December 20, 2010, Message to the Pink Community - Baguio City on the occasion of its First General Assembly
Dinuyogan sa walay kabutangan nga kalipay, akong ipaabot ang among hul-os nga panaghi-usa sa inyong Unang Heneral nga Assembliya sa ProGay Metro Baguio nga gihi-usa sa panawagan ug tema, “Strengthen our unity, empower the gay community.” Ang inyong panag-hiusa karon nagtukmod kanamo nga mas-maglig-on pa atubangan sa tibuok bahin nga mga kapakyasan ug kadaugan.
Your call to strengthen your unity is timely and relevant. It emphasizes the urgent need to collectively dare for a more firm and committed pink community. Though late, indeed what better time to strengthen your unity than these days of deepening economic crisis, decaying political structure and the culture becoming more irrelevant, materialistic and mystified idealism – making our current socio-economic conditions worst, and our gender and sexual orientation threatened.
Furthermore, your longing to empower our community is both a tactical and strategic aspiration for the eventual fulfillment of a truly consolidated pink community. You cannot empower the pink community without first strengthening the ties that bind us internally. But that is an incomplete “unity.” Truth is, that is no unity at all. Unity means uniting with other oppressed and exploited sectors in our society. Making them understand beyond our gender and sexual orientation.
Beyond such “gender and sexual orientation” unity, we should develop a more precise and scientific unity, our class unity with other sectors of society. This involves understanding our common economic, political and cultural conditions and making ourselves fully aware of our past. Drawing important lessons from yesterdays in order to adjust to the present and confront the future with full of vigor and hope in a militant and progressive way. This is the greatest unity of all.
However, I would like to re-emphasize that the strength of the gay community is useless so long as the gay community is limited only to itself. We should link firmly with the basic masses equally for all of us are victims of the current social system. We cannot strengthen and empower our community if we will only work for our sector. Doing so is isolationism and elitism and will brought unparalleled catastrophe and consequences within our ranks and to the society. If that will happen, we cannot claim to be empowered nor united.
The Pink-market and Globalization
I always believe, in order for us to truly understand and comprehend our current conditions and woes, and sometimes to adjust to the western “imposed” labels and definitions (which I will discuss later) we are in dire need to study the positive and negative impact of globalization and its implication to our community and to the society as a whole.
In the course of unlimited knowledge courtesy of a globalized and wired world, we are being buried with a galaxy of data and information never before seen in the history of the world’s peoples’. This enables us to take a cursory look for informations which is beneficial to us, network with organizations friendly and supportive to our cause on mutually acceptable terms, and join protests actions simultaneously.
Join protests actions simultaneously? Yes! Like I said before, we now live in an era of unparalleled and deepening economic crisis on a global scale. The collapse of the financial centers of the world and the massive unemployment of the world’s peoples’ (including our community) is a clear sign of monopoly capitalism’s dying days. Our organizing efforts should adjust to that condition and ask ourselves why and what are we organizing for and where are we going.
Recent round of incidents in Europe and the USA point to the fact that the people’s of the world are clamoring and fighting for social justice and peace within the context of their current unfathomable misery. In the United States of America, unemployment is still at an all time high and the marginalized Americans are fighting for their life and limb. Again, our community included.
In Europe for example, the British and French students are fighting against education budget cut and in support to their parents other concerns. Such organized efforts involving young people offers light at the end of the tunnel. We can always count on how many young gay people in these protests actions joined. And we can always count them among the multitude of the entire community of oppressed and exploited people.
The abovementioned struggles of the world’s people’s should never pacify us to just organize for organize sake. Our organizing efforts are a seed that will make a strong and deeply rooted forest of pink community determined to pursue the historical mission of the oppressed and exploited people.
The deepening economic crisis also resulted in an all-round development of homophobia, stigma and discrimination towards the pink community. It is unfortunate that too many young gay people in the West are committing suicides at a very young age. Homophobia, stigma and discrimination are cultural malice attached to the current capitalist system. It is the system’s way of cutting the throats of the unjustly labeled “weaker-sex” as compared to the stronger sex of, well, straight men.
The industrialized worlds are inflicting its macho and patriarchal culture in order to maintain a system doomed to collapse while at the same time encouraging the so-called “weaker-sex” to participate in the exploitation process. It holds true with the women sector. And much visible among us, the people belong to the margin.
Adding salt to our already wounded soul, the current economic system has given a “free-space” for us in order to consume our entirety and drive us to their eternal foothold by providing a “space-and-a-name” for our community to further our exploitation. Hence, the name pink market and pink community as a new market for slavery and exploitation, haven’t you wondered the emerging of metrosexuals? They did not just expand and wage unjust war to the people of the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba and North Korea. While we are being bullied and demonized, they take advantage of our community as a new market for surplus products and capital.
Thus there is a crying need for a more objective and conspicuous study of the emerging conditions and trends that we can take advantage of while maintaining our progressive stand, viewpoint and method.
Between Red and White, the Local Pink
The past few years, the local pink community has been out of the closet, albeit in a dimly lit room. Perhaps it is due to the fact that in 1994 the First Gay Pride in Asia organized by ProGay Philippines succeeded in breaking an insurmountable cliché. It was a historic and happy occasion breaking new grounds for unparalleled growth in the years that passed by.
It is also worth mentioning, although unsuccessful for the second time, Ang Ladlad Party-list attempt to be the first mouth-piece of the pink community in the House of Representatives.
All these excites us all, where are we going from where?
The bottom line is, the local pink community has emerged even before ProGay launched its First Gay Pride in Asia or even before Ang Ladlad will claim a seat in the party-list election. Careful examination in far-flung areas, mostly in the rural mountains and countryside, you will notice groups of gay men and, although rarely women with their own organizations anchored on their desire to make their presence felt in the most feudal of all conditions – highly exploitative, backward, pre-industrial and agrarian.
To top it all, your launching today of your First General Assembly, though late is a welcome respite in this miserable times. It consolidated the historic and determined efforts of those ahead of us several decades fold. It gives recognition to those who discreetly organized their own pink community. It gives honor to efforts unnoticed. It gives justice to our (gay)story.
The past several years, several foreign entities entered our shores to spruce-up “our” understanding (and identity?) of the local pink community. In fact, an on-going study by the Health Action Information Network (HAIN) funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) aimed at determining the Risks and Vulnerabilities of the Men-having-Sex-with-Men (MSM) and Transgender (TG) in three major cities in the Philippines (Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao) is also noteworthy to follow.
Depending on which lens we are using, the outcome of the research will bridge the gap between our local initiatives and understanding of the sub-populations of the pink community vis-à-vis the outcome of the nationally conducted research.
So here we are now, perhaps painful to academics but we are living with it: determining and understanding the sub-populations in our midst. I believe the sub-populations are a product of abject poverty. I encourage our pink community in Baguio City to conduct its own social investigation and class (and gender) analysis to the different sub-populations we encountered and lived as we open the closet in a dimly lit room. This will encourage more closets opened and more rooms lighted.
Because academics, though not all, are not living with the pink community daily, did not experienced the brutality of the semi-feudal system, may be on the wrong track of labeling us, or may be right. No one knows except the validation of the local community.
Thus I encourage you to deepen your understanding of the terms like “sexual minorities,” “men-having-sex-with-men,” “lesbians-gay-bisexual-transgender-queer-inter-sex,” and others that adds confusion instead of clearing the dust in the closet.
The Elements of Genuine Pride
1. Human rights advocacy and support for the peace talks
As a political organization of the pink community in Metro Baguio, we should always remind ourselves the need to fully understand the class context of human rights. It is not always safe and helpful if our understanding of human rights is limited only to our understanding of our gender and sexual orientation.
On the other hand, we should also work on improving our human rights documentation to the violated rights of our community. We should also be visible in fact-finding missions, help in the documentation of human rights (HR) cases and assist in whatever way on the basis of our capacity.
We should also support the peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to emphasize to them our deep commitment for social justice and peace.
2. Reproductive Health Bill and Anti-discrimination Bill
We should initiate efforts and form alliances and networks in our communities to support the rights-based and Comprehensive Reproductive Health Bill and the Anti-Discrimination Bill now being filed in the House of Representatives. Fully aware that the current social system dominated by a macho-feudal and patriarchal culture is a threat in itself, only a strong mass movement of people will ensure the passage of both bills.
3. Confronting Morality and Religious Bias
We can only claim to be morally upright if we are in support of and in cadence with the struggle of the marginalize peasants and workers. Let our voices be heard on the standard issues of the day because that is the most moral thing to do.
4. Understanding the social context of HIV/AIDS, beyond biological
We should develop a program that will not just limit to the prevention of the disease but also its social and economic prevention. The epidemic is a social disease that needs to be confronted holistically.
5. Fight for genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization
We should remember, a significant portion of our population belong to the peasantry followed by the working class. Therefore, it follows that a significant portion of the community are scattered in that order. We support and fight for genuine agrarian reform on the basis of its economic, political and cultural significance in our struggle for gender equality. Because, before a member of the community cries pink, he/she will look for security in his/her livelihood and respect for his/her innate human rights.
Only through militant struggle can the brightest pink emerged. Only through resolute and determined efforts can we gain respect and admiration in a bias and exploitative society.
In between red and white, lies pink! Long live the pink community in Baguio City!
About the author: Former chair of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines – Cebu (1998-2000), Founding Vice-President for the Visayas – Anakbayan and Chair of Anakbayan – Cebu (2000-2002) and Founding President – BisdakPRIDE 2005 – present. He has been a community organizer in peasant areas, urban poor communities and workers. But exposed first and found material- passion organizing the youth and students during his engineering days at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City.