After 2 years since the start of pandemic, we are finally able to go out on the streets and join this year’s pride march. This year is very special because there is not just one pride march happening in the country but several marches were also done in different regions. There are marches in Dumaguete, Baguio, Iloilo, Bacolod, Davao, Batangas, Quirino, Tacloban and Romblon. In Metro Manila there were two, in CCP Grounds organized by Metro Manila Pride and in QC Memorial Circle organized by Pride PH with the support Quezon City local government.
Lynne and I had been in several pride marches since 2018 but this year we can really feel the excitement of the people to finally see each other and be with their community. The pandemic took a toll on our mental health especially on the younger LGBTQIA+. As a teacher, I witnessed during online interactions with my former students how they must be having a difficult time because some of them could not express themselves or are too conscious of putting their guard down because of the uncertainty of acceptance in their own homes. Some of them look for communities through online platforms but we all know that not all of these sites may not be safe for them. Plus, they have missed out on much support for self-expression coming from their peers and even teachers or counselors during face-to-face interactions at school.
With this in mind, the theme for this year’s march is “Atin ang Kulayaan! Makibeki Ngayon. Atin ang Panahon” this stresses the call to stop discrimination against the members of the LGBTQIA+ community and to pass the SOGIE Equality Bill in the country. Even though the Philippines is considered as one of the tolerant countries in Southeast Asia when it comes to the presence of the queer community compared to its neighbors, there is still little progress to recognize our basic rights here. Gender violence especially on the trans community is alarmingly increasing as years passed by.
Lynne and I personally experience discrimination in our everyday lives, lack of access to healthcare privileges that acknowledges us as spouses, lack of opportunities to own and secure property without undergoing tedious process of explaining oneself, and the fact that we are not technically recognized by our laws as legal spouses to be able to protect and care for one another just presents a lot of uncertainty for our future.
People see this as somewhat trivial; you can even hear people say “we are already tolerating you, what else do you want?” What we need is to experience the basic rights that every human being is entitled of. According to the Article 1 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Unfortunately, our country is far from giving this to us. They see us as something “special” or those colorful people who march during Pride month; saying, “just let them have their fun, they are gay after all”, happy people, just that, devoid of pain and struggle. They see us as something of rarity, like artifacts placed inside glass domes in museums, specimen that are being poked and prodded simply because we are a curiosity. If they do not see us as human beings, we will not achieve equality at all.
The last time I wrote about Pride on this space was last 2019, it was a piece of showing gratitude to our small community in 350 Pilipinas for marching with us. Now, I am writing to remind everyone, especially the climate and environmental movement, that we can only achieve any sort of justice if we recognize the role of LGBTQIA+ community not just a poster child of the vulnerable sectors but a sector that can help the movement grow and be more inclusive in looking at climate issues.
We, queer folk are tired of being exploited by companies and organizations who only plaster the rainbow colors on their brand and use it for their own gain and marketing. It is not as simple as waving a flag and incorporating rainbow colors on your company or organization logo every month of June. Support for the LGBTQIA+ should not only be shown in a span of months or weeks or a day, it must be reflected 24/7 for 365 days, year in, year out. We are not mascots for charity case! We are human beings! We have our own values and beliefs. There is no point in just remembering us for a day during Pride month if our issues are not deeply seated in your visions or campaigns. We are parents, brothers, sisters, siblings, children; we are around every day. It is about time to normalize our presence in society; our identities, our relationships, our families. Afterall, if we are not taken as an afterthought, we may have lesser problems to begin with. It is not just about being “fine” or comfortable when you are around us; it is about access to healthcare, job security, sex education, safe spaces, equity, and respect.
You cannot discuss climate justice without recognizing the need for diversity and inclusion. Our fight to achieve climate justice is not just because we want to highlight the role of the vulnerable sectors but we have to remind that EVERYONE is affected by climate impacts. Let us all move together towards achieving a just and equitable world.