How you can act your way into becoming a true ally
The word “ally” is a powerful one. Originating from the Latin word alligare (translation: “to bind to”), being an ally to someone, then, means being bound. This could mean any number of things: from a show of support to upliftment, down to genuine empathy.
For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA+) people, allyship is crucial…especially when combating discrimination and violence against the community. In addressing these deep-seated wrongs informed by ignorance, misunderstanding, and unfortunately, malice, an ally is someone who begins with a commitment to advocating for equality. By extension, they play a critical role in preventing harassment toward LGBTQIA+ individuals, too.
The existing prejudice towards and misconceptions about the LGBTQIA+ in the Philippines can be difficult to unlearn, especially since homophobia is ingrained in our culture and religion. This makes it all the more difficult to stand with the minority, which is why clear, concrete forms of allyship are essential. Ahead, perfect examples to guide you.
Understand what the SOGIE Equality Bill means for everyone.
Each individual has their own sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE). This means that the Anti-Discrimination Law or SOGIE Equality Law will protect both LGBTQIA+ and heterosexual individuals.
This bill recognizes the fundamental rights of a person regardless of sex, gender, age, class, status, disability, religion, and political beliefs. Everyone will have equal opportunity and access to healthcare, housing, public services, education, employment, and licensure. The SOGIE Equality Bill also covers hate crimes and harassment, penalizing people involved with fines or imprisonment, depending on the decision of the court.
In the Philippines, the bill spent over 20 years languishing in Congress. This year, however, the SOGIE Equality Bill was successful in reaching the Senate. Should this become a law, it should be made clear by allies when encountering misinformed detractors that this piece of legislation will not take away anyone’s rights, but instead, foster inclusivity for all.
Hold space without judgment.
Research shows that LGBTQIA+ youth experience higher suicide ideation compared to their heterosexual peers. This higher rate has been linked to bias, discrimination, and other stressors associated with how they are treated because of their SOGIE. Of the number of harmful factors, it’s seen that family rejection has contributed the most to anxiety, depression, and self-harm for these individuals.
Zeroing back in on the Philippine context, it’s known that Filipino culture is anchored on family-centric values. Experiencing parental disapproval and rejection from the closest people in an LGBTQIA+ person’s life, then, can bring about trauma and fear. On the individual level, it’s entirely possible to become a safe space for your LGBTQIA+ friends. Allow them to express their authentic selves in your presence. Encourage them to feel free to share their thoughts and listen to their stories without judgment. This will help them realize that there are people who will love and accept them for who they are.
Support businesses founded, owned, and run by members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The LGBTQIA+ community is filled with individuals whose creativity is as vibrant as the colors of the rainbow. Supporting businesses, projects, campaigns, and other endeavors by LGBTQIA+ individuals is an excellent way of showing appreciation for this community’s ingenuity and talent.
Brands to explore in the Philippines include local fashion brand Milkwear by Carlo Chu, and Ambivert Coffee by couple Buffy Villaluna and Naina Lauang. If you love watching fiercely talented drag queens in the Philippines, you can watch their glamorous performances at queer-friendly places like O Bar Philippines, Nectar Nightclub, and Butterboy Bakeshop.
Volunteer for or donate to non-profit organizations.
Apart from signal boosting, supporting, and patronizing work by LGTBQIA+ creators and business owners, you can turn your attention to organizations as well. In this manner, you can support the community on an institutional level alongside a personal level.
For example, there’s LoveYourself, Inc. This non-profile organization believes that self-worth is essential to building an empowered community. Its mission is to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, providing free testing and preventive treatment services. It also provides transitioning consultations for transgender individuals along with mental health peer support for people experiencing depression. Since its conception in 2011 by founder Vinn Garcia Pagtakhan, the group has expanded into having over one thousand volunteers from all sectors of society.
The Red Whistle is another organization that promotes HIV/AIDS awareness, SOGIE equality, mental healthcare, and LGBTQIA+ rights. This celebrated organization is known as a collaborative platform that aspires to empower communities of people living with HIV, people with diverse SOGIE, and people with lived experiences of mental health challenges. Currently, its members partner with different brands and organizations that support their causes, fighting for equality in health, wellness, and human rights.
Apart from these two, there are other organizations that actively advocate for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ such as UP Babaylan, Metro Manila Pride, Rainbow Rights Philippines, Bahaghari, and GALANG Philippines.
Make schools inclusive for LGBTQIA+ youth.
School life greatly influences the formative years of an individual. Unfortunately, for LGBTQIA+ students, the lack of diversity awareness and education means this experience is peppered with bullying, discrimination, psychological injury, and even physical assault. These painful experiences and hostile learning environments can impair a student’s right to education and can leave them with lasting trauma.
As a way to prevent this, lawmakers created policies such as the Child Protection Policy, enacted by the Department of Education in 2012, and the RA 10627, also known as the Anti-Bullying Law of 2013. Both of these enumerate sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited grounds for bullying and harassment. However, even with these policies, many LGBTQIA+ youth continue to experience bullying and discrimination in schools. Here’s a cause to rally behind: remind that it is the responsibility of teachers, school administrators, and lawmakers to provide educational resources about the LGBTQIA+ and ensure that academic institutions are safe spaces for all students.
Embrace the courage to be kind.
To be kind is much easier in concept than it is in practice. Genuine kindness requires self-awareness, mindfulness, empathy, and compassion. When it feels challenging or inconvenient, will you choose to rise to the occasion?
Here’s a place to start: Do not tolerate hate speech directed towards members of the LGBTQIA+ coming from friends, family, or even strangers; call them out. Sometimes this is a form of kindness, too.
Acceptance is key to becoming a true ally. Despite our differences, we are all human and equally deserve to be loved.