Stories of Being Me: Short film screenings in celebration of IDAHO.

From an emailed invitation from the UNDP:

To mark the global celebration of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) brings you:

Stories of Being Me
A Short Film Showing

May 16, 2014
5.30 PM – 7.00 PM
University of the Philippines Film Institute Film Center

The event is open to general public audience. Admission is free.

‘Stories of Being Me’ is a campaign led by B-Change Foundation in supporting the well-being of young people from sexual and gender minorities. The objective of the film showing is to raise awareness about the personal lives of LGBT people across Asia Pacific. It is putting a personal face to LGBT people challenges and successes.

‘Stories of Being Me’ is part of the ‘Being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) in Asia’, regional initiative. This is in partnership with the University of the Philippines Center for Women’s Studies (UP – CWS) for the hosting of the film showing.

That huge and unwieldy complication we shall refer to as SOGIE.

A good question from the Geeky Guide: Are we over-complicating the LGBT identity discussion?

I agree with some of the points Rocky raised in his entry but wanted to answer some of his questions. However, I ended up typing a really long reply, I decided I’d turn it to a blog post instead.

Are things like SOGIE and the Genderbread Person the best first steps for LGBT education in the country? Just looking at are still-rising rates of HIV infection in the country and one can’t help but feel that we’re more like early 1980’s America in terms of both HIV awareness and perhaps the state of LGBT rights and understanding. Is it arguable that concepts like SOGIE are too advanced? Or are we thinking too little of people?

Is SOGIE too advanced? Maybe. Are we thinking too little of people? Maybe not.

After all, people are what determined what those letters in LGBTIQ stand for. Specifically, we who identify ourselves within those letters. Except that, again and again, we’ll encounter situations when “LGBTIQ” becomes too limited or even too restrictive. Terms like “bakla” or “lesbiana” carries several connotations for different people, there is often more disagreement over the use of those terms rather than encouraging the understanding and acceptance these descriptive terms for gender should be bringing.

Real world example: In some urban poor areas in the country, the terms “lesbian” or “transman” are not accepted. Many of the butch women prefer the term “tomboy”, a concept that is sometimes a mix between butch lesbian and transman. Women who are girlfriends or wives of tomboys are not considered lesbians, either. They are seen more like straight women who happen to be in a relationship with a tomboy.

On the male side, a blogger named Dalumat once wrote about guys who are “tunay na lalaki”. These are men who get into relationships with very effeminate gay men or with transwomen. They are not gay, and the ladies who seek them do not wish to be in a relationship with “gay men”; they are referred to as “tunay na lalaki” (real men). Many will perhaps treat the relationship as money-based (the girlfriend will spend for these men), except that in some cases it isn’t. But they’re not gay, nor are they bi; they are straight men.

Crowd at Million People March

So there is a need to describe the variety within human gender and sexuality while using as few of the pre-existing neutral categories and terms as possible because in reality, terms like “gay” or “lesbian” are not enough to describe reality. While we may not need to put all attention on plotting the range of human sexuality against a SOGIE graph, some understanding of it can help remove the feeling of otherness of people who doesn’t fall within the existing categories we currently use.

Like the case for MSMs among HIV/AIDS and STI programs. The natural assumption of many of us is that men who engage in sex with other men are gay or bisexual, even though some of them will not us those terms (as I pointed out in “tunay na lalaki”). Gender identity and sexual behavious are actually two seperate things (hence the creation of the neutral term MSM: “men having sex with men”); understanding that idea can help health workers reach out critical MSM groups without giving those MSMs the discomfort of being labelled “gay”.

Wait a minute. Men who have sex with men but are not gay? Are we encouraging homophobia here? Maybe, maybe not. But it is a reality that some men engage in sex with other men not because of homosexual attraction. Instead of discussing which appropriate terms to us, it is more important to reach out to critical populations and assure them that they will not be judged to be one thing or another based on who they sleep with.

Little boys kissing

An even more important (I believe) application of SOGIE ideas is how it can be used by educators and guidance counselors in helping youths that are first coming into terms with their gender and sexuality. Or helping kids that are receiving negative attention for not acting within heteronormativy. This one sector within the LGBT population that is sadly given very little attention to. And yet, helping young people understand early the variety in gender and sexuality can help address other issues LGBTIQ populations face later in life: discrimination, depression, STIs, etc.

A few months back, my boyfriend (who was working on a campaign to make SOGIE simpler and more relatable — it wasn’t easy and we had to drop it) asked me why is it important for someone to learn SOGIE? How can it help someone’s daily experience? It’s a fair question, and something that should be asked more to people who advocate SOGIE understanding. I forgot how I answered my boyfriend and I don’t think I gave a good answer, either. I think understanding SOGIE and its implications can help us by underscoring these ideas:

1. Our actions and expressions are varied.
2. Some actions and expressions are just as valid as others.
3. How we express ourselves and how we act should not be the only basis for judging our and others’ worth as people.

So are we over-complicating the LGBTIQ identity discussion? Maybe. Except that the subject is already quite complicated to begin with. Should we include SOGIE in our discussions of LGBTIQ identity? Yes, we should. Gradually, just like how we are taught complex subjects in schools. We can’t avoid it. But we can lay the foundations to make it easier to understand.

What is happening to the Home for the Golden Gays?

I became involved with the Home for the Golden Gays in 2011 when PinoyG4M and Akei visited the Home. The Home is a place where elderly gays and lesbians (hence, “golden gays”) can stay if they have nowhere else to go. After speaking to its secretariat, Ramon Busa, and with the approval of its founder, Justo Justo, I offered to create a website, Facebook page and Twitter account for the Home for the Golden Gays to expand their online presence and make it easier for other people to help the Home.

Justo Justo passed away in May 2012 and Ramon Busa took over as the president of the Home for the Golden Gays. Shortly after Justo Justo’s passing, the residents of the Home moved out of his family home and into a new (but much smaller) apartment in Pasay.

I still post updates to the website and Facebook page, especially when Mr Busa requests that I add some content. My help to the Home is purely voluntary and the expense of renewing their website’s domain name is my small personal donation to the Home.

For some time now, I noticed new updates coming from the Facebook page that I did not upload. These were mostly photos from outreach projects made in the Home in 2012, when Mr Justo was still alive. I did not mind those photos because they are, after all, activities made in the Home for the Golden Gays.

However, I saw in my feeds an update from the Facebook page warning people that Mr Busa is no longer affiliated with the Home for the Golden Gays. Naturally, I was puzzled and I looked into the Home for Golden Gays Facebook page to see if there are similar posts.

HGGI Facebook Page 2013-01-21

Not only were there similar posts, I also found out that I was removed as a page manager. Based on the new profile, relatives of the late Mr Justo are now the new page managers.

The fact that I was removed as a page manager without warning upset me. But more than that, I am worried how the family can claim the name of the foundation while at the same time allow the Home’s residents to move out from their property. How can they call claim the name of the Home for the Golden Gays without the residents? Without the Golden Gays?

 HGGI Facebook Profile 2013-01-21

More: I sent a message to the new Facebook page managers and this was their reply.

Reimagining ‘The Sound of Music’.

Pretini by Mario Giacomelli

I was pretty sure my dream was not like ‘The Sound of Music‘. It only felt like that when I woke up, with the association to the musical overlapping and replacing the details of the dream.

Imagine if the character of Maria was not a postulant, but a seminarian. A young, attractive seminarian but with the same carefree attitude, frolicking in the hills and singing. The would mean the rest of the nuns will also have a gender-switch, with the convent transforming into a seminary.

But, the rest of the characters retained their gender: Instead of Liesl, the male ‘Maria’ would have more interaction with Friedrich, the eldest male child. And Captain von Trapp was still a big burly father with a moustache, like the World Masterpiece Theater adaptation. Oh, yaoi fangirls probably have made several juicy scenes out of that pairing.

Thing is, I could easily picture the musical in my head with a male ‘Maria’ and it works. The gender-switch adds even more drama to the love story because — well, because.

Although I have to admit that changing ‘Maria’ to ‘Mario’ doesn’t really work, even in my head. A bigger problem would be how the priests in the seminary would accept ‘Maria’ falling for the captain without straining incredulity. However, a priest-counterpart of the Mother Superior singing ‘Climb Every Mountain’ will probably send chills down my spine.

Once this is over, maybe I could write about ‘how to organize a mini-film fest in 30 days’.

When I agreed to help friends organize a mini-filmfest of locally-made LGBT-themed films this February, I knew it’ll be difficult. Mostly because we all have regular jobs with incompatible working hours. At the very least, discussing about a non-profit project in between work, relationships and other personal responsibilities will take a lot of careful time management. One of us is not even currently living in the country and it was he who came up with the idea in the first place. But somehow, we’re able to plan, brainstorm, and argue over various details of the project.

It’s still too early to tell if the Sine Bahaghari project will be successful or not, but already there have been a few small, but not insignificant, miracles. We are able to secure at least 3 venues with minimal difficulty. And there are some film directors and producers who have given us support this early by graciously agreeing to have their film included in our program. So many people complain how the local film industry is pervaded with shallow and idiotic movies and is run by money-making studios who do not care for original ideas. But there is a mostly unseen side in the industry made up of people who truly love cinema. And there are so many of them.

It’s times like these when I really, REALLY value the help from many friends who graciously share ideas when I ask them, out of the blue, questions like, “Do you know where we could hold film screening on a minimal budget?” It’s just wonderful to have people like them to help us out.

The other day, I woke up too early after barely three hours of sleep to check my emails and see the updates we have for Sine Bahaghari. Bern woke up soon after when he felt I left the bedroom. When I got a response from one of the directors I sent a message to, I went back to our bedroom and told him about it.

I asked him how he could tolerate me and my manic moments. But you know, I’m really glad he does.