Tuesday, March 19, 2013

US Peace Corps Interview

Fighting for the LGBT Community in the Philippines

(Note: AMELIA KENT, BSW, is a US Peace Corps Volunteer. Below are my kind reply to her questions)

1. Please describe the mission/goals of your organization, what events you organize and who are you members?
ROXANNE OMEGA DORON (ROD): The mission, vision and goals of our organization, anchored on the premise that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in particular, and the broad masses of Filipino people in general are marginalized and oppressed.
Our vision is, “We look forward for a society that is just, humane and democratic. Thus, we cry for Equality and Respect.” Our mission is, “We are committed to ensure the understanding and all-round promotion of the rights and responsibilities of the LGBT community.” Our goals, includes;
1. Assist LGBT organizations in the communities in their efforts to unite and collectively advance their problems and concerns so that their problems are addressed and their participation in community affairs improved.
2. Establish LGBT groups in communities where there is none.
3. Unite with non-LGBT sectors in their struggles and concerns and actively participate in the people’s movement for change.
4. To become a credible resource center in the Bisaya speaking communities on matters related to LGBT concerns.
We recruit LGBTs and non-LGBTs as gender equality advocates. We organize educational discussions to various communities like understanding gender and sexuality within the context of a feudal and patriarchal society, promoting human rights in the context of HIV and AIDS prevention, promotion of arts and culture activities and even traditional activities like joining Gawad Kalinga or giving slippers to poor and isolated towns.
2. Please describe some of the major issues or societal problems you think are facing the LGBT community in the Philippines?
ROD: Majority of the Philippine population, roughly 75% composed the peasantry, it follows that a significant portion of the LGBT community are within the peasant class or origin. Liberating the peasantry from the land problem is liberating the LGBT community from class and consequently gender issues.
The Philippines is a backward and pre-industrial country, therefore, feudal forms of exploitation remains a major issue faced by a significant portion of our population, including the LGBT community.
Hence, land monopoly is a major problem and backward agricultural methods deepened the oppression and marginalization of the LGBT community in the countryside. Due to the backward condition in far-flung areas, the LGBT community suffers the most since feudal, macho, and patriarchal culture is more deep and prevalent than in the metropolitan areas.
As a consequence, religion too (not only Roman Catholic) is deeply entrenched in the countryside and moralists castigating the LGBT community as sinful brought people to think LGBT is wrong. Even some LGBTs in rural areas think likewise and are affected by religious bigotry.
In urban areas, LGBT communities are somewhat tolerated but rarely accepted. Their talents, wit, and resourcefulness are taken advantage of for the benefit of the institutions they served. Even so, stigma, discrimination, marginalization, and oppression are still apparent than ever.
The LGBT community as part of the working class, which is roughly 15% of the entire population, in the cities also faced stigma, discrimination, marginalization, and oppression. Most working LGBTs prefer to stay in the closet than come-out due to the macho character of workplaces. However, the presence of contact centers as industries preferred by LGBTs is a welcome respite in a degrading macho working condition.
The gender issue is different from a class issue. While the presence of contact centers provided opportunities for the LGBTs, the working class issue on wages, security of tenure, benefits and other universally accepted labor rights are still issues which the working people, including the LGBTs, should confront head-on. In fact, in Cebu several years ago, LGBTs take the lead in facing issues confronted by the working people in business process outsourcing.
LGBT youth and students also faced discriminating school policies like the wearing of uniform, gender insensitive instructions and other archaic policies which affects the intellectual development of persons with different sexual orientation and gender identity but are implemented for various reasons, among them is intolerance.
And the openly LGBT youth in the communities and schools, while assertive of their gender and sexuality still experienced bullying and are stigmatized, often come from their immediate families, neighbors and school officials.

3. Describe how the Catholic faith plays a role in establishing an LGBT identity in the Philippines, what confusion or conflicts does it cause?
ROD: It is saddening that the Catholic Church in the Philippines coined a definition for LGBTs totally detached from reality. While it is understandable coming from their “moral” point of view and historical bias and bigotry, it does not make sense at all.
For example, it is totally OK with them for LGBTs to be “LGBT” as long as they will not practice the sexual act which is totally incomprehensible. It is an imposition with roots which can be traced way back during the Inquisition! They want to completely separate homosexual orientation from homosexual act.
They assumed that what you feel is “right” but when you practice what your heart and mind dictates it becomes a sin and you become immoral based on their own subjective interpretation on what morality is. But since the Philippines is deeply Catholic and at some point fanatical, it is a challenge to rightfully and objectively confront an institution which long betrayed the LGBT community but nonetheless takes advantage of LGBTs who are useful to them.
But I know a lot of LGBTs and heterosexual priests who are supportive of and proud to have worked with us.
4. In the Philippines how are LGBT usually treated when they “come out” to members of their family? How is it different for gays and lesbians?
ROD: I haven’t encountered a study regarding gays coming out and how they are treated or the difference of treatment between a gay (male-homosexual) and a lesbian. But sharing within the LGBT community and anecdotes will tell you that the more open the community or family, more LGBTs will come-out. Usually in urban areas, gays come-out a little bit easier especially if the family is more liberal and open. But it is much more difficult in rural areas where feudal exploitation is deep and religious bigotry is deep-seated. In general, it is still hard to come-out because the treatment is still harsh both psychologically, and some instances physically and sexually.
5. Can you talk a little about the ‘language of the gays’ in the Philippines?
ROD: Language exists, in fact it has been created in order to serve a specific community, as a means of intercourse between people irrespective of their social and economic status in life. On the other hand, the gay language, as I see it, is cultural assertion. It not only meant as a form of communication but also a means to code existing interactions to hide feelings, to express grief and most importantly to relate effectively within the LGBT community. The gay language, even if at most creatively constructed, is a grim reminder that gays can not effectively use its mother tongue or dialect to communicate with out fear.
6. Can you describe some differences in culture, policies or tolerance that you’ve noticed between the LGBT communities here in the Philippines compared to the LGBT community in the United States?
ROD: The advanced economic condition in the U.S. and the backwardness of Philippine society is a major contributory factor about tolerance and acceptance in each respective country. In the U.S some states are open to same-sex marriage or union, while the Philippines have a long way to go. In the Philippines, homophobia is more or less “sidelined,” while in the U.S. it is somewhat mainstreamed. In the U.S. reparative therapy as a means to “correct” or “cure” homosexuality is still in existence, in the Philippines traditional and far more destructive “conversion therapies” like a drunken father poured hot water to his gay son. Or a gay son whose father is a police man stripped his gay son naked on his way to school.
7. Please talk about the LGBT who are contributing to society in different ways which helps the general society “tolerate” them?
ROD: A portion of the LGBT community succeeded in penetrating different economic, political and cultural structures due to the fact that the LGBT community is often (and correctly) viewed as industrious, creative, active, participative, intelligent and even friendly. Their talents and attitudes are being taken advantage of and in some ways tolerated due to their contribution in any given undertakings. It is a fact, gays are embedded in almost all structures of governance and leadership, economic activity and most visible in the promotion of culture and arts. However, a truly heterosexual, or more precisely male-dominated society, like the Philippines, accommodated the LGBTs, tolerated its presence but never accepted it as part and contributor of a democratic society, because no significant laws protecting the LGBTs. Tolerance does not automatically translate to respect.
8. What role does the LGBT community play in events like Sinulog?
ROD: The LGBT community, specifically the openly gays are the planners, implementers of the Sinulog festival. A religious festival or any festival for that matter will never be the same without the involvement of the LGBTs.
You take a cursory look in any of the committees, from the top echelons of planning down to the bottom of it (even in the cleaning of garbage!) openly gays are involved – deeply involved. They create an exceptionally gay festival in a truly religious undertaking like what we have seen for decades. In an ironic twist of fate, beyond its materialism and consumerism lies the genuine expression of the LGBT community to their faith – the same faith that often echoed and brand LGBTs as immoral and sinful.
I suspect the reason why priest do not castigate LGBTs during the daily novena in preparation for any religious festivals is to tolerate gays as an important partner. Otherwise, no festival will ever succeed.
That is why, beyond its religiosity and fanaticism, lies the LGBT community’s expression of her/his faith. But there’s the rub, gays are being tolerated in any festivals like Sinulog as a cultural event, but not so much in some other areas of our life.
9. Can you share some information on the closeted gays in relation to spreading HIV?
ROD: The discreet or the so-called closeted gays are difficult to reach due to their covert behavior. Their being clandestine is truly understandable, given the fact that widespread stigma and oppression are apparent than ever. Coupled with a risky behavior, their vulnerability to STIs and even HIV infection is very high.
The risky behavior and vulnerability to diseases like HIV is the effect of widespread stigma, marginalization, discrimination, and oppression.
On the other hand, records of HIV cases are very alarming because the incidence of HIV cases is exponentially high among men-having-sex-with-men (MSM) and even the transgender (TG) community. But is, sadly, understandable because HIV cases affect communities which are already suffering from lack of human rights protection, for example lack of laws and enforcement of ordinances that protects LGBTs. A creative and innovative approach to penetrate the community of discreet gays is necessary coupled with a holistic understanding of their social behavior and community participation.
However, while laws are important instruments to protect LGBTs against stigma and discrimination, it is still the social system that allows LGBTs to be oppressed. And that social system should be changed.
10. What is the number one priority right now for the LGBT community?
Any other information you want to share about Bisdak Pride?
ROD: It is always a priority for the LGBT community to study society in order to move forward and to fully understand stigma, discrimination, marginalization and oppression. The LGBT community should study society from a progressive and scientific point of view, its history and background.
After studying history and analyzing the different social classes, the LGBT community should strengthen its organization and link with various sectoral and multi-sectoral organizations to advance its rightful place in our country.
No LGBT community will take pride in advancing its cause without the support and participation of different sectors and classes. An isolated LGBT community can not claim its place in our society. This is why Bisdak Pride, Inc. is not exclusively for LGBTs because we believe heterosexuals are also effective mouthpiece in our advocacy for gender equality and societal change.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pope Francis’s first request: ‘Pray for me’

"But Roxanne Doron, Bisdak Pride director, raised the concern of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and transexuals in Cebu.

He voiced hope that the pontiff would review some documents, particularly the declaration concerning certain questions on sexual ethics that was issued in 1975, among others."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Termino ug pagbiay-biay

Matud pa sa gimantala nga balita sa SunStar Superbalita (March 7, 2013), "4 ka mga bayot nga designers nasikop".

Adunay dakong kibhang ang maong balita og sexist kini.

Ug ang kibhang mo-resulta sa dili unya hitupngan nga pagbiay-biay sa atong mga kaigso-unan nga adunay lahi nga kinaiyahong matang ug hiyas sa pagkatawo kun sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

Ang kalainan sa atong kinaiyahong matang ug hiyas sa pagkatawo mao ang gitawag nato nga defining characteristic in life kay innate man kini, sama sa race og color. Buot pasabot, wala gituyo, kabahin na sa pagkatawo hangtud sa kamatayon.

Sa pikas bahin, ang termino o bisan ang pulong nga gigamit adunay direkta nga negatibo ug positibo nga epekto. Ang ulohan sa maong balita, way duda, modugang sa pagpasiga sa kayo nga nagdaub sa atong mga kaigso-unan nga dili heterosexual.

Kinsay makalimot sa Vicente Sotto scandal o sa pellet gun victims sa Mango?

Dili angay ang pagmarka ni bisan kinsa tungod sa iyang hiyas sa pagkatawo. Samot, dili angay markahan ang tawo tungod sa atong pagdahom.

Tungod kay aduna man gud kita’y gitawag nga “unsa ang iyang tan-aw sa kaugalingon (self-concept)"  ug “unsa ang tan-aw sa laing tawo kaniya kun (community labeling)”. Apan ang “tan-aw sa laing tawo kaniya” kay suhitibo (subjective) kini og dili obhetibo (objective).

Ang paglikay sa subitibismo kun subjectivism adunay epekto nga positibo kaysa negatibo.

Busa, ako mosugyot nga mas angayan sa mga tigbalita mogamit pa guihapon sa kinaiyahong matang sa pagkatawo (pananglitan, ‘4 ka lalaki nga designers nasakop’) kay sa paggamit sa mga termino nga hiyas sa pagkatawo (sama sa, ‘4 ka bayot nga designers nasikop’).

Sultii ko, kun ibutang ta lang, mga pari, madre, militarypolice, mga tigbalita og mga politico ang mabutang sa ingon ana unya nga sitwasyon, ibutang kaha sa tigbalita nga, “4 ka mga paring bayot o militaring bayot nasikop”? 

Wala sa lugar to label people by virtue of their sexual orientation and gender identity, mao nga likayan kini, tungod kay dili sa tanan natong pagdahom sakto.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Outrageously Courageous

Note: For CEBU MONTHLY: A monthly newsletter of the Cebu Provincial Government

The courage of policy-makers at the local or even national level to introduce measures to defend, via legislation, the so-called “last socially acceptable prejudice” is both an act of courage and love.

Courage because only a handful, I dare say, will walk the path to damnation because stigma, discrimination, marginalization and oppression based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) is still apparent. While the LGBT community don’t ask for “special rights” much less, “special love” the proponents of anti-discrimination ordinance in the province and a bill in Congress is a love offered to the community and I am forever grateful.

Much to my relief that the LGBT community is blessed to partner with PB member Arleigh Sitoy in the province of Cebu and Rep. Teddy Casiño in the House of Representatives. Both men will enjoy the support of the LGBT community for their wisdom, compassion and courage.

Since 2011, PB Sitoy, without much fanfare, introduced an Anti-discrimination ordinance that will protect LGBTs in the workplace. His ordinance is significantly important as well as timely and relevant because it is very specific and hit the nail right on its head – protecting LGBTs in the workplace.

Protecting the LGBTs in the workplace is more urgent than ever. Most LGBTs are working tirelessly to support their family. By protecting their constitutionally guaranteed right to work, PB Sitoy risks the ire of some but is assured of a place in our history as the first to defend the rights and responsibilities of LGBTs in the workplace.  Hence, the urgency of  approving the ordinance is now in the hands of the entire members of the Cebu Provincial Board. I hope and pray that by tackling this issue, as initiated by PB Sitoy, the entire members of the Provincial Board, will be inclusive, rather in exclusive in legislating measures to protect all Cebuanos regardless of  their gender and sexuality.

It is also high time that a major provincial local government unit come up with a local law that helps protect and advance the LGBT community. Cebu province is known for various titles and accolades. It is time to add another feather in the province cap as being the most LGBT friendly in this part of the world.
Allow me also to cite Senatoriable Teddy Casiño’s House Bill 1483 or An Act Defining Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Providing Penalties Thereof filed in Congress in July 15, 2010. Like PB Sitoy, Rep. Casiño’s bill will likewise render legal protection to LGBTs nationwide.

While not specifically for LGBTs, it is notable that various cities around the Philippines, namely Cebu City, Davao City and Angeles City in Pampanga successfully passed anti-discrimination ordinance that penalizes any form of discrimination against diffently abled persons, different sexual orientation, ethnicity and religion.

I would like to reiterate important legal measures that is useful in discussing PB Sitoy’s ordinance, to wit:

1. The 1987 Constitution declares that “the State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights” (Article 2, Section 11, 1987 Constitution). It also imposes on  the State the duty to ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men (Article 2, Section 14);

2. This equal protection clause in the Bill of Rights logically requires that laws are implemented and applied equally and uniformly on all persons; be treated in the same manner with regard to privileges conferred and the liabilities imposed;

3. The Philippines is a signatory to international agreements on the respect for human rights of all persons regardless of any condition, including sex or sexual orientation. These international instruments have consistently been interpreted by international institutions, such as the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) and the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to include protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The UNHRC has interpreted Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which obliges States to “guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,” to include a protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has also interpreted Article 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) to include sexual orientation in the Covenant’s non-discrimination provisions;

4. The present and future realities that exist in the country should not be left behind by both national and local laws. The noble intentions of numerous national laws and international agreements are still wanting with respect to our LGBTs. They continue to be discriminated by society at large, primarily because of misconceptions and systemic state ignorance. LGBTs often find it difficult to exercise their rights as persons, workers, professionals, and ordinary citizens;

5. Prejudicial practices and policies – mostly unstated and unwritten – based on sexual orientation and gender identity severely limit the exercise and enjoyment of the basic rights and fundamental freedoms in schools, workplaces, commercial establishments, the civil service, even the security services;
6. State and private companies block the promotion and prevent the career advancement of gay or lesbian employees due to the deeply embedded notion that homosexuality denotes weakness. Laws such as the current anti-vagrancy law are also abused by the law enforcement agencies to harass gay men; and

7. Most importantly, LGBTs do not want nor claim additional “special” or “additional rights” in law. They only deserve to have equal observance of the rights, privileges and liabilities as those of our heterosexual compatriots.

To quote Rep. Teddy Casiño on the proposed ordinance of PB Member Sitoy: “The proposed provincial ordinance aims to extend the observance and advancement of the same rights as those of heterosexual persons that are denied to LGBTs in the workplace by current laws or practices: basic civil, political, social and economic rights.

“It is therefore imperative to define and penalize practices that discriminate against LGBTs in the workplace. It is our fervent wish that the Cebu Provincial Board pass its ordinance to protect the rights of workers and employees in the province. It would be a landmark ordinance. It will be a first in the Visayas and the country.  We fully support the passage of this provincial ordinance for the rights of LGBTs in the workplace.

Interview: Outrage Magazine

Roxanne Omega Doron: Unabashedly pink

Bisdak Pride Inc.: Unifying LGBT efforts

SECTION: Group Games
• When was the group formed? Who formed the group? Why was it formed?
Roxanne Omega Doron (ROD): Bisdak Pride, Inc. (BPI) was formed eight years ago as a response to the proposal from individuals, university and community-based lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations that their must be a unifying LGBT organization that will extend support to several community-based LGBT groups in the Bisaya speaking populace. Hence, Bisdak Pride. 

Most LGBT groups in the community are composed mainly of effeminate gay men. The establishment of BPI as an LBGT group is to unify all sub-populations within the gay community in different geographical location, within the Bisaya speaking areas – at least those who will adhere to our principles. In fact, heterosexual men and women who advocates for the rights and responsibilities of LGBTs are welcome in our organization.

Significantly, it was floated the during the “In the Pink of Health: First Visayas-Mindanao LGBT Leadership Conference”, a project of ProGay Philippines with support from The Royal Netherlands Embassy, on August 28-29, 2005, in Davao City, that challenged those who attended the conference to strengthen LGBT communities – I was one of those who attended and took the challenge.

I had the courage to established this group from scratch because even before its establishment in 2005, I was already invited to speak in various schools, communities and even factories to extend support to LGBTs and provide timely and relevant educational discussions that affects them and society.

• What are the challenges you face now? How are these faced?
ROD: As founder and currently the executive director, the challenge is how to sustain the momentum we establish more than half a decade ago. 

I am grateful that I am accompanied by dedicated, hardworking and selfless individuals who are passionate in serving the LGBT community. Allow me to mention their names; Third, Lucky, Ronz, Cres and Beejhun, they are my co-equal in these difficult tasks to help other LGBTs in our day-to-day affair, and many other individuals who are supportive of and proud to contribute to BPIs development.

Then, of course, the finances; I can say it is a feat to survive for eight years without external funding that supports our four core programs. However, we are in the right track now and the ground is fertile to look for funds and donors that will help us consolidate our gains.  Two of our advocates are in the United States and Australia finishing their doctorate degree and are in-charge in strengthening international linkages.
We are also in close contact with an NGO in Switzerland for a pioneering study on MSM. The Graduate School of Southwestern University (SWU) in Cebu City is in collaboration with us to finance the printing of our IEC materials.

• What makes your group different from others also existing for the LGBTcommunity?

ROD: We are different in various ways; in strategy, tactics, and notably principles and direction.
First, we are an LGBT group that includes heterosexual men and women who are determined as we are to become advocates for gender and sexual rights and commit for social change. We do not want to alienate those who wish to support LGBT rights and welfare just because they are heterosexuals. They can be good mouthpiece for gender equality, too.

Second, we have four (4) core programs that best articulate the needs and interests of LGBTs as we see it. Our core programs include, Queer Politics, Queer Health, Queer Theology and Queer Culture.

Third, we look at the issue of the LGBT community as part and parcel of the entire struggle of the Filipino people for social change – you can’t go any deeper than that. LGBTs, like women, cut across all sectors. We are widely present in the peasant class where feudal and patriarchal exploitation is more apparent and deep. The working class, too, has its share of a significant gay minority. Even within the women, young professionals and adolescents, gays are present and seemingly more tolerated – but rarely accepted.

• Achievements that the group is proud of?
ROD: Our existence without funding is a feat in itself. But we can not brag about it in the next few years – it would be an utter failure.

We are happy and proud to have traveled in various communities in the Visayas and Mindanao using our own resources and support from generous individuals and institutions. For example, our trip in Mindanao last year was supported by Small Wonders Academic Center (SWAC) a local Chinese community school and Cokaliong Shipping Lines, Inc. Or the trip in Baybay City, Leyte two years ago was made possible through the kind support of Visayas State University (VSU) and Roble Shipping Lines. 

We conduct activities through networking and alliances. Local government units also supported our trainings like the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) and municipal and city governments.

Other achievements we can brag about is when we hosted the arrival of Prof. Ted Jennings, noted biblical scholar and was the acting dean of Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS), he later funded our groundbreaking one-time activity titled, “Queer Theology: Impact to Queer Communities in Third World Countries” five years ago.

We are also the co-organizer of the “First Visayas-Mindanao MSM and TG Conference”, A project of Health Action Information Network (HAIN) with support from United Nations Development Program (UNDP), on September 24-25, 2010, in Davao City.

We are also the co-convenor in Cebu of the international campaign One Billion Rising to end violence against women and girls last February 14, 2013. We also contribute to the development of Visayan arts and culture by hosting the regional Cinema Rehiyon “Binisaya Film Festival” a flagship project of the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) sub-committee on film and currently working for the Bisdak Pride First Queer Literary contest.

• What are the group’s future plans?
ROD: Our future and present plan includes strengthening our organization as we celebrate our eight year, consolidate our various LGBT partner groups, and ensure heightened partnership with non-government organizations (NGOs), people’s organization (POs), academe, ecumenical groups, youth and students’ groups and local government units (LGUs).

We are finalizing our system and mechanisms in recruiting gender equality advocates in hundreds. We are done with the membership form that also serves as a research tool on gender, rights, religion and health. This is an initial step as we leapfrog.

• How can one join and be a part of the group?
ROD: The good thing about our current members is we do not recruit them, they applied. So you can see from there that they are really interested. It is easy to join BPI because we are very accessible in various ways; social networking and physical presence. We travel a lot, partnered with various sectarian and non-sectarian institutions, government and non-government institutions and very active-online.

SECTION: Shakers & Movers

• When did you start becoming an LGBT advocate?

Roxanne Omega Doron (ROD): It all started during the “60th National Student Press Convention and 30th Biennial Student Press Congress” of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) on May 23 – 28, 2000, in Itogon, Benguet. After the five day conference we elected the first, if I am not mistaken, openly gay national chair of CEGP, the indefatigable Rey Asis.

Openly-gays met after the tiring whole-day conferences and it was during our evening get-together that we unabashedly call ourselves the “Pink Collective.” My understanding of LGBT rights hand-in-hand with the people’s movement for social change became more visible as we discussed until the wee hours.

• Who/What triggered you to be an LGBT advocate?
ROD:  In 1995, I am already a student activist during my first year as engineering student at the University of San Carlos. I became an advocate for the people’s cause then and eventually became so for LGBTs. The issues confronted by LGBTs are not separate from the issues faced by peasants, workers, women, youth and professionals. But it was during the year 2000 when I attended the CEGP convention and thereafter was elected in absentia as national founding vice-president for the Visayas of Anakbayan where I exponentially struggle for youth and people’s issues, including the LGBTs.

For example, unabated oil price increases, onerous school fees, unfair taxation, high prices of basic commodities, unemployment and underemployment, low wages and less benefits and genuine land reform are issues all sectors and classes, including the LGBTs confronted daily. Because LGBTs also ride public utility vehicles, send someone to school or self-supporting students, budget family income, breadwinners, toil the land and even manage small and medium enterprises.

• What are the key issues you believe we should focus on in the LGBTcommunity in the Philippines?
ROD: From a macro-level, the LGBT community, along with various sectors and classes, should study the historical circumstances of stigma, discrimination, marginalization and oppression based on gender, sexuality and class.

From a micro-level, the LGBT community, specifically, the sub-population of gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM) and even the transgender (TG), should consider the issue on health a major concern in order to prevent the spread of HIV to the general population and maintain it at its alarming level within the MSM and TG community.

• What disappoints you in the local LGBT community?
ROD: My patience revolves around the universe and far extends even beyond my mortality; I am not someone who easily gets pissed-off.

My theoretical training and practical experiences as a political and social activist of the national democratic (ND) movement for half of my life, has given me a more solid, profound and objective understanding of the different social construct and classes. The more you understand society and classes, the more you are able to understand people’s behavior – their stand, viewpoint and method. In a way, you will be able to objectify and adjust – and learn from them – which are crucial.

I was once an active (full-time) ND activist and we were being taught in theory and in practice to be objective. When you are objective, you look at ‘disappointments’ not as negative limiting but positive limiting. 

• What inspires you in the LGBT community? Why so?
ROD: I am happy that wherever I go, community-based LGBT groups sprouting like mushrooms in the wilderness but still traditional and non-political. Whatever the circumstances of their existence, it is notable to see and help them in a way because directly or indirectly, it is a form of political assertion. Several inquiries within and outside Cebu province are also in the offing on how they can establish their own group.

• What achievements are you specifically most proud of?
ROD: I am proud to collaborate to various individuals and groups. But I dare say it is an achievement to maintain people with the same caliber and commitment as me. The likes of Third, Lucky, Ronz, Cres and Beejhun – my co-equal within the BPI organization are my important comrades in this struggle. Maintaining them, encouraging them (and they encourage me), and knowing someday they will run this organization with their own style, intellect, fervor, principle, commitment and hope is a feat I want to see soonest.

• How would you want for the LGBT community to know, and remember you?
ROD: As someone who established Bisdak Pride, Inc. from scratch – meaning to say without direct support and supervision from various groups and individuals, like no group planned for its establishment or no prominent individual encourages me to put up one. But I deeply value the suggestions of veteran LGBT organizers and non-LGBTs whom I prefer to keep anonymous.

But I do not own this organization, it is just that I am fortunate enough to initiate its establishment.

• Future plans as far as LGBT advocacy is concerned?
ROD: Help ensure that the Anti-discrimination bill, specifically authored by Rep. Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna and a candidate for senator of Makabayan coalition will soon become a law, and encourage LGUs to pass their own ordinances. Ensure visibility of our organization on issues that affects the LGBT community and the people. Continue expanding and strengthening LGBT organizations and decisively link them to the people’s movement for social change.  

What does Courtney Act and Rich Fernandez have in common?

Self-proclaimed Courtney Act fanboy Rich Fernandez does a fun and quirky shoot with Filipino photographer Adrian Gonzales. So who is Ri...