February 2, 2023

“I’m gay” – two words that can suddenly change the course of life. Fortunately, when I uttered them for the first time, I was met with love. Sadly, this is not the same for everybody. One could think that since I grew up in an accepting environment, I have no reason to loudly stand up for my community’s rights. My upbringing is privileged. I have a mom who took awhile to accept my coming out, but nevertheless loved me the same, and I have a sister who, despite being Christian and devoted to God, recognized that being gay is not a choice and something not to be punished for. My life is evidently comfortable compared to other LGBTQ+ youth who can’t come out, who struggle to accept who they are, and who experience homophobia. That begs to ask the question: why should I choose to rally on the streets, lobby school policies and actively participate in campaigns when my life is already comfortable? Don’t I have the option to live a quiet life and not be involved with a movement?
LGBTQ+ rights do not end with fighting for the individual’s right to love, but rather it transcends to the struggle of other groups, minorities, and marginalized members of society. The LGBTQ+ community is not an isolated group. It means that we belong in different sectors of our country. Gay jeepney drivers, queer vendors, bisexual farmers, non-binary teachers, trans health workers, queer youth and lesbian women only make up a portion of the entire community. How about journalists who speak truth to power? How about critical LGBTQ+ media practitioners who are threatened and intimidated into silence? We cannot fight for the acceptance of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (Sogie) and then leave them to struggle on their own in other pressing issues. It is not enough that we celebrate their Sogie then turn a blind eye when their right to expression is denied as if we don’t know how that feels.
If we can recognize the oppression faced by our community, what’s stopping us from recognizing the oppression others face? Our calls should transcend “love is love” or “trans rights are human rights.” Equally as important, it must lead to “defend press freedom,” “stop union busting,” “land to the tillers,” and “abot-kaya, dekalidad at ligtas na balik eskwela! The fight for queer rights is sectoral. Others even use the term “intersectional”, denoting that the struggles of an individual are interlinked, creating an experience unique to the one shared by the prejudiced community.
For instance, the experiences of a lesbian White woman are not exactly comparable to that of a lesbian Filipino woman in the United States. Both may be lesbians but experience different things. When the Covid-19 pandemic in the U.S.A reached its height, White women were not subjected to xenophobia and anti-Asian hate. They did not fear for their lolas and lolos possibly being assaulted walking down the streets in broad daylight. They were not subjected to vitriol. They both may experience homophobia and misogyny, but their shared experiences are not enough to fully encapsulate their individual struggles.
To all my fellow LGBTQ+ members, I ask you to go back to the roots of our liberation. Let’s not forget the people who came before us that fought for what we have now. Let’s remember our history, and recall that it all began with the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York – its beginning was not a colorful display of a parade of acceptance every June. It started when queer people in a gay bar in New York had enough of police corruption and raids. It began when a lesbian and a transwoman threw a brick in defiance of being maltreated for something harmless that set them free.
My message is simple: I may have grown up in a loving and accepting community, but that does not leave me without purpose in being vocal. The LGBTQ+ community is my reason. You are my reason. Our community is my reason, and the sector where each of us fall. Let’s transcend our fight for love to a love that fights for everyone. Ika nga nila, “Pula ang unang kulay ng bahaghari!”