Pride Month is over but the fight for equality never ends. It shouldn’t end until people are free to love who they want to and are no longer in fear of being discriminated against.
It doesn’t end with a Pride March, most certainly. In fact, those gatherings are but reminders of how gender equality has yet to be attained in full. It is also a venue of expressing a message that should be lived out every day. Lara “Fire” Sia, an LGBT advocate and an activist for more than 20 years, participated in the event and shared with us its importance. “For the LGBT community, the annual Pride March is a very strong statement of human dignity. It is a celebration of our fight for equality under the law and as human beings.” The statement march makes the issue present and is an affirmation of their worth in society. “Marching for this cause every year reinforces humanity, freedom, and dignity. Without the march, it would be very difficult for us to show people that there is discrimination.”
According to Fire, there were more than 7,000 participants in this year’s Pride March. That’s a lot but think about how many more there are across the Philippines. They too need recognition of their struggles. It’s apparent in how Fire tells us of the history of the Pride March, “The first-ever Pride Parade started with the Stonewall March in the United States. Years ago, LGBTs were harassed by the police which resulted [in] riots along the streets of New York. The riots have inspired the LGBT people around the world to develop and strengthen the protest for civil rights violations against our community.”
The march is but a catalyst. The problems the LGBT community face will not be solved just by a march. Fire cites to us the lack of representation of the LGBT people in the government. “The anti-discrimination bill [hasn’t been passed into law yet.] There is no legal framework that LGBT people can invoke when seeking help with regards to employment discrimination.”
When you really look at it, their needs are no different from the rest of society. This is why it makes it quite painful to think how we still have to deal with this in the 21st century. Come on, people!
“We need to protect LGBT children against physical and psychological violence in their schools and from their families. There needs to be access to social services for LGBTQIA people—specifically, for housing and health care. In employment health care, we have very few companies that recognize same sex partners as somebody who is a legitimate beneficiary of your HMO. The basic reason for that is because you are not considered as a family,” Fire tells us.
Apart from the big issues, we need to also address the microtransgressions we’ve normalized in society. Fire shares how we need to free up dress codes in schools and campuses to allow people to be able to express their gender identity. Don’t forget how that this freedom needs to be reinforced also in the classroom. “In the curriculum, it would be great to also include educating students in SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression) and LGBTQIA issues in the proper sense.” They can definitely take cue from the Department of Social Welfare and Development which Fire notes has adapted a dress code policy allowing people to dress to their gender identity.
How can you help? Do you think as a non-member of the LGBT community you should just stay silent? Of course, not. We need to come to terms with the fact that what the LGBT community stands for is also a part of our fight. It ties in together with feminism and upholding human rights in the face of the post-truth era. Fire suggests to participate and be a part of more advocacy groups. “That’s why there are a lot of organizations and NGOs that hold a lot of talks and workshops. They go around. Like in Side B Philippines, we propose to corporations to give SOGIE talks so that we can create awareness around the LGBT community, promote diversity and equality in the workplace. The work is continuous and it doesn’t stop,” shares Fire.
Fire also notes how having the support of more companies and organizations would help. It would show how the issues at hand aren’t just concerning the LGBT community. It also draws more attention so that the government would take more notice and see how the LGBT community isn’t affected by isolated problems. “LGBTs are everywhere. What we have to do is engage more participation with the other sectors and make sure that all concerns are being addressed.”
So let go of the notion that the Pride March is just a one-day show. Let go of the notion that though everyone is considered under the law, it’s still not perfect as Fire says, “Yes, it’s true that everyone is written under the law but the implementation is the one that’s making it difficult for us. Some people see the Pride March as the whiners’ activity.”
LGBT issues aren’t just limited to our country, but also need to be dealt with on an international scale. Furthermore, it is also not about showing of the colors of the rainbow. Fire says, “It comes from a place of discrimination and it comes from a very dark past.”
It all starts with awareness and just like the people who came out to wear their colors proudly, it’s also about going without fear to express a universal truth. Fire shares, “We are not changing people’s religious beliefs and morals. We are not trying to brainwash or recruit people. We only ask understanding from them as to why we are just humans just like everyone else.”