#PHVote: Will anyone ever mention the LGBT community?

Shakira Sison
#PHVote: Will anyone ever mention the LGBT community?
The first candidate to mention his or her support of equal rights for LGBT community will be the wisest one. It means that he or she supports minorities and believes in equality for all Filipino citizens

When US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton launched her campaign this past April, she did it with a video featuring two same-sex couples, cementing her candidacy as one that supports LGBT rights and marriage equality. 

Barring unforeseen upheavals, it will be Clinton who will win the presidency next year, and part of that will be because her campaign managers know the importance of recognizing the demographic of the American electorate, honing in on her minority constituents, and making the gay community a priority in her platform.

Obviously she is doing this because 60% of Americans now favor same-sex marriage and 46% know at least one same-sex couple who has gotten married. This is a long way from the time the Clintons supported the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996 when 68% of Americans were still against same-sex marriage. Along with President Obama, Hillary Clinton’s political stand on this issue has evolved with the attitudes of the rest of the country about its LGBTQI citizens.

Is the Philippines the ‘most tolerant’ Asian country?

While 70% of the Philippine population is against same-sex marriage, according to Pew Global Research 73% of Filipinos also believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society. 

It can’t be denied that LGBTQI citizens carry their weight and play major roles our workforce, government and in media. The booming BPO industry employs a large number of LGBT employees because they are good workers who are able to work atypical hours and are not as hindered by family or childcare issues.

Project Pink, a survey in the Philippines conducted by the Philippine Survey and Research Center in 2011, concluded that 70% of transgender (female) respondents and 70% of gay male respondents are the main financial decision-makers in their families. This study also found that LGBT consumers are high earners who enjoy a significant degree of financial independence.

One in 20 Metro Manila residents openly identifies themselves as LGBT. This means that there are at least 600,000 LGBT people in Metro Manila alone, not counting those who are not “out” or do not identify as LGBT but are in same-sex relationships or encounters. Following this math, there are at least a few million LGBTQI citizens and their families whose votes any savvy politician could easily obtain should they make even the smallest effort to reach out to this demographic. 

Current LGBT issues 

1 in 10 Filipino gay youth have been assaulted in their own homes, a number that is underrepresented due to lack of reporting. The reality of bullying, discrimination and hate crimes has become the norm for LGBT Filipinos. 

The anti-discrimination bill that would protect LGBT citizens from discrimination in schools, companies, organizations and medical facilities is still stuck in congress. Thousands of children growing up in homes with same-sex parents remain at risk without legal protection.

The government continues to ignore the fact that the Philippines has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world, with 22 new cases per day this year.  It is spreading in uncontrollable rates in major cities, with Quezon City having 6.6% prevalence in males who have sex with other males (MSMs).

We all know or are related to at least one LGBT individual or same-sex couple. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are in all levels of society, in every workplace or educational institution, in hospitals, in the military, and in every industry. One would be naive to believe they don’t interact with a member of the LGBTQI community on a regular basis. 

Pretending we don’t exist

Our current batch of presidential candidates are completely ignoring the existence of the gay community in their platforms, unless it’s to host a partythat vaguely acknowledges the entertainment value of gay men and trans women in the hopes that it will be enough for a minority that is so hungry for validation. 

We have yet to hear a single candidate even mention the LGBT community as part of the Philippine population. 

The first candidate to mention his or her support of equal rights for LGBT community will be the wisest one. It means that he or she supports minorities and believes in equality for all Filipino citizens. Supporting equality doesn’t equate to an approval of same-sex marriage or a defiance of one’s religious beliefs, just that one has the maturity and compassion to want for others what is readily available to everyone else. 

Even the abrasive Duterte supports same-sex marriage and rejects the oppression of the LGBT community. Despite his other leadership flaws, it is enough for an educated voter to see that this candidate sees things differently if he supports the most oppressed minorities. 

Risa Hontiveros has always openly supported the LGBT community and women’s rights. It has not harmed her political career and has only put her in a positive light as a progressive leader who strives to fight inequality in Philippine society.

Many of the nation’s entertainers, shakers and movers, corporate and media leaders are gay. LGBT groups have educated and eloquent leaders as well as significant social media presence. The gay community and its allies are even able to dictate which establishments and products to boycott or support based on their anti-discrimination policies. The purchasing power of the LGBT community in the Philippines remains to be a significant force. 

The smart candidate

A candidate that openly supports equality and is against the discrimination of LGBT people can easily get the votes of the community as well as those of their family members and friends. He or she will only appear to be on the side of progress and open to modern ideas on how to advance a society into one that embraces tolerance, inclusiveness, and equality. 

As for the rest of the presidential candidates who believe that ignoring the millions of LGBTQI citizens and their families is acceptable, it might be time for them to recognize that pretending we don’t exist doesn’t mean we’ll disappear. Gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender Filipinos are coming out, educating and organizing themselves so that our concerns are also addressed. Many of us are financially independent with disposable incomes and are able to exert significant influence in our respective industries, as well as advise our associates and subordinates on which candidates truly believe that every Filipino should be have equal rights.

In a recent campaign stop, Hillary Clinton laid out her clear plan for the LGBT community of the US, putting emphasis on hate crimes and bullying in her speech as well as clearly stating that “LGBT folks deserve the same rights and opportunities as any other American.”  

Yesterday, President Obama became the first sitting president to appear on the cover of a gay magazine when Out Magazine named him Ally of the Year. Supporting the LGBT community has obviously become the norm in the US and homophobia is fast becoming a pre-occupation of obsolete and ignorant Americans. 

Is the Philippines so far behind? 

Maybe we are just more vocal about traffic and the laglag bala scam, but conveniently sit in silence when faced with the gross inequality between social classes and the oppression of our minorities. Maybe we are silent because we only support those who address issues that directly affect us.

But LGBT Filipinos live and work alongside us daily. We are raising children, supporting families, and face challenges just like the rest of the population. We are your bosses, co-workers, subordinates, brothers, sisters, parents, cousins, friends and your children. Don’t say you are our friends or that you accept us if you don’t believe we should have exactly what you have. 

Ignoring the HIV/AIDS epidemic will have far-reaching effects on the rest of the population in a few years’ time, with a growing number of current infections being women and children. Refusing to protect minorities from discrimination allows the oppression of all minorities, including the ones to which you might belong. Failing to recognize same-sex parents affects the children in these unions when they don’t have the legal protections afforded to typical families. Failing to protect minorities institutionalizes discrimination, bullying, violence and hate crimes. 

Our current crop of presidential candidates seems to have this great fear of acknowledging that the LGBT community exists. Either that or they believe that acknowledging us as fellow tax-paying Filipinos means they’ll alienate the rest of the population.

Perhaps politicians don’t feel we make enough difference in our communities or make any impact on whether they’ll be elected or not. It might be up to us to show how influential we actually are. Maybe they believe that it is only a certain portion of the population that they need to woo in order to be elected, and that the rest of us will just sit by and once again let yet another administration be elected into office and fail its people in the most fundamental ways. 

Unfortunately, they are probably right. – Rappler.com


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