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Bahaghari Center discusses LGBTQI inclusion in Fatima Uni’s conference on inclusive education

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All photos courtesy of Our Lady of Fatima University

Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center) took part in the 1st National Conference on Inclusive Education of Our Lady of Fatima University. Themed “Current Perspectives, Support Services and Best Practices”, the event was part of the Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Program of the university, which eyed continuously inform those working in the academe of the relevance not only of lifelong learning but of making education inclusive.

While commending this effort, Michael David C. Tan, executive director of Bahaghari Center – and concurrent editor in chief of Outrage Magazine – spoke during the gathering on what it is like to be LGBTQI in educational institutions in the Philippines.

Growing up in Kidapawan City in Mindanao, Michael – himself – experienced school-based discrimination for being gay. He recalled that in elementary school, he was made to sign a “pink contract” that prevented him from mingling with other gay students or even with girls because “I was told we could infect each other.” Violating the contract could have caused his expulsion.

But Michael said that his experience is not uncommon.

A study done in the UK found that 45% of LGBT pupils are bullied in school. The figure is 64% for trans pupils.

Partly because of bullying, four in five trans young people have self-harmed. The figure for self-harming among lesbian, gay and bi young people is three in five.

Also, more than two in five trans young people attempted suicide. The figure for lesbian, gay and bi students who aren’t trans is one in five.

Michael added that local studies remain rare, but LGBTQI publication Outrage Magazine has reported numerous cases that highlight how difficult it is for many LGBTQI students to go to school, stay there, and finish schooling.

Even in the early part of 2000, in Quezon City, there was a school that conducted “masculinity tests”. Students were made to walk “like men”. If they swayed their hips, they wouldn’t be allowed to enroll. For those allowed to enroll, they were made to sign a contract that becoming gay means getting expelled.

Still in Quezon City, a gay teacher was fired after the school where he worked found out he “married” his male partner.

In Cebu, where there is an anti-discrimination ordinance, trans students were not allowed to go inside school premises unless they started dressing up as men.

Just this June, in Manila, one of the oldest schools in the world made students sign a “contract” that barred them from forming LGBT relationships.

In 2016-2017, in Dapitan, a school official refused to sign the clearance of trans students unless they got a haircut. After they did, he then asked them to have their breast implants removed.

In Lucena, a university refused to officially recognize an LGBT student organization. The same refusal was experienced by LGBT students wanting to form organizations in various schools in Metro Manila.

And just this May-June, in Sta. Mesa, Manila, the head of a public school refused to give a clearance because a trans student presented herself “inappropriately”. The trans student was also told that if she complained, the higher-up will make her life for her – even when she already moved to a different school for college.

Michael David Tan said that local studies remain rare, but LGBTQI publication Outrage Magazine has reported numerous cases that highlight how difficult it is for many LGBTQI students to go to school, stay there, and finish schooling.

“The data may not be there yet; but we do not lack for stories to tell,” Michael said.

There have been positive developments.

For instance, the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Republic Act No. 10627 issued in 2013 includes “gender-based bullying”, which is “any act that humiliates or excludes a person on the basis of perceived or actual sexual orientation and gender identity.”

In 2017, the Department of Education (DepEd) issued a gender-responsive basic education policy (DepEd Order No. 32, s. 2017) that “commits to integrate the principles of gender equality, gender equity, gender sensitivity, non-discrimination and human rights in the provision and governance of basic education”.

Various educational institutions have also started developing pro-LGBTQI policies. Ateneo de Davao has a gender-neutral toilet since 2015. And just this August, the University of the Visayas changed its haircut policy to allow gay and trans students with long hair to attend their classes as long as they neatly tied their hair while in the school premises.

But Michael said that “even with these successes, numerous challenges remain. Meaning, a lot still needs to be done.”

Michael’s recommendations include: come up with policies respecting SOGIE of students and staff; recognize that some of the biggest bullies are not fellow students, but the schools themselves; allow LGBT students to formally organize; educate staff – from the security guards to the school administrators – that gender is not binary; and widely release LGBTQIA-related studies done by educational institutions.

For Michael, talking about this is a good start. “But the bigger challenge for everyone is to go beyond the talks and to actually start implementing policies that will help ease LGBTQI access to education.”

Themed “Current Perspectives, Support Services and Best Practices”, the event was part of the Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Program of the Fatima University, which eyed continuously inform those working in the academe of the relevance not only of lifelong learning but of making education inclusive.

NEWSMAKERS

Bahaghari Center head, Disney Aguila, trains HIV hub on Deaf issues, basic FSL

Mx Disney Aguila, co-executive director of Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center), helmed a training of Hearing people who work in HIV advocacy from My Hub Cares (MHC).

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With HIV service providers still predominantly coming from the Hearing community, it is “just right to make them more aware of the need to be sensitive to the issues of Deaf Filipinos”.

So said Mx Disney Aguila, co-executive director of Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center), as she helmed a training of Hearing people who work in HIV advocacy from My Hub Cares (MHC).

“Deaf people, including Deaf LGBTQIA people, are also at risk for HIV infection, and yet existing HIV efforts often exclude them,” said Aguila, who enumerated – among others – the lack of Filipino Sign Language (FSL) interpreters in HIV facilities, absence of FSL-sensitive IEC materials on HIV, et cetera.

Aside from basic FSL lessons, Mx Aguila also gave lectures on specific issues faced by the Deaf community when trying to access HIV testing, and – if one tested HIV positive – access treatment, care and support services.

For Ico Rodolfo Johnson, who helms MHC, it may be cliché, but “we need to make real the saying that no one should be left behind.” In HIV-related efforts, this includes “persons with disability, such as Deaf people, who need to be included in our efforts.”

In the end, said Mx Aguila, “we really need to do more to ensure we’re truly inclusive… and that’s exactly what we’re doing with these trainings.”

To invite Mx Disney Aguila for talks on Deaf LGBTQIA issues and on inclusive development, email info@bahagharicenter.org, or directly contact her via Facebook.

For more information on the inclusive HIV service delivery of My Hub Cares, head to Unit 607 Tycoon Center, Pearl Drive, Ortigas Center, Pasig City; call 0917 187 2273; or visit their Facebook page.

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‘Red Lives’ reading slated on June 29 to shed light on experiences of people infected, affected by HIV

To shed light on the experiences of people infected and affected by HIV particularly in the Philippines, Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. and Outrage Magazine scheduled an online launch cum book reading of “Red Lives”.

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To shed light on the experiences of people infected and affected by HIV particularly in the Philippines, Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. and Outrage Magazine scheduled an online launch cum book reading of “Red Lives”.

Dubbed “Beyond the pages”, the book reading is slated on June 29, 2023 at 6:00PM via Google Meet.

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This is done in partnership with Mujer-LGBT Organization, Project Red Ribbon, Side B Philippines, My Hub Cares, and Positive Elders Philippines, Inc.

UNTOLD STORIES

“Red Lives” – written by Outrage Magazine editor in chief Michael David Tan – contains “creatively retold” stories from within the HIV community, from both infected with HIV and affected by it.

For Stephen Christian P. Quilacio, HIV project manager of Bahaghari Center and concurrent Mindanao correspondent of Outrage Magazine, “‘Red Lives’ holds immense significance to me. This book serves as a powerful testament to the experiences, struggles, and triumphs of individuals infected and affected by HIV. It provides a platform for their voices – for OUR voices – to be heard, acknowledged, and understood,” he said. “For Bahaghari Center, Red Lives is not just a book; it is a symbol of resilience, empowerment, and hope. It amplifies the voices of the local HIV community, provides a platform for their stories to be shared, and challenges us to create a world free from discrimination and judgment.”

Quilacio – who lives with HIV – added: “Storytelling encourages us to speak truth to power, to take chances, and to support fresh, different viewpoints. We are not alone, the ‘Red Lives’ serves to remind us.”

COMMUNITY THEATER

But “Red Lives” actually hopes to broaden the HIV discourse in the Philippines. To start, it goes beyond statistics and medical jargons, and delve into the personal narratives of those living with HIV, and are affected by HIV.

“This way, it humanizes the HIV community, shedding light on the challenges they face, the resilience they embody, and the discrimination they encounter. By sharing these stories, the book hopes to foster empathy, compassion, and a deeper understanding of the realities faced by the community,” said Aaron Moises C. Bonete, administrative officer of Bahaghari Center and concurrent managing editor of Outrage Magazine.

The stories in “Red Lives” are also produced via theater advocacy, so that “the stories are brought straight to the people,” Bonete added. This way, “we expose people to viewpoints that we may not have previously considered or been aware of in the field of HIV. Hopefully this teaches more people to be more empathetic to those whose lives were touched by HIV.”

For Bonete, “theater can contribute to our understanding of what it means to be human, and staging ‘Red Lives’ humanizes real HIV stories. These stories need to be shared, listened to, and passed on.”

Bonete added: “With the book reading, we hope to create a safe, affirming, and inclusive environment for dialogue and reflection, we aim to break the stigma and foster a deeper understanding of the challenges that serve as an opportunity to engage with diverse perspectives and foster empathy among participants while promoting a community that stands in solidarity with those affected by HIV.”

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BIG ADVOCACY

“Red Lives” is, in the end, “a call to action for individuals, organizations, and society at large,” said Quilacio. “It is a reminder of the importance of supporting and advocating for the rights and well-being of people living with HIV, and even those affected by it. By coming together, we can challenge misconceptions, dispel myths, and work towards creating a more inclusive and compassionate society.”

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Bahaghari Center, Outrage Mag publish book creatively retelling stories from PH HIV community

Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. and Outrage Magazine released a book, “Red Lives”, that author Michael David C. Tan said contains the “creative retelling of stories from the local HIV community.”

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To give face to people infected and affected by HIV, Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. and Outrage Magazine released a book, “Red Lives”, that author Michael David C. Tan said contains the “creative retelling of stories from the local HIV community.”

The Philippines now has 54 new HIV cases per day. In March 2023 alone, 2,078 news HIV cases were reported, a 35% increase to the number for the same period last year. Majority (97%) were male, with most of them belonging to the 15-34 age group (including 48% from the 25-34 age group, and 31% from the 15-24 age group. Notably, 125 of the cases reported in March involved 10-19 year old Filipinos, with 103 of them infected through sexual contact.

“Year-on-year, the number of Filipinos getting infected with HIV has been increasing from ‘only’ 13 per day in 2013 to 41 in 2022 to the 54 new HIV cases we now have per day,” Tan said, “and with younger Filipinos the most affected sector.”

For Tan, it is “important to stress this since HIV still kills… at least in contexts like the Philippines.”

Also in March, 57 deaths were reported due to any cause among people with HIV; since 1984 when DOH started reporting on this, 6,474 deaths were already reported due to any cause among people with HIV in the country. Sadly, only over half (67,194 of 114,008) of the total number of PLHIVs take ARVs; meaning, not everyone has access to life-saving medication.

All these numbers are important, Tan said, as they “show us the worsening HIV situation in the country.” However, “these numbers do not tell the full story because all Filipinos living with HIV, and their loved ones looking after them have stories to tell.”

“Red Lives”, Tan said, hopes to highlight some of these stories.

“Red Lives” has sections on: finding out one’s HIV status; looking after minors with HIV; dying and death; HIV for Deaf LGBTQIA people; transgender-specific HIV-related issues; treatment, care and support; and loving beyond HIV.

“Part of the fight against HIV lies in hearing of, and hopefully understanding of the stories of people,” Tan said.

Tan aded: “We all should ask: Why do people engage in behaviors that put them at risk for HIV infection? What are their experiences when they test HIV-positive? How do people around them react? Aside from their medical condition, what continue to be challenges for PLHIVs? And with their status, what continues to inspire them to do better in life?”

For Tan, “answers to such questions put a face on a social issue, thereby helping us understand why the country’s HIV situation is where it is now; what we can do to better the situation; and… what we can similarly do to better the lives of those infected AND affected by HIV.”

With “Red Lives”, the intention is “to start telling these stories so that, hopefully, they’d not only be heard but eventually be listened to.”

COPIES OF “Red Lives” ARE AVAILABLE FROM BAHAGHARI CENTER, AND OUTRAGE MAGAZINE.
CONTACT 09287854244 or 09162727715, OR EMAIL info@outragemag.com.

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