A Community of Their Own

Laughed at, insulted, discriminated, beaten up, oppressed and exploited, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders have been persistent in their struggle for their rights. Slowly but surely, they have moved forward.

By Gilbert Pacificar and Bejay Absin

Mikaila just finished his first year college education from a local university. Yet he has been initiated into the world of gays as a transgender long before. Growing up among the city’s urban poor, pint-sized Mikaila has always been effeminate since pre-puberty.

Mikaila’s family never accepted that he is gay. When Mikaila allowed a gay friend to shape his eyebrow, his father’s fear-hate for his sexuality turned violent. Since then, his regular ration of beatings became increasingly violent.

Mikaila remembers having bruises at different parts of his body but confesses not missing those. Feeling the shame brought onto the family by the brother who wears their mother’s dresses, older brothers joined their father in beating Mikaila.

Four years ago, Mikaila shared having been raped by his own uncle. He did not report the incident to members of his own family for fear of being blamed.

Sex, for some gays and even straight people, is an end. For Mikaila, giving sexual gratification to men was more of a means to an end. Since he has openly declared his gender, support for his needs was withdrawn by his parents. “Kinahanglan pa nako magpakabaga og nawong aron mangayo og pang-twisyon sa akong mga igsoon,” Mikaila quipped. (I need to swallow my pride whenever I ask for tuition money from my brothers.)

Poverty has exposed him to prostitution. He, alongside, other young gays became shine gays or prostituted gays whose sexual favors is for rent.

Search for justice and meaning

Mikaila’s search for justice and meaning led him to join a local chapter of ANAKBAYAN. He still dreams of being accepted as he is by his family, as well as other people. He thinks all gays should have the same dreams.

The personal experience of Mikaila reflects the need for collective action among lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender gays. But it will mean doubling the efforts of other oppressed and exploited groups.

The struggle for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender – collectively called LGBT in the Philippines – is long and difficult. Together with all oppressed and exploited classes, sectors, and groups, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders must persevere to create a society that is truly free from oppression and discrimination in all spheres.

Finding a collective identity

Although there are efforts from different LGBT groups to address the problems they confront by establishing a support network and pursuing gender-based advocacies, still a lot remains to be desired for the LGBT community. For one, there is no common LGBT identity which the LGBT community can own up to. Oscar Atadero, national chairperson of the Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay) said, “It is very important to have a common identity which would be inclusive of all of us. Without a common identity and owning this up, we will only have shame.”

Atadero also said that this condition has allowed the perpetuation of hate, anger and discrimination directed towards gays in the society.

Efforts of Pro-Gay Philippines to move toward this direction led to the recently concluded LGBT Conference 2005 in Davao City, Aug. 28-29.

Fifty lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders from the Visayas and Mindanao islands participated in the conference dubbed as “In the Pink of Health” focusing on gender equality and other social issues confronted by the LGBT community.

During the conference workshops, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders shared their personal and collective experiences in confronting various forms of oppression and discrimination at home, their workplaces and respective communities.

A hate wall was set up at the beginning of the conference. Participants were asked to write on the wall all the hate and discrimination that they have experienced in the past. Overwhelmingly, the 50 lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders were able to fill an 8 foot by 12 foot wall with a wide array of expletives and issues.

On the second day of the conference, the delegates met with law and policy makers to present the results of the sharing workshops. Councilor Angela Librado of Davao City admitted that there is a dearth in policies upholding and protecting the rights of the LGBT community in the city. She supported the efforts of the LGBT community to organize so that future policies will be passed to address their needs.

Patmi Ruivivar, officer-in-charge of the city’s Integrated Gender and Development Office, said that the city has the potential to be the country’s gay capital. According to her, Davao city was the first to set up an office for gender and development issues. She further said that the macho image projected by the mayor does not follow that his administration will not address the issues of the LGBT community. (Bulatlat.com)

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