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At Large

LGBTs in the limelight

When a story about a website mistakenly using the photo of National Youth Commission Chair Aiza Seguerra and identifying her as singer Jake Zyrus, who recently “transitioned” to a male identity, makes the evening news, you know that LGBTs have arrived.

And I say it’s about time!

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Time was when reports on lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders were more often than not consigned to the category of “oddity,” if not outright comedy. Given perhaps the roles they had to play in popular entertainment, it was understandable that sexual minorities were viewed as objects of fun, if not ridicule. Sometimes, they were depicted as lovable, such as the leading man’s or lady’s sidekick or best friend. Often, they were employed as comic relief. And given this depiction, the laughter and jocularity of show business would then spill over into real life, with gays and lesbians in the real world, for instance, marginalized and rarely taken seriously. And can you imagine what trials transgenders have to cope with, including being ridiculed and parodied?

The fascinating thing about the “coming out” of Jake Zyrus is how circumspect the mass media have been toward it. Everybody in actuality, if not metaphorically, have kept a straight face and refrained from egregious comment. Social media, however, has been less “behaved,” with some posting photos of alleged look-alikes—from Kim Jung Il to the late Berting Labra—of the singer formerly known as Charice.

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Impeccable then is the timing of the Bala awards, or the Boy Abunda LGBT Awards, that seek to honor LGBT champions for their “significant contributions in the uplift of the status of the LGBTs as well as raising awareness of the LGBT struggles.”

Is there any Filipino alive who still doesn’t know who Boy Abunda is? Abunda — or, excuse me, Dr. Abunda (he holds a doctorate in social development) — is a well-known broadcaster and program host who has since transcended the limitations of entertainment and moved on to cover and comment on political and social issues. And he puts his mouth where his heart is: the welfare and status of members of the LGBT community, not just through the Bala but also through his foundation Make Your Nanay Proud.

This year, nine individuals and five groups were honored with the first Bala recognitions. Awarded last May 17 were: Venir Cuyco, founder of UP Babaylan, the first LGBT student organization, and Lagablab, among the first LGBT organizations in the country; J. Neil Garcia, poet and performance artist and LGBT champion; Christian Bryle Leano, student leader and activist.

Kristine Madrigal, one of the founders of Tao or the Transpinay of Antipolo Organization; Danton Remoto, founder of Ang Ladlad Party List, the first such partisan organization in the world; Aida Santos, feminist, lesbian and women’s rights development worker and poet.

John Silva, writer, arts and culture savant, modernist vanguard, blogger and soon-to-be cookbook author; Jose Marie Viceral, who goes by the screen name Vice Ganda, a “superstar” who dominates his multimedia platforms; Monique Wilson, world-renowned artist and champion of LGBT issues.

The groups given the Bala recognition were ProGay Philippines, or Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines, which has put in more than two decades of service to the gay community; Team Mag, the only existing LGBT lifestyle magazine in the country today; Outrage Magazine, a “brave and trustworthy online source of LGBT stories, editorials, and opinions;” Nike, an LGBT ally and corporate brand that “promotes pride, highlights gender equality in its ads and actively supports pride through special merchandise;” and Peta or the Philippine Educational Theater Association, which frequently stages LGBT-themed plays and performances.

Abunda says his decision to launch the Bala Awards was “inspired” by the US-based GLAAD Media Awards and the Eric Butler Philanthropy Awards. Each awardee went home with a trophy designed by Badon, while the winners were determined after a “tedious deliberation process” though the final decision was made by Abunda himself.

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TAGS: Aiza Seguerra, At Large, Bala Awards, Boy Abunda, Inquirer Opinion, Jake Zyrus, LGBT community, Rina Jimenez-David
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