|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
|Jennifer Josef, ILGA-ASIA|
Social Health of Inter-Ethnic LGBT Networks for Empowerment in SOCCSKSARGEN (SHINE SOCCSKSARGEN) has been conducting efforts to address the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City. To jump this off, it acted to surface the major issues and concerns confronted by LGBTs in General Santos City.
In partnership with the General Santos City Council Committee on Gender, headed by Councilor Shandee Llido-Pestaño, and the City’s Gender and Development Office, headed by Erline Grafilo, SHINE SOCCSKSARGEN invited members of the LGBT community from General Santos City (with representatives from the workplace, schools and barangays) for a consultative meeting. Noticeably, however, during the consultation on August 7, the lesbians failed to respond to our invitation and were thus not represented. On the other hand, the gays, bisexuals and transgender people from the workplace, schools and local barangays attended, and so were able to raise their issues.
Discrimination is the common experience raised by the participants, although in different levels. For instance, verbal and physical violence exist in the local barangays, particularly directed against transgender minors who expressed their gender identity at a very young age. Another issue divulged was that a state university barred gay and transgender students from wearing the clothing of their preference. Another academic institution even refused to hire a transgender as a teacher for “fear of influencing immorality”. A gay group called Sanlahi similarly raised that, unlike them, other gay and transgender groups are not recognized in other barangays; and that these groups are not given chance to participate in capacity building and livelihood trainings in their own community.
The Missing “L”
The lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, although grouped into one, are separate and distinct sexual orientations. They have separate and distinct needs. Thus, issues confronted by them are varied. The levels of discrimination against them are not the same.
It is sad to note that after the personal invites to their groups, no lesbian responded to raise their voice. There may be several reasons behind their absence, but it is still disheartening to consider that not even one lesbian dared, or seem to be interested, to raise their issues in behalf of the others.
The LGBT community is one community. We are bonded by a common denominator, i.e. discrimination and unequal treatment based on our sexual orientation. I dare say that it is high time to change the status quo. We have to be heard. We have to be recognized. But we do that as one community. And we do this by being willing to voice out our issues.