LGBT communities worldwide face great difficulty in obtaining gender equality and claiming their rightful place in society, but in the Philippines this task is further complicated by cultural norms and religious ideology. One organization tirelessly working to support the LGBT community is BISDAK Pride. BISDAK pride is based in Cebu City, a vibrant city struggling with modernity. The charity recruits gender equality advocates and organize educational discussions to various communities to help Filipinos understand gender issues while promoting human rights in the context of HIV/AIDS prevention.
The Philippines deep commitment to the Catholic faith, which includes traditional religious festivals, are triumphed as a great display of religious dedication. The Sinulog festival in Cebu City, draws four million people every year but there is little acknowledgement of the conflicted participation of the gay community who are deeply involved on every level, from the planning committees, to the choreographers and costume designers. According to Roxanne Doron the President of BISDAK Pride, “We create an exceptionally gay festival in a truly religious undertaking. In an ironic twist of fate lies the genuine expression of the LGBT community to their faith – the same faith that often brand LGBTs as immoral and sinful.”
LGBT Community in the Philippines
Despite the daily intolerance of the Catholic Church, when it comes to organizing cultural events like this one, the LGBT community is tolerated because they are recognized as an integral partner. One remarkably subversive aspect of the LGBT movement unique to the Philippines is their use of a ‘gay language.’ The language, according to Doron was “created in order to serve a specific community, as a means of intercourse between people irrespective of their social and economic status in life.”
Members of Biskdak Pride view the language as a cultural assertion, but also as a grim reminder that gays cannot effectively use their mother language to communicate their feelings and express frustration without fear. The extreme stigma experienced by those who are openly gay drive many in the Philippines to maintain a double life by engaging in covert behavior. According to Bisdak Pride these closeted individuals are more likely to engage in risky behavior increasing their vulnerability to HIV.
Doron writes that, “A creative and innovative approach to penetrate the community of discreet gays is necessary coupled with a holistic understanding of their social behavior and community participation.” Similar to the United States, individuals who identify as LGBT in the Philippines face discrimination from their immediate family, classmates, neighbors as well as school officials and religious leaders. According to Doron, in more extreme instances, a drunken father has been known to pour boiling water over his gay son, and in one incident, a police man stripped his son naked on his way to school after learning about his sexual orientation.
These heinous acts are especially concerning as the LGBT community in the Philippines still does not yet benefit from any civil rights protection, the members of BISDAK Pride are planning to change that. Doron proudly stated, “We look forward to a society that is just, humane and democratic. Thus, we cry for equality and respect.” Members of Bisdak Pride recognize that they cannot gain support for their cause alone but must reach out to allies from different classes and sectors in society.
If you would like to learn more about how to support Bisdak Pride you can visit their facebook page at: www.facebook.com/bisdakprideinc