In this age of the Internet, the term “LGBTQIA” is no longer an unfamiliar term worldwide. With June being Pride Month and the Philippines celebrating Independence Day on the 12th, Filipino LGBTQIA celebrates two different kinds of pride. This leads to the question, what is it like being a part of the LGBTQIA in the Philippines?
The Philippines is a very religious nation. It is probably one of the few countries where there are religious national holidays and where a huge portion of the population identifies themselves as Roman Catholic. Although the Philippine Constitution states that there is a separation between the church and state, the Catholic Church remains influential in the decision-making of many matters. While there are many LGBTQIA’s who have a religion, their identities aren’t easily accepted by many religions and remain controversial when discussed in sermons. However, that’s not to say that being part of the LGBTQIA community is illegal in the Philippines and is not a crime of any kind.
‘”Coming out” for many LGBTQIA’s all over the world can usually be a challenging and taxing process especially since it comes off as a pivotal moment in building their identity. However, in the Philippines, it is probably a thousand times harder since many Filipinos have very traditional, religious families. In fact, some of them don’t come out at all and live secret lives hidden away from their families. Most usually end up ‘coming out’ unintentionally when their parents or relatives catch them in the act. Worst-case scenarios usually end up with the child getting disowned or in a big fight in the family while the best-case scenarios are usually when the parents accept their child without hesitation. Either can happen when someone comes out but the most common one is somewhere in the middle. Usually, the parents themselves either accept or simply tolerate it but tell their child not to be too open about it with older relatives probably to protect them from prejudice.
Despite the disapproving titos, titas, lolos and lolas (uncles, aunties, grandpas, and grandmas), Filipinos, especially the younger ones, are growing more accepting of pride in the country. While the government doesn’t host pride parades or special events to celebrate pride, some small groups have started doing their own pride initiatives such as mini parades. There are organized activities for people in the community for setting up infographics and events that encourage openness and acceptance especially to those struggling with their identity. Although not as open as other countries, same-sex couples and transgenders are now coming out in the open public with their true identities. It is truly a brave act for them to do that in the judgmental Filipino society where discrimination may not be blatant but is very much felt. In fact, most of them head online where they can be more candid and accepted for who they are.
Late in 2020, many citizens pushed for the refiling of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill, also known as the Anti-Discrimination Bill (ADB) in light of President Duterte giving absolute pardon to a former US Marine who was convicted of homicide in the killing of a Filipina transwoman Jennifer Laude. For a little overview, this bill does not legalize same-sex marriage, alteration of religious or academic teachings, or allow changing the sex on a person’s birth certificate but it does protect LGBTQIA’s from discrimination especially in schools, workplaces, and in receiving services. It merely recognizes them as the individuals they are and encourages others to accept them as human beings without prejudice. However, many traditional people oppose the passing of this bill because they say that it goes against their religious beliefs. The bill was first filed in 2000 and up to now still hasn’t been passed.
Despite the bill not being approved, Filipino LGBTQIA’s continue to fight for their rights to live freely and openly as possible. Although it might be a long shot for them at this point in time, they know that it will take baby steps for society today to be more accepting of their existence. It was not their choice to be who they are and they should not be condemned for it. We are all human and no matter who we are, we all deserve love and respect.