Death of a Transgender Filipino
“While we may have had some progress in openly discussing some LGBT themes in the mainstream, we still encounter countless stories of violence against LGBTs which starts during their childhood.”
That’s from the campaign brief of Task Force Pride Philippines, which is organizing this year’s Metro Manila Pride campaign to highlight the fight for LGBT — “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender” — rights.
Organizers have big plans for this year’s Metro Manila Pride march to be held on December 6.
“What we want to emphasize is that the fight for equal rights is a fight for human rights and that when discrimination happens it doesn’t affect LGBTs only but even their loved ones, “ campaign organizer Rhanch Macalalad told me.
Now I must confess this: The gay and lesbian movement has scored so many victories in recent years, I didn’t instinctively feel this was that important to highlight in this column.
Same-sex marriage laws have been passed throughout the world, including the US. This week, the Vatican, under Pope Francis, is reportedly embracing a more conciliatory stance on gay and divorced Catholics.
But then came the tragic story of Jeffrey Laude.
Last week, the 26-year-old Filipino, identified as a cross-dresser and transgender, was strangled to death in an Olongapo City hotel. The suspect in the crime is a US Marine who has not been identified.
He has been detained by US naval authorities on board the amphibious assault ship Peleliu, according to a report in Marine Times.
The case has quickly turned the spotlight again on the consequences of the growing US military presence in the Philippines.
But Laude’s identity as a transgender Filipino also shows that Rhanch Macalalad and Task Force Pride Philippines were right: Despite progress and victories on many fronts, violence is still a frightening reality for their community. This is particularly true for an institution that is poised to play, once again, a bigger role in Philippine affairs, the US military.
Details of the murder have yet to surface, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to speculate that this gruesome crime is rooted in a culture of narrow, violent machismo.
And it’s a culture that remains a problem in Philippine society.
“We have yet to expand and deepen education on gender, much more sexual orientation for both youth and adults,” the Task Force Pride campaign statement says. “We even have to educate people on basic human rights. We still have a culture that propagates harmful stereotypes.”
Which is why the campaign is looking to go beyond gay pride issues this year.
“We would like to open the space for non-LGBT allies to come out with us and publicly state their support for equal rights,” Rhanch Macalalad said. ”What we want to emphasize is that the fight for equal rights is a fight for human rights and that when discrimination happens it doesn’t affect LGBTs only but even their loved ones.”
It’s true for gays and lesbians throughout the world. The magnitude of the violent prejudice they face is underscored in one exchange in the comments section of the Marine Times site.
For one well-meaning reader, the tragedy could have been avoided had US servicemen received more and better preparation for the societies and cultures they’ll encounter as members of the world’s most powerful military.
“This needs to be part of their liberty brief prior to allowing Marines into these countries,” the reader writes. This has been going on for years. We are ambassadors to these countries and Marines need to be educated that transgender people are all over the place in Singapore and the Thailand and the Philippines.”
This prompted this insightful response: “Nobody should need to be briefed on not murdering people. Male, female, or transgendered.”
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