The acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community has been growing globally. In a survey conducted in 2013, the Philippines was shown to be the “most friendly country towards the gay community, as compared to other Southeast Asia countries. Case in point, 73% of adult Filipinos were in agreement that homosexuality should be accepted in society. However, there are still instances where they experience discrimination and violence in different institutions .The lack of LGBTQIA+ education and awareness in the country is one such factor that contributes to why these harmful instances are still prevalent to this day.
In 1996, two students by the name of Maria Pulzetti and Jessie Gilliam at the University of Virginia started the movement of the ‘Day of Silence’ on April 8. Through the years, the number of participants have grown in solidarity with LGBTQIA+ youth who experience discrimination and bullying.
The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the organizatin spearheading this event, holds several “Breaking the Silence” rallies and several events to bring attention to the ways schools and communities can become more inclusive. Over the years, the ‘Day of Silence’ has grown to include workspaces, universities and sporting events to bring further awareness to the changes that would make the LGBTQIA+ feel seen and heard across society.
At Mind You, as a mental healthcare provider it is important that we are able to create a safe space – for both users of our platform, and internally in our work culture as well. We sat down with Josh Cabalquinto, a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community and a Psychometrician at Mind You to discuss what the ‘Day of Silence’ means to him.
What’s it like to be part of the LGBTQIA+ community in the Philippines?
It’s much more complicated to live out loud as a gay male than when I was still inside the closet. The largest thing that I consider and put a value on is my safety – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Without it, I would feel less human.
I grew up with a family and school upbringing with a strong religious foundation. These environments had a belief system that says that queer people’s existence is an issue of morality, that they are innately wrong and evil, and that our identities and courses of life are not valid.
I strongly believe that these are one of the biggest roadblocks towards accepting LGBTQ+ individuals – from stigmatizing notions to discriminatory actions against queer people. The Philippines, to some degree, tolerates LGBTQ+ individuals, but that’s not the same as accepting us completely and harmoniously.
What does this Day of Silence mean to you?
While I haven’t really gotten a chance to participate, learning about this movement quite broadened my awareness of the pro-LGBTQ+ and gender equality movement. On the surface, I initially thought that the movement was antithetical to what we (loud-and-proud) queer people approach our advocacies with. But then, understanding the power of protest in silence adds value to my understanding of gender equality and the struggles towards achieving it. It reminded me of times when my biggest form of resistance to gender-based oppression was to just be around people who do so without ever having to explain myself or speak a word about them. And to show dissent to those who do not want us to have the same rights and privileges in this way surprises them. I imagine this will be powerful, especially against homo- and transphobic groups that have preconceived notions about loud-and-proud advocates. Ultimately, I think this is a valid form of protest. And at the end of the day, we all want to be empathetically listened to.
What is your message to the LGBTQIA+ students who may be struggling?
Hey there! I know things may be hard for you right now. There may be people who may not treat you with the respect and kindness that you deserve. Trust me, you are not alone. It’s valid to feel sadness, fear, anxiety, or even anger. Yet, what’s also valid is to feel joy, excitement, calmness, and hope. But I will say this: When we have no choice but to live in a world that chooses to invalidate our existence, it may become a challenging pursuit to achieve a life worth living. That does not mean that one cannot achieve something like it. As you go along your journey, you will discover what a life worth living looks like. And a good way to start is to discover yourself first. Find your own safe space – alone and around people who love you. Then, get to know yourself more and more where you feel the safest. Explore who you are, who or what you love, and how you want to express yourself. Eventually, you will discover things that you may or may not like about yourself and that’s okay. What’s important is accepting who you are first. And if you are in the closet – either figuring out how to come out or choosing to stay – that’s okay. No pressure! You are valid and no one should force you to come out when you’re not ready. Just know that either way you are already a brave soul going through what you have. We’re here to support you no matter what. Just reach out whenever and to whoever you can!
What is one action the general public can do to support the LGBTQIA+ community?
I think the most concrete thing that we can ask the general public to do is to create more and more safe spaces for all gender identities. We may all not have the totally same set of experiences related to our gender and sexuality, but we all share humanity all the same. You can do this simultaneously in two ways: figure out what discriminatory or stigmatizing beliefs you may have about LGBTQ+ people and work your way into changing them, and helping out in minimizing stigma and discrimination around us through education and calling for accountability. It also helps if you express your support by reaching out to at least one queer person in need.
We hope that this encourages you to take part in this celebration today to commemorate the LGBTQIA+ who have suffered in the past, and those who continue to suffer in the present. Let’s stand in solidarity alongside the community to create a better, more inclusive world.
Mind You aims to transform our culture and empower people to take control of their mental health and live more fulfilled lives. We take pride in lifting away the stigma, lowering counseling costs and providing increased access to mental health care for all Filipinos.