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LGBT+ for the new millennium.

In the 2000 years I've worked as an advocate of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, I've listened to so many stories of despair but also of joy, gladness as well as gloom. As former United States president Barack Obama said in his best-selling and well-written books, the best way to learn is to listen: to curb one's tongue, hold back the swill of words as somebody else, somebody suffering, is telling you his tale. Here are composite stories of tales I've heard about the lives of Filipino gay men in the 21st century.

Mr. Right Now

Richard, also called Rich or Dick, works as a copy editor at the Daily Planet newspaper. DP styles itself as a crusading newspaper, fast on the draw against corruption and graft. But really, to the bone, it is owned by a bunch of greedy people with an eye for the juicy morsel of news - and the profits that go with them.

Rich is 29 and he studied in the country's most exclusive Catholic university. He came out after college but still lives with a closeted uncle in an apartment close to his office. He is also looking for Mr. Right in all the wrong places.

One day, he meets Brent in a gay bar. It is not the kind of gay bar where go-go boys dance with only a blue bandanna wrapped around their forehead. In this gay bar in Quezon City, with its aquamarine walls, you can just drink and pose. If you're lucky, you would meet someone later, talk and drink some more. Rich did meet Brent. Between the night's afterglow and the morning's hangover, they decided to live in. Rich is only too relieved to leave behind his crazy, closeted uncle.

Brent, 25, is a college drop-out who is taking up culinary arts in a school run by Austrian chefs. He wants to work in a five-star hotel later. His Dad died when he was five and his mother raised him alone. She runs a small grocery store in Espana, Manila. She is a cheerful woman who has inkling into her son's gayness, but she does not mind. 'He's the only one I've got,' she thinks while checking the inventory of her small grocery. She is only too happy to help him in his dream of becoming a chef.

Brent seems cool, calm and collected. But inside him, like a gash that nobody sees, is a fear of abandonment. At first, he didn't want to live in with Rich. Later, he said 'yes,' because Rich made him feel secure and loved.

Rich and Brent try to have a monogamous relationship. Their friends are happy that - in a world becoming full of strangers - they found each other. When Rich cooks, Brent does the dishes, and vice-versa. Brent does the laundry but hates pressing the clothes, which Rich can do with such utmost care. And so the guys eat simply but well, have clean and well-pressed clothes, and have intimacy when there is time and tiredness has not yet seeped into the daily grind. They even go to Palawan to celebrate the third month of their relationship.

But later, things begin to change. Brent doesn't want to have sex any more. He tells Rich that for him, love really means 'pure friendship.' He allows Rich to go to the bars again. Rich does this with great reluctance and pain. One day, he meets Cedric in party. They dance and talk and have intimacy. Later, Rich writes about it in his journal - in vivid detail.

Unfortunately, Rich leaves his journal lying around. Brent reads it. He knows it is his fault, for letting another man into the relationship. He decides to leave Rich. Sadness falls on the house like twilight. Rich goes home to a house full of silence. He decides to ask Cedric to live in with him. Cedric says that for him, Rich is Mr. Right Now. But Cedric even adds that seeing each other on weekends is best. There is space but no distance. The other one is just a text message away. Rich listens intently, quietly, his heart throbbing in his chest. For who knows, Mr. Right Now may become Mr. Right after all.

Pride March

I am also writing this to pay homage to last week's Pride March Philippines held in Marikina City. It drew a record crowd of 25,000 people. This was a far cry from the 50 people who attended the Gay Pride march organized by Pro Gay Philippines and the Manila Metropolitan Church. It was held at the Quezon City Memorial Circle in June 1994. Pro Gay held aloft banners decrying the value-added tax ('Itsugi ang VAT'), among other militant messages..

Fr. Richard Mickley of MMC talked about the need to advocate for our rights and asked God's help in doing so. Malu Marin of Can't Live in the Closet (CLIC) and I (representing Katlo Inc.) gave solidarity messages. I said that the time is ripe to form LGBT groups that would fight for our equal rights. I added that we should focus on the human-rights aspect in fighting for our equal rights. After that, it was like a dam had been breached. Neil Garcia and I had edited Ladlad, the first gay anthology of Philippine literature, in 1994. It sold extremely well, such that a second book was published in 1996. I also appeared in all the major TV and radio shows, speaking with sobriety (I hoped) of the need for us to claim our equal rights as citizens and taxpayers of this land.

Two years later, a group of LGBT leaders and I formed Task Force Pride, which held a rambunctious and colorful march in Malate. Funded by Reach Out Foundation, the march bloomed with placards calling for LGBT rights held aloft by people in rainbow colors: clothes, pants, banners, banderitas, head bands, etc, all done in the candy colors of the movement. And last week, there were 25,000 people, mostly millennials, asking for their equal rights with such elegance and elan. Like a fruit, the movement has begun to ripen.
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Publication:Philippines Star (Manila, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jul 7, 2018
Words:1112
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