The life of being a queer is getting harder these days. Being one myself, staying at home is not an assurance for me to feel safe and comfortable.
Trapped within these four walls is a person who is scared of being rejected, hurt, and unloved. I am used to being open to who I am because I am surrounded by people who are accepting and understanding outside. However, this pandemic fueled me to become more scared because I am uncertain of how I should act to be accepted. I am once again imprisoned in a suffocating life where I suffered living in a closet for years.
The queer space that made me feel safe and the freedom that ignited me to be more passionate about life is now just a fleeting memory.
Youth members of this community are one of the most vulnerable in this time of the pandemic. Those who are living with an unsupportive family and in an unaccepting home environment have it even worse. The idea of getting found out and harshly rejected is a nightmare. Pretending to just have the “acceptable” identity guaranteed safety.
Clinging on to the uncertain end of the pandemic, some are beaten up physically, mentally, or emotionally because of the unsafe space at home. For others, the outside world is where they can run to after the beating or to overall avoid it. With the current situation where there is nowhere to run, choosing to bear with the pain is now becoming the option.
Although not physically, part of the queer community are still being tormented mentally and emotionally by the Philippine society — and some events that happened during this pandemic did not help at all.
One is the ongoing backlash against Kimberly “Billie” Hakenson, Cavite’s representative to the Miss Universe Philippines 2020 pageant. She stated during the preliminary interview that she is a bisexual and is proud to join the competition. On her recent Facebook post last Friday, October 23, Billie said she was reiterating her truth; that her journey in the pageant is dedicated to those who have been pigeonholed, discriminated against, or dehumanized for their gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Even with such advocacy and sincerity, some people were still disappointed by what she did and even called her names she was not.
The manifestation of violence, discrimination, and oppression that Filipinos have against the LGBTQIA+ community is still so prevalent at present. Sadly, some even approach it as mere entertainment. The case of Jennifer Laude became no longer a battle for justice since the court threw it off by allowing Pemberton absolute pardon granted by President Rodrigo Duterte. The people behind this gruesome decision even resorted to victim-blaming. What is more disappointing is that the majority of the Filipinos agreed to what they did. What will happen now to the future violence cases against this community?
The Pride March held in Mendiola, Manila during pride month is another frustrating story. Ten members of LGBTQ+ rights group Bahaghari, eight from other progressive groups, and two drivers were detained at the Manila Police District. They were charged with disobedience of persons in authority in relation with the Law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases and Batas Pambansa 880, otherwise known as Public Assembly Act. Even if they followed the protocols needed to do a protest, they were still held captive by the police.
But what did they do with the police chief who threw a mañanita birthday celebration at the height of the strictest quarantine status in Metro Manila? Well, up for promotion they said.
Is it still a good idea to trust in our government who seems selective with the law? How can we attain our safe space if the justice system itself, the very ones who should be protecting our rights, is questionable?
With all these gender oppression, injustices, and violence from the news, it feels frustrating to see that the safe space me and my community are desperately hoping for is getting harder to reach. Queer space is not just a sanctuary for people like me. It is a reason for us to continue living passionately and freely without fear.
I pray to see the day when people, especially the Filipinos, altogether take a step and raise their voices for equality and inclusivity — loud enough to make gender oppression grow deaf.