Ask LGBTs: Presidential candidates invited to ‘reverse forum’

Bea Orante
Ask LGBTs: Presidential candidates invited to ‘reverse forum’
For the 2016 elections, the LGBT community is looking for a president who listens and is sincerely interested in advancing equal rights

MANILA, Philippines – Can the Philippines’ lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community be a game changer in the 2016 elections?

One business group thinks so.

The Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce, a multi-industry group composed of members of the LGBT community, warned candidates that they would be missing out on a huge group of voters if they do not take gender issues into consideration. (READ: #PHVote: Will anyone ever mention the LGBT community)

At a forum held on February 2, members of the group’s executive committee discussed the high stakes during the elections.

LGBT is one of the strongest populations in the community,” said Brian Tenorio, the chair of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

He added, “Every LGBT person has sympathetic friends and family,” which makes them and concerned groups and people a large segment of the voting population.

Aside from their size, the LGBT community also advocates for issues that are easily relatable. While foreign policy and economics are not easily accessible to the general public, discrimination and health concerns are easier for people to understand. 

“When it comes to #LoveWins, everyone wants love to win,” Tenorio said, referring to the campaign for same-sex unions in the United States. (READ: Same-sex marriage: #LoveWins when intolerance loses)

People, not just voters 

While it is an important part of the voting population, the LGBT community is not just a group of voters, something the LGBT Chamber of Commerce emphasized. They also have concerns they feel must still be addressed. (READ: #KeriBeks: Where gays are the latest political pawns)

The passage of the anti-discrimination bill and a solution to the spread of HIV in the country are two of their biggest concerns heading into the elections. 

Brian Tenorio, the chair of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce, said “there’s a glass ceiling in corporate work and business.” According to the group, a workplace that was not LGBT-friendly was limiting the LGBT and country from reaching their full potential. 

House Bill 5687, or the Anti-Discrimination Bill, has still not been passed. It would have penalized discrimination in employment, education, organizing, health, and access. Hate crimes would have also been tackled. (READ: The long road to an LGBT anti-discrimination law) 

Discrimination bars members of the LGBT community from participating in the economy. A country excluding the group loses out on using their productivity towards national development. (READ: Is the Philippines really gay-friendly?)

The organization cited a study by the University of California, Los Angeles, which says LGBT-inclusive policies would translate to “higher per capita income and higher levels of well-being.”

The LGBT community also cannot fully contribute when they are afraid of harassment and violence, according to the study.

For Evan Tan, a member of the group’s executive committee, the rampant spread of HIV is harming the age group that makes up the majority of the workforce. 

The LGBT Chamber of Commerce said the exponential infection rate is already alarming enough to demand attention in the elections.

The leader they want 

To help advance gender issues in the upcoming elections, the LGBT Chamber of Commerce has invited presidential candidates to what they called a “reverse forum.” 

The forum, #LGBTVotePH, will be on February 13, from 1 pm to 5 pm at the Impact Hub Manila, Green Sun, Makati. This, however, is not like other pre-election speaking events. 

Instead of candidates appearing before an audience to answer questions, the organization has encouraged presidential bets to come with questions for the community. 

Because candidates normally prepare for the election issues with their policy experts, Tenorio said their format allowed them to talk to the LGBT community, whom he said are the experts on LGBT issues anyway. 

Who understands LGBT issues more than we do, the LGBT?” added Tenorio. 

Organizers said they were looking for a president whose questions show they see the LGBT community as people, not just voters. –

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