culture by Jon-Jon Rufino

What Pride March means

To cap off Pride Month, a father of two reflects on how far we’ve come and the long road ahead.

Another great Pride event has taken place, this time in Marikina. I must confess that I preferred last year’s event at the Lapu Lapu monument; the traffic to get in and out of Marikina is something else, and it was much hotter this time around. But the organizers try to outdo themselves every year: this year they had Senator Risa Hontiveros giving a keynote speech, and Nora Aunor actually march. Their entertatinment program before and after the march was also packed.

The group I always march with, the Filipino Freethinkers, wanted us to go with the theme of gay icons or monsters. And the particular monster they chose to highlight was the Babadook. I have to say that I didn’t understand the context. Maybe because I didn’t watch the movie, but I did see that he is becoming some kind of LGBT meme for some reason. Anyway, I chose to come as a pink unicorn, and my two constant Price marchers, my twins Lucian and Lilith, were to come as Batman and Wonder Woman. Batman, of course, has been dealing with gay rumors probably since before his show in the sixties, and Wonder Woman has been an LGBT and feminist icon since before show with Linda Carter. Except that, as we were getting ready, they changed their mind as five-year-olds do. They now wanted to dress up as Michelangelo and Belle. Well, the ninja turtle is named after a renaissance artist, who was probably gay, and Belle is a hero for feminism. And Emma Watson is an advocate. But as we got out of the car, Lucian just wanted to be Lucian. That’s fine too, as he’s a gay icon in his own right. He’s been marching with me since he was six months old, and he’s probably the first kid born through surrogacy for a gay man that lives in the Philippines. Sorry Joel Cruz, my twins are older.pride-2My daughter was in a fantastic mood during the parade because everyone wanted to have photos with us. I told her it was because they knew she was a princess. Most people oohhhed and ahhhed over the kids. Oddly, some people wanted photos with just me as the unicorn. I guess I still have some charm on my own. After the march, the best thing was Sebastian’s founder Ian Carandang’s rainbow ice cream, which you may have recently seen in their creative ad campaign.

No Pride March is complete without the fundamentalists that pepper the streets, warning us that we are going to hell. I must admit that I have a deep admiration for them; it takes some level of commitment to your beliefs to stand in the heat amid a massive crowd that you are trying to condemn. Their presence is a reminder—not that we really need one—that we still have so much to accomplish in our country. One name that was repeated often during day was Jake Zyrus, the chosen name of the transgendered performer formerly known as Charice Pempengco. Soon after, I saw the viral of that fellow’s grandmother publicly denouncing him and his gender identity. “You were born Charice Pempengco, and you will die Charice Pempengco,” she declared. People like her are the reminder that, at best, our country only tolerates us. And for many, not even. We are so far away from acceptance and love.pride-1I’ve been going to Pride regularly since 2010. I went sporadically before then. But when I decided to have kids, the Pride Events became even more important for me. When the twins were on their way, up until recently, I had the fear that many expecting or young parents have: that one of their kids might be transgendered. And Jake’s grandmother, the treatment in the media of Jennifer Laude’s murder case, and so many other things show us that for transgendered people—the T in LGBT—tolerance and acceptance are maybe 30 years behind the LGBs. It would seem that I have nothing to fear in this regard for my kids. Despite all my assurances that they can behave any way they want—that boys and girls can play with anything and be anything and dress any way they want—my girl could not be more stereotypically girly, and my boy could not be more rambunctious. She wants to mother her dolls all day and he wants to fight the bad guys with his swords and his guns. But they still might be lesbian, gay or bisexual, and I want a better world for them than the one I grew up in. And even if they are straight, which I admit would make life easier for them and for me, I want them to always know and take pride in this aspect of who I am.

Pride events create a safe space for people like us. And in this country, there are so few safe spaces. They also signal to all the people there and to the many more who look at the pictures through media that it’s okay to be who you are. There are still so many people who struggle in the closet. One woman was holding a sign that said “My mother doesn’t know I’m here.” Another’s said, “Let’s get one thing straight, I’m not.” Coming out is damn hard, and LGBT events like this help us gather courage.pride-4

And they help us fight for our political rights. Marriage equality is still very far off. And so is adoption for gay couples, though that can be overcome by one of the parents adopting as a single person. But that’s not perfect, because the other person isn’t granted any legal rights. But what might be just around the corner, finally, is the anti-discrimination bill that would protect us from being fired from our jobs just for being gay. There is also a bill that would allow transgendered people to use the bathroom of their choice. (Really ladies, would you be threatened by a woman, born a man, in your bathroom who really just needs to pee?)

I’m always so touched to see a good number of our straight allies at Pride rallies. That’s one of the main reasons I march with the Freethinkers. Majority of them are straight, yet they always show up at every LGBT advocacy event.pride-3I confess that it hurts me a little that a good number of my gay friends don’t make time for it. Yes, it is hot. Yes, many of them just don’t like marching in the streets. And yes, some of them have work on the weekend. But there are many ways to advance our cause, and joining the Pride March is only one of them. I hope and trust that they are doing the other things to help the younger people who are not as lucky as them in being comfortable with who they are. I hope they help all of us in the community advance our rights as a minority who just want the respect in the eyes of the law and society that everyone else enjoys.

Photography by Renzo Navarro

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Jon-Jon Rufino
Jon-Jon Rufino is a business man and dive boat operator who has his hands full raising twins, and trying to get back his tennis form.
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