Ladlad: A Campaign to Change Mindsets

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Text and photos by Marrian Ching, Mulat Pinoy Community Manager

In a press conference on June 22, Ladlad Party List sat down with bloggers and members of the media to talk about their plans for the future: one that involved three seats in Congress, equal rights, and love.

Last year’s loss in the party list elections proved to be a tipping point for many Ladlad members and supporters. Boy Abunda was one of them. “Ay, hindi na ako papayag,” he said, referring to the prospect of losing again in the 2013 elections. When asked about why they started the campaign earlier than most party lists, Abunda spoke of the need for conversation with the masses.

“This is not just an ordinary party list that has certain causes that can be explained in, like, 6 months before the elections,” Abunda explained. “It is not a national struggle, it’s a universal struggle, so there is a lot to talk about, a lot to explain, and at the end of this exercise, and as in any political exercise, we need the votes, we need people who understand,” he emphasized.

2013 will prove to be a crucial year for the party as a loss would mean back to square one for Ladlad in the political arena. “If we will lose yet again in 2013, we will be removed from the list of accredited party lists,” Bemz Benedito, Ladlad chairperson, shared. In the eight years of fighting for LGBT representation in Congress, she has no desire to go through the same process that has come to mean abuse and discrimination, one that they have fought against since the very beginning.

But the fight goes beyond the elections, Malu Marin, member of Ladlad’s board of directors, emphasized. “It’s not just a political campaign; it’s not just an electoral campaign. It’s really a campaign to change mindsets, to change perspectives, to change attitudes of people, so long term ‘yan,” she explained.

Ladlad as a party list is not asking for any special treatment for members of the LGBT community, members said. What they are after, above anything else, are equal rights and treatment, not only in law but in society in general. Abunda made this appeal loud and clear: “We’re just asking for equal rights. We’re just asking to be treated equally. Itigil na ang discrimination. Do not kill us because of our sexual orientation. Do not hurt us because of our sexual orientation.”

Benedito also reaffirmed Ladlad’s commitment to the fight for equality and anti-discrimination. “Ladlad is already a member of the Philippine Hate Crime Watch,” she shared, acknowledging the efforts of Reighben Labilles and Marlon Lacsamana, both Ladlad members, in undertaking research on hate crimes committed against members of the LGBT community. To assist Labilles and Lacsamana in their research, Ladlad has offered its regional offices and the help of its regional coordinators in the retrieval of data and information related to the research.

Bemz Benedito

The passage of the Anti-discrimination Bill also remains one of the party’s primary concerns. While other party lists push for the same, Ladlad notes the importance of having one of their own articulate the concerns of the LGBT community with regard to the bill. “For us, it really is about time to have someone from the ranks of the LGBT community to articulate our concerns and interests,” Benedito said during the press conference.

She then asked a question that emphasized the need for LGBT representation in congress: “How can they articulate our interests and concerns, the prejudice, harassment, discrimination, and exclusion that we go through, all targeted towards us and weakens our integrity and dignity as Filipino citizens?”

Abunda, Benedito and Marin summarized the discussion in its simplest terms: that LGBT rights are human rights. Ladlad itself does not discriminate against those who are not part of the LGBT community; in fact they have “straight” members among their ranks. “We cannot discriminate because we are fighting against discrimination,” Abunda said.

“You cannot be discriminated against, you cannot be made less than who you are simply because you walk differently, simply because you talk differently,” Abunda explained. Benedito made an appeal to let members of the LGBT community live their lives as they see fit. She said, “Let us live our own lives, and at the end of the day, if it is a sin then it will be an issue between me and my God.”

New Ladlad logo. Click the image to visit the Ladlad website.

Abunda, when asked about the prospect of Ladlad being continually “demonized” by the Catholic church, minced no words in explaining his personal stand regarding God and homosexuality. “I don’t think we have a judgmental God. I don’t think we have a God that judges people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And whether you believe or not, from the bottom of my heart, I think God created us to be who we are,” he said confidently.

“I think we just have to be patient, and we have to continue talking to each other. I think the dialogue should continue. It’s going to be difficult, because we will not always agree with each other, but that’s okay. As a Russian saying goes, ‘the best things come out of arguments.’ The truth, actually, comes about because of arguments,” he further explained.

When asked about the benefits of being a Ladlad member, Abunda raised the prospect of gender equality. “The benefit is at the end of this exercise, it’s a pleasure to think of the day that the treatment towards LGBTs will be that of equality,” he said. “It can only get better,” he continued, “[but] it’s going to take a lot of love, emotions, money, arguments. We will be going through a lot of things but at the end of the day we all want the same thing, and that is equality. That’s the benefit, isn’t it?”

To be in a country where equality is a deemed a benefit instead of being the norm can only mean one thing – a need for more reforms, which means more work.

Without question, Ladlad is making sure it all gets done.

Check out our Facebook page for more photos of the press con.

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