The fight for the rights of LGBT Filipinos did not unfurl overnight; it is an old, ongoing battle that traces its origins as far back as the ‘90s. Groups have championed gay rights at a time when the prevailing social norms dictated only two genders — man and woman — and anyone who challenged these ideals was labeled immoral.
Looking back at our history is as important as looking ahead. By recognizing the plight and bravery of the advocates before us, we are ever more strengthened to continue the fight.
Here are some of the milestones to read up on as we celebrate #Pride2020.
1969: The Stonewall Riots (US)
We’ll start this list with the most infamous protest of all: the Stonewall Riots. In the early morning of June 28, 1969, the New York City police raided a local gay club, Stonewall Inn, which started a riot among the police and patrons and neighborhood residents.
In ‘60s America, gays and lesbians were shunned and cast out. Same-sex relations were illegal in New York City. The American Psychological Association (APA) itself listed homosexuality as a “mental disorder” until 1974.
Gay bars, such as Stonewall Inn, offered respite, where members of the LGBT community can freely express themselves and interact with one another. The NY police came at a time when the patrons were at their breaking point — fed up with harassment and discrimination, a riot-turned-protest ensued. It lasted for five days, attracting thousands of protesters at its peak.
The Stonewall Riots didn’t start the gay rights movement, but it served as a catalyst for LGBT political activism. Decades on, pride marchers still use the riots to reiterate that pride is not a party, but a protest.
1992: The Lesbian Collective Marches and the UP Babaylan Is Established
Unsurprisingly, the Philippine LGBT movement began with activism on the streets.
An important turning point, according to a UNDP report, is the 1992 participation of a group called The Lesbian Collective in the annual International Women’s Day march. A Spot.ph article by Teilhard Paradela observes that “lesbian women were the first constituency to demand that our rights be given as much weight as the rest of the community.”
That same year, UP Babaylan is established, claiming that they are the first LGBTQ+ student organization in the country. To date, it is the longest-existing duly recognized LGBTQI student organization in Asia. UP Babaylan went on to join the 1993 UP Lantern Parade. Although it was welcomed with jeers in some areas, it did not stop the group from joining every year.
1994: The First Metro Manila Pride
The growing movement led to the Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (Pro-Gay Philippines) holding a rally around the Quezon Memorial Circle. A report by Rappler hailed it as the first Pride March in the Philippines and in Asia.
The Spot.ph article argued, however, that the momentum failed to unify all queer activists and establish a continuous effort to rally the entire Philippine LGBTQ+ community. Case in point: there was no Pride March in 2015.
The first to accomplish this lofty goal is the 1996 Metro Manila Pride.
1996: A Stronger Metro Manila Pride
The 1996 Metro Manila Pride was organized by ReachOut Foundation, and it has succeeded where its predecessor fell short: it was able to bring the entire community together and laid a solid foundation for generations of Pride Marches. It welcomed queer advocates from different backgrounds and discussed the rights of sexual minorities in the Philippines.
Overall, the ‘90s saw the emergence of a solid LGBTQ movement in the Philippines. This decade, says the UNDP, saw a growing awareness of LGBT issues, the establishment of the political organizations, and the rise of LGBT writing.
2000: Earliest Version of the SOGIE Bill
The movement gained steady momentum in the New Millennium. Advocacy reached the 11th Congress in 2000, when the Anti-Discrimination Bill (ADB) of 2000, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, was filed through Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Akbayan Rep. Loretta Ann Rosales. The bill, and many other similar bills filed in the 14th, 15th, and 16th Congress failed.
Currently, the SOGIE Bill or House Bill No. 6294 remains pending.
2010: The First Gay Political Party Appears on the Ballot
For the first time, a gay political party appeared in the ballot. Ang Ladlad partylist had five nominees under its banner, and its main agenda is the Anti-Discrimination Bill. It also advocated support for LGBT-related businesses and the creation of microfinance projects for poor and disabled LGBT Filipinos, among others. The partylist, however, lost its electoral bid.
2019: Metro Manila Pride Breaks Records
Although the SOGIE Bill languishes in the Senate, public support for the community grows every year. The number of attendees swells each Metro Manila Pride March, reaching its peak at 70,000 people in 2019. This, by far, is the largest pride demonstration in Southeast Asia.
2020: Metro Manila Pride March Migrates to Online Platform
Due to the pandemic, the organizers of the Metro Manila Pride March canceled this year’s march.
They maintain, however, that the spirit of pride does not end in the streets. The organization will make the most of digital channels, shifting in-person activities to online engagements.
Our Pride movement is steeped in history, and we’re sure that the first online Pride March won’t be the last milestone in our fight. We’ll be with you as we welcome new landmarks in the LGBT community.
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