Beyond the colorful parades and numerous fun-filled activities during the annual Pride Month every June is a long history of struggle and protest that calls for equality and inclusivity for all members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Queer, Intersex, Asexual plus (LGBTQIA+) community across the globe. Homophobic and transphobic violence ranges from sustained phyiscal abuses, sexual assults, kidnapping, and murder.
According to the United Nations for LGBT Equality, “corrective” or “punitive rape” have also been reported in the context of “curing” the victims of homosexuality. While data related with homophobic and transphobic violence remains to be scarce due to having relatively few systematic monitoring, recording, and reporting, accounted cases are undeniably disturbing and require immediate actions. Even where such systems exist, victims are reluctant to go to the authorities as they may not be sympathetic enough to understand the plight of the victims and at times, offenders committed such acts with impunity.
June as Pride Month in the Philippines
Though the Philippines is known to one of the gay-friendly countries in the world accorting to the Pew Research Center, there are still numerous alarming circumstances where it involved gender/sexual orientation related violence and at times, it results to loss of lives. One of the most recent cases related with subject is the 2014 Jennifer Laude murder case where the convicted murder Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton.
Laude, a transgender woman, was found dead naked in a motel room in Olongapo City was last seen with his perpetuator, Mr. Pemberton. Pemberton was prompted to kill the victim after he discorverd that Laude is “gay”. According to the autopsy report, Laude died of asphyxia by drowning. Pemberton was found guilty of homicide on December 1, 2015.
Pembertons’ initial sentence was 6 to 12 years of imprisonment but later on reduced to 10 years . However, he only served 2,142 days or over five years and ten months in prison when President Duterte granted him absolute pardon and on September 13, 2020, Pemberton was deported back to the United States and flown out on a US military aircraft.
This decision of the Philippine government has raised numerous concerns from the advocates of LGBTQI+ rights as this could worsen the discrimation towards them and would further promote violence against homosexuals. The University of the Philippines’ Babaylans and the Ladlad Network both condemned this decision of the government.
To address this lingering discrimation and hate violence against them, advocates have been fighting for equality, inclusivity, and legal protection to ensure that their human rights are secured and provided. The Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill has been pending the Philippines since the 11th Congress and aims to provide their rights enshrined in the 1987 Constitution, specifically the equal protection clause.
Deeply-inculcated homophobic stance combined with a lack of substantial legal protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity expose LGBTQIA+ people to awful violations of their human rights.
Why do we celebrate Pride Month every June?
The colorful and exquisite celebrations and festivities during the annual June Pride Month is coupled with its inseparable tragic and appalling history of discrimination and hatred. Though there were numerous circumstances in different locations where homosexuals and transexuals resist the lingering discrimination and hatred like theNew Year’s Ball Raid in January 1965 and Compton’s Cefeteria Disturbance in August 1966 in San Francisco and the Gay Movement in 1967 in Los Angeles.
But what kindled the June Pride Month was the Stonewall Inn Uprising in Christopher Street, New York City on June 28, 1969. This occasion is regarded now as the advent of the Pride movement that calls for inclusivity and equality.
Stonewall Inn Uprising
In 1966, the State of New York prohibited anyone to serve alcoholic beverages to gay persons and in 1969 homosexuallity was still considered as a criminal offense. This led to a handful of gay establishments to operate without any lisences, making it more prone to raids and police brutality. During this time, many of the gay establishments were owned by the mafias and Stonewall Inn was included.
Police raids on gay establishments were rampant during this time across the United States. However, on the early morning of June 28, 1969, at around 1:15 to 1:20 AM, the raid of Stonewall Inn did not go according to how the New York police planned it. With a search warrant, the police force, led by Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, entered Stonewall Inn to investigate the illegal sale of alcohol. The raid attracted a crowd outside the inn that became an important factor to the escalation of events.
The commotion began when the police had difficulty keeping a lesbian in a patrol car as she tried to escape three times. During the last attempt, a police heaved her in and the crowd shouted “police brutality” and began to throw things towards the police. Outnumbered, the police locked themselves in the Inn while waiting for the reinforcement. While inside, interrogations of patrons and employees continued. The employees and those that were cross-dressing were the most vulnerable for arrests. Inspector Pine ordered the arrest of all cross-dressers. The commotion ceased by around 4:00 AM.
The June 28 Stonewall Inn Uprising was the beginning of the six-day riots in the Christopher Street where homosexuals and transexuals fought for their human right and equal opportunities and legal protection. A year after, on June 28, 1970, LGBTQIA+ people marched on the streets for the “Christopher Street Liberation Day,” to commemorate the Stonewall Inn uprising which many regard now as the first Gay Pride Parade.
March with Pride!
As the quest for equality and inclusivity in every society for LGBTQIA+ people is far from over, Pride Month remains to be a pivotal and opportune time to advocate for their well being. Though it evolved to festive and vibrant occasions, the essence of the gathering remains steadfast.
First Pride March in Asia
The Philippines set an important record as the first Asian country to have Pride March on June 26, 1994. The Progressive Organization of Gays (PROGays) and Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) marched in Quezon City in remembrance of the Stonewall Inn Uprising and dubbed it as “Stonewall Manila” or “Pride Revolution”. Aside from equality and inclusivity, they also protested the imposition of higher value added tax in the country. This simply implies that over the glamor and festivities, Pride March is a protest that calls for a better society and communities. Since then, the Philippines celebrate Pride Month annually every June in solidarity of the LGBTQIA+ community across the world.
The Pride Movement or at times referred to as Gay Pride, advocates the promotion dignitiy, equality, and increased visibility of the LGBTQIA+ people as a social group and community. They are all worthy of equal respect and treatment like any other human beings. Pride, contrary to shame and social stigma, is predominantly a LGBTAIQ+ rights movement. This month is a timely chance to show our sincerest appreciation and gratitude to our LGBTAIQ+ brethren.