By Patrick King Pascual, VERA Files
Festive street parties, parades and marches usually mark the annual celebration of Pride month in June by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in the country and elsewhere.
“But Pride Month is not just about parties,” Michael David Tan, executive director of Bahaghari Center for LGBT Research, Education and Advocacy, stressed. “What we want to do in Bahaghari Center, or in the LGBT community in the Philippines in general, is to change [public] perception and [instead] look at the conditions and situations of the LGBTs more closely.”
In recent years, LGBT organizations have resorted mainly to plain street parties to celebrate Pride Month, which do not fully convey the real meaning and message of such celebrations in the country.
This year, Bahaghari Center and the Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay Philippines) aim to promote a more thorough LGBT acceptance and education in the coming Pride celebrations.
“We want everyone to know that LGBTs are not just about being happy-go-lucky or the stereotyped ‘softies’; we are just like everyone else [entitled to equal rights],” Tan said.
The LGBT community is holding the annual Pride celebrations to let everyone know that they are asking for equal rights (not special rights) in their daily activities--- in schools, offices, public establishments like malls and restaurants, and many other places.
For instance, early this year a high school teacher in a province brought her girlfriend to one of the weekend school activities. After a couple of days, the principal asked the teacher to submit her resignation, saying that the school decided to revoke her employment for fear that she might teach the students the wrong kind of lifestyle.
Last year, Dr. Andres Gumban, 63 years old from Bacolod City, was bashed and then stabbed to death 35 times by two male sex workers. The worst thing about the crime was the recording of the incident by one of the teen suspects via his mobile phone, which eventually spread online.
The police said the suspects admitted they were drug users and that they had bad experiences with gays, which eventually turned them into gay haters.
“People need to know about these things, that LGBT killings and everyday discrimination have been happening in our country,” Oscar Atadero of ProGay Philippines said. “We (LGBT organizations) have been monitoring these kinds of instances, and yes there is really indifference when it comes to the treatment of the LGBT community.”
Pride Month is usually the only time when LGBT killings, discrimination and other issues are given enough attention. And so in the month of June, LGBT organizations in the country hold awareness programs in different locations, organize small festivals, and other related activities, which aim to empower LGBTs aside from merely showcasing their talents.
“We're planning to have more extensive programs and festivals in the coming years, so as when Pride Month comes, people from all over the country can really learn and experience how diverse the LGBT community in the Philippines is,” Tan added.
The month of June was chosen by the LGBT community as their Pride Month because of the series of violent activities against the gay community, leading to demonstrations against the police that happened in 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, USA.
In the Philippines, the first Pride celebration was held on June 26, 1994, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. LGBTs, led by ProGay Philippines and the Metropolitan Community Church Manila (MCC), marched and paraded along EDSA to Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City.
Through the years, the celebration of Pride Month in the country has evolved from just holding marches and parades within Metro Manila or in several provinces, to a more dynamic celebration involving improved partnerships with the local government (such as Quezon City and Makati). Thus, the celebration is becoming more and more effective in advancing the equality movement.
In 2003, organizers of the Philippine Pride events decided to move the annual Pride March from June to December to mark other significant events, namely: World AIDS Day (Dec. 1), Philippine National Lesbian Day (Dec. 8) and International Human Rights Day (December 10).
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true”.)