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Diverse, inclusive, free: A kinder, happier place for all

By Mela Habijan Published Jul 29, 2022 5:00 am

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Imagine if the world were genderless. Perhaps it would be easier for all of us people to be ourselves, to be who we want to be and just simply live.

Boys wouldn’t be afraid to wear pink, while girls could appreciate blue all they want. Everyone would be proud to wear any color. After all, color is genderless.

Maybe all of us would be fully in touch with our creativity, because as kids, we would be allowed to play with both dolls and robots. We could idolize Spiderman as well as Darna, root for both Storm and Captain Barbell, and become empowered heroes who can help build a better and safer world.

Members and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community stage a rally along Session Road in Baguio City despite the heavy rain. 

Everyone could dream big and would have the opportunities to realize them. Anyone could be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, actor, singer, athlete, and live in a world with limitless possibilities.

There would be no room for misogyny, bigotry, and bullying. No one would have to fear for their lives. No one would end up killed. And everyone would be protected by law.

It would be easier to feel secure, be comfortable in one’s skin, and not be afraid of body shaming. No one would be shamed and feel ashamed. And maybe, it would be easier to date and find true love, or just simply choose to enjoy a single, independent life.

Together with Mondelez Philippines and UP Center for Women's and Gender Studies, UP Babaylan opened a rainbow crosswalk across the west wing of Palma Hall as part of its call for safer and more inclusive spaces in the university.

Everyone would go home to safe and loving homes. A home where kids won’t fear rejection and parents won’t disown their kids. A home whose sense of family is grounded on love. Likewise, a home with a single parent won’t be a shame. A home where same-sex partners would be protected by law.

And together, as happy families, we could celebrate #Smilestones — birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, career promotions, a new baby.

Maybe everyone would be courageous. No one needs to hide in such a world. No one needs to come out.

There would be no room for misogyny, bigotry, and bullying. No one would have to fear for their lives. No one would end up killed. And everyone would be protected by law.

Tanggap ba talaga kami?

In the Philippines, where patriarchy still reigns, LGBTQIA+ individuals are subjected to violence and oppression every single day.

The LGBTQIA+ community fill the streets of Quezon City with bright rainbows in celebration of Pride Month.

Trans students, for example, can’t come to school freely in the gender they identify as. While their cis-hetero classmates easily enjoy the right to education, they have to endure the unjust haircut and uniform policy of many schools to look decent and professional and be seen as “katanggap-tanggap” (acceptable). They receive constant bullying from the people around them, including their teachers. As a result, many trans students are forced to choose: Either hide their truths, or embrace the painful fate of not finishing their studies.

Passing the SOGIE bill would assure some protection for any person experiencing gender-based discrimination; and consequently, would change how LGBTQIA+ lives are treated and valued in this country.

The fate of Jennifer Laude and the presidential pardon extended to her murderer is a stark testament to how LGBTQIA+ lives are not valued in this country.

These and a multitude of other heartbreaking experiences — getting disowned by parents, not getting a chance to be interviewed for a dream job, receiving verbal or physical threats on the streets — make it tough to feel safe and secure in a society that proclaims, “Tanggap naman namin kayo!” (We already accept you!).

Senator Risa Hontiveros presides over the Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality Committee hearing on the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill in the Senate.

Our glimmer of hope is the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill into national law. Our legislators have ignored the bill for 22 years now, but advocates of gender equality and LGBTQIA+ rights are not giving up the fight. Passing the bill would assure some protection for any person experiencing gender-based discrimination; and consequently, would change how LGBTQIA+ lives are treated and valued in this country.

Allyship sailing

As we continue to push for the SOGIE Equality Law, the movement toward true allyship is being strengthened day by day.

The author, the first-ever Miss Trans Global crowned in 2020

A number of progressive cities and municipalities have passed and enacted anti-discrimination ordinances. Multinational and local companies have also strengthened their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace by incorporating and implementing LGBTQIA+ inclusive policies. In addition, the Department of Education has reiterated the strict implementation of its Gender Responsive Basic Education Policy, which mandates the observance of a gender-sensitive, safe, and motivating learning environment for children.

The way our ancestors lived is proof that, regardless of gender, we can have equal opportunities, we can collaborate, we can co-exist.

It may be slow progress, but we are moving toward an inclusive Philippines that is respectful of diversity.

Genderless is gender-full

Maybe, as Filipinos, we need to honor history and talk more about our beautiful pre-colonial roots – where men, women, and LGBTQIA+ individuals were of equal footing. Cisgender and trans women served as Babaylans, the celebrated divine shamans or religious leaders in their communities, and others could be Pintados, fierce and brave tattooed warriors.

The author giving a TEDx talk for the [email protected] City

The way our ancestors lived is proof that, regardless of gender, we can have equal opportunities, we can collaborate, we can co-exist.

Imagine if we all lived in a genderless society as they did. Maybe we will have a fuller world, where everyone is included, and all are accepted. Where people are free, and all people matter.

Because in a genderless world, there would be no he, she, or they. It would be just us — people.