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Will John Raspado be Phl’s newest export to the global LGBT community?

There’s never been a Mr. Gay World winner from the Philippines for the past eight years. John Fernandez Raspado, a 36-year-old online entrepreneur from Baguio City, is hoping that he will be the first Filipino to win the elusive title in Spain come May 10.

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A few days before the finale of Mr. Gay World 2017 pageant that is in progress in Madrid and Maspalomas, Spain, the Philippines’ envoy John Fernandez Raspado still enjoys a wide lead over his 20 other co-candidates in the official voting page of the contest.

If this trend goes on until the competition’s closing stages on May 10 (midnight of May 11, Manila time), then Mr. Gay World Philippines would not only receive the Mr. Gay Popularity crystal trophy—he’s already assured of a top 10 spot in the semifinal round.




As of this writing, Raspado is still on top of the Mr. Gay World online polls, with a 10.5-centimeter “horizontal gridline lead.” His closest competition, incidentally, is his roommate, Belgium’s Raf Van Puymbroeck, who trailed far behind with 2 centimeters. Meanwhile, Andrzej Berg of Poland and “home court gay hunk” Candido Arteaga of Spain are statistically tied at third spot, who both garnered one centimeter.

Filipinos around the world can still help John Raspado keep up in the game by clicking HERE  and voting once every 24 hours until 11:59 p.m. of May 10, Wednesday (Manila time).

The global pageant for gay men established in 2009 by Eric Butter, a philanthropist from Australia, and now co-managed by Dieter Sapper from Austria, chairman of the board of Mr. Gay World directors, is again looking for a gay leader who will serve as the ears and the voice of the Mr. Gay World Organization—somebody who can inspire and empower gay men worldwide.

The competition takes place for four consecutive days, and includes photo, sports, fashion show or runway and swimwear challenges. Butter, municipality of the San Bartolome de Tirajana’s Council of Equality member Amanda Cardenes, international photographer Joan Crisol, EDDY Fundacion president Manuel Rodenas, World Pride 2017 general coordinator Juan Carlos Alonso, Austrian Federal Finance Ministry officer Andrea Nägele, and Mr. Gay World 2016 Roger Gosalbez Pitaluga of Spain comprise this year’s lineup of judges.

In the past eight years that the Philippines participated in Mr. Gay World, only Christian Reyes Lacsamana was lucky enough to almost snatch the very elusive title: He won the Mister Gay Popularity, Mister Gay Social Media and Best in National Costume special awards, and finished second runner-up to Roger Gosalbez Pitaluga of Spain. Wilbert Ting Tolentino, Mr. Gay World Philippines of 2009, is the current national director and franchise holder of Mr. Gay World in Manila.

Raspado, a 36-year-old and 6-feet-2-inch-tall entrepreneur, is engaged in online selling of health supplements. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in marketing and then acquired units in post-graduate diploma in business administration at the Saint Louis University in Baguio City. He is the youngest and the fourth child of Romulo, a retired government employee and native of Isabela, and Ma. Dolores, a former migrant worker who hails from La Union.

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To prepare for the “biggest fight of his life,” he studied the videos of Mr. Gay World where his predecessors competed. Professional pageant coach Rodgil Flores of the renowned “Kagandahang Flores” beauty camp trained him months before his international assignment.

Raspado will be wearing a national costume inspired by the combination of pre-colonial and Spanish influences in the Philippines. His gold-embellished metallic head piece symbolizes the indigenous mythical demigod “Sidapa,” a great warrior and deity of the homosexuals in the country. International celebrity designer Rocky Gathercole created his Spanish matador costume which reportedly costs US$5,000, while Leo Almodal provided his formal wear for the preliminaries and finals night.

“Thank you so much guys for the ‘warm Pinoy support’. Clearly, Filipinos are the best supporters you can have [as an international pageant contestant],” Raspado said, who first achieved popularity when he became grand winner of “I Am PoGay,” a contest for handsome gay men in a noontime variety show of a major TV network three years ago.

Although he’s deemed by the pageant fans and pundits as the “winner in waiting,” if not the strongest Filipino delegate ever to compete in Mr. Gay World after Randolph Val Palma who made it to the semis in Rome, Italy, in 2014, for Raspado, neither this is the time to get lazy nor be complacent about what he can still achieve.

“I shouldn’t feel like a hero this early. Success doesn’t just happen—you need to work hard to make it happen. [And] consistency will [always] be the key in getting the victory,” he said.

RASPADO’S RIVALS

Mr. Gay World Philippines might be an easy pick—a favorite even before he’s stepped into the Spanish soil—but just like Raspado, there are 20 other contestants who are also dreaming to be the next Mr. Gay World.

The delegates from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, India and Indonesia

The contestants from Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand and Venezuela

Here they are, in alphabetical order.

  1. Australia’s David Francis, 29, property developer and ambassador for StartOut Australia, a mental health nonprofit organization which develops an online mentoring program for younger members of LGBT community. He has his own YouTube channel and about 40,000 Instagram followers.
  2. To recover from the embarrassment that Austria had in Mr. Gay World 2015—Klaus Burkart resigned 200 days after winning the title due to “personal changes” in his life—this country in Central Europe sent another strong delegate named Miguel Pedro Dal Piaz, a 34-year-old real estate agent during weekdays and professional dancer during weekends.
  3. Belgium’s Raf Van Puymbroeck, 22, teaches sports education and dance at Thomas More University. He established many LGBT-related campaigns in the Belgian sports arena such as “Rainbow Laces for college students.” He even wrote a guidebook for the National Sports Organization on how to deal with transgenders, and now works with a European project called “Heroes of Football” alongside six national federations to end “football homophobia.” Raf is also the reigning Mr. Gay Europe.
  4. Vitor Trindade de Castro, a 27-year-old entrepreneur and self-confessed fitness fanatic from São Paulo, Brazil. Spain will always have a special place in his heart: He met his husband while vacationing in Madrid three years ago.
  5. Chile’s Juan Pedro Pavez Böhle, 29, an accountant and professional ballroom dancer. For him, joining Mr. Gay World is more of a commitment—something that transforms promise into a reality.
  6. František Pešek of Czech Republic, a 31-year-old deputy chief sales officer in a shopping and retail store in Pilsen, a city in western Bohemia. He believes that winning the Mr. Gay World title will allow him to help young gays “to come out safely.”
  7. Ecuador’s Flavio Romero Valdez, 27, arts major in a university, professional dancer and member of the National Ballet of Ecuador. He encourages everyone to remove barriers between people of different sexual orientations through his campaign, “My Best Friend is LGBT.”
  8. Joonas Nilsson of Finland, 29, obtained his restaurant degree qualification at the Turku Vocational Institute and presently works as a restaurant manager in a spa hotel.
  9. India’s Darshan Mandhana is a 31-year-old painter and human resource professional from Mumbai. A graduate of University of Pune, Darshan won the Mr. Gay India title on his third attempt.
  10. Budi Alamsyah, 29, financial services professional from Jakarta, Indonesia. He describes himself as “not perfect, but being gay is not a flaw.” Through his passion for traveling and distance running, he’s completed 37 marathons in four continents.
  11. Mexico’s Jorge Gonzales, also known as George Glezz, 24, is a chemical engineering senior at the Zacatecas Autonomy University. He works as a map engineer, stylist, professional makeup artist and franchise manager of French cosmetics.
  12. Charlie Tredway of New Zealand is a 33-year-old community outreach staffer for the New Zealand AIDS Foundation. After making the courageous decision to publicly disclose his positive status on World AIDS Day in 2014, he has since dedicated his life to HIV advocacy and awareness. He even received a scholarship to attend the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa.
  13. Poland’s Andrzej Berg, 28, a licensed chemist and works at the Faculty of Pharmacy of Gdansk Medical University.
  14. Jaromír Dominik Schoffer, a 40-year-old castellan or rescuer and restorer of castles and fortresses from the Slovak Republic. He considers being the eldest candidate as an asset than a liability, defining it as “youth forward.”
  15. South Africa’s Alexander Steyn, 35, is definitely a multifaceted person: He’s a qualified architect, actor, singer, songwriter, dancer, director, choreographer, voice over artist, painter and teacher. He’s joined Mister Gay South Africa pageant in 2011 but only emerged as first runner-up to Lance Weyer. His #loveALL advocacy addresses a range of issues, among them bullying and homophobia.
  16. Candido Arteaga, a 27-year-old nurse, must be hoping that lightning strikes twice for Spain. His predecessor Roger Gosalbez Pitaluga is the reigning king. If this scenario happens, this would be the second back-to-back victory in Mr. Gay World’s history—the first one was achieved by South Africans Charl van den Berg (2010) and Francois Nel (2011).
  17. Switzerland’s Marco Tornese, 32, team leader in a Swiss bank who can speak five different languages. It is interesting to note that his boyfriend, Mr. Gay World 2016 first runner-up Chris Krauel from Austria, served as his pageant coach-cum-mentor, and prepared him perfectly to hurdle all of the upcoming fast-track competitions.
  18. Touya Xia is a 22-year-old student-nurse from Taiwan. His proclamation as Mr. Gay Taiwan was held during Taipei Pride in October of last year, witnessed by 82,000 people. His country is on the verge of becoming the first Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage, and he wants to help in the process.
  19. Thailand’s Pattanajuk Vipadakul, 30, is an aesthetic doctor at a private hospital in Bangkok. Although his country’s been sending representatives to the international competition, Pattanajuk is the first-ever official Mr. Gay World Thailand titleholder.
  20. Alberto Jose Rodriguez Engifo, is a 31-year-old professional model and international missionary doctor from Caracas, Venezuela. When not treating acute and chronic illnesses or providing preventive care and health education to his patients, he struts high-fashion outfits on the runways.
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Raspado already made an impression among his countrymen as well as pageant devotees across the globe. But will the judges make that a lasting impression by giving him the satin sash embroidered with Mr. Gay World title, which they all came to claim?

John Raspado strikes a pose for selfie with his competition roommate, Raf Van Puymbroeck of Belgium, the reigning Mr. Gay Europe

The author with Mr. Gay World Philippines 2017 John Fernandez Raspado

Giovanni Paolo J. Yazon is just your average journalist who can't live without a huge plate of cheesy spaghetti, three cups of brewed coffee, and high-speed Internet every single day. A graduate of mass communication at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, he chased loads of actors, beauty queens, pop artists and even college basketball players until the wee hours of the morning to write their stories eight years. Ivan (how those close to him call him) presently works as a full-time search engine optimization copywriter and an image consultant. He splurges his take-home pay in motivational books and spends his free time touring different heritage towns in the country.

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‘Bato’ dela Rosa backs same-sex marriage; still can’t detach trans people from sexual misconduct in toilets

Neophyte Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa expressed his support behind same-sex marriage, even as his supposedly pro-LGBTQIA support is softened by his continuing stance on not allowing people to use toilets based on their gender identity.

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Neophyte Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa expressed his support behind same-sex marriage, making his position on the issue known during a Senate hearing on the proposed anti-discrimination bill (ADB).

“I’d like to manifest na ako po (that me), I’m on your side,” dela Rosa said, addressing members of the LGBTQIA community. “Ako nga (Me), I’m advocating, kung pwede magpakasal kayo parehong lalaki, parehong babae, okay lang sa akin, walang problema. Magsama kayo, magpakasal, walang problema sa akin (If two men, two women want to get married, that’s fine by me, that’s not a problem for me. If you want to live together, if you want to marry each other, that’s a non-issue for me).”

Only last May, Dela Rosa said he is still torn on proposals for recognizing same-sex marriage in the country.

But Dela Rosa’s supposedly new pro-LGBTQIA support is softened by his continuing stance on not allowing people to use toilets based on their gender identity. It may be true/documented that there are no recorded cases of any transgender woman harassing another woman inside a toilet, the former head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) raised the possibility of it happening in the future.

“You can’t detach me from my wild imagination being a retired police officer,” Dela Rosa said. “Pag in-allow kasi natin yan… hindi naman kailangang you just consider one portion of the society, kung hindi lahat i-consider mo yung mga maapektuhan na grupo din like yung totoong babae din (If we allow that…. we’d end up just giving in to the needs of one sector of the society, and yet we should also consider the other affected sectors, such as ‘real women’). Are our sisters and daughter safe in those bathroom?”

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By way of explanation, Dela Rosa said he asked his own daughter, and she expressed apprehension sharing toilets with a transgender woman.

To offer clarification, Naomi Fontanos, who helms Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas, said she understands the concern of the senator about sexual violence. But Fontanos stressed that sexual violence can happen anywhere, and “they don’t necessarily have to be in the toilets alone.”

GANDA Filipinas is a human rights organization that promotes the dignity and equality of transgender people in the Philippines and beyond

Fontanos added that there are already existing laws against sexual violence in the Philippines.

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Duterte pledges to work with Congress to pass SOGIE Equality Bill; still not considered urgent

Though Pres. Rodrigo Duterte vowed to work with Congress to push for the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill, the bill was still not certified as urgent. And aside from planning to finally formalize the formation of an LGBTQIA commission he earlier pledged, the president is said to be eyeing a national conference – something the LGBTQIA community has already been doing sans government support.

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Courtesy of the Office of Sen. Bong Go

President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to work with Congress to push for the passage of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill that would protect the rights of members of the LGBTQIA community against discrimination.

This came after a meeting with select members of the LGBTQIA community, including Gretchen Diez, a transgender woman who was recently in the news after being barred from entering a female restroom.

As relayed by Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, who organized the meeting, also discussed during the meeting was the possibility of creating a commission for LGBTQIA Filipinos pending the enactment of a SOGIE law.

This is – however – not a new pledge, but a delayed one, with Duterte promising the formation of the same in December 2017.

During the gathering that was also joined by 1st District of Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman, Go also said that the government plans to coordinate with LGBTQIA groups to create a national LGBTQIA convention in September, when advocates from different regions will be represented to raise their concerns and come up with policy proposals to promote and protect their welfare.

It is worth noting that this, too, is not a new solution; in the past, the country’s LGBTQIA community already held such a gathering, with the latest, 4th LGBTQIA National Conference, co-hosted by Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy Inc., Outrage Magazine and Cebu City-based Bisdak Pride Inc. with funding support not from the national government, but from UNDP and the offices of Rep. Roman and Sen. Chiz Escudero, among others.

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In fact, the national gathering’s 2013 iteration, the 3rd LGBT National Conference, produced “Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report” in 2014; it was funded by UNDP and USAID. The report – written by Michael David C. Tan – reviewed the legal and social environment faced by LGBTQIA people in the Philippines. By doing so, it already cited many of the issues besetting members of the LGBTQIA community; and the solutions that may be considered for the same.

“The (LGBTQIA) advocates… are looking forward to the passage of a law that will protect them from discrimination before the President’s term ends,” Go said in a statement.

But following the meeting, it was not immediately made clear if Duterte is certifying the SOGIE Equality Bill as urgent.

The SOGIE Equality Bill, re-filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros in the 18th Congress, seeks to penalize discrimination against the LGBT community by a fine of P100,000 to P500,000 or imprisonment of six to 12 years subject to the discretion of the court.

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Mental health talk series on women, LGBTQ+ slated starting Aug. 23

SPARK! Philippines is organizing a three-part mental health talk series called SPARK! Conversations, to be held on August 23, September 6 and 27 at Commune Cafe + Bar, Makati City.

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Photo by Camila Quintero Franco from Unsplash.com

SPARK! Philippines is organizing a three-part mental health talk series called SPARK! Conversations, to be held on August 23, September 6 and 27 at Commune Cafe + Bar, Makati City.

The mental health talk series is specifically targeted towards women and members of the LGBTQ+ community who have suffered from mental health issues due to social factors such as gender based violence, socioeconomic disadvantage and income inequality. With the passage of the Philippine Mental Health Law, this mental health talk series aims to promote efforts to improve the awareness and encourage discussions on mental health in the Philippines, especially on women and the LGBTQ+ community.

The three-part series of SPARK! Conversations Mental Health Talk Series will focus on the topics of:

  • Single working mothers and the structural disadvantages they tend to experience, such as financial insecurity and lack of social support
  • Supporting the supporter, the struggles that the support system of people who have mental health disorders go through especially in balancing what they can offer to others while also looking after their own needs
  • Members of the LGBTQ+ community and the mental health challenges that they face due to discrimination, societal pressures and stigma that they come across every day

The series is held in partnership with Vanguard Assessments and the Austrian Embassy Manila with the support of J. Amado Araneta Foundation and Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment.

For more information, contact Kassandra Barnes at ktbarnes@sparkphilippines or 09177287961.

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Catriona Gray bats for anti-discrimination law that actually works

Catriona Gray reiterated her support for members of the LGBTQIA community, with an Instagram post that pushed not only for an anti-discrimination law, but one that actually works/is properly implemented.

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Screencap of Catriona's Gray's IG post

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray reiterated her support for members of the LGBTQIA community, with an Instagram post that pushed not only for an anti-discrimination law, but one that actually works/is properly implemented.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B1JxnVEg0A0/

On Tuesday, a transgender woman was prohibited from using the female toilet in Farmer’s Plaza in Cubao, Quezon City. But the trans woman was eventually also handcuffed, and then detained.

For Gray, this “only highlights further… the Philippines’ need for implementation of the #SOGIEEqualityBill.”

Gray added: “LGBTQ+ rights are HUMAN rights – mga karapatang pangkaligtasan at kalayaan mula sa diskriminasyon, karahasan at pagmamalupit batay sa pagkakakilanlan.

But because the unfortunate incident happened in a city with an existing anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) that supposedly legally prohibits discriminatory acts to be committed against members of the LGBTQIA community, Gray noted that “ibig sabihin, walang saysay ang isang bill na hindi maipatupad sa isang komunidad.

Gray mentioned two recommendations that for her ought to also be considered with the development of any anti-discrimination policy.

First, “‘accessible forms of information for the public such as educational drives, programs and awareness campaigns’; para mas maintindihan natin ang mga pangangailangan ng LGBTQ+ community at para malaman natin ang mga bagay na maaari pa nating magawa bilang mga kaalyado o mga taong may awa sa kapwa.

And second, “a SOGIE workplace policy; para sa lahat ng mga pampublikong tagapaglingkod at mga taong may impluwensiya sa komunidad.”

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Gusto ko ring pagtuunan natin ng pansin ang katotohanang wala dapat makaranas ng anumang uri ng pagpapahiya at pang-aabuso (emotional, physical o sexual), LGBTQ+ man o hindi,” Gray said.

She added that “the whole argument of shifting the blame to the victim for reasons of being trans to justify abuse – is still victim blaming and IS NOT RIGHT. The blame should be on the perpetrators who should be held accountable and corrective actions should be taken… to help prevent future similar incidents from happening. Ang LGBTQ + ay nakikipaglaban para sa kanilang mga karapatan – ang karapatan sa kaligtasan, proteksyon at pagkakapantay-pantay – ay laban din natin.”

Gray has been vocal about her support for the LGBTQIA community in the past. Let June, for instance, she stated that “religion is never an excuse to hate, put down or act indifferent to the suffering of others. I believe God is love, and I will treat everyone – no matter who they are, to best of my ability, with love.”

Despite her outspokenness, however, it is worth noting that when Gray posted about LGBTQIA people in June, it was because of her endorsement of @sanmiglightph (San Miguel Light), an alcoholic drink. Though still not widely discussed particularly in the Philippines, members of the LGBTQIA community are at higher risk for alcoholism (and polysubstance abuse, in general).

Also, last July, Gray backed Manny Pacquiao during his fight against Keith Thurman. The boxer cum senator is infamous for referring to gay people as “mas masahol pa sa hayop (worse than animals).”

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Trans woman handcuffed, detained for using female toilet

Use of toilet befitting their gender identity continues to be a big issue for members of the trans community. If a trans woman uses the male toilet, for instance, she may be harassed/molested; and if she uses the female toilet, apparently she could also be jailed.

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Screencap of a photo provided to the media by the group of Gretchen Custodio Diez

A trans woman, Gretchen Custodio Diez, was handcuffed and then detained late Tuesday after she used the female toilet of a mall in Cuba, Quezon City.

It is worth noting that Quezon City is supposed to be a “Gender Fair City”, with its own anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) that eyes to prevent discrimination of members of the LGBTQIA community.

Use of toilet befitting their gender identity continues to be a big issue for members of the trans community. If a trans woman uses the male toilet, for instance, she may be harassed/molested; and if a trans woman uses the female toilet, something like this could happen.

In an Instagram post, singer/songwriter and former National Youth Commission (NYC) chairperson Ice Seguerra said that being barred from using a comfort room is one of his biggest fears.

In his post, Sueguerra said: “Honestly, this is one of my biggest fears whenever I’m out. Lalo na pag nasa Arabic countries ako. Pag sa pambabaeng banyo, ilang beses na akong pinalabas. And kung sa panlalaki naman, ang daming tanong, lalo na kung may mga Pinoy.

To avoid an incident like this from happening, Seguerra said that “kapag may ASEAN events akong dinadaluhan nung nagtatrabaho ako sa NYC, hindi ako umiinom ng tubig buong araw kasi natatakot ako mag-banyo. This is a real concern. Na hanggat hindi mo pa narararnasan, isasawalang bahala mo lang. Concern na hindi ko kailanman inisip na pagdadaanan ko rin pala.

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Seguerra also noted that many people may think this is a superficial issue, but “hindi mababaw yung pagtititnginan ka ng mga tao lalo na yung papalabasin ka. Parang kinakain ako ng lupa sa tuwing nangyayari yun and what’s worse is I don’t feel safe. All of these feelings and more, AND NOW THIS… just because gusto lang namin magbanyo.”

In a statement posted on her Facebook page, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte stated:

Nakatutok ako sa kaso ni Gretchen Custodio Diez, isang transwoman, na umano’y sapilitang pinalabas sa isang comfort room para sa mga babae ng Farmers Plaza at dinala sa QC Police District 7.

“We condemn this kind of discrimination towards members of the LGBT+ community. Ang Quezon City ay ang unang lungsod na may Gender Fair Ordinance upang protektahan ang karapatan ng mga miyembro ng LGBT+. Sa batas na ito, ipinagbabawal ng lungsod ang lahat ng uri ng diskriminasyon, at binibigyan ng proteksyon at paggalang ang dignidad at karapatang-pantao ng lahat, lalung-lalo na ang LGBT+.

Malinaw na hindi sumusunod ang Farmers Mall sa nasabing ordinansa kung saan lahat ng government offices, private, at commercial establishments ay dapat magtalaga ng ‘All-Gender Toilets’ para sa lahat (Section 5: Affirmative Acts, 1 Affirmative Acts in Employment, Part D).

Ipinag-utos ko sa Business Permit and Licensing Department (BPLD) na siguraduhin na susunod, sa lalong madaling panahon, ang lahat ng business establishments sa ating Gender Fair Ordinance.

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“We assure the members of the LGBT+ community that Quezon City will always protect their rights and be a home for their sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression. We do not support any kind of violence and discrimination in our city. Sa ating LGBT+ community, protektado ang karapatan ninyo sa QC.”

Image may contain: 6 people, people sitting and text

The legal team of Diez is still considering what steps to take, considering that the mall ended up as the complainant against her even if she did not violate anything.

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Support needed for foster carers of LGBTQ young people

Carers reported particular dilemmas in supporting young people in care to feel confident in expressing their LGBTQ identities while simultaneously protecting them and helping them to protect themselves from bullying.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash.com

More support is needed for fosters carers looking after LGBTQ young people.

This is according to new research led by the University of East Anglia (UEA). The study, titled ‘Providing a secure base for LGBTQ young people in foster care: the role of foster carers’, was written Gillian Schofield, Jeanette Cossar, Emma Ward, Birgit Larsson and Pippa Belderson, is published in Child and Family Social Work.

The first ever study of LGBTQ young people in care in England found good examples of foster carers being available and sensitive, and offering acceptance and membership of their family. However, there was also evidence of foster carers struggling in some areas in relation to meeting the needs of LGBTQ young people, whether because of their lack of knowledge, skills and support or because of ambivalence, discomfort or, in a few cases, homophobia or transphobia among foster family members.

Although there were some positive descriptions of the support available from social workers, most carers felt alone with the question of how best to support LGBTQ young people. This lack of support also meant that negative attitudes and approaches could go unchallenged.

The research, conducted by UEA’s Centre for Research on Children and Families, focused on the nature of foster carers’ experiences and perspectives on caring for LGBTQ young people. It involved interviews with 26 carers, who described the importance of offering LGBTQ young people not only the nurturing relationships that all children in care need, but helping young people manage stigma and other challenges associated with minority sexual orientation and gender identity.

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The findings – published in the journal Child and Family Social Work as part of a special issue on fostering teenagers – are from a wider study of the experiences of LGBTQ young people in care, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and led by Dr Jeanette Cossar from UEA’s School of Social Work. This also included a survey of local authorities in England and interviews with 46 LGBTQ young people who were or had been in care.

Gillian Schofield, Professor of Child and Family Social Work at UEA and lead author of the foster carer paper, said the experiences and needs of LGBTQ young people in care had been overlooked in England, both in policy and research.

“LGBTQ young people in foster families are likely to have many of the same needs as other fostered adolescents, but they also face additional challenges,” said Prof Schofield. “Their emotional, psychological and social well-being depends on how they manage, and are supported in managing, both the difficult histories they share with other children in care and their minority sexual orientation and gender identities.

“Understanding caregiving roles and relationships for LGBTQ young people in care has important implications for recruiting, training, matching and supporting foster carers to care for LGBTQ young people effectively, to ensure their needs are met. Our work highlights one of the key areas in fostering that professionals supporting young people in foster care and training and supporting foster carers need to be better informed about.”

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For LGBTQ young people, trust in caregivers was often said by carers to have been damaged by previous adverse experiences that included abuse, neglect, separation and loss. For some this had been compounded by moves linked to rejection of their sexual orientation or trans identity by birth, foster or adoptive parents.

Carers described needing to be sensitive to the difficult choices facing young people about how open they wanted to be about sexuality or gender, especially when they were anxious about being rejected or moved. They reported particular dilemmas in supporting young people in care to feel confident in expressing their LGBTQ identities while simultaneously protecting them and helping them to protect themselves from bullying.

Carers talked with pride of the way in which young people treated them as parents, and often recognised the additional element of security that accepting young people’s LGBTQ identity contributed to a sense of family belonging. Where foster carers had helped LGBTQ young people to feel fully accepted as family members, this gave them greater confidence in other areas of their lives. However, it was also important for foster carers to promote positive relationships between young people and their birth families.

A number of implications for practice emerged from the interviews with foster carers, and were supported by other data from the project from young people and social workers.

Prof Schofield said: “At the initial assessment, training and preparation stage, it will be important for fostering agencies to explore prospective foster carers’ values and attitudes in relation to LGBTQ issues.

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“Key also to ensuring high quality foster care will be the quality of the work of supervising social workers and children’s social workers. Foster carers in this study felt that they needed social workers to offer better information, for example in relation to LGBTQ support groups or gender identity services.”

Carers also needed clearer policies and better support to manage the day-to-day decisions within the care system, whether regarding decisions over sleepovers or managing inter-professional meetings such as statutory reviews. Better training for social workers about the experiences and needs of LGBTQ young people and their carers is also essential, both in qualifying and post-qualifying programmes.

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