Pride is struggle against hate: LGBT Pride in the Philippines twenty-two years past Stonewall Manila
(Statement of Kapederasyon, a militant LGBT organization in the Philippines, on the commemoration of the 22nd year of Filipino LGBT Pride)
Kapederasyon LGBT Organization honors the 22nd anniversary of the first Pride March in the Philippines, also dubbed as “Stonewall Manila”, that was led by the Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay Philippines) and Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in June 26, 1994. The first Pride March, which was also the first LGBT mass action ever in all of Asia, was held to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the historic “Stonewall Uprising” in New York in the US in June 1969.
That pivotal LGBT mass action 22 years ago remains symbolic in the conduct of annual Pride marches in the ensuing years, not just in the Philippines but in other Asian countries and key cities as well, such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, and Thailand.
Twenty-two years ago, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender participants in Stonewall Manila took a firm grip at history, marched and took to the streets, from EDSA to the Quezon City Memorial Circle, our utter discontent and condemnation of the age old discrimination and systemic state-sanctioned homophobia perpetually committed to us by society. Stonewall Manila was not only to protest discrimination and social intolerance of LGBT people, but also other social issues affecting the LGBTs and the Filipino people as a whole. That day and through the years that followed, we also decried tyrannical social impositions such as VAT, low wages, scarcity of employment and income opportunities, demolition of homes, tuition hikes, the national ID system, corruption in government and numerous other oppressive state policies and issuances that doubly jeopardized our human existence and sexuality.
Today, 22 years after, the country’s political and economic crises continually deepen, making life harder for the Filipino people and doubly harsher to Filipino LGBTs. The unjust social structures that prevailed more than two decades ago continue to persist and, as if to rub salt to an open wound, also evolved into newer forms of afflictions or gave birth to heavier burdens for the Filipino LGBT people to carry on our shoulders. With other oppressed sectors in Philippine society, a significant majority of us remain trapped in the quagmire of utter poverty and decadence, chained in the hopelessness and despair resultant to the systemic denial of opportunity to decent living conditions, ample education, appropriate health care and other social services.
Preying on our combined character being ostensibly tolerant and subservient, the tyrannical and exploitative class lording it over us lifted not a finger to respond to any single call we over and over screamed out loud while marching the streets of Metro Manila 22 years ago and thereafter. Much too far from redressing the grievances of its LGBT constituencies widely scattered in every Philippine social sector, the State, from one reign to the other, for a span of more than two decades, chose instead to pay no attention to our protests, lending the validity of our cause one deaf ear to the next. Each regime from Ramos to Aquino, in the pretense of diffidence to the reality of our presence, ruled a good distance away from us and other marginalized citizenry, muted on and ambivalent to our cause, far across a dysfunctional system of corruption and impunity throughout the 22 long years after the first Pride March.
Twenty-two years after Stonewall Manila, the majority of the Filipino LGBT people and impoverished sectors make ends meet in the midst of corruption and plunder too downright in blatancy and shamelessness. Barely subsisting under the mercy of massive unemployment, total landlessness and labor exploitation through job contractualization, the Filipinos LGBTs suffer, a hundredfold worse than the rest of the marginalized sectors, in a society ran through the whims and caprices of landlords, thieves and conspirators, around the beck and call of foreign domination.
Within safe spaces with nooks and corners constantly constricted by homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and other monstrous progenies of patriarchy, albeit the palliatives of local-level ordinances expected to ensure for us security against discrimination and prejudice, the LGBT people have learned to be vigilant while having to continue to struggle. In the absence of comprehensive statutes or national laws that shall usher for all of us far-reaching advances in terms of safety and security and protection of lives and properties, local decrees and regulations will not hold as much water in guaranteeing for us freedom from discrimination as such injunctions in the local level are likely to be obfuscated by bigotry, hatred, violence, and death. The flagrancy of the murder of Jennifer Laude by a serviceman of the United States manifests the fatal effect of foreign intervention to our country and the Filipino people. Hence, the painful compulsions that took us 22 long years of struggle only to remain unabated prevail. As such, we remain marginalized and in danger.
As a sector essential in nation-building and social transformation, the resolve to effect meaningful change in our society remains in our hands. And until essential social changes take shape, we shall not cease taking the same grievances we have started to shout out more than two decades ago to the streets and to any other avenues including the Philippine legislature and other institutions of the State.
The recent hate attack in Orlando, Florida where 49 of our brothers and sisters were executed in cold blood and 53 others seriously wounded, in all irony taking place in the month of June when Pride is being commemorated the world over, is a serious reminder that more than a reason to celebrate, Pride remains to be a militant and revolutionary struggle against hate.
Orlando, in all its manifestations, is a wake-up call for LGBTIQ people across nations, to erase the borders of intersections, to resist hate in all forms which pit us against each other and other minority and religious groups, to stop distrust and infighting among us, to break the walls confining us in boxes called sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, which, much to our willingness, further segregates us albeit unwittingly from each other. Orlando is but a call for stronger unity among our ranks to work even harder to fight back against bigotry and violence, in honor of the memory of those whose lives were violently ended.
Now stronger as a decisive segment of society and more resilient to newer forms of oppression and prejudice, never again shall we allow ourselves to be cowed to silence. Instead, we shall persevere in amplifying our shared aspiration for the recognition and respect of the individual civil and political rights of all persons regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, just as we shall be forthright and bolder in asserting our economic, social and cultural rights as a community.
Resonating the same battle cry 22 years ago, we the Filipino LGBT, honed by years of relentlessness and perseverance, sharpened by conspired double standard and societal deceit, together with other oppressed and marginalized social sectors, vow to put an end to the atrocious conspiracy in tyranny and subjugation that has elbowed us to the margins for what seems like eternity. In the face of the ever-present intimidation and danger that never ceased to inflict evil, injury and death to our ranks, we shall never falter in raising our voices, or risking our lives, for as long as our dignity as human beings are continually threatened or wantonly disregarded.
As long as the unjust structures persist, so shall we and the fight we wage. And as we have repeatedly affirmed for 22 long years, we shall carry through with the LGBT struggle, in the militant tradition of Stonewall Manila in 1994 and in revolutionary nature of the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, to end discrimination and defeat homophobia/ biphobia/ transphobia — fervently, ceaselessly, untiringly — until we have wielded the ultimate rupture to bigotry, struck the conclusive death blow to patriarchy, and subsequently dismantled the despotic system that perpetuates it.
Thenceforth, like a thousand flowers in full bloom, equal rights shall start to flourish. And, under the crimson shade of a skyline serene at last, over the arc of the rainbow so magnificently insistent in heralding the culmination of a ferocious storm, gender justice shall eventually reign.