What does Pride month truly entail in a country that is dominated by bigots and patriarchs of this decade? For the very few, perhaps the corporations, it is an additional source of profit and income. But for the majority of the oppressed queer community, it is a constant struggle for genuine liberation from the systemic abuses and injustices they have been facing for the longest time.
Trying times of fear and terror demand more collective action to amplify societal issues that the LGBTQIA+ community face. As Pride month traces its roots from the Stonewall riots 52 years ago, it has awakened the spirit of revolution across the globe. Pride month is a reminder of how phenomenally significant it is to resist bigotry and patriarchy in society, especially since the brutal attacks from state forces on the LGBTQIA+ community face in the Philippines resemble images from the Stonewall riots. Hence, the call for SOGIE Equality Bill is being massively campaigned by different concerned groups as this would be a huge step in achieving queer liberation in the country.
The struggles of being queer in a tolerating – but not accepting – country
The heteronormative orientation of our society does not genuinely accept the LGBTQIA+ community, no matter how politicians promise them of support, or how big corporations promote the narratives of the queer people to the public. This is deemed proven by the government’s absolute negligence in refusing to urgently legalize the SOGIE Equality Bill, which has perpetuated the cycle of more abuses and harassment to the queer community.
Because of this, a society free from discrimination and fear remains a superficial idea. Despite being ranked as “one of the most gay-friendly nations” in the world, what happens on the ground is the complete opposite. Many teenagers and young adults are either being disowned, rejected, and abandoned by their families just because of their sexual orientation. We can remember that even President Rodrigo Duterte, a known homophobe, mocked the community by saying that he “cured” himself for being gay before. This just shows how macho-feudal and brutal the oppressive authorities truly are, that they do not truly value the existence of the LGBT community as human beings who have the same democratic rights as anyone.
Recent history also tells us how state forces are responsible for enabling LGBT attacks and killings, and for not giving concrete justice to them. Just recently in 2020, Duterte granted “absolute pardon” to US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is responsible for the brutal killing of Filipina trans woman Jennifer Laude in Olongapo City. Another incident was also seen in June 2019, during the month-long celebration of Pride, where a young LGBT human rights defender from Karapatan was shot dead in Sorsogon. All of these are still fragments of the much worsening crises that the LGBT community is facing, since there still exists the denial of same-sex marriages and lack of genuine opportunities to the queer community.
(RELATED STORY: LGBTQI+ Filipinos still belittled, silenced under Duterte)
Battle to institutionalize safe spaces for everyone
These systemic injustices exposed how it feels unsafe and difficult to be queer on a daily basis in a country that does not completely safeguard your rights. It gets even more uncomfortable when we remember that a highly-influential senator who has associated gays as worse than “animals” before now plans to run as president for the upcoming 2022 elections.
Given the endless cycle of abuses, discrimination, and oppression, the call to institutionalize the SOGIE Equality Bill is needed now more than ever. And for that to happen, solidarity from all sectors are essential. Collective action and massive movement from the masses are crucial for it to occur until their place in society will be the norm.
We have a long way to go
Beyond the fight for queer safe spaces lies a commitment of weaving the queer liberation movement together with the fight of the oppressed from marginalized sectors. We need to perceive that the fight of the oppressed, may it be of the farmers, workers, indigenous people, are all connected into one underlying root – the struggle to resist the feudal, capitalist, and patriarchal society. Resistance means collectively opposing the broken and rotten system that has been violating the rights of citizens for many centuries.
May we be reminded of the lessons that the first Filipino Gay Pride March has left us. Organized on June 26, 1996 by the ProGay Philippines (Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines), the groups proudly marched along Quezon Avenue to Quezon Memorial Center, and they also included relevant local issues in their protests such as opposing the imposition of Value Added Tax (VAT) that was a controversial issue at that time. This historic movement, which was held in remembrance for the 25th year since the Stonewall riots, became the first pride-related march not only in the country but also in the entire Asia and the Pacific.
The multi-sectoral struggle must continue. As long as the trans community are not given the rightful securities they deserve, as long as same-sex marriages are not legal in the country, and as long as queer people from different sectors are being harrassed and attacked by brutal institutions and authorities, our resistance remains solid as a key for genuine emancipation from the living demons who have caused our suffering. [P]
[P] Photo by Pola Rubio