The poorest of the poor are usually over-looked by gay rights groups the world over, but ProGay Philippines has a dedicated full-time volunteer whose focus is on raising awareness among the urban poor. His dedication is such that he even lives in the slum.
Last week Gay Star News witnessed the formation of a new ProGay Philippines chapter in a slum in Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City, Metro Manila. The living conditions there are cramped and unhygienic, without running water or bathrooms. Many people there have no structures to live in at all and sleep in rows underneath the concrete overhang of an abandoned building.
The 50,000 people who live there lack basic amenities, and small children run through muddy puddles bare-foot and half-naked, but they do have a public karaoke machine. The microphone from this was used to present the work of ProGay Philippines to over 30 people who gathered at the meeting last Tuesday. A sheet was hung up to show a PowerPoint presentation and plastic chairs were put out in rows in the street.
Joe Romar Amores, the ProGay Philippines full-time volunteer who lives in the slum, had rounded up over twenty gay, lesbian and transgender women to come to the meeting. They listened closely as three ProGay Philippines volunteers explained their work and introduced the Anti-Discrimination Bill that has stalled in Parliament for over ten years.
‘Have you ever been discriminated against?’ asked Edgar Oscar Atadero during his presentation.
‘Yes, many times,’ said round-faced Richard Salmingo (in the white Tshirt, bottom row center in the photo above).
‘When I look for work. Even in my own house from my own parents. When I want to make friends with guys but they don’t like bakla [gays] that’s when I get discrimination.’
‘Have you ever been discriminated against when trying to use the women’s toilets?’ asked Atadero to the transgender women at the meeting. A few nod in agreement. ‘I went to a Catholic school and I was banned for wearing make-up,’ says one.
After the presentations Amores asks who in the audience wants to be part of a new ProGay Philippines chapter. Twenty people stick around and begin a long democratic process of voting for a president and vice-president and choosing the members of six committees (recruitment, education, health, cultural, disaster and human rights) for the new chapter.
‘In this community, if the gay people are out in the street in the daytime, even the small children are accusing, cursing and bullying them,’ says Amores. ‘They even say “this is why we live in this worsening condition it is because of gay people like you”.
‘We want to show the rest of the community that these LGBT here are your alliance for winning the local struggle. In this place demolition is a constant threat. The government want the people to leave this area so they can turn it into condominiums and make some money. There is a place for the LGBT to mobilize and win this struggle against the inequality of poverty.’