Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I thought you guys were braver than this

The Philippines recently had its annual Gay Pride March and much to my dismay, I was not able to take part in it this year.  My partner and I had been looking forward to taking part in it for months after experiencing the excitement and pride of being part of something meaningful last year.  Unfortunately, my parents decided that the same weekend was to be a good weekend to fly to Singapore to celebrate my sister's birthday.  So like a good recently outed gay son, I decided to do my share in being part of the family and joined them for the trip.

Last year with my other friends.
Being able to take part in an event that allows you to celebrate being yourself is something I honestly wish more people get a chance to experience.  While coming out is a personal journey in every gay person's life, stepping outside to join the Pride March is a call for courage and the willingness to make a statement.  A statement that says, "We are who we are and we are not ashamed."  And as ironic as it sounds, taking part of the march while wearing a mask since one might still be in the closet is quite welcome.   Just as much as any straight friend joining the march to support their gay friends.   The march, after all, isn't about just being gay.  It is about celebrating the fact as diverse as we all are, we are happy to be who we are.

I remember how excited I was last year to join the Pride March.  I wasn't out to my family.  While most of my co-workers and friends knew I wasn't walking the "straight" path, few neighbors or family friends were aware of my preferences.   But I admired the courage of those who had been part of the march year after year and realized in many ways it was more than just a chance to show off one's gayest costume (like some do).  In fact, those who showed off their gayest costumes were simply doing something I was, back then, afraid to do:  Just be myself and have fun.

My partner and me in our matching black Trek shirts
My partner and I decided to join the march wearing our black Star Trek shirts to celebrate our unity as a couple and as geeks.    And even if I was still in the closet family-wise, I threw away all fears of being discovered and walked with my face clearly visible for all to see.

And experienced very quickly all the hate and bigotry that certain members of society had for me.

They were at the corners, with their banners and placards condemning us for being who we were.  Calling us vile things.  Speaking into their loudspeakers cruel and wicked words.    They used the Lord's name in vain.  They used the Bible as a personal weapon.   And they said WE were the one's who had lost our way.

So much hate from people claiming to love God.
It was the first time they have ever seen me, and they hated me down to the very core of my being.

Some of our friends retaliated.

They made their own posters.  They chanted their own slogans.  They yelled back.  Or sang.  Or threw jokes back.  Insults too.   But all they did was encourage the hate even more.  Fan the flames stronger.  Fed the evil that called itself good.

I felt it was a sad reminder of how people still believed we were best invisible.
Or non-existent.

And even worse was when I heard from people I consider my friends the similar themes of hate.

One facebook friend wrote about the Pride March not representing him since it merely showcased freaks.  Another proudly shared how he was invited to the March but felt it was all just politics.   Was that really how bad it get's here in the Philippines?  That the discrimination ran so deep, rather than take part to BE represented, we would rather insult and demean those who clearly showed a courage superior to our own?   That we would dismiss the march as merely something political, when in fact, it WAS political for the right reasons.  It was political because we deserve to be acknowledged.  We deserve to be recognized.  We deserve to be accepted.  We aren't even seen as mere equals.  It wasn't a call for special treatment.  It was a call to be identified as real.  Damn right it was political!

Yes, it felt so much like this.
How sad, therefore, that its urgency is so easily dismissed and thrown aside.

There I was, stick in Singapore, wishing I could be part of it, and here were friends of mine so content with their own personal concerns that the idea of being part of something bigger felt... unimportant.

It was insulting.  It was depressing.
It nearly drove me to disassociate myself with them.
Who needs friends who don't see the point in seeing you to the very least as equals.
More so when they themselves were gay.

Of course, when it comes to the "other" annual big gay event, the so-called White Party attendance shoots up and celebrations are explosively present.  When it comes to bathhouses and models strutting around in badly designed underwear, you have throes of gay men screaming their tonsils out.   Clearly sex sells.

2010 March Route.  How I wish I was here!
And yet, we are all aware of how much we DO need a political voice.  We read of updates where gay people are arrested in raids as prostitutes merely for having a condom in their possession.  Or of how one's sexuality is too quickly used to judge one's capacity to work, or be a functional member of a family.    The Catholic Bishops' Conference in the Philippines (or as it is more known as, the CBCP) proclaims condoms as a cause of cancer, and refers to 'active homosexuals" as having "victims" as if we were all sexual predators.  Not to mention the undocumented numerous cases of bullying.  Of beatings.  Of all these many forms of discrimination.

Things need to change.
And we need to do our part.

The March to the very least shows we are not afraid.

So I challenge you gay guys out there in Manila.    Stop being content with hiding.    Stop thinking you aren't part of something bigger.   Take that step.  Join the March.

Make a difference.
Be represented by being there to represent yourself.

We can fill the world with rainbows.
We can help make it a better place.

thanks to my partner Rocky for most of the pictures of last year's Pride March.
I promise, 2011, I will do all I can to be with you when we attend it.


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