Somewhere around the Lapu-Lapu shrine, while marching under the heat of the Manila sun, I asked my boyfriend (a pride march virgin) how it felt to hold my hand in public. He replied casually that we’d done it a few times before. Of course, during those few times that we did, there was always a quick mental assessment of our surroundings; “is it safe?”
Cindy Aquino / Metro Manila Pride
This question hovers around gender non-conforming people in most things we do, small or big. Whether it’s a simple caress on our partner’s shoulder, or coming out to our employers, or accompanying our significant other to the hospital, we need to know if we would be free from danger and from judgement. Is it safe?
Gender conforming people (or people who pass as such) may have their own daily struggles. But being gender non-conforming adds another layer to this set of struggles. Gender conforming people fought for a wide variety of rights, but never for the right to simply be straight.
We, like many before us, fought (and still fight) for these safe spaces. This is LGBT Pride. This is why there is no straight pride march.
Which is why, on June 25, there were not enough words to describe the feeling of seeing everyone smile at us without judgement, of having the police, for once, side with us in driving away the bigots from the parade, of seeing LGBT people from all walks of life, the working class, the middle class, the young, the not so young, come together to claim their space. And for once, despite the Orlando massacre, despite the workplace discrimination, the violence at home, the historical and structural oppression that have chained us for so long, it was safe.
We, like many before us, fought (and still fight) for these safe spaces. This is LGBT Pride. This is why there is no straight pride march. This is why, in front of thousands of onlookers, I kissed my boyfriend. And I was proud of it.
Ron de Vera is a gay human rights activist, poet, and educator. Love between men, the HIV epidemic, national liberation, and the struggle of growing up without his father (a victim of enforced disappearance) are some topics that fuel the fire of his poetry. He is currently the Country Coordinator for the Philippines at the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and serves as Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the ASEAN Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity/Expression Caucus (ASC). He can be reached via the social media links above or via email at rondevera [at] gmail [dot] com.