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Pride March 2020: Liberty and the path of most resistance

Isang mapagpalayang Pride!These words took over social media—in greetings, in calls to action, in statements of solidarity and comfort—throughout Pride March 2020 commemorations. Representing both an acknowledgment and a wish, the statement is a celebration of the hard-fought victories of those that came before, and a battlecry for the war that is far from over. 

(Have a liberating Pride!)

Just last June 26, the Pride Protest was violently dispersed and several protesters were arrested. Days before that, a statement by trans woman Kevin Balot sparked contentious discourse online regarding trans women’s space in beauty pageants. There is an undercurrent of rage at the injustices happening everywhere, visibly expressed in the vibrant placards raised and the undaunted stories shared. But above all, there is fervent desire to live—freely and boldly. After all, living is the ultimate act of defiance. 

This year’s theme, Sulong, ‘Wag Patinag, perfectly encapsulated the local Pride movement’s history of resistance, as well as the obstacles the organizer Metro Manila Pride faced. Pride March 2020 shifted its activities, seminars, and performances online, and despite being far from its usual venue and stripped of its trappings, it remained a shining and irrepressible safe space for all.

(Onward, undaunted.) 

Laying the groundwork

The day’s activities started with a webinar titled Pride Speaks Hangouts: Tuloy ang Laban Para sa SOGIE Equality, which aimed to discuss the urgent need for Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE)-specific protections in the Philippines. The talk featured Atty. Claire de Leon of Lagablab Network and Pastor Jason Masaganda of Metropolitan Community Church. 

De Leon traced the movement’s two-decade-long history of lobbying for a national bill against SOGIE discrimination, emphasizing that such legislation is needed now more than ever. “[The LGBTQ+ community] is vulnerable to discrimination in different contexts and spaces—in schools, in the workplace, [and] in accessing services,” she explained. 

The absence of a national law means that anti-discrimination policies must be instilled from the ground up through the local government. Masaganda recounted the long road that led to Marikina’s Anti-Discrimination Ordinance (ADO), sharing that support from Mayor Marcy Teodoro and the Marikina City Council, as well as LGBTQ+ organizations like LGBTBus and KABACLAN, was essential to the ADO’s passing last June 2019. 

De Leon noted that although 21 cities around the Philippines have a similar ordinance, the rights of millions of Filipinos continue to be violated. Further, the Anti-Terrorism Bill could create an even more repressive environment for the LGBTQ+ community, as she asserted, “Activism is our only way to assert our narratives; [the bill] can further render us voiceless.”

Loud and proud

It is no secret that Pride has its roots in protest; the fight for queer liberation has always been the fight against all systems of oppression since the first brick was thrown during the Stonewall riots. It is no wonder, then, that today’s Pride participants were standing up against not just prejudice, but also other sociopolitical issues. 

“The essence of Pride is resistance. We are here not just to celebrate but [also] to fight the continuous threat and discrimination in our lives,” declared Vichelle*, a lesbian who has been to multiple Pride Marches. Online, the spirit of Pride has remained untouched and is as fiery as ever, as she described this year’s Pride experience to have emerged as a “safe space” and a “breath of fresh air from the suffocating world”.

Coleen Paula* shared a similar sentiment, explaining that Pride has made her feel that she is not alone. Identifying as queer, she has found s a strong sense of solidarity reminding members of the LGBTQ+ community that who they are and what they feel will never be invalid. 

Tuloy-tuloy lang sa pagsulong. Hindi ang pandemyang ‘to o kahit ano ang magpapatigil sa amin na ipaglaban ang mga karapatan namin kahit nasa bahay lang,” she added. 

(We continue to press forward. Though we are at home, nothing—not even this pandemic—can stop us from fighting for our rights.)

Marry the night

Capping off the evening was the three-part Online Pride March and Festival 2020 Livestream, which was hosted by prominent figures in the LGBTQ+ community—Karl Molina, Narise Giangan, Bryle Leaño, and Dax Carnay. It featured a captivating program with powerful productions and informative speakers.    

Local drag queens such as Marina Summers, Eva La Queen, and Mrs. Tan stole the show with their lip sync performances. Soulful serenades from the likes of Ian Bencio David, JA Quintana, and Lance Reblando soothed audiences, while The House of Mizrahi channeled their inner divas through their expressive dancing. Rounding out the razzle-dazzle was the surprise appearances of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 12 queen Crystal Methyd and Season 1 and All Stars 5 queen Ongina, the latter being the first Filipino drag queen to participate in the show. 

Speak truth to power

Meanwhile, representatives from various organizations served as “Solidarity Speakers” throughout the evening, standing for 11 clusters—Peer Support, HIV and AIDS, Student and Youth, Mental Health Awareness, Workplace Diversity, Faith and Religion, Arts and Culture, Human Rights, Grassroots, and Persons with Disability. Discussing the intersectional involvement of the LGBTQ+ community in various sectors, the clusters expressed their cry for the safety and integration of the community. “We began in nightclubs, in clandestine meetings, [and] in secret gatherings; today, though, we meet out in the open,” the Peer Support cluster advocated, seeking better representation in society. 

On the other hand, the HIV and AIDS cluster called for “greater protection” for people living with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), as health services are being overwhelmed by the COVID-19 crisis. “We are the countless students denied our rights to education…we are [the] children who are vulnerable to hate and abuse,” the Student and Youth cluster clamored, noting the lack of safe spaces and empowerment particularly among the LGBTQ+ youth. Though differing in areas of concentration, these clusters carried the same ideology to prioritize and fight for the LGBTQ+ community’s rightful place in social structures.

Political figures also expressed their support for the community and their advocacies. “Hindi krimen ang Pride. Patuloy natin palakasin ang pagkakaisa para sa pantay na karapatan,” Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago affirmed. Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo applauded the continuation of the Pride March online. She concluded her statement by saying, “Your fight is our fight, and we will carry your trust with pride.” 

(Pride is not a crime. Let us continue the fight for equal rights.) 

Soaring to greater heights

“The call for solidarity is more important than ever because our fight is far from over,” Molina emphasized. Pride was never just a celebration; it was about resistance and representation for the LGBTQ+ community. Pride March 2020 was another breakthrough in the countless efforts to make the voices of the community be heard. This was exemplified in Giangan’s closing words: “Talagang susulong at susulong tayo, hindi tayo magpapatinag.”

(We will march onward; we will not waver.)

*Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms.

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