Four Philippine gay rights organizations have thrown their collective weight behind a transgender celebrity who won a coveted beauty pageant last month only to become the victim of a raging cyber smear campaign.
The Association of Transgender Philippines, Gender and Development Advocates Filipinas, TransMan Pilipinas and Transpinay of Antipolo Organization have come out strongly in support of the beleaguered beauty queen, urging for respect for human rights and dignity.
Francine Garcia, a transgender bearing a striking resemblance to popular Philippine actor Kim Chiu, won the Super Sireyna Queen of Queens 2013, a popular pageant for transgenders, on July 27, beating seven other finalists.
But the victory was followed by the appearance on the Internet of nude photos, allegedly of Garcia, and purported statements by the sponsors of the show that she had been stripped of her title.
Garcia says the photographs are fakes engineered by disappointed rivals. And there is no conclusive statement from the hosts so far to bear out the allegations that she lost her title.
The official comment on the incident so far has come from the four gay rights groups, who said they had noted the barrage of differing views and comments for and against Garcia.
“Although we respect everyone's right to freely express an opinion, we are alarmed by the way such commentaries have obtrusively sidelined Francine Garcia's human rights as a transwoman,” the quartet said in a press release.
“Even while we search for the truth, the equally inviolable principle of fairness must not be discounted.”
The group says the calls for Garcia’s dethronement are unfounded and divisive. It has also condemned the “cyber defamation” launched against her immediately after she won.
“We also decry the use of social media and other web-based platforms to tarnish Garcia's dignity as the newly crowned Queen of Queens,” the press release says. “We believe that this is the work of cowards and a clear case of cyber bullying.”
The campaigners say the focus should be on Garcia’s personal fights and struggles as a transwoman.
“Despite her imperfections, she is for us what a fighter and a beauty queen should be. She deserves to be crowned Queen of Queen, and we stand by her at this moment of triumph,” the statement says.
The pageant was aired on Eat Bulaga!, a noon-time variety show produced by Television And Production Exponents.
The gay rights groups are hoping that the show would continue to be their ally in recreating “a just society composed of diverse and imperfect human beings, in whose imperfection come truth, goodness and beauty”.