Bes, OK ka lang ba?’ (‘Friend, are you OK?’): Presenting GALANG’s Baseline Study on LBT Well-Being

On March 17, 2017, GALANG Philippines shared the results of its 2015 baseline study on the well-being of its lesbian, bisexual women, and trans men (LBTs) clientele in a forum attended by allies from both government and civil society. Senator Risa Hontiveros, equality champion and author of both the Anti-Discrimination Act and the Mental Health Bill, graced the event as keynote speaker.

In 2014, Gallup-Healthway’s report called State of Global Well-Being used the Global Well-Being Index as a barometer of individuals’ perceptions of their well-being. This large-scale study across 135 countries and areas used indices from five (5) elements (i.e. purpose, social, financial, community, and physical health) to measure people’s well-being every day. Since GALANG’s establishment nearly a decade ago, it has worked to capacitate and advocate for urban poor LBTs and LBTs living in depressed areas. In 2014, the organization sought to establish monitoring and evaluation tools to assess the impacts of its programs and validate if significant contributions have been made to the formation and strengthening of its partner communities. Hence, the LBT Well-Being Index (WBI) Project was initiated and the WBI tool was customized to a scale appropriate for the local context of GALANG’s clientele.

The results of GALANG’s LBT WBI Project showed that 85% of its local partners assess their poverty status as ‘on the line’, consistent with the total number of participants who answered either that they have just enough to pay expenses (39%) or have some difficulty in meeting expenses (34%). Seventeen percent (17%) reported that their respective households experienced hunger at least once in the past three (3) months. It was also found that 7% of the study participants were subjected to sexual abuse due to their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression (SOGIE), and the most common problems associated with SOGIE were verbal abuse, discrimination, and rejection by family. The study participants almost unanimously said that an anti-discrimination law is needed to protect LGBTs.

GALANG’s LBT WBI has five (5) aspects: (1) life evaluation, (2) emotional health, (3) physical health, (4) health behavior, and (5) basic access. In terms of life evaluation, 76% of the study participants were found to be ‘struggling’ while 1% were ‘suffering’. These figures were determined after participants were shown a flashcard with the drawing of a ladder with steps from 1 to 10. Those who rated their over-all life as 7 and up were considered ‘thriving’ while those who rated themselves 4 and below were labelled ‘suffering’. All other participants who fell in between these two (2) poles were deemed ‘struggling’.

Eleven percent (11%) of the study participants rated themselves as having poor emotional health, and, while most of them had excellent physical health perhaps due to the fact that 94% are quite young and are between the ages of 18 to 29, 57% of the participants have poor health behavior which may very well manifest as they grow older. Ninety-one percent (91%) of the participants drink alcohol, 61% of them smoke, and 16% have tried drugs. Arguably, the most alarming finding in this baseline study is that 18% of the LBT participants have attempted suicide, a figure that validates reports that have been brought to GALANG’s attention through the years. These numbers regarding health behavior, though limited to GALANG’s LBT clientele, are still quite unnerving when compared with much lower trends in national statistics across all youth (both female and male), among female youth or among male youth in the Philippines. As regards basic access, it is likewise unfortunate to note that 29% of the participants have poor access to basic services such as food, water, shelter, and a safe community. Not surprisingly, none of the study participants was found to have excellent well-being.

Three (3) reactors were invited to share their thoughts on GALANG’s study with the view to incorporating these insights in succeeding runs of the study. Respected psychiatrist and professor, Dr. June Pagaduan-Lopez, called for LGBT-inclusive and SOGIE-sensitive medical services. Atty. Germaine Leonin of the Department of Social Welfare and Development identified avenues through which advocates like GALANG can engage to promote more SOGIE-inclusive anti-poverty laws and programs. Ms. Ging Cristobal of Outright Action International highlighted the importance of community acceptance as a key factor in forming LGBT-inclusive laws and services.

GALANG continues to push for LBT-inclusive policies and programs, and the results highlighted during the forum would serve as a starting point to work with key stakeholders who have the mandate to promote and protect the physical, emotional, and mental well-being and basic access of all Filipinos.

As Senator Risa Hontiveros responded to the forum’s title during her keynote speech, ‘Hindi Bes eh, hindi pa OK ang sitwasyon,’ (‘No, Friend, the situation is not yet OK’), because to push for the well-being of LBTs is a challenge in itself; a challenge GALANG seeks to address through continued dedication and hard work together with its allies and the communities that it serves.

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