‘One Big Pride': Ateneo LGBTQIA+ community calls for acceptance on women’s month
MANILA, Philippines – In an effort to be one with women in the fight against gender inequality, the Ateneo community through its student government Sanggunian ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila held “One Big Pride” on March 15, in time with the celebration of International Women’s Month and Zero Discrimination Day.
LGBTQIA stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual.
The Ateneo Loyola Schools, a Catholic and Jesuit academic community, is finally moving towards becoming an all-gender-friendly society. In December 2018, the Loyola Schools Gender Policy, which aims to build a “gender-inclusive, gender-responsive, and gender-safe” Ateneo, was established.
“Genuine acceptance goes more than holding a pride march. Genuine acceptance means having counter-structures in the university that advocate for gender equality,” Bendaña said.
She added that genuine acceptance should also manifest in integrating gender equality in the curriculum and recognizing the gender movement in Philippine history.(READ: Strength in colors: The Filipino LGBTQ community)
For communications student and One Big Pride attendee Fran Enriquez, genuine acceptance is not treating the LGBTQ community as “different” and not boxing them through labels.
At a time when people have become divided on political, social, and religious views, Atenean Joseph Caligner believes that genuine acceptance come from a place where people are seen and treated equally, and where people acknowledge that the LGBTQIA+ “deserve those same rights, same opportunities, same love as everyone else.”
For Sanggunian Gender Equality Co-Commissioner Ramon Tanjuatco, not defining a person based on their sexuality or gender is the essence of genuine acceptance.
“Our worth is more than just sexuality…. We can give our abilities to whatever advocacies that we want to push for, in health, in education, in business, in any aspect, where being LGBT is not an inhibition but maybe even a propulsion to do great things,” Tanjuatco said.
Asked about the significance of celebrating Pride in their university, Tanjuatco said it allows a space for those who have felt prejudiced and discriminated for celebrating their identity.
“It gives us a sense of hope, a sense of acceptance in a community. Now we are being heard, now we’re being recognized, now we’re being loved,” Tanjuatco said.
Apart from visibility and education, Tanjuatco believes that it is important to continue to actively advocate for the rights of the community, as there are members who still experience discrimination and whose voices remain unheard.
“We always hear about the issues of a gay man, why not the lesbian woman, as well? Why not the transgender male? Why not the androgynous man or woman?” Tanjuatco said, explaining the need to recognize the LGBTQIA+ as a spectrum, and that all members deserve equal recognition.
Both Bendaña and Tanjuatco urged the members and allies of the community to unite to amplify the call for equality.
“We’re stronger, better together. We have to collectively voice out our opinions because individually we are weak; it’s hard for us to be heard. That’s why it’s important for us to stand together because it amplifies our voices – it means we are united; we are looking for one purpose and we have one vision,” said Bendaña.
For many Atenean LGBTQIA+, the campus is a space where they have come to terms with their identity. Ateneo alumnus and now a Biology instructor, Rej Bagonoc recalls how Ateneo has encouraged him to come out to his family and friends. (READ: WATCH: How did you come out?)
“I came from a place that I thought I’d be okay concealing myself for the rest of my life, until I reached this safe space, Ateneo, and made me realize that I can be myself and people will love me for who I am,” Bagonoc said.
Bendaña, however, noted that while it has become a safe haven for some, Ateneo still has a lot of work to do with regards to being a more gender-inclusive and gender-responsive campus. (READ: LGBT Community: It's time for action)
“Right now there are a few open spaces and safe spaces for people to talk about their struggles. You see them in their little barkadas (cliques). You see them in their little corners in the Ateneo but it’s not as accepting yet. That’s why we’re moving towards that,” Bendaña explained. – Rappler.com
Sofia Faye Virtudes is a Rappler intern. She is a Development Communication graduate from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).