The end of the year is always a time for reflection and looking back. In 2020, aka THE year of reckoning and changing perspectives, there’s so much that we had to unpack—and some of us are still in the middle of processing events that happened under quarantine (remember the runaway ostrich and the star-studded “Imagine” video?). We shudder at the sight of the phrase “unprecedented times” because we’re tired of being reminded of all the things that we had to go through.
While we’re not the type to harp about resiliency or silver linings, it cannot be denied that the year brought on a rise of micro-communities and a slew of really good releases as we all struggled to bring comfort to each other’s lives.
Our culture stories included chats with advocates and creatives, gut-wrenching pandemic-era confessionals and round-ups of the stuff we binged (and b*tched about). Here are 10 stories on what shaped our 2020.
Can we get a show of hands for the people who came out or contemplated their gender and sexuality under lockdown? A number of people came to realize this year that without the heteronormative social practices that riddle face-to-face interactions, it was easier to explore their own identities. On the other hand, there were also a lot of LGBTQIA+ individuals who were either isolated in homes that weren’t their safe spaces or felt that it was finally time to come out to their families.
For Pride Month, we released two cover stories. One of them featured seven stories on being queer under quarantine. Apart from talking about their coming out experience, our interviewees shared their opinions on fostering environments that encourage people to come out, queering policymaking and how they will be celebrating (the mostly virtual) Pride 2020.
One of the biggest losses we faced this year is the closing down of several physical queer safe spaces. In June, the TodayxFuture club rang its last call with a love letter. Then in September, the XX XX nightclub also bid farewell to the people that danced with them. Despite these, numerous online havens and online events (such as local drag events and vogue balls hosted by Drag Playhouse PH and the House of Mizrahi, respectively) have been organized by the LGBTQIA+ community in order to stay connected.
The other half of our two-part Pride cover story asked the question: How do we go from the melancholic we’ve lost so much to the practical what can be done? We talked to the bar owners of Futur:st and 20:20, a reverend from progressive LGBT-affirming church Open Table MCC and the founder of LGBTQIA+ mapping platform MapBeks. While we’re all looking forward to the warm embrace of our found families, this year proved that distance won’t keep us apart.
Speaking of safe spaces, have you ever heard of Bubble_T? It’s a radical dance party in New York organized by and for #slaysians. It’s where members of the city’s queer Asian community (such as Filipina musician Slayrizz) come together. This year, we were finally able to meet their family.
In October, we launched our exclusive movie screening series Preen Admit One with director Alexandra Cuerdo’s “Dancing On My Own.” The film is a love letter to Bubble_T that features interviews with the party’s founders and regulars. We also got to chat with Cuedro about racism, gentrification, rebuilding relationships with your parents and what it was like working with Princess Punzalan.
In August, we launched our Instagram live series #PreenPSA and tackled women’s access to justice for sexual harassment for our first episode. Pangilinan hosted the live chat with guest speaker Jelen Paclarin, executive director of the Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau. We had an engaging discussion with the people who tuned in about the acts that fall under sexual harassment, justice options available for survivors and the steps to take in order to change a culture that trivializes sexual harassment.
Years from now (and we say years because it doesn’t look like COVID-19 is leaving soon), we’ll probably say, “Hey, remember when the country had the longest and strictest lockdown despite our highly criticized pandemic response?” It’s not something that we can forget and we will continue to demand accountability for how the government’s (in)actions have worsened the suffering of many Filipinos.
We were able to hear and interview Filipinas on gendered issues that arose such as increased threats of violence and harassment, lack of access to sanitary products, intensified emotional labor and even pandemic-era momhood. When it comes to access to crisis aid and response, women with disabilities in low-income households are perhaps the most underserved. We talked with representatives from various Persons with Disabilities organizations about the accounts that they collated, the policies that need to be more inclusive and the groups fighting for accessibility.
Organizations weren’t the only ones doing their part in campaigning for better policies and helping marginalized communities. Even individuals who didn’t have affiliations took part in and helped organize donation drives as well as online and on-ground protests.
In May, we hosted a fundraising campaign called Haus Golden Gays for the benefit of The Golden Gays. The Home for the Golden Gays is a care facility serving the seniors of the gay community without homes. Because our lolas were unable to turn to performing in drag or their other jobs for income, the donations collected from the drive were used to help with their needs and expenses.
Apart from COVID-19, we also faced natural disasters such as the Taal Volcano eruption and ravaging from Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses. For the entire year, Filipinos lent a hand to each other while the government seemingly struggled to figure out why they were being criticized for their lack of disaster preparedness.
From community-based organizations to fandoms, there was an outpouring of donations. It was a testament to how Filipinos won’t stand by idly when they see others in dire need. Here’s to hoping that the “tamad ang mga Pinoy” narrative finally ends here.
While we did persevere, nobody can deny that 2020 was very taxing for everyone. Because of our collective trauma and fatigue, mental health naturally found its way into most conversations. The importance of providing access to mental health services is as hard to grasp for most people as it was a year ago.
We hit up 7 Filipinas to talk about their mental health journey, the best advice that they received from a therapist and whether or not it truly gets better. We have ways to go before mental health stops being a taboo topic but we’re definitely making progress. Send your loved ones a virtual hug from us.
With all the stuff that happened, it’s easy to lead yourself to believe that you’re not allowed to grieve for the smaller things. But there’s really no need for that shame spiral when we’re all desperate for any semblance of familiarity and even order. Yes, it’s okay to feel teary-eyed when you daydream about your favorite lunch place back when you had an office to go to.
Speaking of work, losing coworkers is a blow that we still haven’t gotten over. Interacting on online workspaces isn’t as instantaneous and spontaneous so it takes double the effort to build a sense of genuine camaraderie. The cycle of developing work relationships then having to re-learn how not to rely on a particular one is brutal. Still, we wish all our ex-coworkers the best.
In 2020, stories about the triumphs and struggles of our trans siblings also filled headlines. From Mela Habijan being crowned Miss Trans Global to “Lingua Franca” winning a top prize at a film festival, a number of trans Filipina creatives and advocates were given recognition and rightly so. However, in September, Jennifer Laude’s murderer was granted absolute pardon by the Duterte administration. It proved that the fight for trans rights and the protection for the trans community is both urgent and far from over.
We wrote about how the persistence of the narrative that trans individuals owe others disclosure is dangerous and wrong. It is blind to the statistics of bias-motivated crimes and extrajudicial killings based on sexual orientation. Trans rights are human rights. We hope that 2021 brings the passing of the SOGIE anti-discrimination bill.