Back in the 90’s when I was in college, there were few avenues towards SOGIE awareness. I knew I was different. Although I was attracted to men, my attraction for women was developing and I was horrified; mainly because I was very confused.
Fire at the “Come Out For Love: Kasi Pag-ibig Pa Rin” 2014 Metro Manila Pride March (Malate, Manila).
The little I knew about gays and lesbians haunted me; all the misconceptions and lies I was taught to take as reality scared yet intrigued me. I didn’t even know what a transgender or bisexual was. There were little to no resources in our school library and the internet was new (at least for me) and access was difficult.
I dragged on identifying as queer person, unclear about what LGBTs really were. I struggled with my identity for a few years until I stumbled upon a campus announcement in UP. It was something about women who loved other women – some sort of get together or organization. I was afraid to make contact but I knew I had to. By that time, I had already gotten some information about bisexuality. I knew what I was and I also knew that I needed affirmation.
That simple poster launched me into a life of LGBT advocacy. If I had remained reluctant, I don’t how I would’ve ended up in terms of coming to terms with who I was.
I was in the closet for a long time. I feared the reactions of my friends and my family who I loved dearly, but I wanted them to know who I was, who I am.
A number of us were in the closet; I was. We marched as executioners, faces covered in black hoods, with the symbol of the labrys printed on our t-shirts. We were there but we were hiding.
I became informed and aware of the different identities within the community and getting deeper into it drew me into the larger horizon of LGBT advocacy.
After having gone through a couple of organizations, I finally decided to join the Pride March. My first Pride March was in Malate. I marched with a womyn’s group called Indigo Philippines and it was my first time to see so many LGBT people in one place, at one time. A number of us were in the closet; I was. We marched as executioners, faces covered in black hoods, with the symbol of the labrys printed on our t-shirts. We were there but we were hiding. Despite my fear of being found, I was so proud of myself. I felt some sort of freedom. Still, I covered myself and stayed away from TV cameras and photographers: but I was there.
In the recent years, I have seen the LGBT movement grow into what is now more of a community. We are the LGBTIQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Asexual), or what people call the LGBT alphabet soup since more letters have been added through the years. There is so much visibility now that people ask us why we still hold our Pride Parade. They say that we are now so exposed, we’re all over the media, so why march? Why do we need to hold our fun filled and colourful parade when people already know who we are?
The Pride Parade is a more than just a fun and colourful parade, it is an avenue towards visibility. And more than to be seen, it’s an expression of our struggle and fight against discrimination. Just because a number of us can walk in the streets unharmed, can have jobs that uphold our dignity, or can have families who love and accept us, just because there are a number of us who are “safe” – it doesn’t mean that there is no discrimination against us.
A lifetime will never be enough for us to do all that we need to do to protect who we are and those we love. The legacy of LGBTIQA advocacy will live through each community member who believes in the importance of our rights as human beings. Our being who we are should not devalue our contribution to society. We are part of this society and we are entitled to the human rights and protection under the law that everyone else has.
There are still people out there who choose to devalue our humanity. Pride is the time that also reminds us that we are not done fighting.
Pride is the time that we come together as one community to celebrate the milestones in our journey towards equal rights, as well as to acknowledge the many things we are still fighting for. We have come a long way from 20 years ago. As awareness has increased, and as we celebrate our small victories, we also see that there are still people out there who choose to devalue our humanity. Pride is the time that also reminds us that we are not done fighting.
Every time somebody asks me why I still attend the Pride March? It’s because this is one time where we come together as one unified community to show everyone that we exist in this society as much as everyone else does. We are your business partners, your government employees, teachers, doctors, lawyers. We are your friends, schoolmates, team mates — and more importantly we are your family.
We are hopeful that someday, we will be seen not for who we are as LGBTIQAs, but for who we are as human beings.
Fire Sia is the co-founder of Side B Philippines, a research-oriented Bi group that is interested in understanding the concepts of bisexuality in the PH setting. They aim to create a localized definition of bisexuality without really diversifying from international definitions. You can get in touch with Side B Philippines via Facebook and Twitter, or by emailing them at SideBPhilippines [at] gmail [dot] com.