Forget the street children, the slum-dwelling heroes, or the homeless old men who often take center stage in many election gimmicks. They have all been demoted. The gays – the former outcasts – are the new political pawns. Our sparkly selves are now being used to further political ambitions. Be warned.
Purely by coincidence of course, days after the announcement of a certain presidential campaign, an event was announced on social media on very short notice. Called #KERIBEKS: The First National Gay Congress of The Philippines, it aimed to gather gay men, bisexual men, and transgender women in an evening of entertainment.
What? A gay congress? The "first" and "national" one at that? How come it was just a day before the event that my LGBT advocate friends and I heard about it?
The poster was eye-catching, with attractive individuals giving their rainbow-colored thumbs up. Then I wondered where in the photo were the (cis) women? Where were the lesbians that represented the "L" in LGBT? Where were the trans men? I asked and got the answerthat we were for next time, or "sa susunod po sila." Interesting.
The event was fancy enough to be held at the Araneta Coliseum with lots of celebrities and the presidentiable's wife Korina Sanchez. The funding must be significant for such an event and definitely not one that regular community organizers could ever afford.
According to transgender advocate Geena Rocero, she was actually approached by the #Keribeks event organizers as early as May and was told that it was for the benefit of Mar Roxas – so there's definitely no mistake who this event was for. Fortunately, Geena declined the invitation to be part of it because its objectives for the LGBT community were poorly defined.
Because of my work online, I've become familiar with the current crop of LGBT advocates and activists and have been reacquainted with the old-timers I worked with when I was still in Manila.
Other than the party list Ladlad, I didn't see any familiar faces or names among the organizers and guests of #KeriBeks, and I know why. The event was by invitation only, and none of the activists and advocates from the LGBT community were even consulted or approached about participating in this "congress." I'm sure it's because the organizers didn't want to answer exactly what this event was, other than being organized by the "United Bekis of the Philippines" whose Facebook group profiles all show them being organized around May of this year and feature photos of its members posing with Ms Sanchez during that time.
Should we, as members of the LGBTQ community, congratulate ourselves that our presence is now powerful enough that political personalities want to use us for personal gain? They must need the support of the community and our allies, but unfortunately they only want it without the responsibility of acknowledging our causes.
So they do it without consulting the people who have been fighting for our rights for decades, who have spent years listening to the issues faced by individual members of our community. Did #KeriBeks address anything other than throwing a party? Or am I being demanding when I ask that gatherings such as these do more for us than present entertainment numbers?
Hosting a variety show for gays is all fine and good if it wasn't called a congress, which is by definition, "a formal meeting or assembly of representatives for the discussion, arrangement, or promotion of some matter of common interest."
Oh wait, I'm sorry – the common interest was obvious – it's to promote this campaign in the guise of being in solidarity with the gays.
Calling this event a "First National Gay Congress" and claiming to represent the LGBT community is like gathering a handful of women, making them sing and dance with celebrities and a presidential candidate who doesn't issue a statement in their support, and calling it the First National Domestic Abuse Congress. Well done. Slow clap.
Social media posts of the event heralded Korina Sanchez as the future first lady. Ms Sanchez' Instagram post itself stated her stance: "Kung lahat ng BEKING PINOY ay masaya...EH DI WOW?!!" and how to achieve equality: "Lahat dapat may edukasyon, trabaho, kalusugan...It's party time!" If this was truly an event for LGBT rights, where in the world were the lesbians, the bisexual women, and transgender men in this "LGBT" event? Oh right, they're for next time – just like the actual agenda for the gay community, other than using them to get publicity for this presidential campaign.
Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender men and women – please beware of smoke and mirrors. Beware of movements aimed to "celebrate" you without addressing your basic needs of fair treatment and being able to protect your loved ones.
Beware of being used as pawns. Beware of being the face of faux acceptance where personalities with their own motives are happy to party with you but will call your real-life concerns demanding if you even dare ask about them. "Tanggap namin kayo dahil nag-party na tayo, bakit ang dami niyo pang hinihingi? (We accepted you enough to party with you, why are you asking for more?)" Watch for it, folks – this line is coming soon.
The truth is, after the fanfare, after the loud music is over and the celebrities go home, none of these politicians will stand by us and say, "I believe you should have what I have." Not a single one of these political personalities will stand in support of same-sex marriage because the popular Catholic vote is more important than the gay one.
Don't be fooled by this (literal and figurative) song and dance. Ask questions. Ask what's in store for you if you join this "celebration" of gayness that excludes all gay and bisexual women, and all trans men. Ask what really is this "First National Gay Congress" that doesn't address a single LGBTQI issue other than the best way to deliver a song number or a punch line?
When you all go home tired from your parties where your face was used to further a political motive that has nothing to do with you (and even goes against your welfare), ask who that event was for. It's not for you who will go back to work or walk in the streets facing the same discrimination. It's not for your life partner and your children who remain unprotected in the eyes of the law.
It is for those bright-eyed candidates who just put one over you, who made you and those like you believe that partying with you and posing for pictures with you means they support your life.
Ask them the one important question – "Do you believe I should have exactly what you have?"
No bright lights or catchy songs will cover up the fact that none of these people sincerely believe you should have equal rights. If they did, they would be proud and state their concrete and long-term plans. They would ask for the help of the community in how to achieve that task.
The first "effort" of this campaign to include oppressed minorities just goes to show how they will employ whatever underhanded means to fool us into believing that they have our welfare in mind.
What a great first example of how this campaign will be run – traditionally, like old-fashioned politicians use their gimmicks and star appearances, as expected.
Fortunately, the LGBT community is not as dumb as they think we are. We also won't shut up about holding politicians accountable for what it means to truly support our lives and earn our votes.
Let’s hope the rest of the country also gets past the smoke and mirrors and opens their eyes. - Rappler.com
Shakira Andrea Sison is a two-time Palanca-winning essayist. She currently works in finance and spends her non-working hours writing stories in subway trains. She is a veterinarian by education and was managing a retail corporation in Manila before relocating to New York in 2002....