In today’s current socio-political climate, people around the world have been banding together to support the LGBTQ+ community. Although we’ve made some significant strides against discrimination over the years, the Philippines has yet to fully free itself from the shackles of its conservative and religious roots.
Who could forget how a certain Bible-thumping public official sparked an online firestorm when he went on national television to call gay people “worse than animals?” It may have been four years since that infamous incident, but hate crimes and harmful biases have only continued to fester since then. In fact, just a few days ago, policemen interrupted a peaceful Pride March and arrested 20 protesters—for no valid reason at all.
What this proves is that Pride Month is more than just a 30-day dance party to Ariana Grande. It began as a protest, and remains to be a protest for 365 days a year.
Being a true ally has never been more essential. But to earn the title, we have to go beyond rainbow flag filters and glitter emojis.
Here are some tips to practice genuine allyship.
The first step to being a good ally is to educate yourself. For many Filipinos who grew up in traditional Catholic schools or conservative households, this means having to identify and unpack all that unconscious LGBTQ+ biases. I, for one, recall how my all-girls high school would crucify anyone who got into same-sex relationships or even looked like a stereotypical tomboy-lesbian. That kind of thinking they instill in you from a young age can take serious effort to unlearn, but it has to be done before you can start on the path to re-education. Then, brush up on their history. Read books about their culture. Have meaningful conversations with community members about their experiences. It’s not pleasant to know that you may have been discriminatory without realizing it, but that’s okay. Learn, and keep going.
Sexual identity in this day and age can be complex, and new terms get added to the lexicon every day. While it’s normal to be confused, you must get to know the range of sexualities on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. “Transgender” and “gay” aren’t one and the same, and “pansexual” does not mean you’re attracted to pans either. Be careful what terms you use to refer to people, especially when it comes to their proper pronouns. It might seem like a casual thing to a cis person, but using the right pronouns could spell life or death for a transgender person and threaten their entire identity. If you aren’t sure what to use, just ask. Politely.
Of course, one of the best ways to support the LGBTQ+ community is through direct financial assistance. Job discrimination and familial rejection are common narratives for LGBTQ+ people, and this can take a serious toll on their financial security and stability. As a result, marginalized members often need help to make ends meet. Fortunately, there are many outlets you can donate to, such as Home for the Golden Gays, a non-profit organization that provides care facilities for elderly LGBTQ+ individuals; the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines, a group that advocates for the rights of trans Filipinos; and the AIDS Society of the Philippines, an association that campaigns for the prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS. You could also support the community by patronizing LGBTQ+-owned businesses, like The Gay Agenda and LOVECLUB.
As a straight person, it’s important to use your platform and privilege to uplift the LGBTQ+ community. If you witness someone making an anti-gay joke or using a wrong pronoun, don’t stand by idly and watch. Correct them and let them know why it isn’t right. Even when it’s uncomfortable. Even when there’s no one watching. Even when you don’t get woke brownie points on Twitter. In the same vein, don’t support companies with discriminatory policies, and don’t vote for officials who make life harder for these marginalized folks.
True allyship is intersectional. You don’t get to rave over Queer Eye because they satisfy your “funny gay” trope, but proceed to leave black transwomen out of the conversation. Don’t just cherry-pick the parts of LGBTQ+ culture you want to support; listen and open your heart to the entire community. They’re much more than a performative hashtag, and they deserve your full support to create real, lasting change.
June 30, 2020