Suspension of Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘lgbt 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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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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LGBT activists: We did not feel Aquino’s presence

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VERA Files | 03 August 2015

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Kapederasyon members air their lament while the President delivers his last SONA. - See more at: http://verafiles.org/lgbt-activists-we-did-not-feel-aquinos-presence/#sthash.YMqOuJ9W.dpuf

Kapederasyon members air their lament while the President delivers his last SONA. – See more at: http://verafiles.org/lgbt-activists-we-did-not-feel-aquinos-presence/#sthash.YMqOuJ9W.dpuf

THE countdown has begun for the last months of President Benigno Aquino III.

Activists from the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community hold out little hope that the Aquino administration will address their grievances in its final months after it failed to respond to their needs in its earlier years.

Murphy Red, chairperson of Kapederasyon LGBT Sectoral Organization, lamented the fact that unlike other marginalized sectors that receive support from local government units or the social welfare department, not one agency caters to the needs of the LGBT community.

“Ang ibang mga marginalized sectors ay, kahit papaano, may mga institution sa pamahalaan na nag-ca-cater sa kanilang mga interest, tulad ng iba’t-ibang programa ng mga LGUs at ng DSWD. Pero sa mga LGBT, wala talagang institution na nasa gobyerno ang nangangalaga,” he said.

The LGBTs joined other protesters to express disappointment at the Aquino government when the president delivered his last State of the Nation (SONA) address last Monday, July 27. They braved the rains as they marched along the stretch of Commonwealth Avenue.

Murphy Red, chairperson of Kapederasyon

Murphy Red, chairperson of Kapederasyon

“Nakalimang SONA na siya, pero ni minsan hindi niya binanggit ang mga LGBT. Wala sa agenda niya ang kalagayan ng mga LGBT,” Red stated.

“Hindi na kami umaasa at nagiilusyon na magbibigay siya ng tulong sa huling taon niya. Pero sana lang sa huling pagkakataon, sa huling taon ng kanyang paninilbihan, mamulat siya sa katotohanang may LGBT sa lipunan na pinagsisilbihan niya, sa bayan na tinuturing niya na boss niya.”

Aside from the lack of support programs for LGBTs, Kapederasyon also regrets that Aquino has not backed the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill that would safeguard the rights and security of the community, saying it is not a priority of the government.

“Hindi priority ng rehimen na ito iyong pagpasa ng Anti-Discrimination Bill, para mapangalagaan iyong mga karapatan ng mga LGBT at iyong seguridad ng mga LGBT na nagreresulta sa sunod-sunod na pagpatay,” Red pointed out.

LGBTs stage their own SONA

LGBTs stage their own SONA

The Anti-Discrimination Bill, if passed, will enforce fines and jail time to anyone who commits discriminatory acts against LGBTs.

Some of the prohibited acts in the bill include the denial of access to public and military services; refusal of admission or expulsion from educational institutions; denial of access to medical and other health services; denial of access or use of establishments, utilities, or services including housing that are open to the general – all of which, on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Contrary to government pronouncements that the LGBT sector is part of state’s gender advocacy, in reality, their needs and concerns are not being addressed, Red added.

As Aquino’s term comes to an end, Kapederasyon calls for the inclusion of LGBT issues in the platforms of the 2016 presidential candidates.

“Sa mga tatakbo sa 2016, para masiguro nila na makukuha nila ang boto ng mga LGBT, kailangan may malinaw silang agendang ilalatag para sa kagalingan ng mga LGBT,” Red concluded.

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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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Did PNoy leave LGBT Pinoys in a ditch?

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Outrage Magazine | 29 July 2015

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LGBT organizations join the protest against President Noynoy Aquino, who has not once mentioned the plight of LGBT people in his SONA

LGBT organizations join the protest against President Noynoy Aquino, who has not once mentioned the plight of LGBT people in his SONA

Where are LGBT people in President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s so-called “daang matuwid” (straight/righteous path)?

As Aquino nears the end of his term, people are now asking if he has fulfilled his promises to the oft-mentioned “bosses”, the people. But – although since his election Aquino has focused on such issues as the economic growth by cutting the government spending, peace in Mindanao by talking (only) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the anti-corruption campaign that saw the arrests (though still sans the needed trials) of the likes of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. – the issue of LGBT rights was never part of his priorities.

Looking back, Aquino’s addresses to the nation (via the annual State of the Nation Address, or SONA) contained parts that gave hope to minorities – the LGBT community included – whose lives continue to be dire solely because they are minorities.

In Aquino’s his first SONA in 2010, he said that “kaakibat ng ating mga karapatan at kalayaan ay ang tungkulin natin sa kapwa at sa bayan (together with our rights and freedom is our responsibility to our fellowmen and to our country/nation).” In 2012, “kung may inaagrabyado’t ninanakawan ng karaptan, siya ang kakampihan ko. Kung may abusadong mapang-api, siya ang lalabanan ko. Kung may makita akong mali sa sistema, tungkulin kong itama ito (if there is someone disadvantaged and whose rights are stolen, I will side with him. If there are abusers, I will fight them. If I see errors in the system, it is my duty to correct these).” And then last year, “gabi-gabi po, bago ako matulog, thank you at nakalamapas pa ako ng isang araw. Kung, sabi nga noong bata kami, ‘finish or not finish, pass your paper’, eh dumating na sa akin, palagay ko naman naramdaman na ninyo kung anong pagbabagong karapatan ng bawat Pilipinong mangyari. At bahala na kayong ituloy ito (every night, before I go to sleep, I say thanks for surviving another day. When – as it was said when we were kids, ‘finished or not finished, pass your paper’, it already reached me, and I think you already felt the changes to the rights that happened for every Filipinos. It’s now up to you to continue these).

But in actuality, five years hence, none of these changes are LGBT-specific.

This is why, according to Murphy Red, chairperson of Kapederasyon LGBT Sectoral Organization, they are under no illusion that Aquino will do anything anymore for the LGBT Filipinos.

Hindi na kami umaasa, hindi na kami nagiilusyon na magbibigay siya ng tulong sa huling taon niya (sa mga LGBTs). Sana lang sa huling pagkakataon, sa huling taon ng kanyang paninilbihan ay mamulat siya sa katotohanan na may LGBT sa lipunan na pinagsisibilhan niya at sa sa bayan na tinuturing niyang boss (We no longer hope, we are not under any illusion that he will give help in his remaining year to LGBT people. We hope that in the last stretch, in the last year of his office, he will finally see that there are LGBT people among the Filipino people he keeps saying as his bosses),” Murphy Red said.

Aquino’s neglect of the LGBT people may be seen in the non-mention of the need for the passage of an anti-discrimination law, with an anti-discrimination bill languishing in Congress for over 15 years now. If passed, such a law will protect the human rights of LGBT Filipinos by enforcing fines and even jail times to anyone who discriminates against LGBT people.

But, as Murphy Red said, “hindi priority ng rehimen na ito ‘yung pagpapasa ng Anti-Discrimination Bill o yung paghahain ng Anti-Hate Crime Law o Bill, para mapangalagaan sana ‘yung karapatan ng mga LGBT, at yung seguridad ng mga LGBT (this regime has not prioritized the passage of an anti-discrimination bill or an anti-hate crime law that could ensure the protection of LGBT people, and the security of LGBT people).”

Already, the lack of anti-hate laws has “nagresulta na sa sunod-sunod na pagpatay ng LGBTs (this already resulted in the numerous deaths of LGBT people),” said Murphy Red, who cited as an example transgender woman Jennifer Laude, who was brutally killed last year, with the primary suspect a US Marine. 

There are already anti-discrimination ordinances in some local government units (LGUs) in the country, including in Angeles, Bacolod, Cavite, Cebu, Davao, and Quezon City. But even here, there are still reported cases of discrimination, showing that LGU-wide ordinances are not enough to ensure the protection of the rights of LGBT people.

Ang ibang mga marginalized sectors ay kahit papaano may mga institution sa pamahalaan na nag-ca-cater sa kanilang mga interest, tulad ng iba-ibang programa ng mga LGUs o ngDSWD na tumutulong sa mga pangangailangan ng ibang minorities. Pero sa mga LGBT, wala talagang institution na nasa gobyerno na mangangalaga. Kung mayroon man, kami pa ang namimilit (Other marginalized sectors at least have institutions in the government that cater to them and their interests, such as in LGUs and the Department of Social Welfare and Development. But for LGBT people, no government body looks after our interests. And even if they end up serving us, it’s because they are forced to do so),” Murphy Red said.

In this year’s SONA, Aquino’s motherhood statements abound, such as when he said that “kaya gaya sa lahat ng iba pang suliranin, pagkakaisa po ang tanging susi para mapangalagaan ang ating karapatan (like when dealing with all problems, unity is the key to look after our rights).” But while many LGBT people dared join his sloganeering for “daang matuwid“, thereby joining in his fight, Aquino’s administration didn’t show any concrete efforts for the LGBT community in the last five years.

Wala talaga siyang nagawa. Nakalimang SONA na siya pero ni minsan hindi niya binanggit and mga LGBT. Wala sa agenda niya ang kalagayan ng LGBT (He hasn’t done a thing for LGBT people. He already had five SONAs but he did not even mention LGBT people once. The plight of LGBT people is not in his agenda),” Murphy Red said. “Zero ang marka ni PNoy sa buong termino niya (He gets zero mark for his entire term).”

Aquino’s 2015 SONA lasted more than two hours – one of the longest delivered by any President. And as he concluded his speech, some militant lawmakers, staged their protest inside the plenary hall by showing placards that read, among others, “Human Rights Violator”, “Serbisyo Palpak”, and “Pork Barrel King”.

As if Aquino couldn’t do any wrong, those who did not agree with him were booed.

And now the countdown begins for the last months of Aquino’s presidency.

For some LGBT groups like Kapederasyon, there is no longer hope for the current administration to take notice of the struggles of the LGBT people. But as is routine, every six years, they can’t help but hope that the next president will finally give LGBT people the attention.

Sa mga tatakbo sa 2016, para masiguro nila na makukuha nila ang boto ng mga LGBT, kailangan may malinaw silang agendang ilalatag para sa kagalingan ng mga LGBT. At ‘yun lang talaga ang hihilingin namin sa mga susunod na kandidato (To those who will run for office in 2016, for them to get the votes of LGBT people, they should have clear agenda to better the lives of LGBT people. That’s the only wish we have for these next candidates),” Murphy Red ended.

Transgender woman Claire laments how her life as a working LGBT person has worsened – not only did she experience discriminatory practices in her workplace because of her sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, but she also continues to face difficulties because of the pervasive contractualization of workers that empower private companies like her former employer to illegally dismiss her before she can be regularized. For Claire, it’s “layer after layer of difficulties that continued under the presidency of Noynoy Aquino,” she said in Filipino. PHOTO BY AARON BONETTE

Transgender woman Claire laments how her life as a working LGBT person has worsened – not only did she experience discriminatory practices in her workplace because of her sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, but she also continues to face difficulties because of the pervasive contractualization of workers that empower private companies like her former employer to illegally dismiss her before she can be regularized. For Claire, it’s “layer after layer of difficulties that continued under the presidency of Noynoy Aquino,” she said in Filipino.
PHOTO BY AARON BONETTE

Rainbow-rising

At SONA 2015, local LGBT organizations highlighted how much remains to be done to better the plight of LGBT people in the Philippines, such as the urgent passage of the Anti-Discrimination Law that has been languishing in Congress for over 15 years. PHOTO BY AARON BONETTE

At SONA 2015, local LGBT organizations highlighted how much remains to be done to better the plight of LGBT people in the Philippines, such as the urgent passage of the Anti-Discrimination Law that has been languishing in Congress for over 15 years.
PHOTO BY AARON BONETTE

Pink-struggle

Various LGBT organizations also joined those who expressed their discontent with the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III, particularly since – almost six years after taking office – the plight of LGBT people has not progressed, with, among others, the lack of an anti-discrimination law. PHOTO BY AARON BONETTE

Various LGBT organizations also joined those who expressed their discontent with the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III, particularly since – almost six years after taking office – the plight of LGBT people has not progressed, with, among others, the lack of an anti-discrimination law.
PHOTO BY AARON BONETTE

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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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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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