AC Dimatatac

“We don’t come to the safe space, we are the safe space”– Marina Summers, Filipino Drag Performer

Yesterday, I joined 350 Pilipinas for this year’s Pride March in Quezon City Memorial Circle. Thousands of LGBTQ+ communities and supporters joined the march. There were also several marches in the country that happened within the month of June.

The marches focused on the call to come together and celebrate as a community of diverse colors and backgrounds standing side by side towards the path of true equality and safe spaces for all. I have been to several Pride marches since 2010 and I’m happy to see that every year it grew and expanded to other areas in the country.

350 Pilipinas joined this year’s Pride march in Quezon City memorial circle, June 24, 2023. The organization is in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community in calling for gender rights and inclusivity. Photos: AC Dimatatac

On the eve of Pride Month, I have got two interesting conversations about the LGBTQ+ community; one from a fellow photojournalist asking for advice for a good photo essay and another from one of my former students working on their thesis on LGBTQ+ challenges in their workplace.

As I shared my experiences, it made me realize how much more we need to work on to achieve real acceptance in this society. The country is only tolerating us because we are “fun” and ”good for business” especially during Pride month. What I observed yesterday was that more than half of the participants in the march were from corporations, employees who were required to participate carrying their heavily branded Pride flags with prominent company logos. LGBTQ+ marketing has been going on since the 70’s, businesses saw us as a market that they can exploit annually. This is actually good if only their intentions were sincere and not only as a publicity stunt happening for a month each year. Perhaps the true celebration of Pride in the workplace comes with making the workplaces safe for LGBTQ+ employees; policies that protect against harassment and discrimination, practices that promote equality and respect. This also goes to organizations that are just reminded of LGBTQ+ society during this specific month . Last year, I wrote about the importance of seeing us as humans who are entitled to basic rights and not treat us as a rarity or just part of social responsibility projects for some, like an item in a checklist. Real allyship in contemporary social justice amounts to actions, behaviors, and practices of organizations to advocate and support, and amplify the voices of diverse individuals who are part of their community. In everyday context, this may simply manifest in simple inclusive and respectful actions and even language used in communication.

Corporations such as Shell participated in QC pride march, June 24, 2023. Photos: AC Dimatatac

I believe that marches should be led by the LGBTQ+ community, queer youth, organizations and groups who have campaigns fighting for queer rights. If businesses and corporations want to become true supporters, they should learn more about the community and establish safe spaces first in their workplaces. I lauded the organizers of the QC pride festival for dropping one of their performers yesterday because of the band’s homophobic actions. “Homophobes are not welcome on our stage”, said by the organizers.

Pride march belongs to us LGBTQ+, it is our way of showing the world that we are here, we are proud and we matter! Pride is a protest, it has a long history of fighting for basic human rights. It is not just an issue of providing toilets and fast lanes in government offices, it is not about a seat of privilege, it is about feeling safe in any public infrastructure without having to explain or defend oneself like any other human being. Also, it is to honor LGBTQ+ leaders and personalities who have paved the way before the present generation. It is not a commercial event that only seeks to promote products and brands. The brand is justice and equality, its product, a safe space for us all.

We are not just part of vulnerable sectors or poster children for marketing campaigns. As Marsha P. Johnson said, “No Pride for some of us without liberation for all of us!” We are a community with a rich history of diversity and struggles. Our experiences and expertise can help the movement to build a better world that doesn’t oppress minorities in the name of profit and recognition.

Photo: AC Dimatatac

Everyone has SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression), it is something that we all have, not just the LGBTQ+ community. It all boils down to educating ourselves, understanding that we are all diverse, and that the world does not simply operate in a conservative binary like it has been operating in for so long. Before looking at the bigger picture; acceptance, safety, and security starts with the individual. It is never too late to reach out, to learn, and understand the experiences of LGBTQ+ people. It is about making a secure space within us, so we can finally venture out into making the rest of the world a safer space for all.