Suspension of Disbelief

Archive for November 2012

LGBTs mark Transgender Day of Remembrance

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines | 20 November 2012



Today, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and their allies around the world will commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) in honor of people killed due to anti-transgender hatred and prejudice.

Here in the Philippines,  a photographic campaign, called “No different,” has been mounted by Bahaghari Center for LGBT Research, Education and Advocacy and Outrage Magazine to mark TDoR 2012.

The photographic campaign was joined by different transgender (TG) organizations in the country. The 30 participants seek to end transphobia (or the fear of or hostility towards transgenders) in the Philippines and to raise awareness that they are not different from other people.

Over 140 cases of transphobia-related crimes have been recorded since 1984, according to Pink Watch—an LGBT hate crime watch. Furthermore, there have been various cases of discrimination against LGBTs recorded by different nongovernment organizations ( Ex. Some LGBTs were discriminated during job applications,  some expelled from schools, and some prohibited from entering establishments in Makati restaurants and bars).

“Truly, it is easier to hate us when you don’t see us,” said Michael David Tan, Bahaghari Center executive director and Outrage Magazine editor.  “We continue to be cast as ‘others’, so that the discrimination we experience are given justification. This is, at least, the excuse of those who keep claiming that we want ‘special rights’, even if we’re only after equal rights.”

Transgender is a term that refers to people whose gender identification and expression don’t fit  what have been culturally associated with their assigned sex at birth. The TG community is composed of cross dressers, drag kings, drag queens, butches, femmes, genderqueer, intersex and transsexuals.

The observance of TDoR is intended to remind everyone that violence in the TG community is still happening and that the government should give enough attention to the problem.

TDoR was originally conceived in response to the murder of Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts on Nov. 28, 1998. Hester was an African-American transgender, who was brutally killed because of transphobia.

The annual commemoration was begun in 1998 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender graphic designer-columnist activist. From a web-based project,  TDoR has evolved into an international day of action, observed in more than 20 countries including the Philippines.

“This campaign helps promote the visibility of the transgender community in the Philippines and the issues that we face,” said Naomi Fontanos, founder of Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas. “Up to now, transgender people worldwide remain vulnerable to the most heinous forms of gender-based discrimination and hate violence. As TDoR shows, hundreds of transgender people are brutally murdered each year at a rate that has not been observed in other sectors of society.”

“This November 20, GANDA Filipinas takes the occasion of TDoR to call on governments of the world particularly those in the ASEAN to do more for and care more about their transgender citizens. Our lives have value and we, too, deserve dignity,” Fontanos added.

Nil Nodalo, vice chairman of TransMan Pilipinas, said:  “We want to stand up for transmen rights. We want the Filipinos to know that we exist. That we’re also human beings like them. They only know “girl, boy, bakla, tomboy” and I think it’s about time to let them know that transman is different from a lesbian or a butch lesbian. We identify ourselves as male but we are female assigned at birth, we undergo hormone replacement therapy and surgeries to match our gender identity.”

“We want to have equal rights in the TG community. We want to be heard though coming out in public is never easy and it never will be,” Nodalo said.

Until now, there is no law that protects the welfare of the LGBT community in the Philippines. Still pending is the Anti-Discrimination Bill that promises to end the discrimination and indifference the LGBTs are facing. Among other things,  it seeks to ban discrimination in the workplace, schools, government service and public access areas.

Commissioner Coco Quisumbing of the Commission on Human Rights said that one of the main reasons why the bill hasn’t moved forward is because some congressmen and senators, like Sen. Vicente Sotto, wanted to update the House version of the bill with the exclusion of the LGBT provisions.



(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)


‘No different’ campaign

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TDoR is held every November 20, which the world – particularly the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community – marks to bring attention to the continued violence endured by the TG community; as well as to memorialize those who have been killed as a result of transphobia, or the hatred or fear of transgender and gender non-conforming people. Founded in 1998 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender graphic designer, columnist, and activist, to memorialize the murder of Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts, the TDoR has evolved from the web-based project when it was started, into an international day of action observed in over 185 cities throughout more than 20 countries.

In a move eyed to at least help highlight the transgender (TG) community in the Philippines, Bahaghari Center for LGBT Research, Education and Advocacy (Bahaghari Center) has mounted a photographic campaign, “No different”, for the Transgender Day of Remembrance 2012.

This effort is part of the earlier “I dare to care about equality”, a photographic campaign calling for everyone to take a more proactive stance in fighting discrimination done by Bahaghari Center as part of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), celebrated every May 17.


Discrimination in focus

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Outrage Magazine | 18 November 2012



They have been called immoral by a COMELEC commissioner, nakakadiri by a Catholic bishop, and salot sa lipunan by  corrupt people we address as “honorable”.

They are the agents who attend to your concerns in call centers, they are the beauticians who makes sure you’re properly groomed every time you visit the salon, they are the doctors and lawyers who attend to your serious concerns. They are your friends, classmates, work mates and family members. They are the people you see everyday.

They are the members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBTs).

And behind their flamboyant and jolly personalities lie stories they may want to forget and wish never happened.


There have been several recorded cases all over the Philippines on the countless human rights violations against the LGBTs, all of them directly violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations.  Based on the research and studies made by different individuals and organizations, violations of documented cases fall under the following articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

  • Article 1, which states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. That they are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
  • Article 3, which states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security.
  • Article 5, which states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • Article 7, which states that all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to any equal protection of law. That all are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

In Metro Manila alone, there already are reports of countless instances of human rights violations committed against LGBTs.

Nicole is a 26-year old transgender. She didn’t finish college, her family didn’t have enough money for her to continue. A close friend of hers gave a contact with the call center agency she was employed in and asked Nicole to try to apply.  She passed the exam and the interviews, she trained for three months. She got good reviews from her team leader, and her colleagues admired her patience when attending to calls. Her evaluations were satisfactory.

But before her fourth month in the company started, one Monday morning, Nicole got a message from the account supervisor to meet him at exactly 1:00 PM in his office. Wearing her best dress, she painted her lips red and topped it with gloss; she entered their building perky, smiling at everyone. She thought that this was the day that her supervisor will ask her to become a regular employee.

Instead, Nicole was requested not come to work the next day or ever again. According to the account supervisor, their company has 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 employment.

Months after, Nicole got a job in a television show as an assistant of the executive producer. She still feels insulted with what happened to her in the call center.

Nicole is one of those who were treated differently by a company who gives unequal opportunities to its applicants.

There’s a lesbian manager of a pizza parlor, labelled scandalous and teased the next day after her lesbian partner picked her up after work.

There are stereotyped occupations where LGBTs are mostly identified with. For gay men, these include beauticians, fashion designers or a showbiz personalities; for lesbians, security guards, janitors or tricycle drivers; and for transgenders, stand-up comedians, call center agents, or working in a salon.

And when it comes to job interviews and accomplishing their pre-employment requirements, the focus to LGBTs has been their sexual orientation or their sexual identit,y instead of how qualified they are for the job they’re applying for.

For some companies, their immorality clauses in their contract seem to subject the LGBTs to a “higher” standard of conduct. If you’re an openly gay or lesbian, many view it as scandalous and shameful.

Sadly, based on reports, no one considers a transgender not being accepted in a call center position, or the negative reaction of colleagues to their lesbian manager fetched by her partner after work as forms of discrimination. They consider it as inappropriate and abnormal, but never as a form of discrimination.

In schools, LGBTs who are teachers and professors are also being treated differently. For a gay high school teacher, he is considered as a “threat” to the male students, as a sexual predator. That if there’s a possibility or a chance, he will harass or offer indecent proposals to the male students in exchange for a better grade or just for fun.

A gay high school teacher, a lesbian PE teacher and a gay librarian were terminated in the schools that employed them, their contracts not renewed, and they were asked to leave their schools. These are actual incidents that have been recorded by several LGBT groups in the Philippines.

Hender Gercio, a European Languages student in UP Diliman and a transgender, experienced transphobia in one of her classes. Her professor, Del Corro, in Advanced Spoken French, refused to identify her as a female while in class. Del Corro admitted that she did not feel comfortable addressing Gercio as female in class, saying that she is a Christian and that it is against her religious beliefs. She explained to Gercio that she cannot separate her Christian beliefs to her duties as a professor. Del Corro continued to explain to Gercio that being homosexual is a sin and that is the reason why she cannot identify her as female.


The pending passage of Anti-Discrimination Act of 2011 promises that it will end the discrimination and indifference the LGBTs are facing. But in a recent update on the status of the bill, it seems like the inclusion of the LGBT provisions might not be able to see the light of the day.

Coco Quisumbing of the Commission on Human Rights said that one of the main reasons why the bill hasn’t moved forward is because some Representatives and Senators, like Sen. Vicente Sotto, is reconsidering to update the House version of the bill with the exclusion of the LGBT provisions.

The Congress is just waiting for the Senate if they will still present their version of the bill.


(Outrage Magazine remains the only publication for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines.)


Manila Luzon, the Asian Glamasaurus

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Outrage Magazine | 8 November 2012



Born Karl Westerberg in Minnesota, United States to an American father and a Filipino mother, this Filipino drag performer may be said to have triumphed in the world of performing on and off stage, and on and off camera. This is actually not that surprising, since – while she was growing up – it was always her dream to become an artist, to find a career where she can use her creativity; leading her to first become a graphic designer for a design firm in New York.

But while “being a graphic designer seemed like a fun job and I enjoyed doing it… it’s an office-based job, and you have clients who will approve your artistry; it’s not your own creative artistry all the time,” she said.

When she found her drag persona, it paved (and still does) the way for her to express her creativity and her passion for artistry in a different form. And then she made a name when she placed second in the third season of American reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Meet Manila Luzon.


In an exclusive interview by Outrage Magazine, Manila said she wanted to celebrate her Filipino heritage, to bring her Asian-ness to her drag persona, thus her name “Manila Luzon”, which pays homage to where her mother was born (Manila), and Luzon the island where the city of Manila is on in the Philippines.

“Some critics say that my name is ridiculous, but others like it. I love my name, and I think it suits me very well,” Manila stressed.

Dubbed as the Asian Glamasaurus in the world of drag in New York, she is a self-confessed party girl, using different influences from the ‘80s, ‘90s and the naughties (2000s) – though she’d like to think she takes it to another level, the Manila Luzon way.

The “Manila Luzon way” means recreation – e.g. she once performed wearing one of her creations, a kimono made of Ramen noodle wrappers.

And what makes Manila Luzon different from other drag queens? “I am just me all the time… not many other people can honestly say that. Other queens just ain’t me!”

Manila was chosen to join the All Stars season of RuPaul’s Drag Race for a second time. She partnered with Latrice Royale during the competition, but they were eliminated after three episodes.


And how did Manila’s career start?

“I’ve always looked for excuses to get dressed up in costumes. Then one day I discovered that my sister’s clothes looked pretty cute on me. When I finally came out of the closet, I decided I was going to go ALL OUT and be the gayest I can be. That’s when Manila was finally born.”

Manila’s inspirations include: Madonna, Kylie Minogue and Barbra Streisand.

“I’m known for my outrageous lip sync to Donna Summer’s ‘MacArthur’s Park’ from Season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. But I really love performing my original songs, ‘Hot Couture’ and ‘Best XXXcessory’ because I created them myself from scratch. It’s nice to create something and then show it to people.”

The two are Manila’s already released singles: “Best XXXcessory” (2012) and “Hot Couture” (2011).

Manila credits RuPaul for shared life lessons – “I love how Ru says that whatever other people think of me, is none of my business. As a drag queen, I love the spotlight, but being out there you can attract a lot of negative feedback from complete strangers. It can really get to you. But I’ve learned that if I am to be the best Manila I can be, I don’t have to listen to all the bad stuff,” she said.

Asked how her life changed after joining RuPaul’s Drag Race, Manila said: “I’ve been given a social responsibility now since I’ve been on TV. I try to live my life in my truest form, and I have the audience to set an example in our community.”


Asked what she’d do if she was President of the Philippines, Manila – true to form – said: “First thing I would change is the preservation of Imelda’s shoe collection. Then I would start my own!”

Then, turning serious when asked for her stand on the fight for equal rights of the LGBT community, she said: “Oddly, I know deep down that right will conquer. It may not be now, but it will happen; and I am excited to witness it take place in history.”

Manila is eyeing visiting the Philippines “hopefully soon”. For now, though, she has “lots of fun projects on the way, you’ll have to wait and see.”

And for the Filipino LGBT community, she said: “Keep fighting. Love will always win over hate.”

Like Manila Luzon in Facebook at, or follow her on Twitter via



(Outrage Magazine remains the only publication for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines.)


Younghusbands promote football as a healthy lifestyle

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines | 4 November 2012



Undeniably handsome. Talented and passionate football players. Committed advocates of a healthy lifestyle. They are brothers James and Phil Younghusband.

The brothers, along with other members of the Azkals team, became an overnight sensation in Philippine sports after their successful stint at the recent 2012 Asian Football Confederation (or the AFC Challenge Cup).

The team competed against eight other Asian football teams, finishing in 3rd place.  In the same event, Phil Younghusband  received the Golden Shoe Award for having an exceptional number of goals, making him the top scorer of the football season.

The Younghusbands first gained public attention after they led the Philippine team to the semi-final round in the 2010 ASEAN Football Championship Cup, or known to many as AFF Suzuki Cup.

James and Phil were born in England to a British father and a Filipino mother. Both of them started playing football when they were still young. James, who is older than Phil by 11 months, started playing when he was only four years old.

Their popularity further surged when they bagged some advertising contracts (as product endorsers) and showbiz projects. Through their constant exposure, the Younghusbands are able to share with the general public what  their advocacy really is.

Apart from their personal dedication to the Philippine Football team, the Younghusbands have committed to help popularize football in a country where basketball and boxing are the more popular sports.

In line with this commitment, they started The Younghusband Football Academy, which operates the Chelsea FC Soccer School Philippines. Their mission is to teach football to the Filipino youth.

For the Younghusbands, football is a sport that can teach the youth good values, such as perseverance and motivation.  The two also believe that through the sport, they would also be able to encourage the youth to stay physically fit and live a healthy lifestyle.

“It’s always important to have balance in whatever you do: in terms of exercise, in terms of what you eat and what you do, when you’re at work and when you’re not at work,” Phil stressed. “It’s all balance and making sure you not only exercise but also eat well. One can’t work without the other.”

He added there’s no point in doing lots of exercise and sports when “you’re not eating well, because when you don’t look out for your daily food intake, your performance in the field, or in life in general, would be greatly affected.”

“Find a sport that you’ll find easy. Pick a sport. That way, when you’re participating in a sport, you don’t feel that hard work is tiring, and you’re enjoying it,” James added. “You’ll also benefit from the workout. And after that, eat healthily.”

The brothers have bigger dreams which they want to achieve  through The Younghusband Football Academy. They  want to generate excitement for and interest in football and attract  more football enthusiasts of all levels who wish to enhance their playing skills.

The academy would like to help develop talented Filipino footballers into world-class players and become the showcase and premier entity in developing football talent and league management.

“We want to share what we learned in football to the Filipino youth. It’s not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle choice one should make,” Phil said. “This is also the reason why we spend most of our free time, when we’re not practicing for a game, coaching because we want to pass on how important fitness is and having  proper eating habits, which will benefit them when they get older.”

Their dedication in training the youth has started to pay off, with the recent success of the Loyola Meralco youth team. The team took part in the under-12 championship in the Kia Cup.

Asked how they keep themselves healthy, Phil said, “In football, we were taught to look after ourselves. We were taught to take vitamins, carbohydrates and protein. I make sure that I have  proper eating habits and have enough time to exercise. It’s all about balance.”

James added: “You just have to enjoy what you’re doing. In my case, I enjoy playing football. I’m always conscious nowadays of what I eat. In order for me to perform my best in football, I need to put the right stuff in body.”



(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)


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