It’s time for Ladlad

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In my years voting for a partylist, it’s only been Bayan Muna and ACT Teachers Par­tylist for me. It goes without saying that I would vote for Kabataan Partylist and Gabriela in a heartbeat too, as I would Piston, and none of it has to do with whatever organized activist past I have, as it is a matter of this: I trust these people.

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I trust that they will not be corrupted by the system within the halls of Congress. I trust that they will not sell out. Which is to say that they will stick to their guns about nationalism and change, the kind that is premised on justice, for each of the sectors they represent. I trust that alliances are treated objectively, and that as allies they do not become cohorts. I trust that bills will be filed, and laws will be passed, ones that have long been set aside because of a lack of sectoral representation in Congress, as well as the refusal of the powerful and well-entrenched to treat the margi­nalized and underrepresented with respect and afford these sectors justice.

This is the value of the party-list system. And as we like to deny that we know who the marginalized are, we become complicit in allowing the rich and powerful to think this is their party, too. We also end up glossing over the real deserving party-lists, those who are unquestionably about the representation of a marginalized sector, those who undoubtedly deserve Congress seats.

To me, the crucial vote this year is the one for Ang Ladlad, the political party of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pinoys, with its candidates Bemz Benedito, Danton Remoto, and Raymond Alikpala—three people whose intelligence I admire, and who I know have their hearts in the right place. More than that, these are three people who allow for the imagination of the LGBT cause to be as large as society itself, and the LGBT voice to be about nationalism and change, too.

But Ang Ladlad is the one organization that has had to unduly suffer through the question of whether or not they deserve to run for party-list at all. It is apparently not clear how those that Ang Ladlad represents are marginalized; it is also apparent that we do not know underrepresented even if it hit us between the eyes.

It is patriarchy at work, obviously, and a political system that is wont to be Pinoy Catholic—that is, not open to anything beyond heterosexuality. Yes, that is a form of blindness, as it is just the total refusal to acknowledge how conservatism silences its own anxieties.

And yes, I mean that Ang Ladlad represents a sector that has been silent—and silenced —in our laws, our governance, our political system. Silenced for far too long.

Of course it is easy to wonder how silent they truly are, where we say that gays are everywhere, including in the more powerful positions in say, show business, or maybe fashion. Where we also know that they are beyond those more conventional and stereotypical spheres, where they are climbing the corporate ladder maybe, if not are already in politics.

And then you say: well, why are they still running, when they are already a sector, some of whose members are already in positions of power?

Because that is the nature of LGBT marginalization. It is that no matter how high up they might be on any ladder, no matter the powerful positions that they might be in, it is that by virtue of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, they will be made open to discrimination and stereotyping, to losing their jobs, or even just not being let into restaurants.

It is that no matter the Boy Abundas and Vice Gandas that we see on TV, no matter the more famous designers and artists, there will always be a bigger LGBT majority that suffers even just the crises of poverty, the parochial discrimination that exists in the margins.

It is that there is no difference between Boy and the parlorista, no difference between Allan K and your suking gay tindera, when what we’re working with is mere tolerance, when what we imagine to be tolerance is about changing TV channels, or choosing another store to cater to our needs. That is in fact a refusal to acknowledge LGBT existence as normal, as default. It is to fail to imagine a world where there is man, woman, and LGBT.

It goes without saying that at the core of this inability at imagination is an amount of hate, an unjust disavowal of another person’s existence, given this person’s sexuality and personal choices. It goes without saying that at the core of discrimination against LGBTs in this country, is not the denial of their existence, as it is the refusal to acknowledge their identities as valid.

It is also that if we think Filipinas marginalized by a system that has continued to question her right to reproductive health, then we must also think LGBTs marginalized by a system that refuses to acknowledge their identities.

This is at the core of LGBT marginalization. This is also the most basic of human rights: to live out our identities and exercise our freedoms equally.

It is to say really that if there is one organization that truly deserves a party-list seat, it is Ang Ladlad. Because if there is a marginalized sector that should’ve gotten representation long ago, it has to be the Pinoy LGBTs.

It has been long in coming, but each lesbian, gay, bisexual and trangender Pinoy and Pinay would do themselves well to choose #28 on that long list made up of mostly bogus party-list organizations. It would do us all well too, to vote for the LGBTs in our midst, the ones who are our friends and co-workers, the people we admire and those in our families. I will vote for my best friends and my teachers, I will vote for the fairy godmothers who I grew up with, I will vote for the artists who continue to create, despite. There is every reason to vote for the LGBTs in our lives.

It is time for Ang Ladlad to go to Congress.

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