(Presented in the VIII Conference of the International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society [IASSCS] entitled Naming and Framing: The Making of Sexual [In]Equality)
By: Anne Lim, GALANG
In 2009, when GALANG Philippines first touched base with urban poor communities in Quezon City, the biggest city in the country in terms of both land area and population, its lesbian founders intended to work with poor lesbians, gay men, bisexual and trans people (LGBTs)—not specifically with LBTs or lesbians, bisexual women, and trans men (LBTs). As soon as they listened to stories of community-based LGBTs, it became evident that even at the level of the barangay or village, gay men and trans women fared much better and had more opportunities. Gay men and trans women were generally perceived to be bright and happy people and had jobs like beauty parlor attendants or local beauty pageant hosts. At that time, at least three openly gay men were elected to and sat in the village council of GALANG’s first partner community. On the other hand, no openly lesbian or bisexual woman, or trans man has ever been elected in this particular jurisdiction. This predominant perception that lesbians were brooding, depressed types who were seen only during backyard brawls and lovers’ quarrels easily became a self-fulfilling prophecy—a lesbian could not get hired because of the negative perception that she is psychologically unbalanced, she loses hope of ever finding a job and eventually stops trying, she opts to stay home and hurt herself, etc…
GALANG’s working model of evidence-based advocacy through the formation of community-based LBT people’s organizations (LPOs) seeks to contribute to making the voices of Filipino LBTs better heard in the sexual rights discourse. In the course of GALANG’s organizing and advocacy work in the past four years, it has come across countless stories of pain, suffering, and survival among community-based LBTs. The ten case studies in this case book—selected for potentially having the most impact on LBT rights advocacy—represent only some of the many poignant stories of the brave women who have repeatedly experienced and survived various forms of gender-based violence and discrimination, including rape, torture, psychological abuse, school bullying, domestic violence, and arbitrary detention. These stories were drawn from the firsthand accounts of nineteen self-identified LBTs who live or used to live in depressed areas in Quezon City, specifically in the areas that GALANG operates in, to give a face to the multiple oppressions suffered by gender- and/or sexuality-non-conforming women born to working class families.