By KERRY TINGA
As the month draws to a close, where does all the Pride go? When the colors of the rainbow are no longer in vogue and the stories of queer figures no longer profitable and the topics of discussion have gone on to the next news cycle, where does all the Pride go?
Not being part of the community, I acknowledge that my experiences and perspectives on the issues are limited. But it’s Pride Month and so I ought to write about Pride. As a writer, I know the best way to overcome a lack of understanding is to get in touch with the people who have internalized the heroics and heartbreak of the community. June turns to July and then to August and then to September. For them, however, Pride is not a month. It is their lives and their struggle and their dream for an equal and just world.
I reached out to Filipino LGBTQ+ youth advocacy groups in the Philippines, namely the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman’s Babaylan organization, De La Salle University–College of St. Benilde’s Hive organization, and the Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders, or PANTAY. A date and time were set for a roundtable discussion. I had a few questions in mind but we let the conversation flow and inform itself.
But there was the first, most important question of where and how we should begin. How could I, we, at Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, talk about the advocacies of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies? And after a back and forth with the group, I came out of it learning that the best way to advocate for the community, especially after Pride Month, is to, well, keep talking about it.
“There is a tendency for activism in the Philippines to become an echo chamber,” reflected Venus, an incoming third-year student of English at UP Diliman and the vice president of UP Diliman Babaylan. “While there are many established and emerging LGBT+ organizations outside Metro Manila, it is still mostly confined to the metro, or at least to the urban centers and it can seem like tayo tayo lang suportahan (it is just us supporting).”
“The shift toward online activism is a shift toward inclusivity and inclusion,” they continued. Originally from outside Manila, Venus recalled that before they came to Diliman, their understanding of the advocacy of the community was limited. And while they were able to find an organization that shared their values, many other young people outside urban centers still had limited access to education and information about the advocacy. “It isn’t enough. If we look at the call to suspend online classes, we recognize that not everyone has access to the Internet, not everyone has access to online participation. I think that is one of the difficulties we need to confront in our advocacy: How do we engage people without the Internet?”
As the director of external affairs of PANTAY, Evez Evangelista has a good understanding of the various projects the different LGBTQ+ youth organizations work on throughout the year. And while there are many amazing things to highlight, he recognizes that the predominantly online work is not enough.
“Sometimes when we put things online it feels like a one-way street,” said Evez. “That is why I think people need to engage with others directly. Even if you don’t know them, comment on a tweet, try to communicate with people so you know what they are thinking and correct your own misconceptions about what the advocacy is all about. It is the follow-through that is important.”
You could say that, as a writer on an assignment, I had a reason to reach out to advocates within the community, to research how to write about Pride in a thoughtful and considerate manner. But it has become painfully clear that opportune times for conversation are rare, and it is the awkward, seemingly random conversations that need to occur to normalize the discussion in our day-to-day lives, between allies and even within the community.
“We are a relatively new organization, having been accredited in 2016,” said a representative of Benilde Hive. “We are still in the process of understanding our voice, our platform, and our role in our community.”
On the other end of the timeline, UP Babaylan is considered the first LGBTQ+ school organization in Asia. But the fact that it was only established in 1992 goes to show how relatively new organized youth advocacies are in the LGBTQ+ movement. It has grown tremendously over the years, as a microcosm of the country it has paralleled the growth of the local movement, but it is still the most basic levels of conversation that need to be considered.
How do we talk about Pride every month, when Pride Month is over?
Keep the momentum of the discussion going both on and especially off of social media.
If you’re like me, a well-intentioned ally, you’ll make some mistakes along the way. Accept it and take the initiative to reach out to the advocates you know who have the patience and willingness to educate you. Try to educate yourself through books, movies, and articles. And with the new knowledge and perspectives you have gathered, remember that calling people out is only as helpful to the movement as the follow-through in trying to enlighten them of their transgressions.