LUGAR LANG: Placards I wish I saw at the Davao Pride March 2018

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 June)— Stop Homophobia!

When I found out that a citywide Pride March was going to be held in Davao on June 24, 2018, I was ecstatic. What a triumph for the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) community that the coalition was able to secure permits for this public gathering under Martial Law. But I suspected there would be certain conditions, some of which were apparent to me only during the march itself. I was not privy to the planning discussions (and didn’t want to be); I just wanted to be out, loud, and proud in a safe space.

When my daughter and I arrived at the assembly point, Freedom Park on Roxas Avenue, we were completely floored at the sheer number of participants and how spectacularly most of them were dressed. It was not quite like this in 2016, which was more grassroots in its spirit, with slogan chanting and an air of freedom. This one seemed like a gay beauty pageant or Santacruzan, with the gays and transwomen in spectacular costumes and headdresses. There were drums and loudspeakers blaring music, not messages. The organized LGBT groups carried the names of their organizations in tarpaulins, and some wore their org t-shirts. But there were no placards.

Equal Rights for All!

One of the alumni of the UP Mindanao LGBT group Mentefuwaley carried a small sign the size of bond paper that said, “LGBT rights are HUMAN rights!” It could barely be read. He revealed that the organizers had told them that political messages were not allowed at the march. I assumed that must have been a concession in order to prevent very partisan messages promoting Bong Go, or even those expressing support for the president despite his misogynistic and heretic remarks. But to totally ban placards promoting equality for the LGBTQIA community seemed to me a counterproductive measure in a Pride March. I must say, though, that it was particularly moving for me to see the contingent of elderly LGBTs under the org “Friendly Club of Boulevard” and the first-time participants, “Davao Deaf Rainbow Club.” For them, it was clear that the medium was the message.

Justice for LGBT Victims of Violence!

Meanwhile, the gays and/or transwomen in flamboyant costumes grabbed the attention of the public and the photographers. How could it be helped? They were asking for it. But I worried that the same mentality applied to members of our community who have suffered violence and even death. Among the feathers and glitters and sequins, I wished someone had carried photos of transwomen murder victims like Jennifer Laude and Ashley Anne Reilly, and many others. I wished the Amnesty International contingent had carried even small placards to make their message clear. Pride isn’t only about making a spectacle of ourselves for the sake of it. It is done to shape the consciousness of the public about who we are and what we are fighting for.

Love Wins.

I didn’t know about the injunction, so I made matching placards for my daughter and me. I wrote, “I love my L daughter” for mine and “Love my L mom” for hers. And on the back of my placard, “LOVE WINS.” It’s not enough for us to march proudly beside each other and know that in our little rainbow family, we are each free to be who we are and are loved unconditionally for it, although that is a true gift. We need the bigger family to know it, too. We parents of LGBT children love you. We will not throw you out. We will embrace who you are and whomever you love. And really, parents don’t have to be gay to get it. I just happen to be gay myself.

We skipped the program at the Almendras Gym because it reeked of the presence of local politicos with their electioneering. Also, I spied a huge tarpaulin bearing the faces of President Duterte and his special assistant Bong Go in solidarity with I-don’t-know-what-cause-except-their-own. Our UP Mindanao and Ateneo de Davao contingent had better things to do than wait to receive early campaign t-shirts or whatnot. So we left to enrobe the Andres Bonifacio monument in the Magallanes roundabout with our rainbow flag and our hopes for real power and equality for the community. And then we each went on our merry way to love whom we love, freely and without shame.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz is an award-winning writer who teaches literature and creative writing at the University of the Philippines-Mindanao in Davao City and is a columnist of Mindanao Times where this piece was first published on June 25, 2018. With permission to republish. Follow or message her on Twitter @jhoannalynncruz)