LGBTQ+ community

[IMHO] The other Pride march

Reemar B. Alonsagay

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[IMHO] The other Pride march
We need to bring Pride to the margins, make them more accessible to rural LGBTQI members and allies

As we celebrate Pride this June, it is essential to put the spotlight on the multiple-layer experiences and aspirations of LGBTQI members in rural communities affected by conflict. 

Generally, LGBTQI members in the Philippines remain a minority sector that often experience discrimination. They are constantly denied economic opportunities and excluded from politics. Their struggles are often ignored, which exacerbates these forms hate crimes faced by LGBTQI members living in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. Constant efforts to dehumanize LGBTQI identities have contributed to rendering their issues and struggles invisible. Consequently, many of these issues go unreported or underreported, which perpetuates a stigma and normalizes violence towards the LGBTQI community.

In Mindanao, LGBTQI+ people face pervasive discrimination, live in constant fear of harassment, arbitrary arrest, and detention, and remain vulnerable to violence and persecution based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC). 

They remain invisible, particularly those with families, clans, and communities that are highly conservative. They are constantly subjected to heteronormative norms that reject their identities, leading to cases of brutal violence and abuse, forcing them to run away or hide deeper in their closet just to have a family to belong to.

Remember the case of lesbians in Maguindanao who were forced to have their heads shaved? During the height of the COVID-19 lockdown, a group of young LGBTQI people in Lanao del Norte was arrested, detained, and harassed when they posted a video on social media exposing the inefficient emergency relief operation done by their Barangay Officials. An improvised explosive device exploded as the victims were playing volleyball in the town plaza of Datu Piang, injuring eight (8) LGBTQI individuals. The incident has left one person dead and seven people wounded. Following an incident involving the killing of two students inside Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City on September 15. These are among cases of increasing hate crimes against LGBTQI in Mindanao that reflect the alarming level of danger and hostility that LGBTQI members endure within the communities. 

Major obstacle

These problems are just among the issues that the SOGIE Equality Bill would like to address. However, conservative politicians, often supported by religious groups, pose a major obstacle to the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill, spreading harmful anti-LGBTQI convictions against the LGBTQI community. This absence of legal recognition and protection for LGBTQI members at the national and local levels continues to perpetuate the level of othering and marginalizations. However, while some politicians acknowledge LGBTQI rights and visibility, their support is often conditional or superficial, with LGBTQI individuals sometimes being used as mere props or entertainment.

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However, there is significant progress. 

The Pride celebrations in the Philippines have been claimed to be the largest in Southeast Asia. It have become a powerful platform for LGBTQI celebrations and advocacy, gaining mainstream attention. Yet, these events are mostly concentrated in metropolitan or urban cities such as Metro Manila Pride, Quezon City, Cebu, and CDO, and are mainly attended by the middle class, leaving rural and conservative communities isolated and alienated. In the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus (2017), participants identified a challenge: only a privileged few – urban, middle class, and educated individuals – had access to training and other mechanisms, and they may become gatekeepers or monopolize the process. 

This highlights an existing internal and class-based disparity within the LGBTQI and Queer movements that sideline the rural LGBTQI members in the mainstream picture. Despite this, there are grassroots groups and organizations trying to bring Pride to some rural communities in Mindanao this June. For example, the LGBTQI-led group in Lebak, Sultan Kudarat, will organize #LEBAKLA, the first-ever Pride March in Sultan Kudarat. Additionally, an LGBTQI organization in Lanao del Norte, and USBAW LGBTQI in Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur, will also organize their first-ever LGBTQI event. Furthermore, a consortium of LGBTQI and youth-led organizations in partnership with LGU-Iligan has organized their first Pride March on June 22.

The need to bring Pride to the margins is paramount to decentralize opportunities, making them more accessible to rural LGBTQI members and allies who may not have previously had the opportunity to participate in such events to create a more inclusive and diverse celebration of LGBTQ members to raise advocacy and support the push for national and local legislation for LGBTQI protection.

This also provides a platform to celebrate the achievements of grassroots LGBT members, organizations, advocates, and allied institutions and individuals, whose collective efforts made the advocacy more meaningful and created lasting pathways for empowering people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions. 

The advocacy for LGBTQI rights is beyond just legal protection. This is crucial for building an intersectional and more resilient LGBTQ+ in rural communities. This will hopefully bring pride to those at the margins, mobilize more LGBTQI people outside the middle-class and educated circles, reach more allies to support the cause, and make everyone recognize that SOGIESC concerns are the responsibility of everyone. –

Reemar B. Alonsagay was born and raised in the Bangsamoro area with experience in intersectional advocacy work in the Bangsamoro region and outside Bangsamoro. He earned his master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies at Panassatra University of Cambodia (PUC). He is now a consultant for a local-based NGO and a Research Officer for an International Humanitarian Organization

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