By Ma. Luisa Pineda and Nicole-Anne Lagrimas
Alongside the giant rainbow flag laid across the steps of Palma Hall Thursday, there stood two women in long white dresses who stood out just as colorful.
It was their wedding, after all.
In a ceremony presided by a minister of the Metropolitan Community Church of Quezon City, Arianne and Isabella exchanged vows in front of Palma Hall on June 27. After being addressed by the crowd with their hands held up in blessing, Arianne and Isabella were proclaimed husband and wife.
Their wedding graced the start of the UP Pride March, a parade held in honor of the UP lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) community. This year’s theme was ‘Live Free, you’re Safe in UP.’
The crowd cheered as they marched around the Academic Oval bearing signs, posters and colorful ribbons. Holding each other’s hands, the newlyweds happily described their marriage as a “life-changing and life-affirming turning point.”
“I always believe in the freedom of a person to choose,” said Arianne. “No one has the right to stop you from loving someone.”
Fifth year in UP
Organized in partnership with different organizations inside and outside UP, the Pride March was first held in the campus in 2008. The March is part of the LGBT Pride Week, a worldwide celebration that aims to empower and unify the LGBT community.
Headed by UP Babaylan, the organizers put up a series of events, including the ‘Anong Pangalan Mo Sa Gabi?’ book Launch on June 25 and a discussion group on the Anti-Discrimination Bill on June 26.
Also part of the celebration is the Pride Run, held after the Pride March. A fashion show and a film screening were also held on June 28to mark the end of the Pride Week.
Amidst different perspectives
With an estimated 300 people in attendance, organizers of the Pride March already considered the event as a successful feat.
“I would have to say that I am very happy with the turnout (of the Pride March),” said Hender Gercio, research associate for the UP Center for Women’s Studies and former President of UP Babaylan.
“Sobrang daming nakipag-march with us,” she added. “Ngayon, mas marami nang straight allies. We have fraternities, we have varsity people, we have families, and we have kids marching with us.”
But a few protesters, wielding posters and speaking into lapels, also attended the event to vehemently oppose the activity.
When prompted for a reaction, Pastor Derek, a protester, said, “I think God made man, and He made a partner for man: the babae, and not another lalake.”
Pastor Derek claimed that while the protesters belonged to different churches, they were united with a stand: “We don’t hate homosexuals; we’re just concerned about them.”
The wordwide fight for equality
Support for the LGBT community is also evident on other parts of the globe.
Just in time for the LGBT Pride Week, the United States Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 Federal law “denying federal benefits to same-sex spouses” in a double 5-4 vote on June 26.
This was a cause for celebration for homosexual couples in the twelve US states and Washington D.C., where gay marriage is allowed.
The ruling was seen as a “historic step forward for marriage equality.” But could the same amount of legal support be possible in the Philippines?
The Anti-Discrimination Bill, now pending in Congress, was proposed by party-lists Akbayan and Bayan Muna. It includes provisions for anti-discrimination for LGBTs, among other groups.
However, voting on the bill was delayed due to the qualms of opposing senators on the provisions for LGBTs.
The march towards acceptance
The different colors of flags waved by the marchers symbolized the vibrant qualities of a diversified community in which they belong.
However, beneath all the hues and the cheers, the struggle continues for the LGBT community in the Philippines. Despite the opposition, LGBT advocates continue to lobby for their rights.
Addressing the milling crowd, University Student Council Gender Committee Head Arjay Mercado urged, “Sana hindi matapos sa linggong ito ang ating pakikisama sa pakikibaka para sa pantay na karapatan. Kahit sino ka man, kahit ano pa man ang kasarian mo, pagtagumpayan po natin (I hope our call for equal rights does not end this week. Whoever you are or whatever your sexual preference is, let us fight for it).”
Gercio shared the same sentiments to bring the call for equality to the whole UP community.
“Every space should be a safe space for LGBT people. Sa UP, kung LGBT student ka, faculty, staff, you should be able to live your life out in the open and not be harassed, bullied, and discriminated for being an LGBT,” he said.
On the future of the Philippines when it comes to LGBT rights, Mercado, Gercio and the rest of the LGBT rights advocates maintain a sunny disposition: they know there’s still a long way to go for the country, but they hope that it will not falter.
As they aim for equal rights and treatment, the campaigns and advocacies of the Filipino LGBT community will always be present. They long for the day when they are not harshly judged for their identities and choices. They long for a world that sees them as real human beings, deficient of nothing, capable of feeling genuine human emotions – just like the rest.
See also: Photos of Pride March 2013