'We need to educate ourselves': Catriona Gray talks about being an LGBTQ ally

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 24 2020 06:27 PM

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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MANILA -- Former Miss Universe Catriona Gray continues to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ community, particularly in the Philippines, as she spoke of her advocacy in a magazine interview.

In an article published on Vice on Wednesday, Gray said she first "opened her eyes" to the LGBTQ community when she moved to the Philippines as a teenager and worked as a model.

"Most of my first friends, from stylists to photographers, were LGBTQ. I'm grateful that I formed these relationships before I was given the opportunity to have the platform that I have now. Because of these relationships, becoming an ally became a personal passion," she said.

The beauty queen went on to recall "one of my most defining moments" as an LGBTQ ally in 2018, when she won Miss Universe.

It was the time when a transwoman, Angela Ponce of Spain, competed in Miss Universe for the first time in over 60 years. 

Gray admitted that she initially "did not know how to feel about it." But after reaching out to her transgender friends, she came to realize how Ponce's inclusion was a "powerful" step forward for the LGBTQ community. 

"It really broke my heart to hear their personal stories of discrimination, misunderstanding, and conflict. I also asked them, what did it mean to you to have a trans woman representing your country in Miss Universe? It spoke volumes, they said, that it allowed them to feel seen, represented, and valid," she said.

"I knew then that it was not only right to have Angela raise her country’s flag on the Miss Universe stage, it was also powerful."

UNDERSTAND, EDUCATE

In the article, Gray went on to stress the importance of forming a "personal understanding" to take a stand on a particular topic or issue. 

Citing her volunteer work with groups such as Love Yourself and her reign as Miss Universe, she said she became "even more steadfast in my allyship."

"I can never know exactly what they're going through but what I can do is listen, and when I can, lend my voice for those who cannot raise their own," she said.

"But before we can become an ally, a protector, a voice, we need to humanize the community so that we care, not just about them as the LGBTQ community, but as fellow human beings. As allies, that's the foundation on which we stand," she explained.

Noting that the Philippines "has a long way to go when it comes to LGBTQ rights," Gray encouraged Filipinos to be more open-minded and vocal about their support. 

"To be better allies, we need to educate ourselves. It's not the LGBTQ community's responsibility to educate us. That means asking the hard and uncomfortable questions and seeking out answers. Humbling ourselves when we're wrong. It won't be easy. It's not a Miss Universe Q&A where, in 30 seconds, you can fit your entire understanding of the topic," she said. 

"Being an ally starts with small acts every day. When you're in the workplace and someone says something offensive about LGBTQ people, stand up and say that it's not right. They too may be unaware. It's about seeing discrimination where it's happening and doing something about it that makes a difference," she added.