Our collective calls for gender equality and love for all have gone a long way, thanks to the decades-long struggle of the LGBTQ+ people before us.
But as the state of our SOGIE Equality Bill would reveal—its first version has been stalled since 2000; it only passed a House panel two weeks ago—there is still so much to fight for to ensure that queer individuals are not only safe to love and express themselves but are also guaranteed equal rights.
Time and time again, we are reminded that Pride Month is beyond rainbow funsies and extravagant festivities. It is a protest toward genuine gender liberation. As we welcome Pride Month, Young STAR asked queer changemakers what Pride as a protest means to them and their communities.
Queering the stage and the screen
For Missy Maramara, a theater actor and director, protesting comes in many forms. “I prefer the more peaceful way. That’s difficult. Change is always hard and we’re fighting for love. Why does it have to be so hard fighting for something so beautiful and good?”
As the director of the new staging of Zsazsa Zaturnnah, a campy musical based on Carlo Vergara’s graphic novel about Ada, a parloristang bakla who becomes a superhero at odds with a group of trans-exclusionary radical feminists called Amazonista, she hoped to challenge the exclusionary mindset that she believes leads to oppression of certain groups.
“Ang dami nang pagpapalawak sa isip pero ang dami pa ring tao na makikitid mag-isip. Marami pa ring mga bagay-bagay na dinedeny sa ating mga kapatid at kasapi ng LGBTQIA,” she explained.
Phi Palmos echoes the same sentiments. For the theater and movie actor who notably starred in Sila-Sila, Ang Huling El Bimbo, and Mula sa Buwan, and is set to star in Floy Quintos’ upcoming queer play Laro, asserting himself is already a form of resistance. Phi broke new ground in the 2022 run of Mula sa Buwan when he was cast as Rosana, a role traditionally played by a woman.
“It was monumental because when I step on that stage and there’s a queer teen watching, I know what I represent: the unconventionally attractive, femme, out-and-loud queer people.”
Asked if it was intentional that almost all his roles are queer, Phi explained how he transforms the limits enforced on him by society. “When we look at these characters, we zoom in on their gender and strip them of their humanity. (But) gender is just a facet of who they are. Sa akin kasi, walang binibigay na role na straight—edi gagawin ko na lang nang mahusay at tama at sensitibo ‘yung mga roles na binibigay sa akin.”
Referencing RuPaul, he added, “Being authentic is already a revolution. When we celebrate our uniqueness, that’s the first step in celebrating diversity. Sino nga ba ang magcecelebrate kung hindi tayo?”
Queering every day
Queerness, however, should not be limited to the stage and screen. These identities are to be lived out every day, rightly meant to take up space in a heteronormative society that renders them invisible. As shared by Abraham Guardian and Mamuro Oki, the designer duo behind the boundary-pushing independent fashion label ḢA.MÜ, fashion is one way we can defy social norms.
“We as designers see (ourselves) as the first line of defense in changing how society sees clothing,” Abraham, fondly known as Ham, said. “Clothing has no gender.”
Despite the great strides we’ve made in terms of queer acceptance here in the country, “It should not be forgotten that every Pride we get to celebrate is because the original (Stonewall) protest happened,” Ham said, referring to the 1969 Greenwich Village riots. And then, perhaps in the gayest manner, Ham and Mamu said in chorus: “We get to walk because they ran first.”
Queering the streets
Marts, also known by their drag name Inah Demons, called everyone to uplift each other’s voices: “You can be successful on your own but it’s better to see the community thrive. If people see that we’re artists, students, workers, farmers, and fishermen—they (feel they) can be part of the community, or be an ally and celebrate it. It’s not indoctrinating your children, it’s not going against the word of God, but just simply existing, being happy and kind, and taking care of one another.”
They added that it’s important to acknowledge the intersectionalities of social issues. “It’s not just about Pride. It’s about trans rights. Fighting for workers’ rights. Unionization. It’s important to know that these issues exist not just because of your identity.”
Raven Mensenas, a student activist and chairperson of Innabuyog-Gabriela Women’s Alliance at UP Baguio, recognizes this as well. “As a bisexual woman, I acknowledge that my struggles are interconnected with the struggles of other women and LGBTQ+,” she said. “In a way, joining organizations and marches (are) my ways of taking up space… Napakalayo pa ang aabutin para tunay na mapalaya ang kasarian natin.”
But the beautiful thing about taking up space, as Raven limned on, is the limitless possibilities of how queer people can do so in relation to their unique circumstances. For Leo Selomenio, the domestic helper who used to organize pageants for the migrant Filipino community in Hong Kong as their reprieve from a 24/6 workweek, taking up space goes hand in hand with amplifying the voices of oft-exploited helpers.
Fondly referred to as “Daddy Leo” within the migrant workers’ community, they appeared in the 2016 documentary Sunday Beauty Queen. “The pageants (were) an avenue for camaraderie,” said Leo, who’s no longer a domestic helper and is now involved in training new migrant workers. “So there are a lot of girls who also have (lesbian) partners. They are only seeing each other on Sunday during their days off.” And so every Sunday, miles away from their home, in a country that renders their labor essential but not necessarily seen, these queer domestic helpers take center stage.
On why we need to continue celebrating Pride month, Leo put it succinctly: “We have to be proud of what we are. Pride Month is one way of telling the world who we are and to not discriminate against us.”