PH more accepting of LGBTQ? What study vs experience say

Jeffrey Hernaez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2023 06:00 AM

A Pride March at the University of the Philippines Diliman. Noel Celis, AFP/file
A Pride March at the University of the Philippines Diliman. Noel Celis, AFP/file

MANILA — Gabbi Silang, not her real name, says she thinks her future as a trans woman is uncertain in the Philippines.

Gabbi, who has been in transition for 5 years, shares that she was told by some companies not to cross-dress when she was still looking for jobs.

“When I was growing up, I was made aware of the lack of opportunities that were open to someone like me. Gay people were relegated to the role of either showbiz or salon. Wala akong talent para diyan. So there was a point when I didn’t know kung ano ang magiging future ko," she says.

While she is now working at a company that allows her to express herself, Gabbi believes more awareness about her community is needed, especially in a country that is predominantly Catholic.

“Sometimes, I am still called ‘sir’, he/him. Although the company is promoting inclusion and diversity, may mga tao pa rin na tingin pa rin sa akin ay lalaki. Kahit may pronoun na ako sa email signature, dedma pa rin sila," Gabbi says.

"One time, may sinabihan akong colleague na huwag akong tawaging sir, or she dapat kung babanggitin ako sa email tapos sabi niya lang, 'email kasi yun, hindi kasi formal yung dating kung she ang itatawag ko sa iyo,'" she adds.

She says instances like this offend her.

"Sa isip-isip ko, kulang pa ba yung hormones na iniinom ko? Hindi pa ba ako babae sa paningin nila? Nakakababa lang ng self-esteem. May times talaga na tinatamad na ko magwork kung ganyan din lang makakatrabaho ko. Sobrang naapektuhan talaga mental health and work ko sa kanila. I feel discriminated parang hindi ako belong.”


But studies show the Philippines seems more accepting of people like Gabbi than other countries in the world.

A report published in 2021 by UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute ranked the Philippines at 36th out of 175 nations in terms of accepting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual (LBTQIA+) community.

LBTQIA+ people face harsher conditions abroad. According to another report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), 67 countries around the world that still criminalize same sex relations, with 10 countries still imposing the death penalty. Laws in 20 countries also criminalize gender diversity. Debates and protests are also heating up in countries such as the US and Australia on issues such as drag shows and transgender rights.

But even with the Philippines being more socially accepting of the LBTQIA+ community, some of its members still regularly experience discrimination and harassment.

The proposed Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill would have offered them more protection legally, but the measure continues to languish in Congress since it was first filed in 2019.


While the SOGIE Bill awaits its fate, the LGBTQIA+ community has been gaining support from different sectors, at the community level, from local government units, and the private sector.

Oil firm iFuel, for one, has installed gender-neutral restrooms in at least 30 of its gas stations nationwide since 2021.

"We are a firm believer in equality and inclusion at iFranchise, and we recognize the contributions of each individual to our organization and to our society. We make sure that all our stations have facilities that are gender-neutral, and we also have provisions for PWDs. We envision our iFuel stations to be a safe space for everyone. I want to send a message to other business owners that being inclusive can—and should—be done," iFranchise Business Services Corp. CEO and President Krizzia Ann Loyang Tanabe says.

In Iloilo City, Barangay Sto. Niño Norte has been recognized for being the first and only village in the city to hold a Pride March in 2017. The event was spearheaded by La Villa Pride—a grassroots organization accredited and supported as a Community-Based Organization advocating LGBTQIA+ and sexual reproductive health rights.

“As an LGBT Rights advocate, I, myself, am not immune to discrimination. In fact, I received as much as two-fold because critics were not only attacking my personal advocacy but also myself, my identity and how I express myself. That is the reason why I need to keep the momentum of educating young key populations in advancing our basic human rights and creating safe spaces for young LGBTIQ+ that will shape our future and the mindset of the next generations," La Villa Pride founder Miles Minerva-Estimar says. 

The Quezon City Government has also been an active supporter of inclusion and diversity, with it being the first to pass a Gender Fair Ordinance in 2015, and the first to have an LGU-based consultative body called the QC Pride Council. Its Gender and Development Office has Sundown Clinics for free HIV testing and education, and offers a safe haven for abuse victims at the city’s Bahay Kanlungan shelter facility.

The city’s Pride March, held every June, is one of the biggest events in the country to celebrate diversity, and it has already held two Commitment Ceremonies for LGBTQIA couples to celebrate Valentine’s Day. 

This year, 240 couples exchange vows and rings, proving that Love is Love and that #LoveWins. 

At one of the many Pride events held in the city, QC Mayor Joy Belmonte said, “We envision Quezon City as a safe, progressive, and inclusive community where individuals’ rights are protected. Isa sa mga adbokasiya ng City Government ay ang pagkilala at pagsuporta sa LGBTQI+ rights as human rights.”

While for Rodolfo Ico Johnson of Project Red Ribbon, one of the biggest advocacy groups in the Philippines providing support to People Living with HIV of PLHIV, the basic tenet of human Rights is equality for all people.

"When one community is criminalized or discriminated, it not only impacts that community, but everyone. We know today the LGBT+ community faces an uphill battle pushing for equal rights under the law, and the most basic of those rights is to decriminalize same sex relationships," says Johnson.

But even with all these initiatives supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, Gabbi says she hopes more minds and hearts will eventually be opened. 

“Alam ng mga Pinoy ang ibig sabihin ng love and acceptance ngunit kulang sila sa kahulugan at pang-unawa. Pagdating sa LGBT community, piling tao lang ang binabahagian nila nito," she says.

"Sadly, karamihan ay kinakatuwaan at tino-tolerate lang. Let’s share and spread unconditional and unbiased love to everyone. As it says in the Bible, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,'" she adds.


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