Deaf in Albay given 'voice' to fight for their sexual rights

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Coming out as gay is hard enough, but coming out as gay when you’re deaf too is a double whammy.

Alex, who is from Legazpi City, said coming out as gay was actually easy. Using Filipino sign language, he said that he was glad to have been easily accepted by his deaf friends.

“Coming out to the world is harder. Being deaf, we are already discriminated and hurt,” he signed.

The Manila-based Forum for Family Planning and Development has been holding workshops in Albay province for the past 3 years.

Chi Vallido, campaigns officer of Forum, said they have serviced more than 100 deaf from the province in 5 reproductive health and rights workshops here in Legazpi City, Tabaco City, and Ligao.

Vallido said that even in their first workshop, they saw the need to involve the police because the deaf had been reporting cases of sexual harassment and molestation to them.

“Even in the middle of the workshops, they had been telling their traumatic stories at the same time that the interpreter had to tell them to shut up,” Vallido said.

Kevin de Vera, the Forum adolescent RH coordinator, said that the deaf thought it natural that they would be harassed, that when they learned about their rights, they were furious.

RIGHTS WORKSHOPS. The Forum for Family Planning and Development has been holding reproductive health and rights workshops in Albay. Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler

RIGHTS WORKSHOPS. The Forum for Family Planning and Development has been holding reproductive health and rights workshops in Albay.

Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler

According to the defunct Philippine Deaf Resource Center, one out of 3 deaf women in the country experienced harassment and rape, and half of the cases happened in their own home.

The police had been joining the Forum in their RH workshops since, De Vera said. They were the ones lecturing the deaf about their rights and how they can report abuses.

The police and the Albay Deaf Society have been coordinating with each other.

Vallido said that to facilitate communication between the two, one of the criminology schools in Albay has required its students to learn Filipino sign language.

During the recent seminar in Legazpi City, they expected only 35 deaf students, but 60 came to attend. Ten criminology students also joined the workshop.

The deaf tested these “hearing students” if they knew the basic reproductive health words and concepts and if they could understand what they were reporting. They gave a wave when the hearing students responded correctly.

Sabina “Ruffa” Torregoza, a transgender and health worker, also taught them how to combat discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. – Rappler.com