Suspension of Disbelief

Archive for the ‘Let It Will Be’ Category

Acceptance and love as sources of Pride

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Outrage Magazine | 28 June 2020

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In 2015, Ada (or Ahds, as his friends and close relatives call him), was working in Toronto when he met Anna, the best friend of a cousin.

It “completely changed my life,” he beamed.

Ahds recalled that there were people who doubted their relationship.

During their first year together, he admitted that they experienced difficulties in terms of finances (and adjustments to being together). But Ahds said that even though things were a bit tough, it was okay because at least they had each other.

“May mga kaibigan kami na nagsasabi na hindi kami magtatagal, na maghihiwalay din kami(There were some friends who said that we would not last, that we would just part ways),” he said.

But they gave being together a try, eventually proving the the naysayers wrong.

LOVE CELEBRATED

On June 18, 2016 Ahds and Anna got married.

“Nag-decide kami na magpakasal kasi gusto ko ma-experience kung ano ang pakiramdam ng kinakasal, at gusto ko rin may kasama ako sa buhay habang tumatanda ako (We decided to get married because I wanted to experience how it feels like. I also want to have someone in my life while growing old),” Ahds said.

When they celebrated their wedding anniversary this year, Ahds said in a Facebook post: “The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know it is right if you love to be with that person all the time.”

“Basta anniversary namin, nagse-celebrate kami kahit kami lang dalawa. Mababaw lang ang kaligayahan namin. At bawal sa amin ang mga nega, ang gusto naming pareho masaya lang kami (Whenever we celebrate our anniversary, it is okay even if it is just the two of us. We find happiness in simple things. And we do not like negative things, we just both want to be happy),” he said.

Ahds added: “Tsaka masaya kami dahil tanggap kami ng family namin pareho (Further, we are happy because our families accepts us).”

FAMILY ACCEPTANCE

But for as long as he can remember, his family was always supportive of him and his decisions – at least as long as he doesn’t put himself in harm’s way.

“When I was three years old, lalaki na ako (I already identified as a boy). I still remember when I was in elementary, I was already attracted to girls. Masaya ako kapag nakikita ko ang crush ko na malaki ang tanda sa akin (I was happy when I saw my crush, who was older than me).”

He can actually still remember how things were when he was young.

Noong bata ako, naaalala ko kung paano ako tinanggap na walang pag-aalinlangan ng tatay ko. Madalas niya ako dinadalhan ng bola ng ping pong. Tanggap ako ng pamilya ko kung ano talaga ako (When I was young, I remember how I was accepted without reservations by my father. He also liked to give me ping pong balls to play with. My family accepted me for who I am),” Ahds shared.

He was able to grow up “normally”, in a sense that his family supported whatever he wanted to do, as long as it would not harm him.

“When I was growing up, naririnig ko palagi na sinasabi sa akin na ‘Tomboy ‘yan’, siguro dahil na rin sa kilos at pananamit ko. Minsan, masakit sa pandinig (I always heard people call me ‘lesbian’, perhaps because of how I acted and the way I dressed. Sometimes, it pained me),” Ahds continued.

But it was not something he dwelled on. He knew that the people who mattered most in his life – his family – did not have a problem with who he really was and accepted him regardless of what other people said.

And that type of love has helped Ahds reach for his dreams, while providing for his family.

Ahds left to work overseas (for 22 years now); first heading to UAE in 1998 when Mt. Pinatubo erupted. After several years, he found his way to Canada… and Anna’s arms.

ACCEPTING AND LOVING

For many LGBTQIA people, self-acceptance is difficult to achieve, even if it is generally accepted that only when one lives one’s own truth can he/she/they know true self-acceptance and the joy that comes with it.

Equally important is acceptance [NOT mere tolerance] within the family – e.g. a study on LGBT youth acceptance and rejection revealed that it directly affects identity development, behaviors, physical and mental health. Those who experience rejection may experience serious consequences on physical and mental health.

And here, Ahds said he’s somewhat luckier, finding both acceptance and love, now his two sources of Pride.

Ahds believes that, yes, things will get better… eventually.

But while the road there may prove challenging, it starts with self-acceptance at least.

“Huwag kayo mahihiya na ipaalam sa madla kung sino kayo at kung ano ang totoong nararamdaman ninyo. Lalo na sa sarili mo, ilabas mo kung ano ka talaga. At para sa pagmamahal naman, para makamtam ang tunay na kaligayahan, dapat walang lihiman (Do not be afraid to let other people know who you are and what you really feel. Especially to yourself, show what you really are. And when it comes to love, for you to achieve real happiness, there should be no secrets),” Ahds said.

And who knows – like Ahds – this could also help others be led to having Pride.

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(Established in April 2007, Outrage Magazine remains the only publication exclusive for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allied community in the Philippines.)

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And Ryan met Sebastian

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Outrage Magazine | 18 June 2016

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“He has been my crush since I saw ‘Bubble’ (Sebastian Castro’s music video),” Ryan Chua said.

But initially, there were no intentions for the two to have an actual face-to-face meet-up.

“I was (just) thrilled when he added me on Facebook and followed me on Twitter,” Ryan added.

As is common with online friends, the two chatted now and then.

But then fate had other plans for them.

In 2013, they finally met when Sebastian invited Ryan to his art exhibit. And that first time they met, “no one had to put his best foot forward or send chocolates and flowers just to please each other,” Ryan said to Outrage Magazine.

It was not an immediate “thing”; there wasn’t even any second meet-up. At that time, Sebastian had to fly to US and Ryan had to prepare to leave for the UK for his journalism scholarship.

But their communication continued. That is, while they were away from each other, they would Skype on a regular basis and talk about different things – from Philippine politics and entertainment gossips, to ideas for Sebastian’s new songs. And there were also surprise visits in between.

Ryan-and-Seb“We became best friends first even before any love confession was made,” Ryan said.

When Ryan finished his scholarship, he returned to the Philippines. The two started living together.

As a couple, they were almost always present in LGBT-related events. But as their relationship grew stronger, it also attracted bashers, many even from within the LGBT community.

“Hearing (negative) views comes with making a relationship public, especially when it’s between two men,” said Ryan, who nonetheless noted that the observations were somewhat superficial, comparing Ryan and Sebastian on “how we look.” “But we don’t let those comments affect our relationship. Most people see only the physical. Often, they don’t see the emotional and intellectual connection.”

But just as they’ve started establishing a life together in Manila, an opportunity came up for Ryan to work for a media outlet in Beijing, China.

Being apart from each other is not new to them; after all, they started out as online friends. Now, social media has become a tool for them to constantly communicate with each other.

“It is not always easy. Being away from each other always has challenges. I miss him every day. Nothing beats physical contact and intimacy,” Ryan said. “But we’re both mature enough to appreciate the joys of a one to three-hour Skype or Facetime call. When we don’t have time to call, short messages would do.”

Sometimes they would even watch movies or TV shows together while on a video call “because enjoying anything with him is always double the fun,” Ryan added.

Though they had not planned too far ahead into the future, they are currently focused on their own respective fields, so eventually, they could enjoy their successes together.

“I am very fortunate to have a partner who knows me more deeply than anyone does, who has big dreams like I do, and who understands that, sometimes, we need to be apart so that we could build a stable future,” Ryan ended.

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(Established in April 2007, Outrage Magazine remains the only publication exclusive for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and allied community in the Philippines.)

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Fighting for what we believe is beautiful – Adore Delano

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Outrage Magazine | 01 March 2015

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timthumb-1“It’s so cliché, but it’s always ‘be who you are’. Sometimes clichés are clichés because they’re right. It’s just as simple as that.  Don’t be afraid to just be who you are. Speak up, really.”

That is Adore Delano’s (real name:Danny Noriega) advice to young LGBTQ people.

“I always say that a lot of the drag queens get flak for what they do, but the first person in Stonewall who threw that stone in the glass was a drag queen. It’s like we fight for what we believe in and I think it’s a beautiful thing. If you have a voice, fucking speak up!”

Delano finished as one of the top three contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race‘s sixth season, thereby making a name as an international drag queen. Even if she did not win the title as “America’s Next Drag Superstar”, she was one of the few queens who joined the reality show who ended up making a name somehow.

In an exclusive interview with Outrage Magazine, Delano recalled how the whole experience opened new doors for her life and career.

“My whole life changed. I can take care of my family now. I can confidently say that I don’t have to think about how much money I have in my bank account to buy this dress or anything.”

Delano could still recall how things were in the past, when she was just starting, “I was always that poor queen who would borrow $4 to buy a pack of cigarettes,” she said.  “But I don’t really have to do that anymore.”

Delano’s first album, “Till Death Do Us Party”, logged the biggest sales in a week from any of RuPaul’s Drag Race competitors, selling 5,000 copies during the week of its release.

The record also produced several singles that charted, like Party, which debuted at No. 3 on the Dance/Electronic Albums chart and at No. 59 on Billboard 200; and I Adore You, which debuted at No. 49 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart and at No. 34 on Dance/Electronic Digital Songs.

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Delano was in Manila recently, where casual and hardcore fans witnessed not only her singing prowess, but her wit.

“(My stay in Manila) has been fun. I think (the LGBT community here) is awesome. There are a lot of people who go to their favorite bars here, and they support the queens, and they appreciate all the work that these queens put on their shows. And they actually appreciate them,” Delano said.

Delano is now busy writing songs for her new album.

“I went through a lot of stuff last year and I get to put a lot of that into my music and just express myself,” she said.

And with her new album, she hopes to reach an even wider audience and inspire people through her songs.

“Hopefully people will gravitate towards the songs and can relate to them. I want to break new boundaries with my new album. And I’m really hoping that I hit the kids in the heart with my songs,” she said.

Delano recounted what it was like when she was growing up and how the things that happened to her
became life lessons.timthumb-2

“I was always unapologetic with the way that I was when I was growing up,” she said. “But it was hard. I got bullied a lot.”

Delano added: “You learn from that and you gain strength. It’s whether you fall from it or you learn from it and you build walls up. I felt like wearing makeup was like my superhero mask. And I was like, ‘no one’s going to fuck with me’.”

Delano has long moved from bitterness.  Asked what she can say to those who make the lives of LGBTQ people harder, she said: “They are wonderful. A friend of mine told me that when someone has anything to criticize against you, just look at them and say: ‘You are wonderful’. It’s good to just gravitate against all the negativity and just fuck them.”

For more information on Adore Delano, visit http://www.adoredelano.com, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

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

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Once there was a princess in Puerto Galera

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Outrage Magazine | 14 May 2014

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Once-there-was-a-swan-princess

She lives on an island, a place considered by many, as the gay mecca of the Philippines. She’s already nearing her 40s, but – as she says so herself – she doesn’t look her age.  She’s currently single, working as a waitress in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro.  She says that, at first glance, many tell her that she is a dead-ringer of Dolly Anne Carvajal, the daughter of the late popular celebrity reporter Inday Badiday. And while she lives her life as a transgender woman, she still often refers to herself as bakla (gay).

Her name is Joy Sucao.

Sanay na ako na mapagkamalan na babae. Halos araw-araw, lahat ng kumakain dito, akala talaga nila totoong babae ako (Most people think I’m a ‘real’ woman. Almost every day, for people who dine here, they tell me they thought I’m a ‘real’ woman),” Joy said.

She has been living in Puerto Galera for almost 13 years now. Her family, on the other hand, resides in Bicol.

But then there are some locals on the island, while passing by the restaurant, who tease her as “mukhang kabayo (looks like a horse)”. She just waves at them, and then carries on with her work.

She may not be the “pinakamaganda bakla dito sa Puerto Galerapero masasabi kong akoang pinakamaganda sa kanilang lahat kapag may jowa ako (most beautiful gay person in Puerto Galera, but I can say I am the most beautiful when I have someone who loves me),” Joy said.

She then recalled two of her “greatest relationships”, chatting while taking the orders of the group of gay men who just arrived at the restaurant.

May nakarelasyon ako na American.  Six years kami nagsama.  Isa siya sa mga rason kung bakit ako nandito sa Puerto Galera (I used to have a relationship with an American. We were together for six years. He is one of the reasons why I ended up in Puerto Galera),” she said.

She received an allowance from the American; she saved some of it, sent some to her family in Bicol, and used most of it for her hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

During the course of their relationship, Joy felt like she was the most beautiful transgender in the island. “Pinagtitinginan kami kapag magkasama kami. Syempre puti siya, maraming nagwapuhan sa kanya. Ang swerte ko daw (People stare at us when we’re together. Of course, he was Caucasian, and many found him attractive. They all told me I was very lucky).”

Sadly, their relationship didn’t last.

Joy stayed in Puerto Galera to work.

Hindi ko masyado dinamdam ‘yung paghihiwalay namin. Kung magpapakadepress ako dahil sa paghihiwalay namin, wala mangyayari sa buhay ko (I tried not to think too much about our break-up. If I wallow in depression because we parted ways, nothing good will happen in my life),” she said.

It was not only the American who changed Joy’s life.

Because after then she met this Cebuano, who helped her change the way she sees herself forever.

They were together for five years. The relationship was magical, according to her. It was a dream come true for Joy.  They shared their dreams and plans together. The Cebuano even rented their own apartment so they can live on their own.

Akala ko noon siya na talagaPero hindi rin pala (I really thought it would be us forever. But it wasn’t meant to be).”

There came a time when the Cebuano had to go abroad to find a better paying job so he can help his family. They eventually parted ways.

Although her relationships didn’t last a lifetime, Joy considers all the events that happened to her as life lessons.

Relasyon langyan.  Oo, malaking parte ng buhay ‘yan, pero dapat mas matutunan mo maging masaya sa kung ano ang mayroon ka, at dapat mo matutunan na mahalin muna ang sarili mo (Those are only relationships.  Yes, they are big parts of your life, bu you have to learn how to be happy with what you have, and you need to learn to love yourself first),” she explained.

And so Joy said that she may not be the most beautiful nor the most feminine-looking transgender on the island, but she manages to get what she wants and she’s satisfied with it.

Some locals may call her “Petrang kabayo” or “ugly duckling”, but Joy may well be a “swan princess”.  “Kahit sabihin nilang ‘di ako maganda, masaya pa rin ako sa buhay ko, kahit minsan (Even if people see me as beautiful, I’ve experienced real happiness, even for short periods of time).”

Because behind Joy’s smiles and engaging personality, hides a contentment – something she earned and continues to learn, as she lives her life in the beautiful island of Puerto Galera, one day at a time.

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

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Once there was a ‘butterfly in disguise’

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Outrage Magazine | 09 April 2014

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Miss-Golden-Gay-2014

He admits he is no spring chicken.  But he said that he is still young at heart. This even if he has abundant life experiences, many of them memorable if not painful ones.

The ignorant people he met call him “baklang walang pinagkatandaan (a gay man who never learned).”

But on that particular afternoon, when the “sunset beauty queens” were being celebrated, he referred to himself as a “butterfly in disguise.”

He introduced himself as Rica Ramasamy.

He is 60 years old. Homeless.  And gay.

He came from a group of gay senior citizens, most commonly known as the “Golden Gays of Pasay”.

Rica has been a member since 1982.

FINDING FAMILY

The bitter relationship he had with his family, particularly with his mother who refused to recognize him as her son because he’s gay, pushed Rica to ran away from home.

Sa pamilya namin, ayaw na ayaw nila ang may bakla, lalo na ang nanay ko. Pinaramdam at pinamukha niya talaga sa akin na ayaw niya ako. Kaya ako umalis noong bata pa lang ako (In my family, they did not want gay people, particularly my mother. They always made me feel unwanted. So I left home when I was still young),” Rica said.

Throughout the years, he struggled to make a living. He even tried to reach out to his other family members, but all of them, just like his mother, shamed him away. He slept on pavements and sustained a living on his own.

After years of living by himself, he discovered the Home for the Golden Gays and joined it. He has been very active member since then.

The happiness he felt in finding a new family was challenged when he received a bad news.

Noong 2007, nabalitaan ko mula sa isang kapamilya ko na namatay na ang nanay ko. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang gagawin ko noon.  Sobrang tagal ko ng hindi siya nakikita,more than 25 years, tapos mababalitaan ko na lang na patay na siya (In 2007, I heard from a family member that my mother passed away. I didn’t know what to do then. I didn’t see them for years, more than 25 years, and then I just suddenly heard that she already died),” Rica tearfully recalled. “Hindi ko talaga alam kung paano ko siya haharapin. Hindi ko man lang siya nakausap bago siya nawala. Sobrang lungkot ko noon (I couldn’t imagine how I would have faced her had I been given the chance. I was not even able to speak with her before she died. I was so sad at that time).”

He thought that when his mother passed away, his family would finally welcome him back, but he was wrong. They continued to hate him, and they even requested him to end all the connections he had with them.

The Home for the Golden Gays became Rica’s life. He stayed there and treated the members as his family.

Naramdaman ko ang tunay na pagmamahal ng isang kapamilya sa piling ng mga members (of the Golden Gays). Hindi ko ipagpapalit ang kasiyahan na ito (I felt the love of a family from the members of the Golden Gays. Nothing can replace this),” Rica proudly said.

ONGOING STRUGGLE

But the comfort and happiness he felt there didn’t last, too. When Justo Justo (known to many as JJ) passed away in 2012, the Home for the Golden Gays closed its doors, the members were asked to vacate the house by the family of JJ.

Wala kaming choice kung hindi umalis. Sa madaling salita nag-scramble kaming lahat (We didn’t have any choice but to leave. In short, we went our own ways),” Rica said. “Lumipas din ang ilang buwan bago nag-decide si Mon Busa, president of the Home for the Golden Gays, na ituloy ulit ito. Hinanap niya kaming lahat. Sa awa ng Diyos, nabuo niya kaming lahat ulit. Pero hindi na kami sama-sama katulad ng dati (Months passed before Mon Busa, president of the Home for the Golden Gays, decided to re-organize us.  He looked for all of the members.  In God’s grace, we were all re-organized. But we do not live together as we did in the past).”

After they were sent away, most of the members begged their families to take them back. But Rica didn’t have the same option; he has no one to run back to. He was forced to live on the streets, sleep on sidewalks, and run for cover whenever the rain came.

He was once again homeless.

He depended on the donations the Home for the Golden Gays receives from its sponsors.

Several weeks after, his fate changed, when a barangay official saw him sleeping on the sidewalk.

Hulog siya ng langit (He is a gift from heaven),” Rica said. “Sa labas lang ako natutulog, sa may kalye. Nakita niya ako tapos kinuha niya ako. Nakiusap siya doon sa may-ari ng isang bulok na apartment para payagan akong patirahin doon. Kahit na sira-sira na ‘yungapartment at butas-butas na ‘yung bubong, malaking pasasalamat ko na doon. At least hindi na ako sa kalye natutulog (I used to sleep on the street. He saw me, and he took me in. He spoke with the owner of one dilapidated apartment to allow me to stay there. Even if that apartment is dilapidated and the roof leaks, I am still thankful.  At least I don’t sleep on the street anymore).”

And the goodness of the barangay official didn’t stop there.

Ginawa akong barangay sweeper ni kapitan (I was employed as a barangay sweeper),” Rica smiled. “Kahit hindi ganun kalaki ang binibigay sa akin sa pagiging barangay sweeper,sobrang laking pasasalamat ko kay kapitan. Binigyan niya ako ng pag-asa (Even if I don’t get paid a lot as a barangay sweeper, I am still thankful. I was given hope).”

Aside from the ample earnings he regularly gets from being a sweeper, Rica continues to be active in various activities of the Home for the Golden Gays – to be with his “family” and to give entertainment to their sponsors.  His lifestyle depends on how much he earns from thebarangay and on the number of sponsors that would come in a particular month.

TIME TO SHINE

One of the most memorable events for him was when Trippers Philippines sponsored an outreach program, a beauty pageant that highlighted the Golden Gays.  It was a beauty pageant like no other, with the contest filled not just with colorful jokes but with emotional narratives. It was a moment for the sunset beauty queens, a parade of the forgotten.

And in the end, the “butterfly in disguise” triumphed among the others. Rica won the title.

On that particular afternoon, the homeless 60-year-old gay street sweeper was the queen.

Hilig ko talaga kahit noong bata pa ako ang magsuot ng magagandang damit, mga gowns, ang rumampa sa entablado. At my age, kaya ko pa rin ‘yan (Even when I was young, I liked wearing nice clothes, gowns, sashay on sage.  At my age, I can still do that),” Rica proudly said.

But it was also a victory for the Golden Gays, not just for Rica. Because for a time, they were remembered.

Kung bibigyan ako ng pagkakataon na baguhin ang lahat, hahayaan ko na lang na bumalik ako sa ganito, dahil naramdaman ko ang saya at ligaya. Although hindi ako malapit sa mga pamilya ko, kaya ko naman buhayin ang sarili ko. Masaya ako… masaya ako na kapiling ko ang mga Golden Gays (If given the chance to change things, I’d return to when we were together because that was when I felt happy. Although I am not close to my family, I have been able to sustain myself. But I am most happy… when I am with the other Golden Gays),” Rica said.

Then turning political, he appealed to the government to have more tangible efforts for mature aged LGBTQ Filipinos.  “Sana dagdagan nila ang pagpapahalaga sa mga LGBTQs.  Sana naman ipukaw nila ang paningin at pag-iisip sa amin.  Bigyan nila kami ng halaga. Hindi naman kailangan masyado, ‘yung sapat lang para mamuhay kami ng normal (Hopefully government officials start recognizing the worth of LGBTQ people. May the government officials open their minds and eyes about our realities.  They have to see our worth. We are not asking for much, just enough to allow us to live normal lives).”

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

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2013 LGBT Pride March: counting winnings and losses

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines | 10 December 2013

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Text and photos by Patrick King Pascual, VERA Files

Just as loud as the colors of the banners they waved, were their impassioned chants of “Walang masama, walang masama, walang masama sa pagiging bakla! (There is nothing wrong with being gay!)”

The 2013 Metro Manila Pride Celebration, held in Malate last December 7, attended by about a thousand showed that they gay community in the Philippines has come a long way in their struggle for the most basic in a democracy: equality.

“It’s important for the LGBT community to celebrate Pride, because this is an event that highlights the successes and the challenges the community has achieved in the past year,” Michael David Tan, founder of Outrage Magazine, the only LGBT magazine in the Philippines and Bahaghari Center for LGBT Research, Education and Advocacy.

LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender.

With the theme, “Strength in Colors”, Tan said this year’s Pride March “is a reminder to everyone that we have achieved a lot to enjoy equal rights, at the same time, it’s still a reminder for the entire community, that there is still a lot to be done.”

The Pride March started in the United States 44 years ago in the United States to commemorate the spontaneous protest on June 28, 1969 over the police raid of Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village in New York.

The organisers said the Pride March would be an annual reminder for the gay community “to be more relevant, reach a greater number of people, and encompass the ideas and ideals of the larger struggle” for their fundamental human rights.

In the Philippines, the first Pride Parade was held on June 26, 1994 initiated by Rev. Fr. Richard Mickley, an American pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church with the support of PROGAY Philippines.

It was also the first Pride March in Asia.

At last Saturday’s parade, Mickley basked:“We have no reason to not celebrate our being equal – as what Nelson Mandela said- with everyone else, when everyone else try to tell us that we don’t belong in the society.”

Naomi Fontanos, executive director of Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas, one of the co-organizers of Metro Manila Pride March 2013, said, “We have an evolving movement. Every year we have successes and at the same time losses. The yearly Pride is our chance to highlight those successes and to take stack of our losses.”

They count in their favor the growing number of LGBTs in public office. At the recent barangay elections, Jhana dela Cruz, a transgender, was elected barangay captain of Iba in Hagonoy, Bulacan.

They also count as achievement the passage of anti-discrimination ordinances in the cities of Angeles, Bacolod, Cebu, Davao and Quezon. An anti-discrimination bill has been filed again in Congress. Government has improved its efforts to fight HIV and AIDS.

Christian-LGBTs

Christian LGBTs

There were more than 50 organizations who attended last Saturday’s celebration. Each of the organizations highlighted their specific cause. Akbayan Party-list, for instance, is pushing for the Anti-Discrimination Bill. During the parade, the members were chanting chanting, “Walang masama sa pagiging bakla, Anti-Discrimination Bill ipasa na! Now na!

The Filipino Freethinkers on the other hand, carried placards with a sign “We March for Those who Can’t…” showing the flags of the countries who do not the support the LGBT community like Brunei, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Uganda.

Cultural activist Carlos Celdran said it was just fitting to have the gay parade back in Manila. “The LGBT community has always been a part of Malate and the downtown Manila atmosphere so we hope to have them come back and celebrate their identity here year after year. I’m not here to judge other local governments but all I can say is, in the city of Manila, we are very queer friendly.”

 

 

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

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What Pride means

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Outrage Magazine | 06 December 2013

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Strength-in-Colors

What are we really celebrating during Pride?

I was talking to a clan member a few days ago, during the World AIDS Day 2013 observance; and I asked him what he was doing there.  “Hindi ko alam, sumama lang ako kasi may nag-aya. Ang sabi nila event daw ito ng mga may AIDS,” he said.

And then we got to talking about Pride, and I asked him if he’s joining the Pride event the following weekend, he was just as vehement. “Of course! We’re going to attend the street party. Hindi na kamisasama sa parade kasi sayang saoras at nakakapagod lang, puro kabaklaan lang naman ‘yun,” he said, somewhat dismissively.

I was astounded by his ill-educated answers.

Because, apparently, for some, Pride celebration is but a good excuse for them to get drunk or to find their next best hookup. As this guy stressed, Pride celebration is all about meeting new guys while dancing the night away with your friends.

And I worry: Is it only while doing these that we feel proud of ourselves?

He isn’t alone in having this way of thinking. In fact, many LGBTs of the younger generation share the sentiment.

But, really, are they to be solely blamed?

I’d argue that this way of seeing is because of a combination of factors, not helped by the wrong that the public is getting and that the LGBT community itself has been sending out.

What’s happening right now in the Philippines, when celebrating Pride, is limited. At times, many see it as just a political rally, with banners plastered on stage and paraphernalia given away, many of them donning the faces and names in bold letters of the politicians who supposedly helped make the celebration possible. There are times, too, when it is but an observance of something different… like the World AIDS Day, often followed by a street concert that attracts more heterosexuals than LGBTs. At those times, the supposed message of Pride is clouded.

This year’s Pride celebration was actually almost cancelled because of the mishandling of the preparations. The Quezon City Pride Council (QCPC), which became active this year with different efforts in the community, eyed to hold the supposed Pride for 2013. QCPC, by the way, depends on the local government unit of Quezon City.

With only 15 days left before the scheduled Pride March (on the first Saturday of December), QCPC announced through its Facebook page that the QC government is canceling all celebrations in the city, including the Pride March to andre-align its budget allocation and manpower to help the victims of Typhoon Yolanda.”

For me, there is nothing wrong with helping our brothers and sisters who were devastated by the killer typhoon; in fact, it’s very humane to “re-align the budget allocation’” to help them. But what’s really wrong in this picture is QCPC’s (and the QC government’s) overlooking of the importance of celebrating Pride.

What does Pride celebration really mean?

It’s supposed to be a celebration of what the community has achieved so far, a culmination of the efforts of the LGBT movement.

There are only few victories in one’s lifetime and I think it’s just right to – at times – just stand still, look at the big picture, and see how far we’ve gone. As has been noted, this year, there are more LGBTs in the politics, the anti-discrimination ordinance was approved in some cities, an anti-discrimination bill was filed again in Congress, and there are more unified and tangible efforts to fight HIV and AIDS.

These need to be highlighted.

The celebration doesn’t have to be extravagant. What the community needs is just a moment and a decent space to gather together and celebrate the victories it has achieved so far.

Many actually praised Quezon City when QCPC was formed, supposedly to help uplift the status of its LGBT members. But as QCPC just folded, we – from the LGBT community – should be asking if it has really done enough to be worthy of the praises.

Fortunately, the annual Pride celebration is still pushing through on December 7, this time, with the community itself coming together to make things happen.  And so the impossible became possible.

Pride is a time for us to take stock; but it’s also the start of a new beginning – until that time when our trans brothers and sisters are not judged according to social constructs that limit their gender identity and expression; until that time when you can introduce your significant other to your officemates as your husband or wife and not just as a “friend”; until that time when your sexual orientation is not going to be the basis of whether you will be promoted or not in your workplace; and until that time when you can honestly say to yourself “I’m proud of who I am.”

 

 

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

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Project Red Ribbon: Responding to a growing need

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Outrage Magazine | 04 December 2013

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Project Red Ribbon logoIt started as a blog in 2011. with the author calling the Website Living with HIV in the Philippines.  And its first article, I Have AIDS!, told the story of Pozzie Pinoy, the HIV-positive advocate behind the blog, where he narrated how he overcame this ordeal when he was diagnosed with bilateral pneumonia and was tested HIV-positive.

And so this also served as the foreword of the Website, a precursor of what the readers should expect in its posts.

“The intention of the blog is to give information about HIV and AIDS in the Philippines. It aims to provide information about the importance of prevention, early detection through HIV testing, and treatment of HIV and opportunistic infections. It provides a venue for social interactions and discussions about the disease,” Pozzie Pinoy said.

In its two years run, Living with HIV in the Philippines has served as a go-to of some sort for many, responding to questions and inquiries from its readers with the help of Dr. Rosanna Ditangco of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

The blog now also serves as a channel in promoting current events and trainings for the benefit of the general population.

Eventually, Pozzie Pinoy also started The Love Fund, an attempt to provide indigent people living with HIV (PLHIV) with medical assistance for laboratory tests and treatment.

Eventually, too, with the continuing success of Living with HIV in the PhilippinesPozzie Pinoystarted other efforts for the benefit of PLHIV – particularly, Project Red Ribbon.

“The blog became an area for us to answer questions, but we felt the need to establish other programs that can help and support PLHIV. And since there’s no care management program in the Philippines, we established the Red Ribbon,” Pozzie Pinoy explained.

Project Red Ribbon is a care management program that links advocacy groups with individuals to assist them to obtain discreet HIV testing, while also conducting awareness programs, and most importantly, provide care and support for PLHIV.

“What we do in Red Ribbon is we deal with PLHIV directly. We have support groups, we have outreach programs, online support group talks where PLHIVs gather to share their stories and their journey with each other,” Pozzie Pinoy said.

Compared to other organizations that have efforts for PLHIV, Project Red Ribbon “focuses solely on supporting PLHIV.” Notably, “99% of our managers are PLHIVs, so we know our concerns, we know our needs, we know our problems. We can support other PLHIVs properly,” Pozzie Pinoy stressed.

Project Red Ribbon also organizes: monthly outreach programs – where they visit different treatment hubs to educate new PLHIVs and give inspirational advice; monthly support group gathering; sportsfest; and outings, among others.

And as Pozzie Pinoy said many times over on his Website and during his talks: “No PLHIV is alone with his or her struggle with HIV! We are all in this together!”

For more information, visit http://pozziepinoy.blogspot.com/ or email Pozzie Pinoy at pozziepinoy@yahoo.com.

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

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Should PLHIV come out?

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Outrage Magazine | 03 December 2013

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UP-Diliman observes World AIDS Day 2013

UP-Diliman observes World AIDS Day 2013

The figures continue to be disturbing.

As of October this year, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded a total number 4,072 HIV reported cases – 3,874 of which are males and 198 are female, and a total of 272 AIDS cases. It was also reported by DOH that 94% of the recorded HIV cases this year were infected through sexual contact, 6% through needle sharing among injecting drug users, and less than 1% through mother to child transmission. Reflecting the global trend wherein the increasing number of HIV cases is most predominant among men who have sex with other men (MSM), it was also noted by DOH that 86% of the recorded HIV cases in October were MSM.

The efforts to deal with the concerns continue to grow.

Over the years, there have been countless discussions and programs conducted by different institutions, organizations and even schools about HIV and AIDS. There have also been several events held to remind everyone of the importance of education and awareness of the disease.

However, everything seems to result to nothing, as the continuous rise in the numbers of those who are getting infected is showing us.

And now – interestingly – a new call is already being made.  During the celebration of World AIDS Day (WAD) observance at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City last December 1, the message pushed was loud and clear: “People living with HIV (PLHIV) should come out so that people will know that there is nothing wrong with being HIV positive.”

And some PLHIV heed the call.

“We are not celebrating WAD to be stigmatized and be discriminated against.  What we are trying to aim is to let other people know that HIV should not be feared,” Artemus Rojado, an HIV-positive advocate, said.  “Sometimes, PLHIV are more productive than ‘ordinary’ people. We want to bridge the gap between the people who are ill-educated about the disease and the situation of PLHIV.”

But this call may be easier said than done, considering the ongoing challenges faced by PLHIV in the Philippines.

For one, the government response continues to be weak, with public agencies failing to respond to the needs of PLHIV the way they should be doing.  Until now, the access to antiretrovirals remain dependent on the support that the country is getting from the Global Fund, and the only support PLHIV are getting from the government is through PhilHealth’s special benefit package, which, as lamented by many, “is sufficient in answering only some of the needs of PLHIV.” And then – while consultations and some preventive treatments for possible opportunistic infections are being offered for free in treatment hubs – full coverage to combat opportunistic infections is still not included.

It was noted by the UP-Diliman WAD event head, Pozzie Pinoy, that PLHIV should not wait for the government to take any effort if they want something to change. “As long as we know how to tap the government, the services we’re getting from the government will be sufficient. But we still need full backup and full support when it comes to handling opportunistic infections and other services PLHIV may need,” he said.

And so – again – the call to action for PLHIV to come out and share their stories and their journeys with other people.

“You need to come out, we need our voices to be heard. We know the problems, we know all the concerns, all we have to do is to come out and share our journey with other people so other people will know that HIV is a reality, and it really exists in the country, and that PLHIV are the same as everybody else,” Pozzie Pinoy stressed.

There are a lot of advocacy groups who are pushing for equal rights, “but nobody is coming out, so there’s no real face of HIV in the Philippines,” Pozzie Pinoy continued.  

And so we ask: Is “coming out” really the answer PLHIV should be looking for?

After all, will the mainstream community just blindly accept PLHIV when they come out?

Will the church, companies, schools, and other private hospitals welcome PLHIV with open arms after they come out?

Most importantly, will the government finally listen to the needs of PLHIV if they’re already out?

 

 

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

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What constitutes a relationship

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Outrage Magazine | 13 November 2013

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Finding the “perfect” person to be with for the rest of your life is impossible. So that many are bound to say that when you meet someone and you think he’s perfect, you better run towards the other direction.

This sounds pessimistic, but ever since we started dating (or that night when we first learned how to explore the world of the infamous mIrc), we met different kinds of guys – guys who we thought were perfect only because they have a car or a high-paying job or a “package” anyone can be proud of. But after a couple dates, after multiple shared orgasms, after several Carrie Bradshaw moments with your friends, bragging about the guy you’re currently dating becomes futile, since you still end up with… nothing.

Yes, we’ve had our own share of meeting and being with the boy-next-door type or someone who is so courteous and lovable (the type that even your mom would like to spend her free time with to discuss just about anything under the sun), though – again – it still results to nothing.

The preconceived notion of having a “perfect relationship” is having a partner with the abovementioned traits – that is (and to stress), one who is understanding, one you can lean on, and one you can share the “I will forever be with you” moments.

There may be moments when we questioned ourselves if we’re the one with the problem. But after several glasses of wine while contemplating at home, or after a landslide of cocktails with your friends at your favorite bar, there’s that moment when everything slows down and you realize: “Why did I ever think that I’m the one with the problem? I just want to be with someone with whom I can be happy and contented with.” And just like that, it feels like you’ve just awakened from a bad dream. That moment, along with constant reminders from friends, opens your eyes to reality: it’s the notion that may be wrong because a “perfect relationship” doesn’t really exist.

Because being in that stereotyped notion of a “perfect relationship” doesn’t make you think, it doesn’t make you grow.

But in truth, to have a “perfect relationship” means working for it as it’s not something instant; you have to earn the bonuses along the way.

So I say when you meet someone who opens your eyes and heart again to something you never knew you are, you better hold him tight and don’t let go. Because it is like finding the shiny silver needle in the haystack.

He may not the person you have been waiting for, nor the person you have been looking for, but – for me – meeting him is akin to meeting your destiny – cheesy as this may sound. Of the many guys you’ve been with over the years, who helped you lose interest in the words “ideal” and “the one” because of failed relationships and false flings, you then meet someone who – when you saw something as simple as his smile – made you realize that this person could actually be someone you’re going to love and feel forever young with for the rest of your life. This time, the mode of attraction is different. Instead of being attracted to his fancy ride or being bewildered with his well-endowed package; you are attracted to something deeper.

This time you know that when you finally, really love a person; you need to take care of him and make sure he’s always being taken care of. Because when you really love a person, you make sure he gets the love that he truly deserves. Never take him for granted and never make him your second priority.

But giving that person your undivided attention does not mean you will forego your other responsibilities and priorities (like your family, friends or work). Instead, you need to learn how to balance and everything will start falling into their place; everything will start to go hand-in-hand.

Yes, it’s harder to maintain a relationship that stands on a foundation that’s made out of emotions rather than be in a relationship that evolves around fancy stuff – his cars, the boy-next-door image, a beautiful endowed package, or fancy dinners. But the rewards you will get from it are all worth it. Because this is when you finally know what you have is worth keeping.

 

 

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

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