Filipino gay rights activist Oscar Atadero has told Gay Star News that a study that found the Philippines is the tenth most gay-friendly country in the world, and the most gay-friendly country in Asia, is a ‘dubious honor’.
‘The results of the survey should be taken with a bit of caution,’ said Atadero, who is a researcher for Rainbow Rights, adding that with a global survey cultural and linguistic nuances can be lost in translation.
Atadero said that even after working with the LGBT community in the Philippines for 20 years he was ‘shocked’ last year when he was part of a team conducting face-to-face interviews researching violence and discrimination among lesbian and transgender Filipinas.
‘Having each respondent sit down and tell their personal experiences of hate and violence for one hour reveals a huge gulf between a rapid survey like the one that purportedly showed Philippines as the tenth most tolerant country and the actual picture that LGBT communities actually live with,’ Atadero said.
‘We warn the reading public against taking this survey hook line and sinker and engage more with the LGBT community more meaningfully before patting themselves on the back for being rewarded this dubious honor.’
Gay writer J Neil Garcia said he wonders how the survey’s question ‘do you agree with the statement, homosexuals should be accepted in society?’ was worded in local languages. He says that most local words ‘bakla, agi, bayot’ are rooted in ‘gender (effeminacy) rather than sexuality (or sexual orientation)’.
Garcia agrees that Filipino culture does have ‘a sense of grudging tolerance for effeminacy, but that’s most probably because it is easily minoritized or ghettoized’. But the writer, who has research the history of LGBT culture in the Philippines, says that effeminate ‘bakla’ boys are discriminated against in families.
‘It typically represents a defect or "deficiency" that needs somehow to be compensated or atoned for, illustrated best by the bakla who is tasked to look after the needs of aging parents, less fortunate siblings, nephews, nieces, etc. (and who, in most cases, willingly and happily carries these duties out),’ said Garcia.
Jonas Bagas, executive director of TLF Share Collective said Filipino society only accepts LGBT people if they fit certain stereotype.
‘I think that the study only reflects the perceived acceptance of the LGBT community based on the high visibility of gay entertainers,’ said Bagas to Philippine Daily Inquirer.
‘It’s acceptance [that is] contingent on how you fit the acceptable stereotype – the gay entertainer, the creative, talented bakla, the lesbian security guard. Once you go outside these stereotypes, that’s when you encounter rejection.’
A study from the US’s respected Pew Research Center released last week showed that 73% of Filipinos questioned agree that society should accept homosexuality. This places the Philippines above other Asian countries such as Japan (54%), South Korea (39%) and China (21%) in terms of acceptance of homosexuality.
Other Asian countries with a reputation for accepting LGBT people, such as Thailand and Taiwan, were not part of the survey.
In an interview for Gay Star News last December Bemz Benedito, the head of the Philippines’ LGBT political party Ladlad, said she regularly heard reports of discrimination in school, employment and during everyday lives from gender and sexual orientation minorities.