Arts and Culture

Gay and lesbian power

LODESTAR - Danton Remoto -
The Freedom March – or the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender March – was held in December last year. Armed with a permit from Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, more than 3,000 members of the LGBT community and its supporters marched from España Avenue down to Quiapo, Manila. A program was later held at Plaza Miranda.

The theme of the 2005 march was "Celebrating Pride and Rights." It recognized the need to highlight the strong gains made in over a decade of LGBT organizing and advocacy work. But it also pointed to the urgent need to pass House Bill 634, the Anti-Discrimination Bill. Crafted by Lagablab and filed by Akbayan Party List Rep. Loretta Anne P. Rosales, the bill faces some problems in a Congress that is now focused on the passing of the 2005 budget, an anti-terrorism bill, and in July, the filing of another impeachment charge against the sitting President.

Be that as it may, the march went on and how! The people of Manila – commuters, drivers, passersby, and residents – were treated to the colorful sight of people wearing clothes in all the colors of the rainbow, waving banners and flags, carrying placards and slogans, and chanting in the afternoon air for the passage of the important Bill. People stood on the sidewalks, stared from windows and houses and even rooftops, waved from the bridge on top of the overpass. We got the thumbs-up sign from old men, from market vendors carrying their wares, from giggling women in college uniforms. All of media, including the foreign press, came in full force, despite the fact that it was also Human Rights Day and there were at least three other rallies held that afternoon.

But trust the LGBT cause to rivet media and people’s attention. I only scolded one foreign-press photographer who was forcing two people from UP Babaylan to French kiss in public. God knows I’m the least conservative person this side of the Pasig River, but same-sex marriage, or better yet, domestic partnership, is not part of the Anti-Discrimination Bill that we are pushing for.

The Freedom March organizing committee is composed of Task Force Pride, Lagablab, K2BGay, Lesbian Advocates Philippines, Lunduyan (my group), Order of Saint Aelred (OSAe), ProGay, Rainbow for Change, and concerned individuals. Among the last category belong tireless people like Bruce Amoroto, Atty. Venir Cuyco, Eva Callueng, and Rostom Deiparine. Achieve, Inc., led by Malu Marin kindly hosted all our meetings and provided secretariat support.

The Pink Peso and its importance as a niche market in the economy was proven by the financial help we got from the following people and companies, who placed advertisements in our souvenir program. Time now to thank them, and support the products that they sell. They are the true friends of the Filipino lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders. They include Boy Abunda and Backroom Inc., Mike Santos of DKT Philippines and Frenzy Condoms, Virgilio Pernito of Population Services Pilipinas Inc., Congressman Luis P. Bersamin Jr. of Abra, District Engineer Sandy Benedito of Abra, The Library Foundation, Larry Cruz and Doods Dayto of Café Havana, Fahrenheit Café and Fitness Center, Jomar Fleras of Pride Exchange, Andrew de Real of The Library, Chit Juan of Figaro and Coffee Blends Export Corp., Komiks Boutique Restaurant, Anvil Publishing, Summit Media and Long Grain Printing Services. I would also like to thank Akbayan and Rainbow Rights, for the Pink Card of legal rights that we printed in the souvenir program.

What next? I can only speak for our group Lunduyan, which we are renaming Ang Ladlad. We are doing more organizing work and meetings outside Manila, participation in the Pink Fim Festival in June together with Pro Gay and Mowelfund, joining the June Pride events in Malate, production of brochures and handbills, book-signing and lecture tours in colleges and universities to emphasize one fact: we are not asking for special rights, but simply for equal rights. People interested in joining or giving support Ang Ladlad may e-mail me at the address listed below.

The official statement of the Freedom March 2005 follows:

ome people say that there are far better things to do than marching on the streets for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. That it matters so little in contrast to the socio-economic upheavals in our country, or the current political turmoil.  But still, we make our voices heard and let the world know we exist. It needs to know that there are people like us who are deprived of our human rights, pushed to the margins of society and looked down upon as "just a minority." It needs to realize that beyond our so-called defiance from the conventional flourishes a whole new world-view and a deeper understand of humanity where respect, dignity and equality matter. We have challenged the perspective of those who impose on us what we should be. We want to show them our own identity. Today, we celebrate this diversity.

As we celebrate our individuality and identity, we also celebrate the fruits of our hard work over the years. Now, we have some protection, like Quezon City’s ordinance on the prohibition of discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation. We also have the Anti-Discrimination Bill drafted by Lagablab and filed in Congress by Akbayan Party-List Rep. Loretta Anne Rosales and by Senator Bong Revilla in the Senate. These are two remarkable achievements for our community, indeed. But it does not end there. We might think that we have already come this far, but there’s still more to fight for and more reasons to go to the battle head on. It will never end until there are still people who condemn gay people, people who deprive us of our rights and people who still don’t realize that LGBT rights – our basic human rights – are something we should fight for.

The community within itself is still beset with issues and problems like the never-ending battle against AIDS, our personal battles, issues of coming out, compromising our religious beliefs, and even clashes among the people in the community. But none of these can stop us from marching today and showing the world what we are made of.

This day is another page written in the book of our own people. This could be the day when our stories would be written and be read by others, the day when other people will start listening to what we’ve been saying and the day when our battle cry will echo beyond the community and perhaps reach many other people. Through this event and our further collective effort, we will
achieve even more for our community, and finally, live in an ideal society where everyone lives free from prejudice, enjoys equal rights and privileges, and every person’s fullest potential is realized. When that day comes, we will have fully realized the virtues of the rainbow flat: pride, diversity, and hope.
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