Last June 22 to 26, a FAST2019 flagship project, ARTSvocacy Journey: PRIDE (ARTSJ: PRIDE),set sail in honor of the LGBTQ+ community. It aimed “to advance the [LGBTQ+] sector through inclusive governance and holistic opportunities,” according to Batch Vice President and ARTSJ spearhead Verrick Sta. Ana.
Headed by FAST2019’s Mark Jay Casipit, Wylie Valerio, and Francine Zaldivia, ARTSJ: PRIDE was an umbrella initiative encompassing five sub-projects, highlighting an aspect of Pride through a series of engaging activities that included Pride E-Gallery, Rainbow Timeline Research and Community Survey,Iridescence: Journey Through Rainbows, Discover BaCLA Network, andE-Forum: Alpas.
Coming out of the closet
“Art expresses itself,” Casipit shared in an interview with The LaSallian when describing the Pride E-Gallery and Iridescence: Journey Through Rainbows. Through posts on the FAST2019 Facebook page, students were given the opportunity to showcase their stories in the form of art and written narratives, accentuating the complexities and nuances of their lives as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Discover BaCLA Network, on the other hand, proudly paraded the event’s external partners—Youth Advocates for the Philippines, Pantay, Equality.PH, and Kasarianlan. Valerio, who facilitated the partnership deal, explained that it intended to “give [people] a chance to exercise and express their advocacies as well as to educate themselves on the issue given that it is Pride month.”
Split into two parts, the Rainbow Timeline Research and Community Survey, meanwhile, is a research-based advocacy exploring the highlights of the local LGBTQ+ community and calling for the inclusivity of the community in the University. The project, headed by Zaldivia, targeted “[tackling] the history of the [LGBTQ+] community in the Philippines,” and extracting their survey responses to inform further Legislative Assembly resolutions.
Beyond the rainbow
Culminating ARTSJ: PRIDE was E-Forum: Alpas, an online forum also headed by Zaldivia. Hosted by FAST2019’s Mirus Ponon and moderated by Maxine Juan, the forum tackled multidisciplinary approaches on the state of the LGBTQ+ community with a panel featuring Dr. Jaya Jacobo, Dresda Emma Méndez de la Brena, and Percival Cadeña. Zaldivia highlighted that this project hoped to “break the stigma of the LGBTQ+ community by discussing rights and representation utilizing academic gender studies.”
“Representation should be able to teach us to think of other possibilities; to think of other representations,” Jacobo emphasized on the portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community in the media. Having worked as a postdoctoral research fellow for the GlobalGRACE Gender and Cultures of Equality Project of the University of the Philippines (UP), she observed that these characters have become “simplified or flattened out”, citing the “flamboyant bakla and the emotionless lesbian” as the most common type of representation in local media.
Additionally, Jacobo advocated for better trans representation, criticizing Trans-facing—the practice of casting cisgender people for transgender roles—and the intersectionality of trans roles. She left the audience with the insight that “if you allow a trans actor to work in that production, then you have given her or him a chance to live as well.”
Focusing on the academic setting, Méndez de la Brena, a workshop organizer for Erasmus Mundus Organization and Ermasus Mundus Association Women, identified the discrimination and criminalization faced by LGBTQ+ students, especially outside the European and American academic cultures. The strong “machismo” culture rooted within Philippine society, she expounded, “clearly distinguishes traditional male and female roles and [the] rising violence against transgender people.”
With this, she called for a more radical academia, suggesting the integration of LGBTQ+ topics in curricula and the creation of more inclusive spaces in schools. “We need to stop putting the pressure of change on the shoulders of [LGBTQ+] communities. We all need to contribute and take that action,” Méndez de la Brena concluded.
Citing the recent debacle of #FreePride20NOW,wherein 20 peaceful protesters were arrested during a lightning rally celebrating pride and denouncing the Anti-Terrorism bill, Babaylanes Inc. president Cadeña encouraged viewers to reflect on student-led actions toward fostering diversity. The turning points of three LGBTQ+ organizations—namely UP Babaylan, Bulacan State University’s Bahaghari, and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines’s Kasarainlan—served as a reminder of the continuous efforts the youth has made in protecting the welfare of everyone who identifies as LGBTQ+.
Cadeña expressed his hopes in eliminating persisting prejudices against the community: “Pride is resistance. Human rights and Pride are siblings; their mother is freedom.”
“Sad nga kasi people view it as an annual thing…when it should be year-round,” clamored Valerio. By spotlighting LGBTQ+ education in each sub-project, she expressed hope that this initiative will have an immense impact on “not only the LGBTQ+ community, but [also] the whole DLSU community, whether or not they [identify as] LGBTQ+.”
Sta. Ana firmly established that the LGBTQ+ community is as equally important as any other group or sector in the University. The community has come a long way since their first Pride march in the Philippines in 1994, and will continue to stomp with their proud voices well into the future.
“Magkakaroon ng opportunity ang students na ma-voice out ‘yung pinaglalaban nila,” Sta. Ana emphasized, as the ideological foundations of ARTSvocacy Journey live on.
(Students are given the opportunity to voice out the advocacies they are fighting for.)