LGBT traders, professionals to vet presidential bets in ‘reverse forum’
MANILA — Can your candidate admit to himself or to herself that he or she does not have all the answers to the country’s problems?
If he or she can, your candidate is one step closer to getting the support of a newly founded LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) group, which hopes to see a government that is not only “compassionate and understanding” but is also able to address the LGBT community’s issues that are crucial to the country’s growth.
Renowned shoe designer Brian Tenorio, chair of the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce, said on Tuesday that the time has come for the country to junk the idea of a presidential candidate having all the answers to every issue, such as the plight of the LGBT community.
Hence, on Feb. 13, their group will spearhead a forum which will be attended by at least 200 leading LGBT organizations in the country, according to Tenorio.
The “reverse forum” would see the candidates throw questions to the LGBT community, in the hope that they will be able to work together solutions to such problems as inequality and discrimination in the workplace.
“Let us treat the candidates as persons because we, too, want to be treated as persons. Candidates don’t have all the answers. We have to help them,” Tenorio said.
Tenorio stressed that the next president should be able to address and more importantly understand the LGBT community’s issues, since the sector has always shown a direct impact on the country’s economy.
Evan Tan, a regional director in a technology firm and a member of the Philippine LGBT Chamber and Commerce, cited a recent study made by the University of California Los Angeles, which concluded that “countries with more rights for LGBT people have higher per capita income and higher income levels of well-being.”
Tan said that the same study noted that “anti-LGBT arrests, discrimination, harassment and violence impact the health and well-being of LGBT workers, which in turn affect their productivity at work, resulting in absenteeism, low productivity, inadequate training and high turnover.”
The forum will be a venue for candidates to lay down their commitment to the LGBT community, which is estimated by researchers to be around 1 to 10 percent of a country’s population, according to
“Playing safe is so 2015. Taking a stand is so last quarter 2015. Showing up is what matters. The goal is [to have a candidate say to himself that] ‘I don’t have the best answers but I’m here to talk to you,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Tenorio noted that a candidate could only have a “substantial opinion” on LGBT issues, if he or she has consulted the LGBT community. Their forum, Tenorio said, would provide the venue for such consultation.
Told that politicians have been wary of being strongly supportive of the LGBT community because of the possible Catholic Church backlash, Tan said that their initiative would not hamper anyone’s religious rights.
“It’s not about us being given special rights or preventing the Church from practicing their rights. It’s about the effect of the lack of LGBT rights on sustainability and national development. It’s more of giving LGBTs inclusivity, so we can further progress as a society and further progress as a country,” Tan said.
In the forum, Tenorio said he was expecting participating candidates, whom he did not identify, to raise good questions because through that “you will be able to see his approach as a leader and his values as a person.”
“If he/she asks us how many are we, what do we want, he/she looks at us only as a voter. But if he/she asks us about our relationships [with different people], what we want to see and happen in our businesses and workplace, then he/she sees us as persons. That’s a very good platform of conversation and development,” he said.
The Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce is composed of around 100 LGBT professionals from different industries, such as fashion, tourism, entertainment and technology. It aims to promote diversity and inclusivity as part of corporate citizenship, and promote the empowerment of LGBTs through entrepreneurship, among others.
Tan said that following the forum, they would conduct a study that would “determine the problems encountered by the LGBT community” so that in their own way they could find solutions “to encourage development.” SFM
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