Lynne Brasileño

When the island of Luzon in the Philippines was placed in Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) last March 16, 2020 in response to the rising threat of the coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) pandemic, life as we know it has changed. People had restricted mobility; public spaces such as schools, offices, malls, religious spaces, terminals, museums and galleries were closed at that time. From the ECQ, the situation transitioned into Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) but this series of various forms of lockdowns lasted for two months and fourteen days until May 31, 2020. Transformations in the lifeways of people have developed. Instead of dining out, people started to build rooftop gardens and cook their own meals and bake their own breads. Workplaces have shifted into working and studying remotely. Later on, several areas in Metro Manila and the rest of the archipelago shifted to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) in the month of June 2020. People started to leave their homes for work and to run errands with lesser levels of restrictions, but the limitations were still in place.

In the LGBTQ+ community, the month of June usually marks the celebration of the Pride month. Since 1994 in the Philippines, the LGBTQ+ community has performed Pride parades in various metropolitan areas all over the country in the month of June to create awareness and highlight injustices. Stimulated by the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, this month has become a month of protest; various activities are staged to champion LGBTQ+ rights as well as that of the marginalized groups. In this period, words like quarantine, isolation, and social distancing have become buzzwords. To a collective or assembly that is the LGBTQ+ community, what do the words “community quarantine” mean? What does this mean to a group that thrives through community support?

In the LGBTQ+ community, we have realized that our lives would become a constant struggle the moment that we have identified with our truths. At this point, I speak for myself as an individual; I must say that I am not a member of any recognized structured organization in the LGBTQ+ community. Therefore, does that not make me part of this of community? I do not think so. The members of this community do not necessarily carry a badge or a membership card because being LGBTQ+ is not like being part of a club. Being LGBTQ+ is embedded in our sexual orientation and identity expression; it is part of our identity. If you ask me, I see myself as a triple minority when it comes to the dialogue of the intersections of race, gender, and sexual orientation. I am Filipino, I am a woman, and I am a lesbian. However, it has taken me years to reconcile myself with these truths, therefore, now in my adult life, I have simply started marching the streets with my significant other and our friends for the past two years. I am also honored to say that I would not have persisted on this without the support of my community.

When the news broke out that assemblies were no longer allowed in public spaces, groups that I have closely been following such as the Metro Manila Pride have migrated their activities to online platforms. Talks, support group discussions, and exhibitions were all relocated into online media. The spirit of Pride persists though we may no longer experience it under the beating of drums, the booming of cheers, and the chaos of the streets. Allow me to speak about my experience while attending LGBTQ+ protests or Pride celebrations. On the first time that I attended the Pride March, my partner and I just went without actually knowing anyone or expecting to see anyone, we know in the streets. However, upon arriving, people we did not know greeted us and for the first time in my life, I had never felt safer in the streets being with people that I identify with. On my second year joining the Pride March, our friends from 350 Pilipinas who were mostly allies accompanied us in the march.

Let us put this experience into context, as children, being LGBTQ+ we were initially labelled as weird or different. The Oxford Languages defines queer as an adjective meaning “strange or odd” and as a verb meaning to “spoil or ruin” an agreement, event or situation. These definitions of the word usually describes a lot of our childhood. We are often too strange or too peculiar that we do not fit gender stereotypes and that these actions have often ruined our parents’ dreams and expectations of us. Every LGBTQ+ individual has this story to tell in lesser or worse gravity.

As adults, we have struggled with prejudice, discrimination, violence, and hate as we walk the streets every day. Even with anti-discrimination ordinances, LGBTQ+ individuals are still judged for their use of public spaces such as toilets. Strangers still bully us simply based on how we look or what we wear. Even if some of us are professionals, hold influential offices, or keep noble jobs, some people still look past our academic achievements or ethical practices and mainly zero in on our sexual orientation. According to, LGBTQ+ are not only discriminated or stereotyped based on their gender, sexual orientation and identity expression but the discussion has also intertwined with the stratum of race and ethnic identity. Most Asian and Pacific islanders are portrayed as meek, exotic, or treated as outlandish sex objects. We are basically minorities within minorities. In Southeast Asia (SEA), there are countries with perceived tolerance for the LGBTQ+ such as the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand. However, there remains regions in SEA wherein being LGBTQ+ would mean being stoned or struck publicly or imprisoned due to identity expression.

At this period of the pandemic, many of us have been so distressed being cooped up in our houses for weeks and even months. We have felt lonely and dejected by not being able to see our friends and so isolated without much human contact especially if you live alone. However, in the LGBTQ+ community, we are no longer a stranger to such isolation, we have been there, and we have felt that. At some point, we could have been children wallowing inside our bedrooms because we do not understand what is happening to us. As teenagers, we could have been crying our heart out because we do not understand why we have harbored certain feelings towards a cisgender, straight friend. As adults, we could have been living a charade mainly because we could not come out of the closet because we might jeopardize our career or lose our family. At some point, we felt how it was to be cooped up, to be trapped inside four walls, to be kept inside the dark closet for a very long time; to have restricted mobility, to be so wary just to step out of the front door. May we be gay or straight, the threats of the pandemic has brought much uncertainty and have brewed fears in many of us all over the world. However, like the LGBTQ+ struggle, we have also realized that we are not alone in this. We have our communities, people who experience the same things, people who share the same values, people who work for a better environment.

With various methods of responses that governments all over the world have taken, we have all witnessed something similar. We have helped each other survive; may it be financially, spiritually, or mentally. It may be as simple as sharing cooked meals or baked goods, supporting a local business, or lending a bike in the absence of public transportation, we have thought of others in these trying times.

However, the struggle does not end there, despite all of the things happening around us, there are looming threats to our freedom. The freedom to express ourselves, to think, to speak about truths and injustices. Having these freedoms being taken away may even impede us from being there for each other, from helping one another.

The catchphrase for this period of recovery is the “New Normal” or “Better Normal”, visualizing safer spaces. However, safe spaces do not just pertain to the physical safety and security of public spaces such as the implementation of higher health and sanitation requirements and security based on technology and military presence, as it is sometimes understood. Based on the Oxford Dictionary definition, it is “a place for marginalized communities to be free of “discrimination, criticism, harassment or any other emotional or physical harm”. The term actually also refers to an arena wherein individuals who have marginalized identities stand free from bias and judgment when pushing for social justice and free speech. It does not actually have to be a physical space. These spaces allow people to feel supported and respected. We should create more safe spaces.

Centering equity and inclusivity must be core of our work in charting the path towards a just recovery. It is only when we acknowledge race, privilege, ethnic identities, culture, gender, sexual orientation, and identity expression can we start to seek ways to break the systemic injustices that hinder us from truly standing in solidarity with each other.

In whatever way, in whichever form, let us go out there and speak our truths. We should take part in envisioning this “better normal”. Let us normalize the principles of Just Recovery; let us put people’s health first (physical or mental), provide direct economic relief to those in need, create resilience for future crises, help our communities, and build solidarity across the borders. We are not alone in this battle; we have our communities.

Let us resist fear, let us assist love.