Suspension of Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘Being LGBT in Asia

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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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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Act, speak up – Geena Rocero

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Outrage Magazine | 24 September 2014

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Geena

Everyone should stand in their truths.

That, in not so many words, is the lesson that US-based transgender model and LGBTQ rights advocate Geena Rocero wants LGBTQ Filipinos to learn, as she made the rounds during her recent trip to the Philippines.

Rocero“As an individual, being visible… 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. And speak up when you see there are violations,” Geena said toOutrage Magazine.

TURNING POINT

Geena didn’t always have it easy.  When she was still living in a humble alley in Guadalupe, she also had dreadful experiences.

“I remember walking from home to school, school to home. (There were) moments when I would be scared because, somehow, the tricycle drivers – maybe they just feel like they’re mobilized – would feel entitled to scream at me, saying: ‘BAKLA(FAGGOT)!’,” she recalled.  This is traumatic to “anybody who had experienced that.  It creates something in you, that internalized fear. (It was) a very degrading word, (especially with) the way it was said. That’s a moment that I would always remember; a pain that I will never forget. Because it was a reminder of how much I’ve gone through.”

Though Geena moved to the US, the bad experiences persisted.  Such as that time she had a very disturbing experience in Japan.

“I remember a moment in 2005, when I was traveling from New York to Tokyo.  My California driver’s license had a female name and gender marker, but my Philippine passport had a male name and gender marker. I was at the airport, and the next thing I know, two immigration officers took me and said: ‘We are going to take you to the holding office’,” Geena recounted. “I got to that place where one girl was screaming at one of the officers, saying: ‘There’s this one guy who you know who definitely did something wrong!’, and I was with them just because my documents didn’t match. Just because I’m existing as I am. The experience was very embarrassing. I was asked about the most personal questions. It was a very embarrassing moment, but it also raised my consciousness (and made me ask) on why is it like that.”

Geena eventually came out via the now much-hyped TED Talks episode.

 

Geena also eventually founded Gender Proud, “an advocacy and awareness organization that brings attention to the need for all transgender individuals to self-identify with the fewest possible barriers.”

CRUSADE FOR EQUALITY

Geena shared with Outrage Magazine her sentiments on the lack of efforts from the government to protect and help improve the lives of members of the LGBTQ community.

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Because of the lack of a national mandate to ensure that the human rights of LGBTQ Filipinos are protected, “what’s interesting… what’s happening in (localities) is important. What activist groups have been doing underground (is) try to pass anti-discrimination ordinances in different local government units. It’s important to keep that momentum going because that’s what’s going to protect LGBTQ people. (So we move) city by city, barangay by barangay.  Because if the protection is not going to happen in the national (level, then local) communities should make their own steps,” she said.

Geena, nonetheless, conveyed her position on the importance of passing the Anti-discrimination Bill.

“Our campaign for the passage of the Anti-discrimination Bill (is) considered as a controversial issue in the Philippines given that this is a very conservative and highly religious country. So we need to really effectively communicate what we’re advocating for. That this is not just for the LGBTQ community, but also for all members of the Philippine (society),” she said.

Geena already met with Sen. Bam Aquino, with the Association of Transgender People in the Philippines in tow, to discuss the progress of the long overdue Anti-discrimination Bill that Aquino sponsored.  They were supposedly assured by Aquino that he will look into the possibility of asking for the creation of a “sub-committee”, which he will head, to initiate a public consultation on the issue.

“Gender Proud’s work in the Philippines is in a different context.  The Anti-discrimination Bill is the first step.  And me, someone from the Philippines, I know what the culture is, I would lend my voice, my resources, and in any way I can to contribute in moving the conversation forward,” Geena said.

PASSING IT ON

For many, the passage of the Anti-discrimination Bill would probably be one of the best solutions for the different recurring problems that members of the LGBT community continue to face every day. But for Geena, the first step to change what’s been happening in the community will “begin from each one of us”.

 

“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,” Geena 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 proud gay father

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Outrage Magazine | 02 September 2014

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Emerson2

He tried to run away from his real self. He used to spend his days living a kind of life that will satisfy the norms of society. He never thought of himself as a defender of LGBTQIA rights.

But then everything changed.

One day, he met this “beautiful and special woman”. He fell in love with her. And in no time, they got married.

The love they shared brought to the world “three beautiful princesses”. The eldest is already in 3rd year in college, followed by a high school student, and the youngest is a 5th grader.

Emerson3His name is Emerson Soriano. He’s (still) happily married to a heterosexual woman. He is an artist, a defender of human rights, and a proud gay father.

“There came a time na pakiramdam ko nasasakal na ako sa pagiging closeta (I felt stifled hiding in the closet). I was so afraid to come out before,” Emerson recalled.

He used to teach in one of the schools in the Cordillera region. The pressure Emerson felt during that time didn’t help the anxiety he had when he was battling with himself on whether to come out of the closet or continue to pretend and lie about his true gender identity.

But Emerson then took a big risk.

“I came out to my officemates and sinabi ko na (I told them) I’m like this.‘Yung takot noon na kapag nalaman nila kung ano talaga ako, hindi naman talaga ganoon nangyari (The fear I had in the past if they found out my real identity, well, that’s not what transpired). It was a positive response,” he said.

Aside from the feeling of being free, Emerson was also pleased to discover that his friends and community have accepted him for who he really was, and nothing has changed after he came out.

His family, the children in particular, learned about his true sexuality in an unexpected situation.

“During the Pride celebration last year, an AM radio station invited me and another transgender activist to talk on their show. We were asked about the LGBTQIA movement, what it’s like to love a gay person, among other things,” Emerson recalled. Pero ang hindi ko alam, nakikinig rin pala ‘yung family members ko sa radio station nayun (What I didn’t know was my entire family was also listening to that radio station). And they heard the whole interview.”

Emerson paused, took a deep breath, and smiled. Nakaoff ‘yung cellphone ko (My mobile phone was turned off) that time because I was in an interview. When I switched it back on after the program, the messages started coming in. I opened it one by one. I was smiling and teary-eyed at the same time as I read the messages. ‘Yung mga anak ko ‘yung nag-text. Sabi nila, tanggap nila kung ano talaga ako, at mahal na mahal nila ako (My children sent text messages. They said they accept me for who I am, and that they really, really love me).”

Emerson paused for a few seconds again, this time, a bit teary-eyed. “They accepted me for who I really am. And said that they love me,” he repeated.

Lahat ng ginagawa ko at mga pinaghihirapan ko, para lahatyun sa mga mga anak ko (Everything that I do and work hard for, it’s all for my children),” Emerson added.

Since then, a lot of things have changed.

He is now more active in various LGBTQIA events. The wariness he felt before, every time he speaks in front of the crowd, is no longer there.

“Ever since I came out, I feel so much free. Kahit sa Facebook, ‘yung mga friends ng mga anak ko (Even on Facebook, the friends of my children)they are all friendly. They don’t find being gay negative, they don’t have the concept that being gay is negative, that it is only limited to cross-dressing. They tell me that I am a positive influence to them, because I did what is right,” Emerson added.

Aside from being a human rights activist, Emerson spends his spare time making artworks and exhibiting them.

“My job, being an activist, medyo palaging nagkukulang ako pagdating sa (often, I run out of) allowance. My skill in the arts has helped me gain extra income,” he said.

Emerson is currently commissioned by the Ecological Sanctuary of Baguio to design the walls of “Earth House”, a structure completely made of clay and stones.

He is able to express his emotions through his artworks. “Sometimes, yung depression na nararamdaman ko (the depression I feel), you will see them in my works. It’s a great avenue for me to express what I really feel.”

Emerson’s message to those who are not yet out?

“Kung gaano niyo kamahal ang inyong pamilya, ganoon din ang ibabalik sa inyo. Kung gaano niyo sila nirerespeto, ganoon din ang ibabalik sa inyo. My advice is, pakiramdaman niyo muna ang kapaligiran niyo, malalaman niyo naman kung tama na ang panahon. Kasi mahirap pilitin ang isang environment na tanggapin ang isang bagay na hindi nila nakasanayan (The love you give your family, that’s the love they will give to you. The respect you give them, is the respect they will give to you. My advice is, get a sense if it’s the right time to come out. Because it’s hard to forcefully come out in an environment that is not yet ready).”

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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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