By Datu Zahir Meditar
From its beginnings with the Stonewall riots in 1969, as a militant response to the rampant police brutality present in New York, and 51 years later, to the recent illegal dispersal and arrest of 20 individuals by policemen in a peaceful pride march in Mendiola, Manila, pride month remains, and will always be, a protest to amplify the demands for a world free from discrimination and terror. Through decades of resisting an abusive and oppressive system that justifies violence, this movement has been a living testament of the unwavering sacrifices and struggles of the entire LGBTQIA+ community and inter-sectoral groups in striving for a world that is built on justice and compassion.
In the grand scheme of things, it is a frustrating reality that the culture of abuse among state forces and those in the ruling class still remains as the norm. The status quo has always been favoring the elites, further perpetuating cruel acts against marginalized sectors of society. This same culture of ferocity has dispersed the rights of fellow members of the queer community, leaving their welfare and safety behind.
However, amid the increasing attention to the LGBTQIA+ community, there is still a lot of shaping up to do within the entire queer sector as some of its privileged members do not truly understand the whole advocacies of pride yet. Recently, Beauty Queen Kevin Balot was criticized for her statement masked with ignorance and internalized transphobia after saying that trans women joining in traditional beauty pageants is “asking for too much,” even though trans women are supposed to be identified as women as well. Additionally, there are some people who don’t believe that pride is a protest, claiming that pride marches are a party and must not become an avenue for expressing political interests.
Even in mainstream media, especially in TV series and films, the contents are not yet truly exposing the narratives of most LGBTQIA+ struggles as they lack stories of transgender people, lesbian love, gay people from urban poor and rural communities. Most of the current local queer movies and series we have today mostly presents cis-gay leads that caters to those belonging in higher to middle class, proving that there still needs a development towards this field to tell the stories of LGBT more inclusively.
Understanding the full essence of pride encompasses way beyond rainbow flags in celebrations and musical gatherings. Aside from it being a protest for queer liberation, its struggles are also synonymous to recognizing the class and socio-economic struggles. The fight of each member of the LGBTQIA+ also transcends to the clamor of farmers, workers, fisherfolks, and indigenous people. All their struggles could be rooted with how the state deprives them of safe spaces and democratic rights. This is clear because of the lack of concrete policies that protects and safeguards them, as the government prioritizes crafting laws that are beneficial only for the ruling class.
In the recent dispersal of a peaceful pride protest in Mendiola, Manila, leaving 20 individuals to be illegally arrested by the police without stating clear charges why they have been detained, the activists did not only clamor for the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill, but they also raised its condemnation to the government’s inclination to enact the Anti-Terrorism Bill, believing that this is a huge threat for every Filipino in their right to dissent. Together with the said calls was their demand to finally prioritize mass testing and proper medical solutions amid the militaristic responses of the current administration in battling this pandemic.
This is a manifestation of how pride must be inclusive to all the issues concerning the rights of people. It can be recalled that in the first-ever pride march in the Philippines in June 1994, they also amplified a bigger call against the imposition of the Value Added Tax, which was a controversial bill that time.
With all that was said, it is crucial to connect other related issues every single time there is a protest to provide an avenue and space for the collective call against one common enemy. In a nation that chooses to tolerate the LGBTQIA+ sector rather than fully accepting and recognizing their human rights, their experiences are not different from other marginalized sectors of the community who are also deprived from equal rights and treatment.
It is a stapled responsibility for a citizen to assert, claim, and fight for spaces where people could enjoy their democratic rights free from any form of oppression. Just like how pride month fight for queer spaces, this also goes for clamoring the ancestral lands of the Lumads, the agricultural lands of farmers, stable workplace for employees and workers, better health facilities for medical frontliners, and many other more.
As a microcosm of the inter-sectoral struggle, the collective consciousness of amplifying related calls that endanger the rights and lives of the marginalized should never be left behind. When the culture of macho-feudal, patriarchal, and fascist authorities still prevails, pride will always remain a protest, resisting oppression across various forms.
Beyond the core of social awareness and activism lies a breathtaking idea, that despite all the constant attacks and harassments of those in power have thrown at us, a better world is still attainable. It is through the collective demand to put an end to oppression that people can build that world hand in hand. [P]