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Safety tips for LGBTs

Hate crimes against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders are on the rise. Philippine LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Hate Crime Watch data indicate that 170 such crimes have been listed since 1996 up to 2012. Convenors Marlon Lacsamana and Reighben Lebilles lament the fact that our police forces still don’t index hate crimes under their list. The cases were listed as just homicide, or serious or light physical injuries, with the usual suspects.  They believe it is important to classify them as hate crimes since they single out, or target, a specific group of like-minded people with similar characteristics or concerns. Indexing the crimes as hate crimes would also give more impetus to the two LGBT anti-discrimination bills now filed in Congress and the Senate.

It’s in this light – along with growing reports of assault and robbery that target LGBTs – that I am reprinting this advisory published in my latest book, Happy Na, Gay Pa, available in National Book Store beginning this weekend.

Weekend cruise or gimmick nights. If you’re going out on a gimmick, go out with friends and make sure you look out for each other. Drink but don’t get drunk. Always protect your valuables. Don’t bring lots of cash, or leave your wallet or cell phone in sight. Some reports show that the victims’ drinks were spiked with drugs. Thus disoriented, the victims lost control and were either robbed or assaulted. How to avoid spiked drinks? If someone offers to buy you a drink, go to the bar with him. Don’t leave your drink unattended. If you’re drinking bottled water, leave the cap on. Don’t sip from other people’s drinks. If you suddenly feel tired or dizzy, tell your friends about it, or inform the bar’s security.

In case you meet someone new at the bar or club, ask questions – name, who he’s with, where does he stay or work, among others. Introduce him to your friends, make sure your friends get a good look at him, so when the need arises, he can be easily identified. If you’re going somewhere else, make sure your friends know. If you’re going to his place, get his address and give it to your friends. Don’t bring a stranger into your house, especially if you live alone. But if you decide to do so, tell a friend that you’re bringing a guest home. It doesn’t hurt to bluff: Let your guest know (or think) that someone else is staying with you.

Cyber-cruise: Chatting and eyeballs. If you’re meeting someone you met in a chat room or in Facebook, meet him in a public place. Text or call a friend and tell him where you’re going. If you go with him, get his address and tell your friend. Don’t bring him home if you live alone. But if you still do so, please check precautions above.

All-night cruise: LGBT cruising areas. The police would sometimes raid public places frequented by gay men. The police swoop down in the guise of a drug bust, or in anti-prostitution raids. Cruising is dangerous to one’s health. But if you decide to do so, remember that hanging out in a place, even if it’s a cruising area, is not illegal. In short, cruise at your own risk. However, when the police come and catch you having sex, you can be arrested for public scandal. Or they may book you for one or another form of unlawful behavior, i.e., breaking public property. The police might also file charges against you, i.e., for loitering, breaking the curfew (if you’re a minor and you live in a city with this ordinance). Always bring a valid ID.

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Cruise control: Street safety. It’s possible that you’ll be harassed on the street, especially at night. To reduce risks, trust your instincts: If something doesn’t feel right, go away. Always stay alert and act confident. Walk with a group, and do so on well-lit areas. Bring a whistle or a personal alarm, which may be useful in case of an attack. Avoid walking through groups of rowdy young men. If you meet them, casually cross the road and avoid eye contact. Many a life has been lost in these strange islands because of eye contact – or singing the wrong Frank Sinatra song, like “My Way.” Keep your car key or house key ready, so it will be easier to go to a safe space when necessary. Know your city like the back of your hand, especially its trouble spots – and avoid them.

Verbal abuse. Verbal abuse and name-calling are often preludes to an attack. No matter how provocative these terms are, your safety should be your main concern. Keep calm when being provoked. Most often, hecklers are encouraged when they see that you’re getting affected. If you’re alone and there are many hecklers, just ignore them. If the heckler is drunk, there is no sense in getting angry or arguing back. If the provocation comes with threats of an assault, walk away as quickly as possible. That hurt ego will heal more quickly than a battered body. Report verbal abuse, especially when it comes with physical threats, to the authorities.

Physical assault. An assault can sometimes happen even when it’s not provoked, or despite attempts to thwart it. If you’re being attacked, get away and seek help. Stay calm and concentrate, but try to make as much noise to attract other people’s attention. Check if the attacker has a back-up group. If he has, find a way to escape as soon as possible. If you intend to attack back, hit in areas that can cause dizziness or pain, such as between the eyes, the throat and the crotch – then run. Remember as many details as possible – the face of the attacker, his physical features. Get immediate medical attention and have a medico-legal examination. Report the incident to the authorities.

Violence against LGBTs affects everyone. Every attack against one of us is an attack on the LGBT community. The growing reports of assault and murder against LGBTs should be a cause of concern not only for the police forces but also for the community. The equal-protection clause in the Bill of Rights guarantees our rights as citizens – and taxpayers – of this land.

Please listen also to “Remoto Control” at Radyo 5, 92.3 FM on Monday and Thursday from 7-9 PM, with telecast at Aksyon TV 41. “Remoto Control” also goes on air on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9-11 PM at Radyo 5. Comments can be sent to danton.lodestar@gmail.com


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