The Pride March photo that went viral

We remember the time when we were still in the closet and vividly so, how much we needed to see someone do it first.

MANILA, Philippines – We knew they were going to be there and we had this planned from the beginning.

We leaped out of the cab and onto the streets with rainbow tattoos on our shoulders, fury in our fists, and feet ready to walk the good walk. Right around the corner, we saw the first traces of them, getting ready with their huge, condemning signs and loudspeakers and T-shirts that said, “Repent and Believe.”

“This is going to be good,” we kept saying to each other. It was the first time for both of us to attend a Pride March and we couldn’t stop imagining if what we see on “Queer As Folk would match its real-life, Filipino counterpart. Walking into the grounds of the Makati City Hall, we were greeted by spicy hot drag queens strutting across a vast rainbow draping the length of an Olympic swimming pool. They were in the middle of a colorful crowd that gathered under a long, wide, and commanding rainbow flag up in the air.

But something was missing: the people outside who wouldn’t dare step inside. What fun is a gay pride anything without a protesting religious something! Fundies, they call them.  

Overly passionate fundamentalists who seemed to have a lot of time on their hands and found it no trouble at all to cook up a semblance of a protest demonstration, complete with props and matching costumes. To the marchers, they appeared like  monuments with whom everyone wanted a photo.

So we did, quite radically so. It had always been an entry in our bucket list and the chance presented itself.

Jake posted this photo as his profile picture on Facebook that night, and the photo caught on with hundreds of likes and shares by the next morning.  

We did not expect the photo to go viral, but as we watched the numbers continue to rise, we also read through people’s comments, and so far, everyone’s been nothing but nice. We were met with waves of support. Encouraging and proud words poured in from people we knew and people we didn’t know, people who were openly queer or declared otherwise.

They shared the photo with captions commending us for our bravery. Eventually we were able to get in touch with the nice girl who took the photo for us, and it even caught the attention of J. Neil Garcia, editor of “Ladlad: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing.” 

Some commented how this was something that had to be shared. We figure that perhaps people do want to see this kind of change in society. Or, perhaps they want this narrative to be their own. It’s probably a bold move they’ve been striving to make themselves. And we’re glad if we helped them get closer to it. 

Stand up

One commenter questioned the ethics of this photo, even if the cause was something that was shared.  “Hindi ba with this picture ginagawa lang natin sa kanila yung ginagawa nila sa mga tulad natin” (Are we not, with this picture, doing to them what they do against people like us)?”

While we understood what he meant, we disagreed. We’re all free to express ourselves, and this photo merely depicts that. We are just standing up for what we believe in — a world where being gay is about as normal as having fingernails. But quite frankly, that’s impossible. There will always be a fight, and we have chosen ours (or it chose us), and we stand ready to absorb the ripples that these actions create.

This is not to say we are fighting hate with hate. Apart from it being a bucket list thing, we wanted to do the Pride March justice and not just wave around rainbow flags. We wanted to really stand up. To shake up the scene and really make ourselves visible.

Some people go to the pride march and become who they want to become for a day, and then go home to hide back in the closet, maybe not from their friends, but from their conservative families. Some people don’t even feel the need to come out and that’s okay. But not us.

The photo reached our parents and relatives eventually, and though we were both out to them to begin with, there were still consequences to deal with. Bardo, whose parents are for the most part tolerant, was requested to have the photo taken down. But it just doesn’t work that way. What happens on the Internet stays on the Internet. We have no chance to ever undo this and we knew the risks from the beginning.

We remember the time when we were still in the closet and vividly so, how much we needed to see someone do it first. We did it, as a way of showing whomever was watching that there are people who are willing to expose their underbellies to public criticism to prove that the LGBT community is nothing short of tough. –

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