The LGBTQIA community has fought a long fight to be accepted by society. Since the filing of the Antidiscrimination or Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill in 2000 by the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and former Akbayan representative Loretta Rosales, it has been met with harsh criticism, opposition, misinformation, and loads of questions from the citizens.
In a Christian-dominated country such as the Philippines, and with the strong ties of the church to the state, it is not surprising that the bill has not been approved despite the countless efforts from the senate that backs it and the citizens who cry for it.
The fight for the LGBTQIA community’s basic rights is still an ongoing war, one that has yet to be solved and won in their favor. And the odds? Still not very promising.
As a friend and a concerned citizen of our country, what can you do to help their cause? What can you do to aid them in this battle? How can you lend a helping hand?
What can you do to help? Here are some of the things you can do to help them raise their flag in our community.
1. Give them time to come out of the closet
Coming out of the closet is a decision that needs a great deal of strength and courage from our LGBTQIA friends. As a country that is tolerant but not accepting of sexual orientations or genders other than the heteronormative standards, “coming out” elicits various reactions that our friends have to prepare for, in case it does not go how they want it to be. To come out, they have to ready the heart and the mind, which often than not is a tricky business that takes time.
If a friend comes out to you about their sexual orientation or gender, that means they trust you. They feel safe around you, and that is commendable. But that does not require you to divulge such sensitive information to other people unless they explicitly say so.
There is power in owning who they are and embracing their truth. It can give them confidence and strength. The confidence to shout to the world that “This is me, accept it” and the strength to endure whatever it results in. Do not take that power or that chance away from them.
2. Help create an environment of love and acceptance
Not all spaces are welcoming and accepting of our LGBTQIA friends. Some may be unfriendly, others may be tolerating, and some of these spaces can even be hostile. For them to accept their truth, they need to be in an environment that would not be vindictive to who they truly are. This period of discovering and embracing their true identity is already a vicious and confusing time, so it is your job to make the experience as safe and as welcoming as possible.
Let them dress however they like and act however they want. If they’re a big, muscular, male-looking person that wants to dress up with a skirt and a pretty dress, let them. If they’re petite, female-looking, doll-faced, and want to dress up in a masculine fashion, compliment them.
If they want to be called Maria instead of Mario, honor their wishes. This is who they are, so this is who they’re going to be addressed as.
3. Reassess how you treat them
One of the fears that our rainbow friends commonly worry about when deciding if they should come out or not is if the way you treat them changes. Because Filipinos have only learned to tolerate them and have not fully accepted the LGBTQIA community, more often than not, the way they are treated by the people in this country changes. They expect cruel jokes, harsh whispers, ruthless glances, and even hostile treatment from the people who know them and the people they love.
If somebody comes out to you, observe yourself if the way you treat them changes in any way. If somebody you know is exhibiting negative behavior towards them, do not hesitate to call them out on that behavior. We’re in 2022 already. Cruel and insensitive passive comments or jokes should be long gone.
4. Help educate people
It is a natural human response to fear the unknown. The majority of Filipinos oppose the SOGIE bill because they think this would put the LGBTQIA community on a pedestal when it’s not. Men fear approaching and befriending gay people because of the stigma that gay people sexualize every man they meet.
People have assumptions and generalizations clouding and dictating their judgment when it’s not the truth.
Misconceptions are rampantly spreading, along with stereotypes propagated by different mediums and not a lot of correct information reaches these people to counter their misinformation. As a friend, it is your duty to help stop this false data and start helping this community tell their truth and share their reality. Help them voice their cries and hear their pleas. They cannot fight and win this battle without you.
5. Lastly, let’s be happy for them
“Sayang, ang ganda mo pa naman.” (Too bad you’re gay, you’re very pretty.)
“Ay, bakla ka pala? Naku, sayang naman ang lahi mo.” (Oh you’re gay? What a waste, you’ve got good genes.)
Counterproductive yet commonly heard statements when a rainbow friend starts expressing who they genuinely are.
When one of your LGBTQIA friends or acquaintances starts embracing and embodying their truth, let them be happy for them because believe me, they are happy. They are unfolding their colors, raising their flags, and shouting to the world who they truly are. They are feeling free, shaking off the shackles that hold them down.
Why is it “sayang” when they are happy and are living the life they want and hope for? Why is it a waste when they are finally living, and accepting their true identity?
The world is a cruel place for everyone, but most especially for our rainbow friends. They experience attacks for merely embracing their truth. They’re confined in the cages of societal norms and are deprived of the basic rights that they deserve. The least we can do is to provide a safe environment for them to spread their wings and share their colors.
They’re at war for their basic rights. They have to fight to be given the same treatment as human beings. This is their reality. But they cannot do this alone, they need your help, and this list can help you start your journey into aiding them in this cause.