An afternoon on June 24 turned what began as a regular webinar into a casual, hanging-out-with-friends online catch up, in which the participants discussed what it is to be an LGBTQIA+.
Themed “Pride: Bringing People Together,” the UPLB Gender Center (UPLBGC) invited guests from the LGBTQIA+ community to share their thoughts and experiences in a casual conversation.
The online catch up featured the following resource speakers: Chok Reyes, project development officer at the Department of Social Welfare and Development; Yanyan Araña, program manager of Transcend by LoveYourself, Inc.; Raymond Martin Manahan, volunteer at LoveYourself, Inc.; Kiko Dacanay, CEO of Spaces MNL and director for Community Engagement and Partnerships at LoveYourself, Inc.; and Remund Jordan D. Labios, faculty member at the Department of Agribusiness Management and Entrepreneurship of the College of Economics and Management.
Hosted by Crissar Joy Mundin of the UPLBGC, the webinar provided a platform for the guests to share their thoughts and experiences with each other on several aspects of life and how they relate it to pride, in celebration of June, the Pride month.
Family and financial needs
The guests shared individual stories of support and acceptance when it comes to their families, and that the adjustment not only involved the individual but the whole family, as well.
Reyes spoke about how it is to be a member of the LGBTQIA+, the pressure it imposes to provide or have the means for a living. Dacanay also took note of the financial constraints brought about by the pandemic with members of the LGBTQIA+ in the entertainment industry suddenly finding themselves jobless due to the restrictions in mobility. Araña spoke on behalf of transwomen who also experienced financial struggles especially for those who need it for their hormonal therapy maintenance.
A common concern raised in the discussion was weight gain due to the restrictions on mobility and the work-from-home set up. Speakers also updated the attendees on positive developments in the community. For instance, Dacanay said that LoveYourself, Inc. clients and its volunteers are provided with free COVID-19 vaccines. Manahan, a COVID-19 survivor, talked about his gratefulness to have received the vaccine. He also said that the organization he works with provides service for people with HIV and one of the big challenges is their limited reach during this pandemic.
Reyes also said that HMO providers now accept LGBTQIA+ members’ partners as legal dependents but mentioned the challenge regarding limited access to proper restrooms and the health problem this has caused among transwomen.
Love and loving oneself
Reyes noted the rise of online dating apps while in quarantine although the pandemic prevented them from meeting up in person.
Araña stressed the importance of mindfulness, affirmation, and loving oneself.
Labios also shared to the community that this pandemic gave him the opportunity to listen to himself better, find out his stress triggers, and reflect on what is happening. The current situation also taught him to be courageous in connecting and reconnecting with people he lost in touch with. He also noted that people are getting active in online events on different platforms which he finds promising despite the current situation.
Like Labios, Manahan sees this as a time of growth and self-discoveries, Dacanay found his purpose in the community, while Reyes continues to pursue her passion by keeping herself busy with her upcoming projects.
Araña, Dacanay, and Manahan are volunteers of LoveYourself Inc., a community of volunteers aiming to reach out to the public to promote ideas, attitudes, and practices that encourage loving oneself.
Araña offered an open invitation for referrals to LoveYourself Inc., of individuals who might be needing support and empowerment through the community and organization, while Manahan, also a volunteer, assured members of LGBTQIA+ of the organization’s space, especially for those with HIV and those who need support in coping with the disease.
Dacanay, on top of his role in LoveYourself Inc., is CEO for SPACES MNL, an online source for LGBT shows, events, and entertainment. Reyes and Labios both take opportunities to spread awareness through their speaking engagements and by participating in online discussions.
Nephtaly Joel Botor, faculty member at the Department of Human and Family Development Studies of the College of Human Ecology and program development associate of the UPLBGC, summed up the event in two acronyms: SPITE and PRIDE.
S stands for stigma and stereotyping still being experienced by the LGBTQIA+ community; P for pressure from society; I for isolation experience; T for trauma inducing events; and E for exclusion of LGBTQIA+ members and community.
On a positive note, PRIDE, which the LGBTQIA+ community celebrates is an acronym for the following: P for presence of LGBTQIA+ members who continue to create platforms for expression and make themselves heard in areas of research and advocacy; R for relationships that they have established and help them with challenges; I for Intersectionality, when PRIDE is discussed, it intersects with different aspects of life from policies to infrastructure; D for Diversity as PRIDE celebrates uniqueness of identity; and E for equity which is a call for equal opportunities.
Botor expressed his hopes that this conversation helped demystify the LGBTQIA+ community.
The event was attended by LGBTQIA+ members and allies including UPLBGC director, Atty. Eric Paul Peralta, who assured the LGBTQIA+ members and the public of his and UPLBGC’s continued support. The event was streamed live and is available for viewing at the UPLB Gender Center Facebook Page. (KEAraguas)