Suspension of Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘lgbt philippines

The young believer

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Outrage Magazine | 29 June 2018

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“As long as there are LGBT advocates who will fight tirelessly for the advancement of our advocacy, things will get better.”

So said 19-year-old Ian Jaurigue, a self-identified “gender advocate”.

And Ian believes that “(the older generation) did a good job when it comes to working for the advocacy, and we need to learn from their experiences and be grateful for it. If they did not start it, the advocacy would not have had moved forward.”

According to Ian, the young advocates today still have a lot to do; and for Ian, this is “not just talk and rant about (the issues).”

But while recognizing the efforts of those who helped start the movement, Ian also recognizes that there are gaps. And these gaps are not helped by the “disconnect” between his generation and the one before it.

“The struggles may have evolved and revolutionized, but we, the younger generation, still need to reflect and learn from what they have accomplished,” he said. Only “by doing this (will we be helped to) have a stronger grasp of our advocacy.”

Also, even if the LGBTQI movement has reached new heights, according to Ian, the young advocates today still have a lot to do; and for Ian, this is “not just talk and rant about (the issues).”

“It is nice to know that there are already a lot of people who support us. But it does not mean that we should settle for these little triumphs. As long as there is still inequality on the basis of one’s SOGIE, our call and our fight should be stronger,” Ian said.

Incidentally, Ian is also a freelance makeup artist, theater and indie actor, dancer, a student at U.P. Diliman, and… a drag artist. He is known in the drag community as – plainly – Mrs Tan.

“My style is a mixture of dance, comedy, and theater,” Ian said.

Though he is still new in the world of drag, Ian believes that the way he carries himself and how he performs onstage prove that “age is nothing but a number”.

Ian merges his advocacy with his performances, making sure that “every performance brings a certain message and not just a spectacle. I like the feeling when I’m able to give a deeper message to the audience while I’m performing,” he said.

His first foray into the world of drag was when he joined U.P. Samaskom’s Live AIDS. Ian took on the role of a drag queen. But he felt, during that time, that “drag should be more than what I did in Live AIDS; there should be meaning to it.”

Whenever he performs, “I feel a sense of fulfillment and liberation. I’m not just entertaining people, I’m also giving them something to think about. There is pride to it.”

For someone as young as Ian, “Pride is both a celebration and a revolution.”

On the one hand, it is a celebration of the LGBT community’s diversity, accomplishments, and ongoing contributions. But on the other hand, “Pride is also a protest for the members who are not able to take advantage and enjoy their basic human rights, and for those who have died because they are members of the LGBTQI community,” Ian ended.

“It is nice to know that there are already a lot of people who support us. But it does not mean that we should settle for these little triumphs. As long as there is still inequality on the basis of one’s SOGIE, our call and our fight should be stronger,” Ian said.

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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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The impetus for organizing LGBTQI Pride in the Phl

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Outrage Magazine | 29 June 2018

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It was in 1994 when the very first Pride March was held in the Philippines (and in Asia). The Philippines was actually the pioneer in the region.

“There was no interference or harassment along the way, but a lot of noise and shouting in the ranks of the 50 or so marchers,” recalled Fr. Richard Mickley, who used to head Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in the Philippines. MCC held a mass during that first Pride March in the Philippines.

Aside from Mickley, Oscar Atadero – then with ProGay Philippines – helped make the event happen, along with the likes of Murphy Red, et al.

Incidentally, 1994 also marked the 25th year since the “modern” lesbian and gay movement “started”, thanks to the Stonewall Inn Riot in New York.

“We recognized that we now had open, not closeted, organizations. But the movement was still quiet or unknown. We felt we needed a (local) Stonewall,” Mickley continued.

So the date was set.

The route was planned.

As the small group of LGBT organizations marched along Quezon Avenue to Quezon Memorial Circle, they were confronted by the park police and was asked, “Where are you are you going?”

“We had no assembly permit. We sat by the roadside until the activists of ProGay ironed out the stumbling block. (After it was settled), we made our way to an assembly area with a stage,” Mickley said.

Aside from Fr. Richard Mickley, Oscar Atadero – then of ProGay Philippines – helped make the first LGBT Pride March in the Philippines happen, along with the likes of Murphy Red, et al. PHOTO COURTESY OF FR. RICHARD MICKLEY

But in the end, “the first Pride March brought a publicity breakthrough. The purpose of the Pride March was realized – (to show) that the gay and lesbian people of the Philippines are real people, and they are not freaks in a closet,” Mickley added.

CONTINUING PRIDE

In 1996,  several LGBT organizations formed the Task Force Pride (TFP), a community-driven organization that was to be in-charge of organizing the annual Pride March in Metro Manila.

“One of the highlights of the early years was that of 1998. The Pride March was part of the contingent of the National Centennial Parade, as the Philippines celebrated 100 years of independence. Let that sink in. We marched in front of two presidents at the Quirino Grandstand, just before the transition from Fidel Ramos to Joseph Estrada,” Mickley said.

Ten years later, the LGBT movement in the Philippines grew bigger and stronger. And the fight for equal rights was – finally – in everyone’s consciousness.

Metro Manila Pride March in 2011, when the annual gathering was still political.

TFP continued to organize the annual march – at least the one in Metropolitan Manila. As a network, it was headed by different members of the LGBT community, representing different organizations. Every decision, every move was derived from consultations by/from the participating groups and members.

“More than the celebration, what was really memorable was that despite the community coming from all walks of life and various agendas, sub agendas, locations, et al., it was great to see everyone working as one, for just one moment in a year,” Great Ancheta, one of the organizers of the 2004 and 2005 Pride celebrations, said.

There were years when Pride almost did not happen.

In 2013, Quezon City was supposed to host the annual Pride March, but the supposed organizer (the local government unit/LGU) opted to cancel the event to donate the funds collected to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

“I was rattled with the idea that there will be no Pride March that year. I had to call all possible LGBT advocates that could help me organize Pride in two weeks time,” Raffy Aquino, one of the organizers of the 2013 Pride celebrations, said.

The Pride march almost did not happen in 2013; but REAL community effort – with approximately P5,000 – still made it happen.

Aquino – with the likes of GANDA Filipinas, Outrage Magazine and Rainbow Rights Project – reached out to different organizations and establishments in Malate (at that time still thriving as the LGBT capital of the country).

“We had more or less P5,000 in funds, which came from the previous TFP organizers. I even waited until six or seven in the evening in Manila City Hall, the day before the event, for the permit to be released,” Aquino added.

But the 2013 Pride March happened.

And then came 2014, when “a super typhoon hit the country at the same time when Pride was scheduled, and we nearly had to cancel. Despite that, people still attended. (And) understandably, it had the lowest turnout in years. But it still showed that for many people, celebrating Pride is still important,” Jade Tamboon, one of the organizers of the 2012 and 2013 Pride celebrations, said.

PRIDE HURDLES

Organizing an event like the Pride March is not an easy feat, with organizers needing to deal with different factors – both internal and external to the LGBT community.

Pride in 2015 remained political; even if the march also started to become as just a parade.

“Working with the local government was one of our challenges (during our) time. Securing permits was also hard. And of course, rallying up sponsors,” Ancheta said.

Since the LGBT community in the Philippines is (still) only tolerated and not widely accepted, getting supporters that could help the event happen has been the most common problem year after year.

“Financing Pride has always been a major challenge, then and now. People don’t realize how expensive it is to mount Pride. But there’s also the logistics – the sourcing of materials, permits and vendors – that’s another thing people rarely see when they go to a Pride celebration,” Tamboon said.

He added, “this has been a perennial problem of the Pride organizers: early fund-raising. It may be because organizers have not come up with a solution, rather than raising funds so close to the event date.”

YOUNG PRIDE

Today, organizing Pride marches – or aptly, parades – is mostly dominated by the young members of the LGBT community. And – whatever their stands/positions may be on LGBT human rights – this is as should be/bound to happen, with the passing of the baton inevitable.

By 2017, the annual Pride has followed the Western format, with private companies supporting the parade, and some even co-opting the LGBTQI struggle.

But the younger generation have it somewhat easier. As Ancheta said, “Pride celebrations are not limited now to the Pride marches/parades or events, with support for Pride now coming from various companies as evidenced in social networking posts.”

There are now also numerous Pride-related events – whether in the form of marches or parades – in various parts of the Philippines, from Baguio City to Cebu City, Davao City to Iloilo City, Iligan City to the Province of Batangas, among others. Even within Metro Manila, other cities already started their own (separate) Pride marches/parades, finally “devolving” the so-called Metro Manila Pride parade (nee “march”).

But even if the expressions of Pride (now) vary, that sense of solidarity – and raising awareness via that solidarity – remains…

“The increased interest and participation during the recent years, especially among the younger people, is a success in itself. More and more people are unafraid to be out and to showcase their (so-called) Pride,” Tamboon added.

“The recent Pride celebrations are successful in terms of numbers; they were able to target a bigger audience and wider corporate supporters. The younger organizers are also creative and well-versed in branding and marketing. They were able to utilize social media and digital marketing,” Aquino stressed.

STRUGGLE NEEDS TO CONTINUE

But for Aquino, everyone needs to remember that “Pride is not just a one day event.”

“The LGBT community of the Philippines is no longer hidden, closeted or unknown. We are here; we are everywhere – with our heads held high,” Mickley said. “We are on the way, (but) we are (still) seeking equality in the human family,” Mickley said.

*Interview requests were also sent to other past Pride organizers, but – as of press time – Outrage Magazine did not receive any response from them.

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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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The missing link

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Outrage Magazine | 24 June 2018

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Twenty-four years ago, the Philippines was introduced to the concept of parading for “Pride”. In fact, it wasn’t even just a parade when it started; it was a “march”. The former – in a gist – is mere celebration, while the latter has more weight, what with the political undertones. The coming of “Pride” helped in the continuation of the sparking of the local LGBTQI movement by serving as additional stepping stone of some sort.

Since then, in fact, the Philippines’ LGBTQI community has continuously experienced many firsts.

To name a few, the milestones included: LGBT-related crimes based on hate finally made the headlines; Ang Ladlad, a political party-list that was initially shamed and called immoral successfully joined the roster of electoral candidates; the anti-discrimination bill (ADB) crawled its way to the session halls of lawmakers; HIV prevalence and poor access to ARV (antiretroviral) drugs were discussed; the community was called “masahol pa sa hayop” by a senator; a transgender woman wins a congressional seat; and the issue of same-sex marriage continuously hounds everyone.

The first Pride March in the Philippines, held in the early 1990s, helped make happen the things that the younger generation are enjoying. It may be cliché, but those who came before us took a lot of the hit by being the first to confront erroneous systems that gravely affected (and still affect) us.

Here’s the interesting thing, though: NOT everyone believes we owe those who came before us any shit.

I was in an LGBTQI event (one of those that were held to – ironically – celebrate “Pride”) when a young “leader” infamously claimed: “They (the elder LGBTQI people) haven’t done anything for us (Millennials). What did they do for the community, exactly; and for us/my generation?”

That someone can even think so left me dumbfounded.

National hero Jose Rizal keeps getting upgraded to make him relevant to the youth; one of his latest iterations is via a manga comics (even available online). But it seems that aside from the “cool” reinterpretation, the lessons he taught aren’t necessarily learned. Otherwise, the oft-cited “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan (He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination) won’t be forgotten so quickly.

And then, just a few days after that (this time, in the “Pride” event of the US Embassy), I met another young member of the LGBTQI community who told me that – for all intents and purposes – “Pride” has ceased to be a struggle. This is, her insinuation is, for the oldies. At least for her (and her followers/supporters), for the young, “LGBTQI ‘Pride’ is now all about partying and celebrating.”

Yes, I agree with her, of course.

But no, I can’t agree with her completely.

Because while Pride is a time to mark all our successes, all the milestones, we should also use that moment to remind everyone that there is still a long way to go. That many members of the LGBTQI community are still struggling is a fact; ignoring this is not only ignorant, it is selfish.

She called me cynical, negative… and drunk.

If seeing the ongoing struggles of many LGBTQI people is cynical and gives many younger LGBTQI people negative vibes (that dampens their party spirit), then perhaps I am a cynic. And if being able to question erroneously held beliefs means being branded as “drunk”, then so be it, too.

Because – at the end of the day – even though “Pride” continues to evolve, two facts remain. First, that our concepts of “Pride” now (even the wanton partying) is because those who came before us made it possible; and second, that even if we just want to party during “Pride” nowadays, not every LGBTQI person can access these elitist “Pride” gatherings because they continue to experience hardships in life (many of these difficulties aggravated by their being LGBTQI).

Pride is a moment of reckoning. Yes, it’s a time to give each other a pat on the back. But it’s also an opportunity to remind the person standing next to us that there is still a long, long, long way to go, and that no one can do it alone.

Because in the end, let’s stop pretending that it’s all rainbows and butterflies. Without mincing words: We’ve taken steps, but we are still in deep shit.

And that’s not being negative or cynical or drunk; just plainly stating reality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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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Close encounters with pro- and anti-LGBT Christ believers during Pride

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Outrage Magazine | 6 July 2017

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“They’re here again,” a gay man in his 40s said.

He was referring to the religious protesters during the annual Pride parade in Metro Manila, making their presence felt with their on-your-face way to (supposedly) teach the LGBT community members about everything that’s “wrong” with their way of living.

“I came here because I love God. And if LGBTs face God, they face their sin. And if they face their sin, they will know how much God loves them,” John, a Born Again Christian from Francisville, angrily yelled.

John was on the sidelines, separated from the protesters by some policemen. But whether they’re there to protect the LGBT revelers or the so-called Christian protesters is up for questioning – the latter may be vociferous, but the former have the number (it’s Pride parade, after all).

Another Born Again Christian protester, Angela, added: “We are are here so people will know that they would need to repent because God loves them. We love them. They need to repent so they will come to know Jesus. LGBTs need to repent in order to come to the kingdom of heaven.”

In various English versions of the Bible, homosexuality was mentioned in several books.

For instance, in Leviticus 18:22-23:

22 You must not have sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman; it is detestable act. 23 You must not have sexual intercourse with any animal to become defiled with it, and a woman must not stand before an animal to have sexual intercourse with it; it is perversion.

Romans 1:26-28:

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

1 Timothy 1:8-11:

8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebel, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality for slave traders and liars and perjurers – and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

And for these protesters, the Bible should be interpreted to the letter.

Surprisingly, Christian leaders themselves are against this very approach.

For instance, Pope Benedict XVI, former leader of the Roman Catholic Church, said that “an authentic interpretation of the Bible must always be in harmony with the faith of the Catholic,” as he criticized ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘literalist’ interpretations and urged a “renewed appreciation for the symbolic and spiritual interpretation techniques used by the ancient fathers of the church.”

Meanwhile, Pope Francis, the current leader of the Catholic faith, still one of the strongest religions that exist, encourages people to embrace gays and transexuals. “Each case must be welcomed, accompanied, studied, discerned, and integrated. When a person (who is gay) arrives before Jesus, Jesus certainly will not say, ‘Go away because you are homosexual,” Pope Francis was quoted as saying.

So much for leadership, though, with the flock not taking heed.

In a poll conducted by Gallup, three out of four Americans actually believe that the Bible is the ACTUAL WORD of God and should be TAKEN LITERALLY. This is even after taking into consideration not only the inconsistencies, but the outdated perspectives in the Bible.

The surprising thing is the nitpicking of chapters and verses from the Bible seemingly to justify personal positions.

Take for instance Sodom and Gomorrah, which has nothing to do with homosexuality.

Even the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has stated that the LGBT community should not be condemned and should be given respect.

And there’s Leviticus 20:13, which states that “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”

So anyone who would take the Bible literally must also campaign for the execution of homosexuals.

“We never said we hate LGBTs. We never said LGBTs do not deserve to be happy. They just need to repent and welcome Jesus into their lives again. We never said LGBTs are bad. What they are doing on the other hand… they need to change it,” Angela said.

Her companion John is louder: “They (LGBTs) are hypocrites! How can they know God if what they are doing is wrong?”

But then also at Pride, there are other Christians who are openly asking for apology for all the hate caused by religion/s to LGBT community members.

And so yes, these Born Again Christian protesters are entitled to voice their opinions while quoting Bible verses left and right. And these Christians asking for the LGBT community’s forgiveness are also entitled to air their side.

In the end, it’s safe to say that with the Bible, it’s a matter of interpretation and… morals. But judgment is anchored on the discourse of human rights; and here, alas, who’s on the wrong and on the right side of fence?

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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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Pride in the eyes of those at the fringes of LGBT community

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Outrage Magazine | 23 June 2017

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Everything LGBT-related is magnified in June every year, marked as the month when LGBT Pride is supposed to be celebrated (thanks, largely, to its Western-led identification as “Pride Month” because it was when the Stonewall Riots happened in New York City in 1969).

But while discussions on the evolution of Pride has already been happening overseas (again, largely in Western contexts, with the commercialization of Pride getting flak, such as THIS, THIS and THIS; and yes, some support), the same has not been really happening in the Philippines. Yes, discussions about the annual “walk” being identified as a “march” (meaning it’s political) versus a “parade” (meaning it’s just for show) have happened in the past, but – by and large – the evolution of Pride here to end up mimicking Western model/s can be argued to be not happening.

Fact: There will be opponents and supporters of both sides.

But in the midst of the noise, what needs to be kept in mind is that Pride is supposed to celebrate the “rainbow diversity”. That is, it’s supposed to be for everyone, not just for the select few (who can afford to access it).

Because there remain many members of the LGBT community whose narratives are often just left in the cutting room, marked as “not sexy” or “not newsworthy”.

These are the #KaraniwangLGBT, our LGBT brothers and sisters who are at the fringes not just of society, but even of the LGBT community. Those whose idea of Pride is limited to “it’s not for people like us”.

Outrage Magazine chats with some of those still looking for Pride… and yet seemingly left by the very movement that’s supposed to help them find this Pride.

THE LESBIAN CONFIDANT 

People always mistake them as lovers. They’ve known each other for more than five years now.

But “magkaibigan lang kami. May boyfriend siya at mga anak, tapos ako, may nililigawan (we’re just friends. She has a boyfriend and kids, and me, I’m wooing another),” Jeng said.

They both live in Tondo, among the informal settlers there. Each day, they share meals together – with the kids and other family members.

Alas-otso ng umaga nung tumawag siya sa akin. Iyak siya ng iyak. Binalita niya sa akin na nakuha na niya ‘yung HIV test niya, at positive siya (She called me at eight in the morning. She was crying. She told me she got the result of her HIV test, and that she tested positive),” Jeng continued.

Jeng is a pedicab driver. On a good day, “kumikita ako ng P150. Pero kung wala masyadong pasahero, P50lang. Nagbibigay pa kasi ako sa may-ari ng pedicab (I earn P150. But if there aren’t many passengers, just P50. I also have to give the pedicab owner his share).”

But nowadays, “mas mahirap kumita. Kasi binabantayan at sinasamahan ko siya palagi kapag nagpupunta sa ospital. Hindi ko siya kayang pabayaan kasi ang dami na namin pinagsamahan. Noong ako ang nagkaproblema dati, nandun siya palagi sa tabi ko. Kahit na hirap ako sa sitwasyon ko, okay lang kasi masaya ako at kasama ko best friend ko (it’s harder to earn. I go with her to the hospital. I can’t leave her alone. We’ve been through a lot already. When it was me who had problems, she was there. It’s not easy but, I’m happy I can be with her),” Jeng said.

Asked about Pride, and the annual march/parade, she looked confused: “Pride March? Ano ‘yun? Puro kasiyahan lang yata yan at same-sex marriage. Paano naman kami makikinabang dyan (What’s that? It’s just for partying and for same-sex marriage? What’s that to us)?” she asked.

THE ‘KERI LANG’ WORKER 

“Al – two letters lang. ‘Yan ang binigay sa akin na pangalan. Keri lang, at least madali lang tandaan (My name is Al – just two letters. That’s the name given to me, so that’s okay. At least it’s easy to remember),” he said.

Al flips burgers for a living.

Wala akong basic na sahod, porsyento lang. Kapag kumita itong store, may take home ako (I don’t get basic salary, just a percentage of what the store earns. If the store earns something, then I get to take home something),” he said.

Al works for 16 hours every day. Sometimes, he earns P500 in a day. But on a regular basis, his take home is from P150 to P200 per day.

Pinapaaral ko pa kapatid ko. Tapos nangungupahan lang kami (I also send a sibling to school. And we just rent our place),” he said.

Then trying to sound optimistic: “Keri lang, buti nga at may trabaho ako. Hindi katulad ng iba dyan, hirap na hirap maghanap ng trabaho (It’s okay, at least I have a job. Others have a hard time finding a job),” he added.

With Al only getting some five hours of rest every day, “celebrating” Pride is far from his mind. The priority, he said, is for him to earn a decent living – even a small amount – as long as “wala akong ginagawang masama (I don’t do anything illegal).”

THE DEVOTEE

Ano pangalan mo? Dadasalan kita. Sa ngalan sa Amahan, sa Anak ug sa Espiritu Santo, amen. Senyor Sto Niño, Mama Mary, Senyor San Pedro Calungsod, mga santos, mga santas. Mahal na Senyor Sto. Niño…”

Her name is Gretchen. She has been a candle vendor at Magellan’s Cross in Cebu for more than 30 years now. She inherited her job from her ancestors. It was passed onto her mother, and after she passed away, Gretchen took over.

Araw-araw ako nagdadasal dito kay Senyor Sto. Niño. Si Sto. Niño, mas more na malapit kami sa kanya, maraming blessing siya binibihgay sa amin,” she shared.

As a devout Catholic and believer of Sto. Niño, Gretchen is always ridiculed because she is trans.

But she said: “Unsa ang kinahanglan nga ako kaulawan? Dili ko usa ka kriminal, dili ko usa ka kawatan (What should I be ashamed of? I’m not a criminal. I’m not a thief),” she said.

Gretchen thanks God that despite the discrimination she is experiencing, there are still many people who continue to trust her with their religious intercessions.

But – aside from praying for others – every night, she also prays for people to respect her for who and what she really is.

Mahal na Senyor Sto. Niño, salamat sa pagpasaylo kanako (thank you for forgiving me). Viva Pit Senyor! Mahal na Sto. Niño,” she ended. 

THE CHARMING WAITRESS

Nagkaroon ako ng boyfriend dati, estudyante lang siya. Gwapo siya, fresh na fresh ang itsura. Kaya lang tuwing nagkikita kami, binibigyan ko siya ng allowance para may panggastos siya sa school (I had a BF before. He was a student. He was handsome. But every time we met, I had to give him money, his allowance for his schooling),” Kakay shared as she prepared the paresorders. “Wala naman akong choice. Wala ako mahanap na matinong lalaki na pwedeng maging boyfriend. Isa sa marming rason, wala akong maayos na trabaho – trabaho na pwede ako ipagmalaki at iuwi sa bahay para ipakilala (It’s not like I have a choice. I couldn’t find a proper man to be my BF. One of the reasons is I don’t even have a good job – a job that will make him proud to introduce me to his family).”

Kakay works in one of the pares houses in Manila. She has been with them for many years already, even if“mababa lang ang sahod, okay na rin (I don’t earn much, though that’s just fine).”

She tried her luck – several times actually – to apply for other jobs. But the usual answer that Kakay said she gets: “Hindi kami tumatanggap ng bakla. Mahirap na, baka magkaproblema pa kami sa iyo (We don’t take in gay people. You could just give us problems).”

Kakay identifies as a woman, and she longs to be able to transition. “Hindi ako pamhinta, hindi ako bakla, babae ako. Hindi niyo palang nakikita ang totoo kong anyo (I’m not ‘straight-acting’, I’m not gay, I’m a woman. But you haven’t seen my real personhood yet).”

Kakay is proud with her life – somehow. Pinaghirapan ko ang lahat ng ito (I worked hard for what I now have),” she said. “Pero kung may pagkakataon na mas maging okay ang sitwasyon ko, syempre attack ako doon. Pero sa tingin ko malabo na mangyari ‘yun, kasi hindi naman kami nakikita (But if there’s a chance to do better, I’d go there. Though this doesn’t seem realistic because no one really sees us).”

THE ANGEL BARKER

Outrage Magazine first met the Angel of Quezon Avenue in 2014, a transgender woman barker who said “matagal ko na ginagawa ito. Bata palang ako,barker na ako (I’ve been doing this for a while now. I was just a child, I was already a barker).”

She did not finish college because her family could not afford to send her to school. She was left with no choice but to succumb to one of the easiest ways to earn a living.

Sumubok ako rumaket sa iba last year pero walang nangyari. Tapos naghanap ako ng ibang trabaho, wala rin tumanggap sa akin (I tried looking for other jobs, but nothing happened. No one wanted to hire me),” Angel said. “Ganito talaga ang buhay, kailangan mong tanggapin ang sitwasyon mo. Ngayon tiis-tiis lang. Basta magkakasama kami ng pamilya ko (That’s life. You have to accept your situation. Now, you just put up with things. As long as I’m with my family).”

Of course, if given a chance to do a different work with a better pay, “tatanggapin ko ‘yun! Walang pagdadalawang isip (I’ll accept that – no second thoughts).”

Today, Angelo continues to be a jeepney and FX barker. She earns P50 to P60 in a day.

THE SEX WORKER

PJ just turned 18 last May. He celebrated his birthday with two of his closest friends over a bottle of Red Horse Mucho and Chippy while walking at Plaza Divisoria.

Ito lang kaya ng budget. Wala kasi masyadongcustomer. Okay na rin, na-celebrate ko namanbirthday ko (This is all I can afford. There aren’t a lot of customers. But it’s okay, I was still able to celebrate my birthday),” he said.

PJ is from Cagayan de Oro. When he was 16 years old, he went to Manila to look for work. In just a matter of two days, he got a job at the pier. He was earning P150 per day.

Pero wala akong tinutuluyan ‘nun, doon lang din ako sapier natutulog. Tapos syempre maliit lang ‘yung P150 na kita. Kadalasan isang beses lang ako kumakain sa isang araw (But I was homeless then. Often, we just slept at the pier. Also, P150 isn’t a big amount. At times we just eat once a day),” PJ recalled.

To augment his income, he resorted to sex work.

Pagkatapos kong magbuhat ng mga delivery, naglalakad na ako sa Roxas Boulevard hangang Star City. Minsan may edad na babae ang kumukuha sa akin, minsan matandang bakla, minsan mag-asawa (After work, I’d walk along Roxas Blvd. until I reach Star City. At times, older women hired me, at times older gay men, and at times couples),” PJ said.

But after three weeks, he lost his raket at the pier. And since he did not have a place to stay or know anyone in Manila, he saved up – from paid sexual encounters – and went back to CDO.

Today, he is with his boyfriend and girlfriend – yes, he is in a relationship with two people. Both are also sex workers.

Wala naman masama kung tatlo kami sa relasyon. Nagmamahalan kami. Mabuti rin ito, at least tatlo kami nagtutulungan sa buhay (There’s nothing wrong with having three people in a relationship. We all love one another. It’s also good since we’re all able to help each other out),” PJ ended.

THE FATHER AND THE SON

Dati akong construction worker, pero huminto na ako ngyaon. May anak akong bakla (I used to be a construction worker. But I stopped. I have a gay son),Mang Rey shared.

His gay son is only 16 years old and they live in Quezon province. Every two months, they wake very early in the morning, around 2:00 AM, to travel to Manila.

Nalungkot ako nung nalaman ko na HIV-positive ang anak ko. Tinatanong ko siya kung saan o paano niya nakuha yung sakit, pero hindi siya nagkukwento. Tumutulo na lang ang luha niya (It saddens me knowing he has HIV. I ask him how he got infected, but he doesn’t tell me. He just sheds tears),” Mang Rey said, wiping his own tears.

Their family used to be in a better financial situation, but because of his son’s medical condition – and the insufficient support that PhilHealth gives to PLHIVMang Rey is now struggling to make ends meet.

Lumapit kami sa iba’t-ibang agencies para humingi ng suporta. Tapos nung nalaman nila na bakla ang anak ko, parang naging komplikado yung proseso. May ganun pa pala hangang ngayon (We’ve approached various agencies to ask for help. But when they found out my son’s gay, the process changed. I didn’t know things like that still happen these days),” he said, dismayed.

He added: “Sana ung mga NGO dyan o ung mga grupo para sa mga bakla at may HIV, tignan nila ung mga may kailangan talaga, hindi lang ung mga may kaya. Kami ang mas may kailangan ng atensyon at suporta (I hope NGOs, LGBT groups and groups for PLHIVs look at those who really need help, not those who are affluent. It’s us who really need attention and support).”

Pride – we say – is for everyone, including (if not particularly for) those at the fringes, the people most in need of finding this Pride.

Because sans them in the equation, ours is a tattered rainbow, with the destruction coming from within…

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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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