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MANILA, Philippines – Beyond celebrations and rainbow flags, Pride remains foremost a collective action by a marginalized community in solidarity against oppression and discrimination.
Despite ranking as the 10th friendliest country in the world for LGBTQ+, the Philippines still has a long way to go before becoming a genuinely gender-inclusive country.
During a Rappler Talk interview on June 21, LGBTQ+ advocates Ryan Silverio of the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, Nikki Castillo of Metro Manila Pride, and Eljay Bernardo of Rainbow Rights PH discussed the pressing issues hounding the LGBTQ+ community today.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Philippines has been consistently recording the highest number of documented transphobic killings in Southeast Asia since 2008. A Social Weather Stations poll also showed that only 2 in 10 Filipinos support legalizing same-sex unions.
For so long, the LGBTQ+ in the Philippines has lobbied for the enactment of the Anti-Discrimination Bill. The legislation can be traced back to 1995 when former congressman Rey Calalay filed a bill proposing to recognize the “third sex” as a sector.
Since then, different legislators have followed suit. Two decades later, however, a national law protecting the LGBTQ+ remains elusive. (READ: [OPINION] Life without bullies? Why Senate must pass anti-discrimination bill)
Discrimination on the basis of SOGIE
In the Philippines, discrimination against LGBTQ+ community is widespread – from households to schools, companies, and establishments. (READ: ‘Tolerated, but not accepted’: Filipino LGBTQ+ speak up vs discrimination)
According to Castillo, the discrimination that happens on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual characteristics is most violent at home.
“At home, it’s completely not visible, unless there are scars in their body or something. If it’s at home, then it’s probably unreported,” Castillo said.
This discrimination may also manifest in ways beyond the physical. Recently, a trans woman professor at the University of the Philippines Manila came forward with her experience of discrimination in the workplace. (READ: U.P. transwoman professor talks about workplace discrimination)
“In our legal framework, building on the ‘invisibilization’ of the community, we cannot really address it (discrimination) if our laws do not have even a single mention of LGBTQI community,” Castillo said.
The advocates agreed that stigma and stereotypes are among the root causes of discrimination.
“Stereotypes that are pervasive and unfair and not evidence-based, we have to combat those. That puts us in a lot of danger,” Bernardo said.
Castillo echoed Bernardo, pointing out how these stereotypes and stigma may seep even into legislative work.
“Because of the pervasive stigma, and the stereotypes, it results in lack of protective legislation and results in a culture that is so unaccepting and even violent,” she said.
Meanwhile, Silverio stressed that LGBTQ+ individuals may feel restricted from fully expressing themselves because of gender policing, which is the imposition of gender expressions on an individual who is not appearing or behaving according to their sex.
“If you’re a woman, or if you’re a man, if you go beyond what’s expected of you, like, if you wear a skirt or if you’re in pants, you will get harassed,” Silverio said.
For Castillo, the gender policing that Silverio mentioned is basically misogyny.
“The misogyny that affects women is the same thing that oppresses the LGBTQ+ community because, why are gay men ostracized or discriminated against? Because you’re feminine, or you know, you’re very loud, you wear makeup, therefore, you’re not somebody to be accepted,” Castillo said.
Seeing pride as a protest, the LGBTQ+ community and its allies will once again take to the streets on June 29 not just to celebrate their identity but also to #ResistTogether the injustices and oppression the community continues to face. (READ: Metro Manila Pride calls on LGBTQ+, allies to #ResistTogether on June 29)
The upcoming Pride march is a “place to express dissent against injustice and oppression; a chance for us to uphold our human rights and that of other minorities,” event organizer Metro Manila Pride said.
“Our very existence as LGBTQ+ people in this society that discriminates us and opressess us like this is in itself a protest,” Castillo said. “The roots of Pride here in the Philippines and even in the States is a protest.”
But Castillo stressed that Pride celebration goes beyond raising Pride flags.
“Pride is a celebration, but it shouldn’t stop after that one day of you waving your flags and marching with other human rights groups,” Castillo said.
“It needs to continue when you get home, when you get to your work. It needs to seep into the different parts of your circles, and even beyond your circles. Go to urban poor communities, go to rural areas and reach out. It’s not just that one day,” Castillo added. – with reports from Nicolas Czar Antonio, Stanley Guevarra, and Arlan Jay Jondonero/Rappler.com