ko nalang ulit naranasan yun ganun at naalala ko yung pakiramdam ko nung bata palang ako na ganun din ang sinisigaw ng mga kaklase, mga tambay sa eskinita (may kasama pang pambibikil o panununtok kase hindi naman ako lumalaban) at maging ng mga kamag-anak ko. Masakit at nakakadurog ng pagkatao.

Hindi ko sila na mukhaan pero tanda ko yung laki ng mga bunganga nila habang tumatawa at talas ng mga matang mapanghusga na direktang tumatama sa akin.

Mababaw lamang ito kumpara sa iba kong naranasan at kumpara sa nararanasan ng iba pang LGBT na kinukutya at tinatanggalan ng dignidad araw-araw; yung sa iba, sinasaktan o pinapatay.

Pride month ngayon, panahon para labanan ang lahat ng kabastusan at pangungutya laban sa mga LGBT. Akala ko, mas mapapaigting yung awareness sa mga tao, sa tagal na ng pakikibaka ng mga LGBT, akala ko medyo mawawala na yung mga katulad nila.

Pero sabagay, wala namang pinipiling oras o panahon ang opresyon at diskrimininasyon. Nanjan lang sila, at mas patuloy pang dumadami. Normal parin pala ang pambabastos dito sa Pilipinas.

Patunay na napakalayo parin ng kailangang ipaglaban at napakarami pa ng kailangang singilin.

Nakakaiyak. Nakakagalit.

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From the Editor

5 Things businesses can do to (truly) impact the LGBTQIA community

Already, numerous companies have been releasing Pride-related merchandise, out to get the pink currency by blinding members of the LGBTQIA community with glitters. But profiting from members of the LGBTQIA community may earn you some cash in the short term; but pinkwashing isn’t gonna help you in the long run.

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Western-dictated LGBTQIA “Pride” is about to happen anytime now, with June fast approaching. This is supposed to be the one month in a year when everything LGBTQIA is to be “celebrated”, to be “showcased”. Why? Because – historically – it’s the same month when the Stonewall Inn riots happened in New York in the US, when members of the LGBTQIA community raged against the police because of abuses committed against them.

And so, not surprisingly, already, numerous companies have been releasing Pride-related merchandise, out to get the pink currency by blinding members of the LGBTQIA community with glitters. If you can afford to, head to the US in June, and walk in any – as in ANY – shopping area to understand this point. From Converse to Dr. Martens to Adidas to Starbucks to phone carriers to… just about everything, there’s something rainbow-colored being sold, supposedly in support of Pride.

Now, now, don’t get me wrong: The “presence” is noteworthy because everything LGBTQIA is (finally) going mainstream. I’m all for that.

But this mainstreaming is also problematic because it actually highlights so many of what’s wrong in society as a whole, and the LGBTQIA community in particular – e.g. how businesses are profiting from the LGBTQIA community without helping its members; and how many LGBTQIA people choose to look the other way just to… get their hands on those new pair of shoes with rainbow stripes, or those shirts with rainbow printing, or that P200 cup coffee in a plastic cup with rainbow design…

The “selling” of LGBTQIA “Pride” has been noted before, and the trend continues even now – e.g. Converse, which has “rainbow sneakers”, won’t even donate any proceeds to actual LGBTQIA causes; and locally, Bench has joined the bandwagon even if (back when the rainbow wasn’t so hip) it did not even support Ang Ladlad, and it can even be argued that it even created a fake “controversy” by using the LGBTQIA community to get media mileage.

In a gist: Many brand’s supposedly pro-LGBTQIA move is performative in the name of making a profit.

Talking to those under the rainbow (for instance, Pride organizers that spend half a million pesos for a half-day parade; but won’t even give a few hundred or thousand pesos to help feed LGBTQIA workers who are holding rallies after they were removed from work by multinational companies) is for another day; though for now, here are five things that businesses can do to (truly) impact the LGBTQIA community…

The harsh truth is: Talk is cheap (particularly when you’re selling to the LGBTQIA market); but your donation can save lives.

1. DONATE.

Put your wallet where your mouth is.

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You say you support the rights of LGBTQIA workers who were kicked out of their jobs because of who they are? Then help fund them when they hold rallies against those who fired them.

You say you’re an HIV “advocate”? Sponsor one or two or three persons living with HIV by paying their PhilHealth (amounting to P2,400 per person per year).

You say you’re concerned about your LGBTQIA workers? Give them the same benefits being given to heterosexual people (e.g. those who can legally marry).

You say you’re concerned about senior LGBTQIA people? Help fund the establishment of an actual – physical – home for them.

You say you worry about the mental health of LGBTQIA people (including those working for you) because they continue to experience discrimination? Spend on mental health care.

You say you worry about LGBTQIA youth not being able to access education because of who they are/who they love? Offer a scholarship program to them.

And if you have supposedly LGBTQIA-related for-profit event, DONATE even a portion of your profit to LGBTQIA-related causes.

The harsh truth is: Talk is cheap; but your donation can save lives.

2. Choose where your money goes.

Related to #1, CHOOSE WELL.

There are too many “glittery” LGBTQIA or related organizations; but peel that glitter away, they’re nothing there but empty shells. There are way too many LGBTQIA or related organizations that we often hear of/about, but are actually infamous (in the LGBTQIA community itself) because they’re in the “advocacy” just to profit from it.

Know the opportunists.

Now, how to do this?

They disappear after Pride. LGBTQIA organizations that surface ONLY once a year are just as bad as the private companies that only surface at the same time; they’re really just there to make money.

They’re almost always JUST online or in mainstream media, boasting about this or that, all talk but you never see them do actual LGBTQIA-related work. They co-opt other people’s struggles (e.g. they’d say they represent minorities in the LGBTQIA community), and then they won’t let members of these minority sectors speak for themselves (for instance, LGBTQIA people who are also persons with disability/PWD, seniors, members of the Lumad communities, Muslims, informal working sector, informal settlers and those living with HIV). These people will claim to represent all, so “give us money”, but they do not know shit about these people they claim to represent. So please, STOP funding these people.

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You only see them in parties/social gatherings; never where the action happens (e.g. picket lines of workers, including members of the LGBTQIA community, removed by multinational corporations; rallies for the anti-discrimination bill; visits in HIV treatment hubs; et cetera).

Their bosses “beg” you to “sponsor” their international trips. By itself this is “common practice” by NGOs and CBOs with non-existent funds; but when this is all they do, then you need to reconsider the support given to them.

Do your research. Not everyone “popular”, even members of the LGBTQIA community, have the community’s concern in their minds. Stop yourself from getting used and abused to profit off the misery of others.

While joining the party is fun (and let me say this, those who can should do this), LGBTQIA-related efforts should NOT stop there.

3. We understand profit; but don’t stop there. Develop pro-LGBTQIA policies.

According to Stonewall in the UK, 19% of LGBT workers experienced verbal bullying from their colleagues, customers or service users because of their sexual orientation. Unfortunately, 13% say that they would not feel confident in reporting homophobic bullying in their workplace.

This no-so-welcoming environment is not good for LGBTQIA employees; and – to over-simplify – if your employees aren’t happy while working for you, their performance is bound to suffer, and this means a loss for your company.

So start creating those LGBTQIA-affirming policies.

Give diversity and inclusion trainings to all your employees (including those holding high positions) for them to understand sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE).

Include people’s SOGIEs in the existing employee’s manual/handbook – e.g. allow trans women to use women’s CR/loo/toilet; punish those who discriminate; et cetera.

Offer the same benefits to the partners of LGBTQIA people (even if they are not legally married because the country still does not allow this).

Allow LGBTQIA employees to organize.

By making pro-LGBTQIA part of running your business, your impact will be there longer.

4. Hire LGBTQIA people, including in leadership positions.

In 2017, fastfood giant Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) apologized to genderqueer Bunny Cadag who alleged experiencing discrimination, following the PR tempest their story made since it was first shared online.

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Cadag was interviewed for a job as a transcriber by people from the Human Capitol Development (HCD) at JFC’s main office in Ortigas. That first day of evaluation passed without incident. However, when Cadag returned another day to continue the training session, a certain Louie Angsico, said to be one of the contact persons of HCD, spoke with Cadag over the phone to tell them that JFC is not yet “welcoming to the idea” of having a transgender person working for the company. Angsioco allegedly added that JFC is a Roman Catholic company.

While JFC eventually apologized, the perception (particularly for members of the LGBTQIA community) continues to exist that Jollibee… discriminates.

Now compare that with the supposed “love” received by Maynilad Water Services’ highlighting that its COO, Randy Estrellado, is openly gay.

Beyond the “image” angle, though, get this: Research from UCLA found that nearly all (92%) of companies with anti-discrimination policies credit the policies with having a positive impact on annual sales. Executives also said that these policies lead to better recruitment and retention of top talent.

The Center for Talent Innovation’s report, “Out in the World: Securing LGBT Rights in the Global Marketplace”, also found that 71% of LGBTQIA respondents and 82% of allies are more likely to purchase from a company that supports LGBTQIA equality.

So yes, having more LGBTQIA employees can positively impact the bottom line.

By making pro-LGBTQIA part of running your business, your impact will be there longer.

5. Don’t just show up once a year.

Companies that are ONLY seen once a year, attending corporate Pride parade, are actually seen as opportunists, using the LGBTQIA community only to get media mileage. And when NOT backed by the aforementioned points (e.g. creating LGBTQIA welcoming workplaces), this is actually what it really is.

So while joining the party is fun (and let me say this, those who can should do this), LGBTQIA-related efforts should NOT stop there.

In the end, profiting from members of the LGBTQIA community may earn you some cash in the short term; but pinkwashing isn’t gonna help you in the long run. Look at how Israel’s pro-LGBTQIA efforts are now seen as nothing but part of a “nation-branding program” to use the LGBTQIA community as cover for its abuses against Palestine. Or how Mar Roxas will always be marked by his flip-flopping on LGBTQIA issues. Or how there will now always be people who will see Bench as an opportunist by “selling” the rainbow, when it failed to support the LGBTQIA community when it mattered (i.e. while an LGBTQIA political party eyed a seat in Congress).

So do something good. Expect a return if you must; but ACTUALLY do something. It’s actually easy, and the benefits for any brand longer-lasting…

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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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From the Editor

5 Things funders/donor agencies can do to ACTUALLY help the LGBTQIA community

When their LGBTQIA-related projects are funded, it is okay for organizations to (also) please the funders. But… shouldn’t the beneficiaries be the main focus since these efforts were made to benefit the people more?

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Photo by Harry Quan from Unsplash.com

In December 2018, while trying to persuade the “mother” of an organization for senior LGBTQIA people in Pasay City to apply for funding for their project/s, I was asked: “Where do they send the money if we don’t even have a bank account?”

In January 2019, while trying to encourage a Deaf trans community leader of an LGBTQIA group in Davao City to get grants to finance their efforts, I was asked: “Will they give us money if we’re not even registered with SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission)?”

And in February 2019, while reprimanding a Deaf friend, who also heads a pioneering Deaf LGBTQIA organization (based in Mandaluyong City) in the Philippines for getting used by Hearing organizations that avail of her services (without payment), thereby using her affiliation, I was bluntly told: “This is arguably the only way for us to ‘participate’ in ongoing efforts; we tried applying for funds before, but were told we’re too small, we don’t have the skills, we can’t even do accounting, and so on…”

These are – of course – only some of the more recent somewhat-similar assertions I continue to come across when chatting with grassroots LGBTQIA leaders in the Philippines. This inability to get funds NOT because they can’t do the job (or are not doing the work already), but because they’re not paper-pushers, they don’t know the “right people” (and so don’t know whose asses to kiss), they haven’t been provided training, and so on…

And in all these instances, the analogy that ALWAYS comes to my mind is that issue encountered by fresh graduates when they apply for a job – i.e. companies want people with experience, so they won’t hire fresh graduates, though – if they don’t get hired, how can the fresh graduates then get this so-called experience? The fault isn’t with the applicant but the employer.

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An in the case of NGOs and CBOs, the fault – and let’s be blunt here – is on the funder/donor agency because of existing notions and practices that really should be overhauled.

Now how to overhaul these notions? Here are practical tips…

1. Stop funding ONLY big NGOs (and often only those with personal connections to people working for you).

The REAL work is NOT DONE by many of these; instead, they’re merely middlemen that profit from the actual work of grassroots organizations that these bigger organizations “fund” to do the hard work for them.
Fund the actual workers, not just the paper-pushers.

2. Related to #1, fund the smaller organizations.

For instance, note how – in support of LGBTQIA efforts in, say, Africa or Asia – many American-based NGOs get the money, instead of the ACTUAL African and Asian NGOs. They bring “attention” to the LGBTQIA-related issues in these areas, sure; but too much money is wasted on PR, instead of the actual efforts to help those affected by anti-LGBTQIA efforts in these areas.
I have heard numerous excuses about the non-preference for smaller NGOs, e.g.:

But the smaller organizations aren’t familiar with accounting system/s, you say. I said: Then train them. Or just provide the funding so they can get the training themselves.

But the smaller organizations aren’t legal entities yet, you add. Then fund them so they can afford to legally register.

In a gist: Not funding smaller organizations end up promoting an erroneous “for profit” approach of so many bigger NGOs that, as mentioned, reap the benefits from the work of those at the grassroots.

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3. Go beyond the reports.

Yes, yes, yes – reports are great and all. But if this is the ONLY (or even MAJOR) indicator of success, then there really is a need to reconsider why we’re in advocacy at all.

In New York in 2014, I once spoke with a worker in a funding agency who boasted to me that “we fund a faith-based effort in the Philippines”. When the name of the church that was given money was mentioned (along with its now-former-leader), I told this person that the same was kicked out of the church because of allegations that involved – among others – financial matters. This is, I added, common knowledge; it’s all over the Internet.

“No, you ARE mistaken,” she said to me, succinctly. “We must not be referring to the same person.”

“No, I’m not mistaken.”

“But the reports we received are… good.”

“Have you ever visited the Philippines? Or spoke to other Filipinos aside from this one person, particularly the beneficiaries?”

She looked at me like I was crazy: “We do NOT do that,” she said. “We rely on the reports given to us; we trust these.”

“Your loss,” I said, “though a bigger loss for the community that’s supposed to benefit from the already-extremely-limited funds.”

I never heard from her EVER again.

4. Reach across (more) aisles.

Dealing with people we’re comfy with is great; but if funds are given to the same people over and over and over again, this creates a “hierarchy” in service provision. This is why there’s the so-called “Bangkok Mafia” in Thailand (a group of people said to know the ‘who’s who’ as far as donors are concerned, and so have somewhat-exclusive access to them). Now, whether this is true or not is up for debate; but that this perception exists at all ought to be a source of worry. Because more than anything, it gives that impression of an “in” crowd, the “chosen ones”, the “gatekeepers”, with the rest basically dependent on their mercy…

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5. Revisit indicators (of success or failure).

Yes, popularizing a hashtag created for an event is good and well, but this form of (support to) “keyboard activism” should be limited.

Interviewing a Maranao transwoman (who originally came from Marawi) in Iligan City, I was once told: “We don’t even have electricity; yet you expect us to be active online.”

In the end, pleasing the funders is all good (this comes with the territory); but shouldn’t efforts be made to benefit the people more?

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