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‘Without our land, there is no Pride’

The fight for LGBTQIA Pride, said Dats, a lesbian Lumad leader from Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao, cannot be – or should not be – segregated from the struggle for (holistic) social justice.

This is part of #KaraniwangLGBTQIA, which Outrage Magazine officially launched on July 26, 2015 to offer vignettes of LGBT people/living, particularly in the Philippines, to give so-called “everyday people” – in this case, the common LGBTQIA people – that chance to share their stories.
As Outrage Magazine editor Michael David C. Tan says: “All our stories are valid – not just the stories of the ‘big shots’. And it’s high time we start telling all our stories.”

The fight for LGBTQIA Pride, said Dats, a lesbian Lumad leader from Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao, cannot be – or should not be – segregated from the struggle for (holistic) social justice.

Particularly, as an indigenous person who belongs to an indigenous tribe whose ancestral land is always at risk of being taken from them, Dats said that “ang pinaka-importante… kahinanglan pakigbisugan ang yutang kabilin. Kay diha nagikan ang kinabuhi sa tanan. Ang yutang kabilin ay inahan sa tanan. Kay kung mawala ang yutang kabilin, mawala ang among pagka-LGBTQIA. Dili mi maila. Gumikan sa akong pakigbisog sa yutang kabilin, naila ang among pagka-LGBTQIA. Ang isyu sa yutang kabilin nakadikit sa isyu sa kabataan, sa kultura… sa LGBTQIA. Diha mailhan ang LGBTQIA sa yutang kabilin (the most important thing… is to fight for our ancestral land. Because life originates there. Our ancestral land is the Mother of all. If our ancestral land disappears, so will our LGBTQIA identity. The issue of the ancestral land is connected with the issues of youth, of our culture… of LGBTQIA people. LGBTQIA indigenous people will be known because of our ancestral land).”

LESBIAN LUMAD

Being a lesbian in a Lumad community is – admitted Dats – not easy.

Earlier, Dats lived in Metro Manila for five years. Here, like many other displaced people, she tried to make a living. 

But “namingaw ko (I got homesick),” she said, and so she eventually returned to Mindanao, highlighting the desire that “gusto ko dadto ko mupuyo sa Mindanao (I want to live in Mindanao).”

And when Dats went back to Mindanao, she took with her a partner; that same woman has been with her for 22 years now, and they are raising a seven-year-old child.

The initial challenge, obviously, was to introduce the concept of being LGBTQIA in her tribe.

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Daghan mga LGBT didto (sa amo-a) pero wala pa kayo mitumaw kay bawal na sa tribu jud namo. Ang uban itago pa nila ang ilahang pagka-LGBTQIA. Dili pa jud mutumaw. Pangutan-on sila ngano kuno mag-LGBT man nga bawal man. Lalo na sa mga tawong simbahan (There are many LGBTQIA people in our tribe but they don’t surface. Many hide their identity; they refuse to be identified as LGBTQIA. Because they may be asked why they want to be LGBTQIA, knowing it’s against our ways. This is even more so when speaking with church people),” Dats said.

In her case at least, Dats said she tells people that “bisang ing-ani ang akong pagkatwao, andam ko nga… musalmot bisang unsang pakigbisog para sa akong tribo (even if I identify as LGBTQIA, I am ready to fight for my people),” she said.  And so “karon, dawat na ko nila (they now accept me).” In fact, “ang Datu namo, ako na ang gi-saligan (our Datu relies on me).”

“There are many LGBTQIA people in our tribe but they don’t surface. Many hide their identity; they refuse to be identified as LGBTQIA. Because they may be asked why they want to be LGBTQIA, knowing it’s against our ways.”

In hindsight, Dats said “lisod jud pero sa hinay-hinay maka-survive ra jud ka (it may be hard at first, but you’d survive).”

PATH TO RECOGNITION

As a relatively new parent, Dats smiled: “Pirmero malisdan, mabag-uhan. Kay muhilak man ang bata sa tungang gabii. Magtimpla ko ug gatas, ipatutoy nako sa bata (At first, it’s not easy. The child cries in the middle of the night. I have to wake up to feed the child),” she said. Nonetheless, “malipayun man hinuon mi mag-atiman mi sa bata (we’re happy looking after our child).”

Dats is also thankful that her partner supports her. “Kung asa ko mu-rally, siya dili mu-babag. Musabot na lang siya sa ako-a kay para sa tanan man daw akong buhaton (When I join rallies, she doesn’t stop me. She understands that what I am doing is for the benefit of everyone).”

Dats is now helping other indigenous LGBTQIA people by organizing them and “pasabtun nga ang imohang pagka-LGBTQIA gamitun sa tinarung (make them understand how to use their being LGBT for good),” she said. “Mubo ang pagtan-aw sa ato; (pero) ang atong buhaton para gihapon sa tanan (People look down on us, but let’s still act for the benefit of all).”

TIME FOR CHANGE

And for other indigenous people, Dats said that “akong masulti sa Lumad, ang mga LGBT kahinanglan hinay-hinayon nila ug dawat kay tawo pud sila, masakitan, nga ubos ang pagtan-aw sa ubang tawo parehas pud sa (ilahang pagtan-aw) sa mga Lumad. Gilapasan sa pagkatawong katungod (I tell other Lumads that they need to slowly accept LGBTQIA people because they’re also human, they get hurt, and who are treated badly by society, whose rights are also taken away by the same society that similarly mistreats Lumads),” she said. “Kung makakita sila ug LGBTQIA sa ilang komunidad, dili nila sawayun nga LGBTQIA kay dili nimo gunit ang panahon nga kana diay ang imong gisaway nga LGBTQIA ma-o diay ang makatabang sa atong nasod pud (When you see LGBTQIA people in your midst, don’t mock them because you don’t know what the future holds; that LGBTQIA person you mocked may be the very person who will help your people).”

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