Suspension of Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘LGBT Filipinos

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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What the SSS pension hike means to senior LGBTs

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Outrage Magazine | 01 February 2016

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Growing-old-and-gay

Poverty knows no sexual orientation or gender identity.

With Philippine President Benigno Aquino III vetoing the bill that would have increased the pension to be received by beneficiaries of the Social Security System (SSS), pensioners who are also members of the LGBT community are joining the fray against the move considered as both “inhumane” and “anti-poor”.

Dati akong nagtatrabaho sa isang kooperatiba (I used to work in a cooperative),” said 62-year-old gay pensioner Andrea del Rosario. “As an SSS member, my contributions were automatically deducted from my salary; and during that time, hindi ko masyadong pinag-aralan kung ano mangyayari sa kontribusyon kobasta ang alam ko, may aasahan ako pagtanda ko (I didn’t closely look at how my contributions were handled; I just knew that when I grow old, I’d have something to fall back on).”

And now that Aquino’s government refused to “give us minimal increase, even if the SSS executives profit from us, talagang pinapahirapan kami (we’re really placed in a difficult situation),” Del Rosario said.

FAILED JOURNEY

As early as March 2011 a bill seeking for an increase in monthly retirement pension to a minimum of P7,000 a month was already submitted to Congress. This did not pass, so that in January 2013, a new bill substituted the previous version, this time looking into a reduced increase of a maximum P2,000-a-month pension. In July of the same year, another bill was passed in response to the substitution, again highlighting the need for the proposed increase.

Not incidentally, also in July 2013, Aquino said in his State of the Nation Address that “it is time to amend the SSS pension scheme. We must establish measures that remedy the outflow of funds.” Interestingly, Aquino is also a defender of granting SSS executives hefty bonuses.

It was only in 2015 when, finally, the Congress approved the P2,000 across-the-board pension hike.

However, Aquino vetoed the increase in January, stating that “while we recognize the objective of the bill to promote the well-being of the country’s private sector retirees, we cannot support the bill in its present form because of its dire financial consequences.”

GROWING OLD AS LGBT

For Del Rosario, the effects of Aquino’s “anti-poor SSS stance” are very defined among LGBT pensioners like himself.

Kaming mga gay senior citizens na walang binubuhay ang mas may kailangan (Gay senior citizens like us who do not support anyone, need the money most),” he said.

On one hand, exactly because they do not support others, “wala rin kaming aasahang susuporta sa amin pagtanda namin (We expect no one to support us when we grow old),” Del Rosario said. As such, “we only live on what we get.”

On the other hand – and this is reflective of the Philippine society expecting those who supposedly do not have families of their own (such as LGBT people) to help look after the families of their relatives – Del Rosario said that his pension is also used “para makatulong sa mga pamangkin at apo (to help my nephews/nieces and grandchildren),” he said. “Sila ang aking tinutustusan at pinagbibigyan kung may hinihingi o pangangailangan sila (I support them when they ask or need something).”

The small pension he receives makes it “difficult to live, much more to help out.”

FALSE HOPE

Del Rosario said that “many like me resort to utang (borrowing money).”

Talagang hindi sapat ang nakukuha naming pensyon. Nababaon kami sa utang at ang mga lending institutions na may matataas na interest rates lamang ang nakikinabang, pinapahirapan nila kami lalo (The pension we receive is not enough. We are deep in debts, and only lending institutions with high interest rates benefit from this, as they make our lives more miserable),” del Rosario said.

He also added that he is one of many seniors – LGBT and non-LGBT – still hoping for some changes to happen to “acknowledge ang pinagdadaanan namin (what we’re going through), considering that we have to spend more sa gamot, pantustos sa mas maraming tao (for medicines, to support a bigger family)…”

But beyond this, though, Del Rosario said he hopes for a change of heart to “start ensuring that the elderly are taken care.”

Magkaroon sana sila ng magandang pananaw at kabuuang malasakit para sa mga senior citizens (I hope they gain better understanding of the plight, and have more compassion for the senior citizens),” del Rosario 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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Is there Pride in the ‘daang matuwid’?

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Outrage Magazine | 04 June 2014

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IMG_6022 copyWith so much weight given to it to represent the LGBT community in the Philippines, the defeat of Ang Ladlad in two consecutive elections left many in the LGBT Filipino community in the middle of the battleground (so to speak), not knowing what the next actions will be. This may be because the path to LGBT equality continues to be a long and seemingly unending struggle; in fact, many advocates have already aged and retired, some have been killed along the way, and still some just lost hope and gave up.

Looking closely, this is not at all surprising. Twenty years already passed since the first LGBT Pride March was held in the Philippines, and yet, beyond the cheerful chants, hopeful smiles and parties, and the optimism of LGBT people, the protection of our basic rights remain evasive. Consider that when LGBT people attempted to seek representation in Congress, they were called “immoral” by a Commission on Election commissioner. When they reached out to the media, they were continuously labeled as “third sex”, as if there’s a hierarchy in shelling out who to respect.

It was in 2010, the same year when Ang Ladlad first lost in the elections, when the country turned “yellow” by voting for Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. But four years since then, are there any significant changes, particularly for the LGBT Filipinos?

PNoy, of course, famously said that he believes LGBT people should not be discriminated. Yet he also expressed apprehension when it comes to allowing LGBT people to adopt. The disconnect was not noticed; it’s a case of “I don’t have issues with you, but…”

And so while there may be people who will claim that under PNoy’s term (so far) many changes have been made, just as many can claim that many Filipinos are left out in the long-term plans of the Aquino administration.  And this includes members of the LGBT community.

Do you remember when, in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, PNoy said that “it feels good to be Filipino these days”?

I remember.

But, I also ask:

How can it feel good when – as members of the LGBT community – we still experience discrimination, and the perpetrators get away with what they do?

How can other LGBT people feel good when companies would rather deny their application because of their gender identity rather than hire them for their skills/talents?

How can an HIV-positive Filipino feel good when he’s unsure of what’s going to happen to him after the Global Fund ends? For that matter, when the security of his medical supplies waver, even if membership to PhiHealth is supposed to cover the same.

How can families of slain LGBT people feel good when justice is being denied to them?

How can we feel good when suffering – solely because we are LGBT – is fast becoming a norm for us?

How can we feel good when an anti-discrimination law that will protect our basic rights continue to languish (since 1999!) in either Houses of Congress? If it were not for the efforts of local governments – like the cities of Quezon, Bacolod, Angeles, Cebu and Davao – some version of anti-discrimination policy wouldn’t see the light of the day.

And so the question remains: is celebrating Pride in a country where corrupt people are being escorted by bodyguards and are called honorable, and where prosecuted officials who are receiving VIP treatment in their fully air-conditioned rooms, still relevant?

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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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