Queerspotting: A fun, safe space for gay women
MANILA, Philippines – Lisa* has always loved women. She also never had the chance to attend a prom – much less lead a woman to the dance floor.
But on Saturday, April 12, at Excess Superclub in Timog Avenue, she found a second chance to do both.
In a room filled with women, Lisa had the prom she's always dreamed of.
The event, named "Queerspotting,” was aimed at providing ‘safe spaces’ for women like her.
Lisa showed up at the event with the hopes of meeting other lesbians. For someone who hasn’t fully come out of the closet like her, meeting women is a challenge.
“In the lesbian community, most parties are what you call ‘exclusive.’ You need to know someone to get in,” she explained.
A safe space
According to Aira Briones, one of the organizers of Queerspotting, the event is just a first of many activities they aim to organize in order to provide safe spaces for queer women while giving recognition to the diversity of their community.
Briones said that profits of the event will go to the revolving fund of SpectrumMNL, the 4-month old group that spearheaded the event.
“Given the perspective of current Filipinos in same-sex relationships, I think it is important for parties like this where you can be who you want to be and hold hands with whoever without being ogled at,” Briones added.
In a typical prom, where men wear suits and women wear long gowns, there is almost no room for non-conformity and diversity.
Rising from the boundaries these expectations set, SpectrumMNL wanted to mimic the prom feel for the enjoyment of women who love women.
For Lisa, the event was a rare chance for liberation and gender expression.
Tolerated, but not accepted
But the party wasn’t exclusive only for queer women. Others also came to join in on the fun.
“I am not technically a supporter," said Ron, one of a handful of straight men that night, "but I am also not against it. [To be queer] is their will and I don’t mind.”
This kind of mindset, according to Lisa, shows how Filipinos tolerate, but not necessarily accept, the Filipino LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer). She sees the lack of education and understanding of sexuality as big challenge for the community.
Laurel Anne Fauntauzzo, a Fil-Am writer and teacher in the Philippines echoed the same observation. “The LGBTQ is very visible in the Philippines. But visibility is not the same with equality and having power,” Fauntauzzo said. (READ: Is the Philippines really gay-friendly?)
The conservative stigma that gay Filipinos continue to face today spells the difference between the country’s tolerance and acceptance of the LGBTQ community.
“A lot of people still feel pressure from their families and tradition to hide that part of themselves which is very healthy, natural, and intrinsic,” Fauntauzzo observed.
Like many Filipino LGBTQ, Lisa can not be as proud of who she is as she wishes to be. While she has came out to her friends and workmates, she has chosen to keep her family in the dark about her sexuality.
“I’m sure they [my family], will accept me. But I am not ready to deal with that right now. My parents, as loving and smart as they are, are still not very open to these things,” she added. (READ about one woman who is helping others come out)
Lisa hopes there will be more events like Queerspotting to make the Philippines less conservative and more accepting of the LGBTQ community.
“They [organizers] could use this opportunity to create a bigger impact, for example, in educating the Filipino public about sexuality,” Lisa suggested.
She looks forward to a time when she can be with a woman she loves and tell the world all about it. - with a report from Fritzie Rodriguez/Rappler.com
*Not her real name