LGBTQ community appeals for equality, inclusivity
Saturday’s Pride March was a riotous festival of rainbow colored flags and streamers, sparkly drag costumes and pulsating dance music as thousands of members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community gathered in Marikina City to celebrate their identity.
But what really fueled the merriment was their call to “Rise Up Together” so that people would finally recognize the rights they were entitled to and make these official through legislation.
The largest LGBTQ gathering in the country since 1994, this year’s march happened a few days after the Supreme Court concluded its oral arguments on same-sex marriage.
This was one of the key laws that the group wanted to advance along with the antidiscrimination bill which seeks to penalize those who judge people based on gender and sexual orientation.
However, the support for these policies, already enjoyed in other democracies, remains an uphill struggle in a largely conservative Catholic country, said Nicky Castillo, president of Metro Manila Pride.
As a result, while the LGBTQ community has been tolerated by most Filipinos, its members remain vulnerable to discrimination at work or in school, and over access to health care and other basic social services.
This was true in the case of Patrick Pasagui when he ran for Sangguniang Kabataan chair in 2007 and barangay councilor in 2014 at his hometown in Quezon province.
“I was mocked [and] heckled while people questioned my ability to serve. ‘Is he up to it when he’s gay?’” recalled Pasagui, also head administrator for the provincial LGBTQ group, United Diwata Familia.
“But I was determined to prove them wrong. My identity is not a weakness [or] a deficiency. In the end, I won in both [elections],” he said.
Accepted, not just tolerated
Pasagui’s story — a familiar narrative to most LGBTQ members — proves how important it is for them to not just be tolerated, but also accepted in a fully inclusive society, Castillo said.
“Antidiscrimination is good but it is not enough,” said Disney Aguila, a transgender woman who is also deaf. “We also need to acknowledge the cross-intersectionality of the prejudices suffered by some of our members.”
Recalling her own experience, Aguila said it was more difficult to be an LGBTQ with a disability. “For us, it’s not as easy to communicate. What happens is that we’re further marginalized.”
Because of this, her groups Pinoy Deaf Rainbow Community Inc. and Transdeaf Philippines are lobbying for a Filipino sign language law that would provide access to language to the deaf community.
While there is still a long way to go for genuine equality, the different concerns within the sector are what make the LGBTQ a vibrant and thriving community.
This is why it’s important to cultivate awareness among the community and its allies, even among nonsympathizers who continue to resist their struggle, Castillo told the Inquirer.
“The bottom line is we need to push for legislation that recognizes and fulfills our human rights,” she said as she added: “These are crucial to allow us to live a dignified life.”
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