Allyship isn’t a switch that you can turn on and off

By Junel F. Fiestada

Cartoon by Joseph Idusora

Since I am not part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Plus (LGBTQ+) community, I cannot speak on behalf of them nor pretend that their struggle is my struggle, because it is not. The only thing I can do is to express my support to them as they fight for the basic human rights that heterosexuals enjoy. Heterosexuality should not be seen as a barrier and a way to revoke queerness, instead, it should be seen as an opportunity to be educated and empathize with their journey to equality.

In a conservative and Christian country like the Philippines, homosexuality is a taboo topic. In some instances, society demonizes and represses people who are part of the LGBTQ+ Community. Withal, the Roman Catholic church always argued and resisted the thought of same-sex marriage, not until Pope Francis became the head of the Catholic church. Pope Benedict XVI suggested that same-sex marriage is a threat to global peace but, Pope Francis has a different perspective on the matter. In 2013, he broke the doctrinal tradition by saying “If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” The Pope also expressed his support for a civil union and highlighted that “homosexual people have a right to be in a family." On the other hand, Methodist Church in Britain has allowed couples of same-sex to hold a wedding ceremony. Indeed, Christian beliefs have an impact on why laws to protect and treat LGBTQ+ members equally are barred; although I am a Christian, I believe that one must not force their religious sentiment and inject it into a political discussion. Just as stipulated in Article 2 Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution, “The separation of the Church and State shall be inviolable,” thus religious matters and political matters must be separated from each other.

Given that, not only the religious sector but also many legislators are reluctant about being open to supporting gay rights, and the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression Equality Bill (SOGIE Bill) has been continuously rejected. If we look at the premise of the Bill, not only does it offer protection and rights to the LGBTQ+, but it also offers protection to heterosexuals because they, too, have SOGIE. Therefore, the SOGIE Equality Bill protects everyone.

There are other sexual orientations beyond heterosexuality that must be given attention. The fight for inclusivity is a battle that needs to be championed by both the LGBTQ+ Community and the heterosexuals—this is where allyship comes in.

Diversity Programs at Mayo Clinic Director Nicole Asong Nfonoyim-Hara defined allyship as "when a person of privilege works in solidarity and partnership with a marginalized group of people to help take down the systems that challenge that group's basic rights, equal access, and ability to thrive in our society." We can argue that heterosexuals are privileged not to face the same discrimination and condemnation as the LGBTQ+ face. “Straight allies,” and the LGBTQ+ have a lot of differences, but allyship connects them as a way to support in achieving a specific goal. Allyship is a stepping stone to discard and condemn homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and heterosexism and instead promote diversity, acceptance, and inclusivity. This also highlights that the spotlight should not be on the allies, but on the oppressed groups and community themselves. 

However, allyship is being capitalized as brands take advantage of Pride Month not to render support and sympathy in the LGBTQ struggle, but to make it a marketing campaign and increase their sales. They fall in the category of stereotypical allyship with rainbow-hued products and social media posts, but continue to support politicians who oppose equal rights for homosexuals. 

Companies see Pride Month as a milking cow to make their brand more popular. As a matter of fact, the Popular Information investigation suggests that 25 companies express their superficial support on social media, but hypocritically support politicians with zero-rating on Congressional scorecards released by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an LGBTQ rights organization. 
Facebook, Google, Ford, and Amazon are included in the list that donated more than $100,000 to politicians with zero-HRC ratings. In addition, Comcast & NBC Universal donated more than $1 million to zero-HRC score politicians and roughly $40,000 to anti-trans legislation. Although there are brands and companies like Tinder and Jagermeister that truly support inclusivity and LGBTQ rights that go beyond rainbow-hued products and offer year-round inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community, we cannot deny the fact that there are opportunistic and feigned companies.

Furthermore, months before the May 9 national and local polls, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio disclosed that she identifies herself as part of the LGBTQ+ community. In a campaign rally last March, she told LGBT Pilipinas members that she occasionally wants to be a man and sometimes a woman. 

On the contrary, Bahaghari, a progressive LGBTQIA+ organization, said being identified as part of the community is not a “costume” to wear during the campaign period, but an unending struggle in this homophobic society. Rey Valmores-Salinas of Bahaghari also stressed that her father, outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, once promised to support the SOGIE Bill and anti-discrimination policy against the LGBTQ+ community, but as President Duterte’s term is ending, none have been accomplished. It can also be remembered that the Marcos-Duterte tandem has not made their stance clear on the SOGIE Equality Bill and civil union since they did not attend any media-sponsored debates - except for pro-Marcos media SMNI. 

Although the late dictator’s son said he has ‘nothing against same-sex marriage’ and that he will leave the issue up to the people, having a clear and concrete stand on the issue matters. Duterte-Carpio, however, denied transgender women to use women’s comfort room, unless they undergo sexual reassignment. 

Whether Duterte-Carpio identifies herself as part of the LGBTQ+ community or not, it is not the main point of argument here because her gender identity and sexual orientation are her and only hers to decide. The point is, that she and her running mate, Marcos Jr., must enact laws to protect and serve equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community. 

On the matter of allyship, “support” is not defined just by posting rainbow banners and using gay lingo. It must go to the extent of calling out politicians who continuosly disregards the LGBTQ rights. The LGBTQ+ community needs allies who know how to speak up in condemning oppression and discrimination. Now that dark times are ahead, we need more bearers of the light. 


Edited by Nehmia Elyxa Relano 
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