LGBT in the Philippines

Ever since I was a kid I’ve known a lot of gays and lesbians, and I might say that they are the most cheerful, creative, talented and intelligent people I’ve ever met. When I was in elementary and high school there’s always a gay who crack jokes every time that makes us laugh as if they have no problem at all. But not just that, they also excel in academics like my classmate in high school who became our valedictorian and is now studying law at the University of the Philippines. At my workplace I’ve also notice that there are a lot of gay leaders such as managers and supervisors which proves that they also have an exceptional leadership skills. Being in the position alone proves that they’ve got what it takes to be a leader.

A lot of gay celebrities also, who mostly succeed in the field of comedy wherein they showcase their talent as an entertainer. Some of the well-known LGBT  celebrities are:

Charice Pempengco. A World Class Singer. She may have risked the ire of her followers when she had the “Big reveal” but she braved the front and today come out stronger than ever. Shedding her girlie looks, Charice is ready once again to conquer new heights in her very promising career. She is credited as the one of only 2 women from the Philippines who signed a major recording label in the U.S. The other one is Lea Salonga.

Vice Ganda. The Super-gifted Comedian The star of Vice Ganda never let up and is showing no signs of stopping. Once he was introduced to showbiz, he has proceeded to conquer millions of hearts with his unsurpassed funny antics and sharp wit. Today, it seems there is not a day in TV that people are not laughing to his latest crazy one-liners.

Boy Abunda. Not only has Boy risen to the top, he’s helped many artists reached their dreams. The King of Talk is definitely making waves as a talk show host. You see him every day, you get to listen to what he has to say every day. He is one gay that has become a true staple in every Filipino’s lives.

Many Filipinos are not afraid to come out of the closet, whether they are gay, lesbian or bisexual. But since the Philippines is a Christian nation and also have Muslims at the other part of archipelago, it is hard for the LGBT community to pass the law for same sex marriage.

If we’re going to look at the history of LGBT advocacy in the Philippines, reference was made to the early existence of transvestism and crossing gender in the 16th and 17th century, their disappearance under Spanish colonialism and the emergence of different gender identities and sexual orientations in the 1960s. From then, a gay culture rapidly evolved, although with stratification of identity and communities with the adoption of a Western notion of “gay” by some, mostly wealthier gay men, and the adoption of an indigenous identity.

Following the emergence of gay literature and academic studies, the 90s saw the first demonstrations of political activism with participation by LGBT communities and organizations in both LGBT-specific marches (pride marches) and mainstream demonstrations such as International Women’s Day and the 1994 march protesting the Value Added Tax. The spread of HIV lead to the establishment of key organizations in the early 1990s, at the same time as lesbian organizations were also founded. LGBT-related writing was found in mainstream and community publications and the end of the decade saw the first advocacy in the formal political realm with the formation of an LGBT lobby group and the filing of an anti-discrimination bill. The new millennium saw the expansion of LGBT organizations in both representation and activities, a rise in LGBT media, and the formation of the LGBT political party Ang Ladlad.

Ang ladlad is the world’s first political party for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Ang Ladlad was founded as a Filipino LGBT political party on 21 September 2003 by Danton Remoto. It aimed to take advantage of the Filipino electoral system that reserves a number of seats to special interest groups.88 The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) denied Ang Ladlad’s application for accreditation twice – first in 2007, supposedly because it lacked regional membership; and again in 2009 on the grounds of immorality. In its 2009 ruling, COMELEC stated that Ang Ladlad’s definition of the LGBT sector “makes it crystal clear that the petitioner tolerates immorality which offends religious beliefs.”

Ang Ladlad appealed the COMELEC decision, and the Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines decided in favor of Ang Ladlad. In its ruling, the SC stated that “moral disapproval, without more, is not a sufficient governmental interest to justify exclusion of homosexuals from participation in the party-list system. The denial of Ang Ladlad’s registration on purely moral grounds amounts more to a statement of dislike and disapproval of homosexuals, rather than a tool to further any substantial public interest”.89 Ang Ladlad failed to win enough votes during the 2010 elections, receiving only 113,187 votes (0.37%), which was below the two percent threshold needed for a party-list to get a seat in Congress. For the May 2013 elections, Ang Ladlad again represented the LGBT community. For the second time, the party failed to win a single seat in Congress, ending up with 100,666 votes (0.35%), which is 0.04 percent less than the number of votes it gained it 2010.

I watched the story of Ang ladlad. It’s inspiring yet heartbreaking. They worked really hard on their election campaign. It was colorful, entertaining, they have parades and they wave their rainbow flag proudly. There was a scene in the film wherein they ask for the support of the people and one person said “God made man and woman, so why did you turn gay?” That statement alone could really hurt their feelings. It’s not as if it’s their choice right?

It was noted that challenges for the LGBT movement include the lack of an umbrella organization, lack of understanding within the LGBT community about SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) concepts, and a lack of unity due in part because of class differences. This is within the context of continued social and political challenges for LGBT communities and individuals and a lack of studies on LGBT rights in the Philippines.

In reviewing LGBT rights in the Philippines, it was noted that the Philippines is signatory to many relevant international covenants promoting human rights, though LGBT rights are not always supported by the state. Same-sex activity is not criminalized and sexual orientation is mentioned in various laws. The most important issue in terms of law is considered the lack of an anti-discrimination bill. Numerous proposals have been made since the 90s without success. Proposed bills in 2013 relate to establishing an LGBT desk in police stations and to allowing same-sex couples to jointly own property. In the absence of national legislation, anti-discrimination ordinances at the level of local government units and cities have been recently passed. Transgender people are not allowed to legally change their identity, first name and sex (intersex people are allowed to do this). At the level of policy, there are both pro and anti-LGBT policies in various offices, institutions and private establishments. Positive policies include ordinances against discrimination and gender-based violence and code of ethics that promote the respect of diversity and promoting LGBT wellbeing. Negative policy relates to the discharge from the military on the basis of sexual orientation and barring entry to nightclubs for cross-dressers.

Cultural and social attitudes towards LGBT people are complex, with signs of acceptance, particularly among the youth, but questions of whether that acceptance is based on LGBT Filipinos conforming to stereotypes and occupational niches. At the same time, LGBT Filipinos are still being murdered with 28 LGBT-related killings in the first half of 2011. There is some LGBT representation on television and other electronic media.

Religion plays a major role in the lives of Filipinos with the strong influence of the Roman Catholic Church. This affects LGBT people, though a survey suggests Filipinos are generally accepting of LGBT people, even while the church opposes anti-discrimination policies and sometimes seeks to influence public policy in a negative way. Christian “ex-gay” movements have a presence in the Philippines. There are a number of churches established or led by the LGBT community. There is a dearth of information on the influence of smaller religions on LGBT people, and on LGBT members of those churches.

According to Pew research, Philippines is the most gay friendly country in Asia. But still, gay men, lesbian women, and transgender people live harder lives than everyone else one way or another, too hard in a place that’s supposedly friendly towards them. Here are some of the reasons why Philippines is not gay friendly.

Filipinos just tolerate, not accept, gays. There is a huge difference between tolerance and acceptance. There is no complete acceptance at all. So what kind of gayness do Filipinos tolerate? Filipinos like gay folks who live by their established stereotypes. A comical or hilarious sort of gayness, that’s what people like. If you’re gay, you have to be funny and you should work as a make-up artist or a fashion designer. If you work in the military or play with a sports team, you’re going to create a lot of fuss, so just stay in the closet if you do.

There’s still too much religious prejudice in this country. The strange thing about the Philippines is the seeming disconnect within its evolving culture. We’re taking large leaps into progress, but we keep old customs, such as family values and Christian values.

As a person who grew up in a very religious and conservative family. I might say that coming out of the closet is hard if you’re in this kind of family. I have a cousin who confessed that he’s gay saying that he can’t fight it anymore and given up by admitting his true gender. My family members are not happy about it, but not to the point where he was kicked out of the family but he was judged and criticized by the old ones who are conservative, but later on the family just accepted it and moved on. I can definitely understand why our elders reacted this way, but then they can’t control a person, and I understand my cousin when he said he tried to fight it but he knew in his heart that he is gay and he falls in love with a man.

Many Filipinos think gay men spread STDs and HIV. There are a lot of forums about HIV/AIDS and its surprising how a lot of people who think that HIV is a gay disease, a sort of epidemic nature designed to wipe out gay men, I just hope they would rather give them assistance and make them aware on how to prevent themselves from having one of these diseases.

Conservatives don’t like gay people to be gay.

There is this banner that says “love the sinner, hate the sin”. One of my gay friend says “It doesn’t make any sense for me.” I understand that and I felt that she was hurt. Because it hurts when people says be gay but don’t be gay, be gay but don’t suck dick, be gay but don’t fuck or get fucked, be gay but don’t touch someone else’s boner. These are sins.

Conservatives may see it as immoralities but for the gay people it is their way of making love and expressing their love for each other.

Same sex marriage is taboo. Conservatives cringe at the idea of same sex marriage, citing the infamous sanctity-of-marriage argument. Marriage after all is largely a heterosexist construct, defined within the bounds of Christian religion by the law, in this case. Heterosexual partnerships, even those that are considered immoral by Biblical standards, are considered superior to homosexual partnerships. A Catholic figure once joked, gays are free to marry women.


Laws are heterosexist. Co-habiting same sex couples do not have the same rights as co-habiting heterosexual couples. If you have been in a same sex relationship for years, you are not entitled to co-ownership rules. The legal definition of marriage is heterosexist. The Family Code is heterosexist. Former President Aquino once suggested that gay marriage may be inappropriate because it is undesirable to children who will be adopted under such unions. It’s very unfortunate for gay couples to live in this country.

President Rodrigo Duterte said while campaigning in 2016 that he supported same-sex marriage, and he says he has relatives who are gay. “Definitely, the gays were created by God,” Mr. Duterte said on the campaign trail. As a teenager he examined his own sexuality, he said: “When I was in high school, I did not know if I wanted to be a girl or a boy.” Mr. Duterte’s supportive statements have not translated into changes to laws yet, though. Ms. Roman, the transgender legislator who is a member of Mr. Duterte’s political party, has expressed frustration that the anti-discrimination bill has not received more backing from him. She says passage would need “more political will.”

It’s true that Nigeria, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, India, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Senegal treat gay terribly. But that doesn’t mean Philippines is gay friendly. The society is getting better at treating LGBT people, but we’re not really at the stage wherein the community is open to understanding non-heterosexual people. They just know queer people exist. And when you’re queer, you become someone else, a second class citizen. The label becomes your differentiation. It doesn’t even matter if you’re a teacher, a nurse, or a doctor. People remember you as that fellow who flicks his hand when he speaks or sways his hips when he walks. Gay becomes an adjective used to describe you. You can be a successful artist or entrepreneur, but people refer to you as that gay artist, that gay teacher, that gay whatever. Then they want you have to conform to the heteronormative culture. All right, you’re gay, but don’t act like this, don’t wear that, act decently, and so on. We can only be truly gay friendly when everyone stops harassing, bullying, hurting, and discriminating against gay people. When no one has to lock their true identity up in the closet because of fear of embarrassment and humiliation, that’s the time I’ll say this country is truly gay friendly.


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