Day Twenty-Nine: Something that made me angry.
For a few years, I helped organize the Metro Manila Pride March. It’s called Metro Manila Pride now because it expanded beyond the marching. It was, at the same time, the best, the worst, and the craziest thing I ever did.
What a lot of people, even those who attend the parade, don’t realize is that the organizers often don’t have a lot of money for the whole thing. Not counting the program that is set after the parade (where participating organizations expect to give a speech on whatever that org stands for), the permits, the publicity, the registration materials, and all those stuff people don’t notice but are needed to bring about the entire thing cost money.
Every year is a miracle.
Needless to say, organizing the entire parade is stressful work. And that’s not unsurprising at all. But there are some things that needlessly add to the stress. Sometimes, you just wish you can punch some people in the face.
Read the rest: It was the first time we’re doing the parade in Makati.
Day Thirteen: Memorable strangers.
The last time I visited the lolas of the Home for the Golden Gays, they gathered in a small dance studio in Pasay, owned by one of the city councilors.
I enjoy visiting the lolas. They are always full of life when they are together, despite their situation after their former benefactor, Justo Justo, passed away. So as much as I enjoy seeing them, visits to the Golden Gays also give a sad, sorry feeling because I realize how little I can actually help them.
During this particular visit, there were young kids in the studio, practicing for a dance competition. The studio takes in students from among the lower and lower middle class families living in the area. The kids study various types of dance for free.
It inspiring, watching these kids dance, especially for someone who wasn’t gifted in highly-coordinated motion. They practiced their waltzes and rumbas, gliding easily along the shabby dance floor.
The studio takes in these students to keep them away from vice and bad company. I don’t know how effective the program is in practice; I know from experience that well-meaning projects like these are more optimistic in their aspirations than how things eventually turn out in real life.
While it is true that one can be taught how to dance, not everyone can dance with seemingly effortless grace. I do hope that many of these kids grow up not forgetting how to dance.
Day Seven: A neighbor.
Next week is Spirit Day, and international LGBTQ campaign against bullying, especially those targetted at LGBTQ youths. Though not directly related to bullying, I will write about a particular neighbor I see in our street.
I am not the most sociable person. My social media accounts might claim otherwise, but I lived for decades on the same street without knowing the names of most of the neighbors. I don’t even know the names of the tenants living within our compound. But, people-watcher that I am, I know their faces.
There is this kid in his early teenage years. He’s maybe fourteen, tall and slender. His voice still occasionally cracks when he speaks, something that a guy learns to really control only at fifteen or sixteen.
He is also effiminate.
Seriously, a title like “Pride” isn’t the most engaging thing one can call a movie. It isn’t enough to hint at how heartwarming and inspiring the story of a group of gay activists who decided to help a small mining town.
It’s 1985 in the UK. Immediately after a Pride March that surprisingly had fewer police presence, a group of gay activists realized where the police were putting their attention in: a recently started protest of British miners. These activists decided to raise money to help protesting miners as show of solidarity. Just like the miners, gay people have experienced oppression from the government. The idea was not met with enthusiasm at first, but after several attempts, the activists were able to get in touch with a small Welsh mining village where many residents joined the protests.
The touching thing about Pride is how it effectively showed how the struggles of one underprivileged group is not that different compared to another. The people of the village had mixed reactions to a group of gay people approaching them for help; back then, gay people very rarely identify themselves in rural areas because doing so result in heavy discrimination.
Not unexpectedly, most villagers had strong opposition, at first. But because of persistence and some initial straight allies, the relationship between the gay activists and the village, and eventually the miners, warmed up.
Pride essentially was a dramatization of one of the early victories of LGBTQ activism in the UK. It happened when two seemingly separate groups realized their common struggle and committed to support each other. The climax of the movie was a very heartwarming show of that commitment: I got some goosebumps when I saw it.
But within this larger plot of worker and gay rights, Pride also wove little stories of each character. Just as important as the ideals that these people fought for are the humanity and individuality of each person: their individual struggles.
The popular narrative within gay activism these days is that of love and the equal dignity of LGBTQ love. Pride distances itself from this narrative; several characters are shown with romantic partners but no conflict was introduced because of those relationships. The movie instead highlighted fellowship, brotherhood and sisterhood, camaraderie, and chosen families. That gay people are also part of the common human experience.
As representative from PinoyG4M.com, I was asked if I can give a two-minute solidarity message for the LGBT National Day of Outrage for the killing of Jennifer Laude. Like most things I do, I wrote this at the last minute while commuting from Makati to Diliman.
While I knew there will be media coverage for the event, I did not expect that I will be giving this statement in front of TV cameras.
A comment from someone in social media: “Sometimes people of this kind are really not worth the sympathy sometimes.”
We are here to mourn the passing of Jennifer Laude and to express sympathy for her family and loved ones. We are also here to show our outrage, our indignation, our anger for the crime that took away her life.
This crime has touched a lot of issues in Filipino society: The double standard we seem to apply on crimes committed by non-Filipinos. The not-unfounded concern that Jennifer will be denied justice. The shock at the brutal and dehumanizing manner of her death. The disappointment on how some in the media presented Jennifer’s story. The disbelief over the victim-blaming in many public reactions. And the fear that we, the LGBT community, despite our seeming acceptance in society are still vulnerable to violence committed out of hate.
In a different instance, at a different place, it could be one of us who will be the reason for this gathering. You can be Jennifer Laude. I can be Jennifer Laude. Each one of us can be Jennifer Laude.
But isn’t that right?
I am Jennifer Laude. You are Jennifer Laude. We are Jennifer Laude. While each one of us are vulnerable to hate, each one of us can also stop this hate.
That we are all here today show that our lives matter, that we want justice, that we want an end to this violence. That we are all here today means we are taking up the challenge to ensure that these changes happen.
I am Jennifer Laude. And I take up this challenge.