For queer couples, holding hands in public is still a privilege

Holding hands is the most basic display of public affection, but it remains a privilege for most LGBTQ+ couples in the Philippines.

A 2013 survey from the Pew Research Center revealed that the Philippines is one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world. In the survey conducted through face-to-face interviews, 73 percent of the respondents agreed that LGBTQ+ members people should be accepted by society. However, this support doesn’t translate to actual laws protecting LGBTQ+ rights. Only note President Duterte homophobic remarks.

Filipinos love funny gays on TV, but how about IRL? Our legislators won’t hasten the passage of progressive laws for some reason.

Before we even get to the topic of same-sex marriage, let’s discuss the long overdue Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) bill. Did you know that the bill has been subject to debate for almost 20 years? It was first proposed in Congress by the late Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago in 2000. The bill never moved forward, but Defensor-Santiago re-filed the bill continuously until her passing in 2016.

Read more: Is President Duterte an ally or an enemy of the LGBTQ+ community?

The bill only made progress when Congress approved House Bill No. 4982 or the SOGIE Bill in its third and final reading in 2017. In the Senate, Sen. Risa Hontiveros sponsored Senate Bill 1271 or the Anti-Discrimination Bill in 2016. However, it only moved forward in 2018.

The bill also went through interpolations since May 2018. Senators Manny Villar, Tito Sotto, and Joel Villanueva strongly opposed the bill. Villanueva cited freedom of religion as his reason for opposing the bill.“’Yung freedom of religion, ang dami nang nagbuwis ng buhay para riyan, and I think even right now a lot of people are willing to walk the extra mile […], and I am one of them,” he said.

“Any further delay on the bill means … life and death to the members of the LGBT community who are subjected to daily harassment, discrimination, and abuse,” Senator Risa Hontiveros says.

Fast forward to this very day, the bill hasn’t made any progress in the Senate. Well, what do we expect now that Sotto remains Senate President? But here’s the bad news: The Senate has no more time to finalize the bill during the 17th Congress. This only means the bill has to be re-filed in the 18th Congress (read: it’s back to zero).

Hontiveros already appealed to hasten the passage of the bill into law. “Any further delay on the bill means … life and death to the members of the LGBT community who are subjected to daily harassment, discrimination, and abuse,” she said. In a press release from Hontiveros, she expressed disappointment on how the bill languished in the Senate. “It’s been close to 3 years. In my memory, no other bill has been kept at bay and been under the period of interpellations for this long. It was one of the first bills sponsored in 2016,” Hontiveros said. Still, she hopes the bill will finally pass in the 18th Congress.

So, that’s that.

Read more: Loving Gay Humor, Hating Gay Rights

When it comes to same-sex marriage, there is also strong opposition from many Filipinos. In a 2018 survey, 61 percent of 1,200 respondents asked by the Social Weather System rejected the idea of same-sex marriage. The respondents also cited religion as their reason for opposing the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Congress also recently conducted a poll on same-sex marriage, but does that mean a bill on same-sex marriage or union is in the works? Hmmm. We doubt it.

Ultimately, let this be a reminder that they deserve the same rights straight people enjoy.

We’re far from progressive laws that uphold the rights of our lovely LGBTQ+ community. Even if they can’t hold hands in public without discrimination, LGBTQ+ couples continue to find courage to nurture and protect each other. We talked to three queer couples about romance.

If you know anyone who needs to understand what the SOGIE bill means to the LGBTQ+ community, share this with them—your parents or uncle or a friend. Ultimately, let this be a reminder that they deserve the same rights straight people enjoy.

GERALD AND LAKAN

Interview by Jelou Galang

“I’m telling the story because I do storytelling better than Gerald,” Lakan, who goes by the nickname Kan, confesses. The two met in a fated scene, something that could have come straight out of a teen movie: They had the same route going home. Took the same jeepney. Traffic was heavy, so it was the perfect time for some music. Kan fished out his earphones—and shared them with Gerald. “Now, I share my life with him, charot!” Kan wasn’t out back then, and hadn’t fully realized yet what he wanted. But there was one thing certain: He knew he wanted Gerald. Three years and three months of being together later, they’re glad their serendipitous meeting happened.

Before deciding on this relationship, what were the things you thought about? Were you certain about pursuing this relationship?

Gerald: Before, I was concerned with how much I would commit to this relationship, because I am not used to having serious ones. I didn’t care much about what others, most especially my family, would think of me.

Kan: I had just recently come out when Gerald and I started dating exclusively. I was terribly unhappy denying and hiding my true self before, so I was determined to find a guy who was ready to go steady. Back then, Gerald wasn’t the type of guy who would settle down in a serious relationship. So no, I wasn’t certain about him at the start. But I still wanted to see where things would go because I have a thing for huggable guys.

How do you spend time with each other?

Gerald and Kan: We decided to live together just last year. Our special moments are shared in the small things: buying groceries, cooking our baon, hitting the gym, telling each other about our days after a long day’s work, and watching our favorite series on Netflix. I’d say we’ve become domesticated.

What should people know about the kind of relationship you have?

Gerald and Kan: It’s the same as any other loving, caring, and understanding relationship. We face the same challenges and issues and triumph over them. There’s no special treatment; there are just two people in love.

What is love?

Gerald: Love is always a choice. Every day you make the choice to love someone and stand by [that choice] no matter what.

Kan: Love is selflessness. There’s love when you consciously put someone else first before yourself.

“And we’re looking forward to becoming one of those old couples who would still be holding hands while walking down the street, with their bald heads and weak knees, forever in love and always together.”

How would you define commitment?

Kan: Commitment is a mindset where you think of yourselves as a team. You recognize that you’re always on the same side even when things are dark. You work on problems together.

What do you look forward to in your relationship for the months or years to come?

Gerald and Kan: We look forward to building a life together: save up for a home, get married, and hopefully have kids. We’re looking forward to the ups and downs of our relationship throughout our journey. And we’re looking forward to becoming one of those old couples who would still be holding hands while walking down the street, with their bald heads and weak knees, forever in love and always together.

Read more: “Queer art is not just a trend or a fad,” says this visual artist

Dana and Rizza

Interview by Oliver Emocling

In today’s setting, Dana and Rizza’s first meeting was, in many ways, typical. They found each other on Tinder. Rizza says she accidentally swiped right on Dana and had, in fact, ignored her first messages. “She made me wait for three hours per message,” Dana quips. But after a few exchanges, Dana convinced Rizza to go on a date with her at the Mind Museum. And as they say, the rest is history. The couple have been together for almost two years, but it has never been easy.

What was your first impression of each other?

Rizza: I thought Dana was a philosophy professor and a liberal arts nerd. She was taking up law then and doing yoga three times a day. Her aura was light and she looked joyful.

Dana: When I saw her on Tinder, I always knew that a traveler like her would always have stimulating opinions about relevant issues; I was not wrong. She also looked condescending.

What do you like most about your relationship? And about each other?

Rizza: Dana is funny and confident. Sometimes, it can be intimidating. One of her craziest traits is that she’s fun to be around with, because she loves spewing out these crazy and brilliant ideas about her work and how she will conquer the world.

Dana: My grandparents always say that I should be with someone whom I can talk to every single day without being fed up. They explained that old couples cannot do long walks or do a lot of activities anymore, so a day would normally be filled with interesting conversations. I took this to heart and fortunately found someone who loves thought-provoking conversations. Every dinner time, Rizza and I tackle how our day went. Her silence is also comforting, and I know that when she’s around, I can rest well.

Do you think people are more tolerant of queer relationships now?

Rizza: I believe people are more tolerant now than before.

Dana: At least in our circle, we are not just tolerated but accepted and loved. I can say that yes, they are kinder now.

“Love is more than just uncontrollable emotions or feelings.”

What one thing do you wish people would know about the type of relationship you have?

Rizza: As we all know, some kids are still struggling to come out of the closet. Straight couples don’t see it, but it is a privilege to walk in public without being ridiculed and publicly humiliated. The type of relationship that we have has existed for a long time. I think LGBT+ couples want acknowledgement and the same treatment as our heterosexual peers have.

Dana: I hope that people would understand that LGBT+ relationships are not all about wanting to have babies, getting married legally, or an endless debate on whether or not we know we’re going to hell. Beyond the legalities and spiritualities, we want to share our lives with the people we choose to spend it with and to love freely.

I had to come out to my parents, grandparents, and relatives in different occasions and lucky for me, my family chose to abandon judgment, hate, and bigotry. People don’t understand that our families also sacrificed their time and exerted effort to fully accept, understand, and love the kind of people we the LGBT+ are. [With others] accepting the type of relationship we have, it also lifts a huge weight from our families’ shoulders.

What is love?

Rizza: Love is more than just uncontrollable emotions or feelings. Love needs to have commitment and kindness for it to grow. It’s more than just breakfast on Sundays: It has to accept what lies outside your comfort zone.

Dana: Love is choosing the person every day. It is never about the fleeting emotions. A relationship manages to stay strong through its commitment to love.

Read more: This queer artist published a zine on transphobia in Miss Universe 2018

CAI AND EVYN

Interview by Jelou Galang

Cai and Evyn met at a rooftop bar. It wasn’t a planned date. Cai was there to see another girl. But when Evyn asked her for a cigarette and they started talking about books and socio-economic issues, she thought Cai was someone special. Evyn thought their connection was meant only for a day, but they matched on Bumble about nine months later. “I don’t want to say it was fate, but the universe has a way of giving you what you ask for, and I knew I wasn’t going to let her slip away again,” Evyn says.

How do you identify yourselves individually?

Cai: I would describe myself as greatly passionate and ambitious. More than that, I see myself as always striving to learn from anything and anyone I come across. I’d also say I’m pretty outgoing and friendly.

Evyn: I identify as me. I’m not really into labels. On the Kinsey scale, I’m a 4: predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual.

Before deciding on having this relationship, what were the things you thought about? Were you mostly certain in pursuing this relationship?

Cai: To be completely honest, I’ve known I was bisexual since I was in the fifth grade. Growing up, I always hindered myself from getting romantically involved with another woman because I didn’t want to have to face the hardships that come with that. I’d sleep with some girls here and there, but I never let it get too far because of that fear of adding more issues to my already dramatic life. However, Evyn turned out to be someone who fits extremely well with me. We jumped into this pretty quickly, but what we always tell each other is that it feels right. It doesn’t always feel good, but it feels right. I wasn’t certain about pursuing this relationship but as every day passes, I feel that sense of just knowing—when you know, you know. You can’t necessarily explain it, but you feel as though you just know.

Evyn: Just finding someone who could understand me and allow me to understand them. No real expectations. From the moment we let each other in, it wasn’t about anything other than us: Two souls that just get each other and find ways to make it work despite any obstacles. There are definitely cultural differences, different family dynamics, and other things that may affect a normal relationship, but we understand each other and we listen well. We are able to just talk things out and make it work. It was never a question about what I needed to be certain about; I was always certain that I liked this person and that she understood me on that deeper level. When you connect like that, certainty isn’t a factor. You’re already in it.

“It’s not perfect, and that’s the beauty in it. It’s not supposed to be.”

What should people know about the kind of relationship you have?

Cai: We’ve got a whole lot of differences, from cultural to generational. I think one thing that makes us work is that we found a deeper connection because of those differences. If there is anything I’d like anyone to know about our relationship, it’s that finding common ground amid differences is foundational in forging a relationship that both challenges you and brings you forward.

Evyn: It’s not perfect, and that’s the beauty in it. It’s not supposed to be. We take the time to understand one another and embrace the differences that bring us closer. Is it scary to date someone different from yourself and what you are used to? Yes, of course, but the benefits of growing and learning new things with someone that you are just naturally drawn to is unlike any other boring average experience. Never judge a book by its cover.

For you, what is love?

Cai: Love transcends. It transcends norms, boundaries, and hard-set ideas. It challenges your beliefs. It tests your limits. Love is a transcendental phenomenon that is powerful enough to go against the flow of custom and convention.

Evyn: Giving someone unconditional access to your mind and heart at all times, even when you don’t feel like it. Being part of something greater than yourself and living for that journey. Forgiveness, graciousness, and patience at the highest level. To quote the best girl group of all time, I see love as [what happens] when “two become one.”

This story is originally published in our 34th issue and has been edited for web. The digital copy of Scout’s 34th issue is accessible here.

Art by Renz Mart Reyes

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