Suspension of Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘Being LGBT in Asia

The matriarchs of drag

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Outrage Magazine | 20 October 2017

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“Age does not matter. Every time we perform, we forget our problems. Every time we are on stage, all our stress goes away. It’s a way to keep us fit physically and mentally.”

So said 62-year-old Mama Bobby, one of the Lola Divas, the oldest drag performers in the Philippines, along with Mama Roming, 67; Bong, 62; and Annie, 57.

“(We may already be) in our sunset years,” Mama Bobby said, but the energy is still there. “Age ripened us.”

Mama Bobby, the lead of Lola Divas, first got his taste of being in the limelight in the 1970s.

“I started performing at the age of 18. I used to be a live mannequin in department stores. And when I entered college, I started getting different offers,” he said. “Then I eventually became a member of a group that regularly had a show.”

Mama Bobby was also a front act performer of Pilita Corrales, Didith Reyes and Pia Moran, among others.

For the Lola Divas, “we were already together since the 1980s. One of our first stints was at the legendary Coco Banana. We were the Cocoquettes. At that time, we were very much ahead of the entertainment scene. That experience opened a lot opportunities to us. And the rest, as they say, is history,” Mama Bobby narrated.

The lolas (Filipino word for “grandmother”) claimed to have also pioneered the Filipino-style gay entertainment scene in Japan, where they were actually regulars at different clubs. But in the mid 2000s, when Japan-based entertainers started having problems with their status there, they all went back to the Philippines.

It was in 2004 when Mama Bobby and the other lolas became known as the Lola Divas. And not for long, The Library – a renowned comedy bar in Malate, Manila – welcomed the Lola Divas to its family.

“When we were just starting as a group, we didn’t think that we would survive because we are already old,” Mama Bobby said. “But then dancing is really our passion and performing is in our blood, so we were challenged.”

Mama Bobby is first to admit that “we do lip syncs and dancing; but we are not gifted when it comes to live singing.” Nonetheless, “as long as we are able to entertain the audience, and we enjoy what we are doing, it’s all good.”

Their journey has “not always been rainbows and butterflies.” For one, their age is admittedly a deterrent for them to get more gigs. Another challenge, related to this, is the changing landscape of LGBT entertainment in the metro. There are now only few venues that offer drag shows, and unlike before, most bars now emphasize stand-up comedies and dance numbers.

A DYING ART?

Drag, simplistically the “art of performing and impersonation”, as Mama Bobby put it, has changed throughout the years. Today, someone who knows how to put make-up on and do some lip syncs is already considered a drag performer. While these qualities complement the art of drag performing, Mama Bobby says that there is more to it than those two things.

“There’s YouTube and the Internet now. Young drag queens can easily copy the people that they want to impersonate. But during our younger years, we only used our imagination to recreate things, and we had our own personal style,” he said. “And of course, we were fabulous!”Mama Bobby added: “Some young drag queens are like dragons, they breathe fire every time they are on stage. I like watching them. But there are those who give lackluster performances; when you watch them, there is no impact – you cannot even remember them afterwards. They need to step up. Yes, they are disciplined and they rehearse all the time, but they need to have a unique selling factor. Otherwise, they will just be plain impersonators. And there is no real art to that.”

LIVING LEGACY

The Lola Divas fear that one day the world of drag in the Philippines will just die out and they will be forgotten. They recalled how the world of drag was also centered in Malate, now considered as the “old world” of LGBT nightlife, a reminder of the Bohemian past of Manila. But with LGBT spaces now no longer confined in one area, and there is a lack of substantial exclusive LGBT bars and clubs, the fear for the risk of “just disappearing” is there.

Nonetheless, the Lola Divas’ members are still optimistic that one day, the drag world will thrive again at levels they remember it to be.

“Among the challenges that we face as drag queens is the lack of funding. Even if we want to create a really good show, complete with costumes and props, we cannot. It’s really frustrating,” Mama Bobby said.

Add to this the fact that “ageism exists even in the LGBT community.”

But these challenges “do not mean that we will give an unremarkable performance.”

Every life, said Mama Bobby, has a unique meaning and purpose attached to it. For the Lola Divas, it is to entertain and bring a smile to the people. “Hanggang pinapalakpakan kami, we will not stop, we will continue to perform,” Mama Bobby 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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Defiance without understanding

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Outrage Magazine | 6 October 2017

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At least in the Philippines, during the late 1990s to early 2000s, the campaign for equal rights for all genders was not yet as mainstream as it is today. There were in fact only a handful of groups that demonstrated (concrete) actions that could really contribute to the betterment of the community. These were led/peopled by those who helped start the struggle with their defiance.

Fast-forward to the present – an era where issues and causes are often dictated by “trends” (with their promotion often spearheaded by Millennials), and the medium primarily used to spread information is social media – when there are now hundreds and hundreds of so-called “activists” and “advocates”.

But here’s the tricky part: Particularly if you are not a member of the LGBT community and you are looking into the issues being faced by LGBT Filipinos, it could be extremely challenging. And not because of the complexity of the issues; rather, it’s because of the mixed (if not confusing) messages being conveyed by a great number of our new “representatives.”

You’d think things would become clearer since (almost) everything can now be researched with a click (e.g. of the mouse, of a button, or whatever). Alas, things seem to be getting murkier.

Perhaps my (aging) slip is showing, but so many encounters particularly with younger LGBT leaders/“leaders” continue to highlight this observation. I have spoken with someone in his early or mid-20s who said that the “gays in the Philippines are no longer discriminated… except those who work in parlors”. Another young-ish “activist” said that “the biggest problem for the LGBT community is that its members would be alone when they grow old.” Still another one said that “we’re confusing people by focusing on too many issues (such as HIV, bullying, ADB); we should just focus on same-sex marriage.” Yet another proudly said “we (just) represent the LGBT conyo.” And then there’s Pride, of course, with so many believing that the best way to go is for it to just mimic much-criticized Western models of plain partying, instead of it ALSO being political in nature.

Yes, these are important, but these do not epitomize the real – and particularly not the full – struggle of the LGBT community. This is more akin to losing sight of the big picture.

The sadder thing is the powers in play, with the inexperienced “activists”/“advocates” the one being “chosen” by everything mainstream (e.g. media) as representations of the community. Think Valkyrie (that bar that made the news for banning transwomen from entering its premises) and the packaging of that incident as the struggle for equal rights for all… and then realizing that those involved seemed to only be complaining about accessing partying, instead of the bigger issue of denial of so many services as experienced by LGBT Filipinos (e.g. in educational institutions, healthcare, and so on). Missed opportunities to further the education about the ongoing LGBT struggle particularly in the Philippines…

This is not to say the fault is with the young alone, perhaps because (let’s admit this) of the failures of the “adults” who ought to have done the proper teaching as they pass the baton. Alas, failures abound – from promoting political ambitions, desire to earn/profit from the LGBT advocacies, hunger for fame…

We need to re-connect. And this re-connection needs to start from within our ranks – i.e. the young learning from the old, the old properly teaching the young, and both old and young going back to the basics of the struggle so we don’t forget why we’re all here.

Because if we don’t learn, then our failures will become the new normal. Our divisions will become the typical. Our lack of cohesion will be the standard. And it will spell the doom of the entire struggle.

We are still a long way away from being respected, or even being accepted, not just tolerated by the society. The struggle is still ongoing. And even while the narrative of the fight for LGBT rights in the Philippines is changing (as should be), we have to make sure that nothing gets lost in translation. Otherwise, we’d continue being a community that is great in quantity, but is mediocre as a group. And this is the new normal we have to change.

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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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Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 8.14.00 PM

“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.

Seb-and-Ryan1 Seb-and-Ryan7 Seb-and-Ryan8 Seb-and-Ryan6 Seb-and-Ryan5 Seb-and-Ryan2 Seb-and-Ryan3 Seb-and-Ryan4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Divided we fall

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Outrage Magazine | 18 June 2016

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Faces-of-LGBT

We love to say that the LGBT community revels in diversity – after all, our multi-colored rainbow flag is supposed to highlight that even if there are many of us who may come from different walks of life, we are still united in our struggle for the same cause (i.e. seeking equal rights for all).

Suffice it to say, I have seen the various faces that constitute the LGBT community in the Philippines.

I have met some who claim to represent (and – perhaps reflective of the elevating of the rich in a largely elitist heterosexual society – with actual pride at that) the “coño/conyo/konyo LGBT”, the elite who fail to see their privilege.

I have met some of the “karaniwan (common)”, whose main concern is to ensure day-to-day survival.

And I have met some of the “bekinals (a play with “beking kanal” or gays from the gutters; a term that may be politically incorrect, but is still used by many when referring to themselves to highlight their lowly status), those who are at the fringes of society; and whose very existence is marked by the hardships encountered not only by being LGBT, but also by their social status.

I’d have to say that, unfortunately, these segregations do not at all “blend”. That is, at least as far as my experience in the Philippines is showing, there’s no “waving of the same banner/flag” for the LGBT community.

We are too… broken; too divided.

And this could spell our fall.

Hear so many of the “coño/conyo/konyo LGBT” speak supposedly on behalf of the “entire LGBT community” while only focusing on such issues as marriage equality and passing the anti-discrimination bill in Congress (they do this in between parties or photoshoots or the likes). The mainstream media gives them the platform; and their allies in the ruling class (from politicians to celebrities) only “consult” with them on just about every LGBT-related issue (before publicly claiming they already spoke with the entire LGBT community). But they remain mum on other day-to-day issues, e.g. the policies being developed in Muslim areas in Mindanao that also affect LGBT people there, the effect among LGBT pensioners of the veto for SSS pension hike, and the failure of the Department of Health and PhilHealth to deal with the disparity of services offered in treatment hubs. Here, there seems to be more concern with faux publicity stunts that supposedly banned the expression of LGBT love, than actually finding practical solutions to deal with those who perpetuate the ills that affect us.

And then hear many of the karaniwan and bekinal LGBT people, whose stance is – because they are often ignored anyway – to just keep to themselves.

We call our divisions “diversity”, as if by doing so the cracks from within are covered up and are therefore made more appealing. In reality, there is nothing empowering about this often unspoken great divide.

We have to bridge the divide.

Because there is always room for everyone on the table.

Start getting immersed in different contexts. Ask the karaniwan and bekinal LGBT people to speak about their issues (in Congress/Senate, in the media). Stop only talking about the glamorous and start including issues of those who are unable to speak.

Because only if everyone is represented will our community be truly united.

And only then will we be truly a “community of diversity”.

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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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Liza Diño comes out for love, supports LGBTQs

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Outrage Magazine | 23 October 2014

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Liza-Dino

When Liza Diño met Aiza Seguerra, her view on life changed little by little. It was not an “immediate thing,” she said to Outrage Magazine, “but my eyes opened up to a lot of things.”

Liza actually first met Aiza in 1999. They became fast friends, and eventually shared a relationship for several months. But at that time, the timing wasn’t right. They broke up and went their separate ways.

Then in 2012, Liza came back to the Philippines to shoot a film.

“I sent Aiza a text message, I told him that I was in Manila and asked how he was,” Liza recalled. That’s when everything started again.

Early this year, and not too different from a traditional groom-to-be, Aiza asked for the approval of Liza’s parents before he’d ask for Liza’s hand in marriage. And on February 7, Aiza proposed to Liza.

 

Their story, although it is “a match made in heaven”, also attract(ed) bashers – and not just on social media, but even with the people they encounter every day.

“One of the things that I have realized about being in this relationship is (that you should) know that you are true to yourself. As long as you celebrate who you are, even if people will judge you, in the end they will still love you,” Liza said.

“It was very risky for me to be proud and bring the relationship out in the open because I know that a lot of opportunities that may come my way may disappear. But you know what, when you’re in love and you found the person you really want to be with and you’re so full of it, there’s no way you will be able to contain your feelings,” Liza Dino says.

“It was very risky for me to be proud and bring the relationship out in the open because I know that a lot of opportunities that may come my way may disappear. But you know what, when you’re in love and you found the person you really want to be with and you’re so full of it, there’s no way you will be able to contain your feelings,” Liza Dino says.

Their relationship serves as an inspiration to so many members of the LGBTQ community, and to heterosexual people whose relationships are facing challenges.

For Liza, although there are struggles and challenges, what’s important is to stand firm and hold on to love.

“It was very risky for me to be proud and bring the relationship out in the open because I know that a lot of opportunities that may come my way may disappear. But you know what, when you’re in love and you found the person you really want to be with and you’re so full of it, there’s no way you will be able to contain your feelings,” she beamed.

This love, among other things, is also the primary reason why Liza supported the campaign of the 2014 Metro Manila Pride event which is slated to happen on December 6. The theme for this year’s Pride celebration is “Come Out For Love Kasi Pag-ibig Pa Rin! (Come Out for Love Because It’s Still All About Love).Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines, the official convener of the event, is (trying) to reposition the limelight on the supporters of the LGBTQ community by encouraging them to share their stories of support.

“This year we celebrate the 20 years of Pride in our country. It is important that we recognize and (also) celebrate our allies; our family, parents, friends, heterosexual allies, whose support have always been there for us,” Red Macalalad, partnerships head of TFP, said.

For Liza Dino, the Pride event is a great opportunity to inspire other people who are also in the same situation as she is, to support LGBTQ people. And with the lessons she learned about her relationship with Aiza Seguerra and her journey to self-discovery, she hopes to shed some light to other people who are indifferent to LGBTQ issues.

For Liza Dino, the Pride event is a great opportunity to inspire other people who are also in the same situation as she is, to support LGBTQ people. And with the lessons she learned about her relationship with Aiza Seguerra and her journey to self-discovery, she hopes to shed some light to other people who are indifferent to LGBTQ issues.

For Liza, the Pride event is a great opportunity to inspire other people who are also in the same situation as she is, to support LGBTQ people. And with the lessons she learned about her relationship with Aiza and her journey to self-discovery, she hopes to shed some light to other people who are indifferent to LGBTQ issues.

“I was sold to the ‘Come Out For Love’ campaign – that’s the very reason why I’m doing this, why I came out with my relationship with Aiza. I want to share through this campaign my own experience, why I’m here today – just enjoying, being so blessed and lucky that people accepted our relationship,” Liza said.

Her advice to those who are still afraid to come out? “Every day we learn new things about ourselves, about our relationships, about other people’s identity and how you can relate to it. I think the most important thing is, before you explore how you relate to other people or what other people will say, we have to look into ourselves first and ask who we really are and accept that. Because that’s really important. At the end of the day, happiness comes from yourself,” Liza 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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Once there was a poz trans advocate

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Outrage Magazine | 21 October 2014

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This is part of “More than a Number”, which Outrage Magazine launched on March 1, 2013 to give a human face to those infected and affected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the Philippines, what it considers as “an attempt to tell the stories of those whose lives have been touched by HIV and AIDS”. More information about (or – for that matter – to be included in) “More than a Number”, email editor@outragemag.com, or call (+63) 9287854244 and (+63) 9157972229.

Dani

PHOTO BY RED CASTRO PHOTOGRAPHY, COURTESY OF DANI

Her story is not unique. Her journey has been explored by many individuals who are also in the same situation. But what she does, and how she uses her “gift”, is what makes her exceptional.

Her name is Dani*. She is a transgender woman, a pageant queen, and an advocate of HIV awareness and rights.

“When I was a child, I didn’t know what bakla meant. That is, until I was being called one. I asked my parents what bakla means and it was only then that I got the concept of being homosexual,” Dani recalled.

It was when she was growing up that she slowly realized that she’s “a woman trapped in a man’s body.” And from then on, “I identified myself as a transwoman.”

She lived her life as a woman, and – stereotypical as it may sound – she is into joining beauty pageants (she has, in fact, won several titles).

Dani would like to think she’s also like many “traditional women” who, when love knocks on the door, give everything unconditionally and oh-so-selflessly. One time, in particular, when she fell in love, she surrendered everything to her ex-partner, even the safeness of her physical health.  They practiced unprotected sex.

“I remember before 2009, I thought HIV was not yet in our country. I thought at that time that it was only happening in the US and in other countries, so why should I worry? Why should I use condoms?” she recalled.

But life took a sudden turn.

“I am now HIV positive. I was diagnosed back in 2009,” Dani disclosed.

Since then, she has started learning about HIV and AIDS. She attended seminars, and she was present in almost all of the counseling sessions at her treatment hub. She became friends with different people living with HIV (PLHIVs) and advocates. And she did all these as she pulled through her life.

When she finally gathered her confidence and strength back, she used her knowledge and experience to inspire newly diagnosed HIV-positive people to slowly recover from their misery and help them face their new lives.

“This advocacy is very close to my heart. I know what PLHIVs are going through because I speak from experience. I consider my status as an open secret – what I’m doing, that is helping PLHIVs, is a good medium for me to discuss what I went through and how I’m dealing with it,” she said.

As an HIV awareness and rights advocate, Dani is in a class of her own. She selflessly takes advantage of her own story to help other people.

When The Project Red Ribbon was established, Dani found a community of HIV positive advocates who also shared the same way of thinking: to help PLHIVs through the power of inspiration and real stories.

“We help them get through the saddest days of their lives– how they can get along with it, what they can do to have a better mindset about their situation. They need to become more aware that this is their new life already, and that there’s much to be considered,” she said.

Dani still joins beauty pageants and she still wins different titles.  She still hangs-out with her transgender friends. And she still falls in love whenever she meets someone special.  But this time, she values her own welfare and the safety of other people.

“Sometimes, someone will call me in the middle of the night, crying and sometimes suicidal. I gladly receive the call and just listen to their frustrations and fear. I feel responsible for them. Because I know how they feel – the feeling of being alone. I don’t want other people to feel like there’s no hope,” she said.

Being a transgender and HIV positive can be extra challenging (Read about Dabawenya Tricia Cabrera). But Dani’s spirit remains high.

“The essence of being a transgender is having the best of both worlds (so to speak). You can have a caring heart of a woman and you can have an iron fist of man,” Dani said.  “And being HIV positive, you have to accept and fully understand your new life so you can also inspire new PLHIVs. And living an HIV positive life is not easy nor difficult, but it is manageable.”

*NAME CHANGED, AS REQUESTED, TO PROTECT THE INTERVIEWEE’S PRIVACY

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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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Jennifer Laude1

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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