Suspension of Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘anti-discrimination

‘It would be taboo to discriminate LGBT people’ – AFP

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Outrage Magazine | 20 June 2017

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The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) – as it aims to be “A World-Class Armed Forces, Source of National Pride” – is against discrimination towards LGBT people.

This was stressed by AFP Brigadier General Jac Motril, who said that “the military organization respects, protects, and fulfills the rights of the Filipino people. It would be taboo for the AFP to discriminate against LGBT individuals.”

This is also in compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with the AFP treating “all its applicants fairly every time (we) recruit new members.”

“The provisions of the pertinent regulations in our procurement of officers and soldiers do not mention anything that would be considered discriminatory to any applicant,” Motril said.

For Motril, as long as the person interested to join the military service meets the requirements – their religion, color, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other distinctions of status – will not be an issue.

The AFP also supposedly already improved their enlistment and reenlistment procedures for recruitment, promotion, and procurement services to become gender fair.

“We uniformly treat all military personnel equally, just like any able-bodied individual, regardless of whether they are LGBT or not,” Motril said. “The AFP is not at odds with any particular sector in the country and only focuses its attention on its mandate, which is to protect the Filipino people and secure the sovereignty of the State.”

This is also why Motril expressed his support to “all endeavors that aim to improve the lives of Filipino LGBT people.”

It is still worth highlighting that acting according to socially-defined masculine versus feminine behaviors is expected within AFP. For instance, the AFP Code of Ethics has provisions that can be used to discriminate against lesbian and gay members of the military. An example is Article 5 (Military Professionalism) Section 4.3 (Unethical Acts) of the AFP Code of Ethics, which states:

Military personnel shall likewise be recommended for discharge/separation for reason of unsuitability due to all acts or omissions which deviate from established and accepted ethical and moral standards of behavior and performance as set forth in the AFP Code of Ethics. The following are examples: Fornication, Adultery, Concubinage, Homosexuality, Lesbianism, and Pedophilia.

Motril himself acknowledged that “I know there are lesbians and gays in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and they perform their official duties in their respective units just like any regular military personnel does. I’m not aware if there are bisexuals and transgenders (sic) in the AFP. But if there are any, I suppose they would be expected to behave accordingly with respect to AFP norms and official regulations.”

Motril personally knows of different LGBT individuals in AFP. One – a lesbian Technical Sergeant who serves as a staff member in AFP’s education and training institution – was commended for her “remarkable physical strength”, which, by AFP’s benchmark, is rated higher than some male soldiers in her unit. Another is a gay soldier who – when Motril first met in 1985 – had the rank of Private, serving as a mess assistant for a commanding general of an infantry division. He has since retired, then ranked as a Master Sergeant in the army.

“I believe that LGBTs have the right to equal protection of the law. I welcome any policy to advance the move for gender fairness and additional protection against discrimination of LGBT people,” Motril 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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Rep. Miro Quimbo: ADB is very innocuous

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Outrage Magazine | 14 June 2017

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The campaign for the passage of the anti-discrimination bill (ADB), regardless of version, has been one of the battlecries of the LGBT community in the Philippines for over 17 years now. And getting people on board – especially politicians – continues to be a challenge.

The sad truth is not all lawmakers support ADB, said Marikina 2nd District Representative Romero “Miro” Quimbo, one of the authors of the latest version of the ADB, “because of [their] ardent refusal to recognize the new normal,” Quimbo said in an exclusive Outrage Magazine interview.

But waxing positive, Quimbo said that “it’s just a matter of time for people to really wake up. This is a free world that recognizes the weaknesses and strengths of each person; we need to contribute to those who can contribute to the society. And the quicker we (are) able to get over our biases, (the quicker) it’s going to be for the betterment of our country.”

Quimbo stressed: “I think it’s time for them to wake-up. No individual or sexual orientation has the monopoly of the truth.”

RECOGNIZING THE NEED

Quimbo believes in the importance of having an anti-discrimination law for LGBT Filipinos.

“First, it’s to prevent any form of discrimination, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or even religion. There are certain things that we managed to already set aside, in terms of hiring, in terms of promotion… It’s now time to recognize and penalize a particular behavior. People say it’s not a lot, but I think it’s a major first step for us to do,” he said.

As it was prior to his administration, during former President Benigno Aquino III’s term, several bills linked to LGBT discrimination were filed, but none of them prospered. After the change in administration, LGBT-related bills surfaced once again. But this time, they are – finally – already gaining traction.

“I’m almost certain that it will pass in the Lower House,” Quimbo said, adding that “I can’t really speak for the Senate.”

For Quimbo, “it’s very innocuous. Innocuous in a sense that it’s not very politically laden. I don’t see the major religious lobby groups opposing it because it does not really talk about same-sex marriage or thereabouts, which is more contentious. So I anticipate – and I’m quite hopeful – that it will become a law.”

ON MARRIAGE EQUALITY

Many lawmakers continue to dance around the concept of marriage equality, but Quimbo is open about his support at least for civil unions.

“I have always said that I think at the right time, a law will eventually be passed recognizing civil unions of individuals regardless of race, regardless of sexual orientation,” he said.

To date, the only country in Asia that legalized same-sex marriage is Taiwan.

“People should not complicate the matter. Homosexuality is no longer looked at as a psychological aberration, but a normal behavior. So therefore, they are entitled to the rights given to normal individuals; and marriage, common ownership, as well as protection of that union is part and parcel of it. They have the same rights that other people have. I think it’s as basic as that,” Quimbo said.

THE FATHER, THE ALLY

Quimbo is a father to three boys.

During the Outrage Magazine interview, he recalled what he told them about being who or what they want to be. “The other week, I talked to my three boys and I told them that, at the end of the day, you guys need to decide what you need to do when you turn 18. You can choose your religion, you can choose your political affiliation, you can choose your sexual orientation. But it’s better that you do it at a mature age, because it’s not influenced; meaning it’s a very conscious decision.”

Quimbo sees himself an LGBT ally who continues to remind LGBT people to “keep pushing. It will not be where it is if people were just sitting on their asses, literally. Meaning, people have to accept the fact that it’s a challenge, and people have to embrace the challenge and keep pushing the envelope, so people can get more educated,” Qumbo said. “And be examples. I think that’s very critical so more people can really be convinced.”

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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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QC LGBT Pride celebration: More than just a parade

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VERA Files | 13 December 2015

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More than the parade, more than the march and festival, this celebration is the delivery of actual programs and policies for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) people,” Percival Cendaña, commissioner of the National Youth Commission, said of the recent LGBT Pride celebration in Quezon City.

The celebration took special significance held after the court ruling on Jennifer Laude’s case, which found US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton guilty of homicide.

Though many LGBT advocates and groups said that “murder” should have been the rightful verdict, they still see it as something that they can learn from. “Now, more than ever, especially because of the decision on Laude’s case, is the right time for the [LGBT] community to get together and reflect on what happened to Jennifer, and to also inspire the next course of action,” Cendaña explained.

Cendaña also said that the event is the highlight of all the achievements throughout the year, specifically the passage of the Gender-Fair Ordinance in Quezon City.

An ordinance providing for a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression signed November last year, is the first of its kind in the Philippines.

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The ordinance states: “It is hereby declared a policy of Quezon City to actively work for the elimination of all forms of discrimination that offend the equal protection clause of the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Constitution, and other existing laws and to value the dignity of every person, guarantee full respect for human rights, and give the highest priority to measures that protect and enhance the rights of all people.”

According to Councilor Lena Marie “Mayen” Juico (First District), author of the Gender-Fair Ordinance, “they (Quezon City officials) have tackled all areas where the LGBT community may experience discrimination.”

“The Quezon City government expanded the ordinance to be the most comprehensive so far. In fact, it is more comprehensive than the anti-discrimination bill that is still pending in Congress right now,” Cendaña added.

There were more young participants in this year’s Pride celebration, which was a good indication that LGBTs are slowly becoming aware of their rights, observed Juico.

“LGBTs in Quezon City [should] take the time to find out what their rights are. The city already has an ordinance that encompasses all areas where they can experience discrimination. It is all a matter of utilizing it and making sure that it is implemented,” she explained.

Juico also said that it is the desire of Mayor Herbert Bautista to see gay union or gay marriage happen in Quezon City. Adding, Bautista also knows, “it can only happen if gay marriage becomes a national policy.”

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(Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

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Week 1: Road to #JusticeforJennifer

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Outrage Magazine | 29 March 2015

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Jennifer Laude’s mother, Julita, still in anguish over the death of her daughter, at a press conference.

Various developments marked the first week of the trial of US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, the main suspect in the death of slain transgender woman Jennifer Laude, including the re-emergence of the issue of plea bargain, and the appearance in court of key witnesses.

NO PLEA BARGAIN AGREEMENT

The camp of slain transgender woman Laude expressed dismay over Olongapo City Prosecutor Emilie delos Santos for allegedly pushing the family to enter a plea bargain agreement with the camp of Pemberton.

Atty. Virgie Suarez (TOP), and Jennifer Laude’s siblings face the media.

Atty. Virgie Suarez (TOP), and Jennifer Laude’s siblings face the media.

Hours before the trial began, the lead counsel of the Laude family, Atty. Harry Roque, said that “in the last hearing, she (Delos Santos) manifested that she would want to proceed with the plea bargain, where Pemberton could plea to a charge of homicide and will allow the civil case to continue; (this) is unprecedented,” Roque said. “Given the preference of Judge Delos Santos to enter this plea bargain, there’s now no guarantee for the Laude family that the prosecution will remain steadfast to procure a conviction for murder.”

Due to this, the camp of Laude submitted a formal request to the Department of Justice, requesting for Delos Santos to be replaced.

“The Laudes (submitted) a formal letter to ask that Delos Santos should be replaced, believing that thousand of prosecutors in the National Prosecution Service ought to be prosecuting, as they would be able and willing to see a convicted Pemberton for murder and not homicide,” Roque said.

Delos Santos denied the claim that she is pushing for a P21-million plea bargain deal in the case.

DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima already said that she would look into the complaint of the Laude family against Delos Santos, and has also directed the prosecutor to make comment about it “before I make a decision.”

Roque remained optimistic that their request will be granted by the DOJ.

“The victims have lost their confidence with the public prosecutor. I don’t see why the DOJ Secretary will consider Delos Santos as absolutely indispensable in this case given her actuation. And take note, her actuation took place in court. (And if our request is denied), we will go to court. Victims cannot be ignored in a criminal case,” Roque said.

THE BELLBOY TAKES THE STAND

A bellboy at the Celzone Lodge, the hotel where Jennifer was found dead, took the stand on March 23, the first day of trial.

Elias Gallamos, the first witness presented by the government prosecutors, narrated the what he witnessed on the night of October 11, the night Laude was killed.  Gallamos identified Pemberton as the man he saw with Jennifer, when the two checked-in at the hotel; he pointed to Pemberton, who sat in the courtroom, according to one of the Laude’s lawyers.

The US marine and Laude supposedly met at Ambyanz Disco earlier the night before they headed to Celzone Lodge.

Other details of the proceedings were not made available to journalists, as media coverage was barred during the trial.

THE CLOSE FRIEND AS THE STAR WITNESS

The star witness of the prosecution took the stand on the second day of the trial.

Barbie (birth name Mark Clarence Gelviro), a close friend of Laude, first made her testimony in the Senate, when Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago requested for her presence last October 2014.

It was noted by Atty. Virgie Suarez, lawyer of the Laude family, that during the trial last March 24, Barbie was calm and consistent with her answers, and “she showed confidence the entire time, and that was a good thing.”

The defense did not show much objections throughout Barbie’s narration. For Suarez, this may be a tactical response on their part.

During the direct examination, Barbie also admitted that she’s a sex worker. However, she said that she does not know if Jennifer was also engaged in sex work.

“I may say that there were questions na hindi magaganda (that were distasteful), focusing on Barbie being a sex worker or a prostitute. But I don’t think those issues (Barbie being a sex worker) will in any way lessen her testimony, because again, being a prostitute does not mean that you can’t be killed when your customer is not satisfied or anything,” Suarez said.

On the issue of a plea bargain, Suarez said that it’s no longer an issue as “we are now on trial, so that’s already water under the bridge and we can no longer get back to the that. We are now proceeding with trial, tuloy tuloy na ito (this will already progress).”

But the trial ended early, as the third witness – Jacinto Miraflor, Celzone Lodge’s security guard on duty at the time when Jennifer was found dead – was not able to testify due to health reasons.

Julita, the mother of Jennifer; and Marilou, her sister, may also become possible witnesses.  They were therefore not allowed to be inside the courtroom during the trial.  Michelle, another sister of Jennifer, was the only one present in the courtroom.

“Normal na normal si Barbie sa loob, hindi siya natatakot. Nakakatuwa dahil nung tinuro niya talaga si Pemberton, na si Pemberton talaga ‘yung kasama nila that night, tumayo siya (Pemberton), makikita mo sa mukha niya na nahihiya siya, na-conscious siya (Barbie was very normal/natural, she was not scared. It was good that when she pointed out Pemberton, that it was Pemberton who was with them that night, he stood up, and you can see in his face that he was ashamed, he looked conscious),” Michelle said.

A MOTHER’S GRIEF

Although Julita was not present in the courtroom, but she waited outside.

Ang babaw talaga ng kaligayahan ang tingin nila sa amin. Talagang akala nila na pwede na nila magawa o maapakan ‘yung karapatan namin. Ang gusto ko lang naman talaga mangyari ay ‘yung makulong siya (Pemberton), maranasan niya, maisip man lang niya, bakit ko ginawa ‘yun (They think our source of happiness is very shallow. They think they can take or step on our rights. What we really want to happen is for him to be jailed, for him to experience, to make him realize why he did what he did),” she said.

Julita also expressed dismay over the supposed P21 million agreement with the camp of Pemberton.

Ang sinasabi nila na ganung halaga ang hinihingi namin, hindi katumbas ‘yun. Kasi ako ang nakakaalam kung gaano kasakit ang nangyari. Hindi na nila maibabalik sa akin ‘yung anak ko, ‘yung pagmamahal niya, ‘yung haplos niya tuwing nagkikita kami, hindi mababayaran ng milyon (When they said that that’s the amount we’re asking for, I say that’s not worth considering. Because I personally know how painful what happened is. They can not return to me my child, her love, her touches whenever we see each other; they can’t pay those even with millions),” she said.

The trial will resume on April 13 and is expected to last until September.

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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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Laude’s case to test how Phl gov’t values its citizens, says Atty. Roque

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Outrage Magazine | 22 March 2015

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PHOTO OF ATTY. HARRY ROQUE FROM HIS FACEBOOK PAGE

PHOTO OF ATTY. HARRY ROQUE FROM HIS FACEBOOK PAGE

As the trial of US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, the 19-year-old suspect in the killing of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, is set to begin this week, the lead counsel of the Laude family, Atty. Harry Roque, once again reiterated that the family will not enter any agreement with the US.

Last March 10, during the pre-trial hearing of the case, the possibility of a plea bargain was raised. But the family and lawyers of the slain transgender stood firm during the media briefing afterwards, saying that they would not agree to a plea bargain and made it clear that they just want to see Pemberton go to jail.

LGBT and ally organizations are condemning the brutal murder of 26-year-old transpinay Jennifer Laude Sueselback allegedly in the hands of a US marine.

LGBT and ally organizations are condemning the brutal murder of 26-year-old transpinay Jennifer Laude Sueselback allegedly in the hands of a US marine.

Nitong mga nakalipas na pre-trial, talaga namang puspusan ang pagpilit ng pamahalaan sa pamilyaLaude na pumasok sa isang kompromiso sa bansang Estados Unidos. Pero lahat ay tinutulan at naninindigan kami na katarungan ang kailangan (In the past pre-trial (meetings), the government has been adamant in urging the Laude family to enter a compromise with the US. But we refused and stand by the belief that justice is what’s needed),” Roque said to Outrage Magazine.

Supposedly, even though the prosecution wants to expedite the trial, the Philippine government continues to urge the Laude family to enter an arrangement.

Dapat simula na ‘yung pag-pi-prisinta ng mga ebidensya, pero kami ay nagkakaroon ng alinlangan, dahil malinaw ang posisyon ng Pilipinas na gusto nila na magkaroon ng plea bargain (The evidences should have already been presented, but we are having apprehensions because the position of the Philippines is clear that they want to have plea bargain),” Roque said.

He also said that this case will test how the Philippine government values the welfare of its citizens and how important the Visiting Forces Agreement is.

The Laude family continues to believe that when the case is over, they will be given justice. They also believe that this is not only a fight of the LGBT community, but of every Filipino.

And they just hope that the government will support them when the trial begins, rather than counter the efforts of the prosecution.

Nasasaktan din ang pamilya doon sa mga ni-leak out, na sa tingin namin ay galing sa gobyerno, na ‘di umano ay humihingi sila ng P21 million. Ito ay pinapabulaan nila at itong walang kasunduan ngayon ay patunay na naninindigan sila na ang kanilang hiling ay katarungan. Dapat itigil na nila ang pagpilit sa pamilya Laude na pumasok sa isang kasunduan (The family was also hurt when the news was leaked, which we think also came from the government, that they’re asking for P21 million.  This was denied by the family, and the fact that there’s no agreement now is proof that they remain steadfast in demanding justice. They should stop forcing the Laude family to enter any agreement),” Roque emphasized.

Although the country still lacks a law that can protect members of the LGBT community against hate crimes, he said that this shouldn’t hinder the Laude family to receive justice.

Dahil si Jennifer ay isang miyembro ng LGBT (community), magiging isa itong qualifying circumstance to murder. Kasi nagpapakita ‘yan na ang pagpaslang ay hindi lamang paglabag sa karapatang mabuhay, kung hindi karaptan na rin sa right to privacy nung napatay (Because Jennifer was a member of the LGBT community, this becomes one of the qualifying circumstance to murder.  Because this shows that gettig murdered is not only a violation of the right to life, but also the right to privacy of the one who was murdered),” Roque explained. “Lahat naman tayo ay may karapatan na pumili ng ating kasarian, kung sino ang gusto nating mahalin, at kung sino ang gusto nating makapiling (All of us have the right to choose our gender identity, who we choose to love, and who we want to spend our life with).”

The absence of a hate crime law, especially during times like these, “only highlights the importance of it, so perpetrators would be punished accordingly,” Roque said.

As the trial begins this week and is expected to last until September, Roque calls for the support of the LGBT community throughout the whole time.

Dapat mas maging aktibo sa kasong ito ang mga LGBT; hindi namin nararamdaman ang presensya nila. Kung hindi sila maninindigan dito, baka sa susunod sila na ang magiging biktima, dahil na rin sa patuloy na pananatili sa ating bansa ng mga dayuhan, gaya ng Amerikano, na pinapalawak pa sa pamamagitan ng EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement). Panahon na na i-recognize na walang pwedeng manindigan sa interest ng mga Pilipino kung hindi ang ating mga kapwa Pilipino (The LGBT community should be active in this case; we are not feeling their presence. If they do not stand for this, they may become victims next, due to the continuing presence in our country of foreign powers, such as the US, further empowered by EDCA. It is high time to recognize no one will defend the rights of Filipinos but other Filipinos),” Roque ended.

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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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Use ‘she’ for Jennifer Laude

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines | 15 October 2014

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Reporting on the brutal murder of a 26-year-old transpinay (pinay transgender) Jennifer Laude by a United States Marine, Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, Saturday, one question in the minds of members of media aside from the details about the crime was what pronoun to use for Jennifer.

Naomi Fontanos, executive director of Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas, said, “When referring to a transgender woman, like Jennifer Laude; who was assigned male at birth, but identified herself as a woman — the appropriate pronoun to use is ‘she’.”

GANDA Filipinas is a non-profit, nonpartisan, non-government organization advocating genuine gender equality for all Filipinos. It also upholds the view that transgender rights are human rights. Most of its members consist of transgender women in the Philippines.

When writing about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ), there is a need to understand the difference between “sex” and “gender.”

“Sex” is the term used to refer biological and physiological characteristics of a person while “gender” refers to the socially constructed roles and behaviors of a person. Gender does not necessarily have to match one’s sexual orientation.

The term “transgender” is commonly used as an umbrella term for those people whose gender identity and/or expression don’t fit their assigned sex at birth.

Another confusion that most people have when identifying someone whose gender identity and sexual orientation don’t match is the term “transsexual”.

“Transsexual” is a term referring to a person who does not identify with the sex that was assigned at birth and desires to realign their gender and sex through medical intervention.

“In the Philippines, there is poor understanding of these terms in spite of the uptake in their usage. Many Filipinos have the wrong notion that a transgender or a transsexual person [needs to] have some form of surgery. This is not correct,” Fontanos said.

The use of pronouns when identifying transgender and transsexual people should also follow their gender identity and/or expression.

In the case of Jennifer Laude, traditional media as well as those in social media, call her “Jeffrey, her birth name and use the pronoun “he.” This is politically incorrect.

In the same manner, calling a transgender or a transsexual person  “gay”, “lesbian”, “bayot”, “bakla”, or beki” is considered demeaning in LGBTQ community.

“Media practitioners should have the responsibility to educate themselves about sexual and gender diversity. If media people persist in telling stories involving the LGBTQ Filipinos, then it is their duty to tell those stories in a dignified way which means respecting their sexual orientation and gender identity. In Jennifer’s case, [the] media should respect the life she lived. Obviously, she lived her life as a woman and that’s the way we should remember her,” Fontanos said.

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

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Transgender model to PH gov’t: Let’s have a decent talk

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines | 21 September 2014

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Her battle cry is no different from what has been said many times over. But her journey is an inspiring and unique one.

Geena Rocero is a US-based Filipina model and an LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) rights advocate. She first gained public attention, as an activist, when she came out as a transgender during TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talks’ annual conference early this year.

Rocero was recently in the Philippines. She met with different groups and spoke at several forums. She also met with Sen. Bam Aquino to discuss the status of the LGBTQ community in the country.

In an interview, Rocero shared her thoughts on the efforts of the Philippine government for the LGBTQ community.

Q: Where do you think is the LGBTQ movement in the Philippines today?

Rocero: I think there’s a lot of momentum, especially with the conversation about the anti-discrimination bill. That’s the big focus right now.

Q: What changes have you seen in the Philippines in terms of acceptance of LGBTQs?

Rocero: What’s interesting now is, we have this pageant culture – there’s a sense of celebration in the way  the media is representing us, but it’s not politically recognized. And since it’s not politically recognized, you see a lot of rampant violence, hate crimes, and unemployment rates continue to rise – the basic rights are not accessible for LGBTQs.

If you could create awareness and campaigns and really demand for dignified storytelling in mainstream media; so people can know us, so people can learn and don’t just use the stereotyping of what it means to be a transgender or what it means to be a member of the LGBTQ community, then it would be a bit easier.

Q: Philippines is a conservative country, do you think the passing of the anti-discrimination bill would help improve the status and welfare of LGBTQs?

Rocero: We need to really effectively communicate what we’re advocating for and it’s not just for this (LGBTQ) community. This is for all the members of the Philippine population, so everyone can fully understand the rich diversity of people. All we’re asking is just basic human rights.

Q: There have been several LGBTQ organizations, individuals, advocates, and allies who have been pushing for the anti-discrimination law to be passed; what will be the contribution of your organization, Gender Proud, in this?

Rocero: With Gender Proud, we’re focusing in three countries that we’re advocating for gender recognition law: Brazil, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. Our work in the Philippines is in a different context: the anti-discrimination bill is the first step, and I, someone from the Philippines, I know what the culture is, I would lend my voice, resources, and in any way I can to contribute in moving the conversation forward. This is my role and that’s why I’m here, that’s why I’m willing to come back and use whatever platform that I have to create awareness around this and to work with different organizations with whatever way we could to move this law forward.

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Q: While waiting for the anti-discrimination bill to prosper, what do you think should our government do to help protect and improve the lives of LGBTQs?

Rocero: In the national context, it’s proving to be difficult to pass the anti-discrimination bill that really protects the community. But what’s interesting, what’s happening in localized environment; the activist groups have been doing underground – trying to pass anti-discrimination ordinances in different local government units.

There are already seven cities and two provinces in the Philippines that have anti-discrimination protection. It’s important to keep that momentum going because that’s what’s going to protect LGBTs; city by city, barangay by barangay. If the protection is not going to happen in the national environment, communities should make their own steps.

Q: What else is lacking in our government aside from the anti-discrimination law?

Rocero: A lot is still lacking in the Philippine government. They’ve been trying to pass the anti-discrimination bill for a very long time already. The religious conditioning is much harder to change.  I think that’s an important factor to focus on when passing a law. If you’re not willing to change the cultural dynamics of understanding and just for people to see and accept us as who we are as human beings who all just want to go about our lives and pursue our truth and our dreams, then the fight for it would remain hard.

Q: What is your message to our government?

Rocero: Let’s have a decent human conversation. We want to be in front of you all and just have a human conversation and all that we’re asking for is basic rights. We are not asking for special rights, these are just basic rights; to be treated equally and just exist as we are.

Q: What is your message to LGBTQs?

Rocero: As a person who made a conscious choice to come out and be an advocate and specifically talk about these things, we can’t force people to be activists. It’s a personal choice. But as an individual, being visible and being vocal is a big step. Knowing about your rights is a huge step. You need to know when and how to speak up when your rights are being violated.

Speak up when you see there are violations. Sometimes, it’s hard to think that there’s still hope, like when you report a violence that you saw, but you need to remember that those little efforts count. And as a community, we are all tied-in together, we just need to really understand each other. Awareness is the most important thing.

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

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