Beyond Pride: How to become a better LGBTQ+ ally
With #Pridemonth over, many brands and publications are back to business as usual. While any step towards a more inclusive society is a good one, the current social climate for LGBTQ persons in the Philippines is one that remains lukewarm at best. In an editorial piece by Rappler’s Bonz Magsambol, Filipino LGBTQ netizens question the authenticity of the country’s sentiments: “Tolerated, but not accepted”.
The Pride March last June has been one of the most successful displays of LGBT Pride locally, with an estimated 70,000 allies and members of the LBTQ community braving the rain and critics. While allies showered both friends and strangers(!) with messages of support, many LGBTQ members continue to experience strained personal relationships in their daily lives, as a direct result of being true to who they are.
On a commercial level, a few brands offered meaningful campaigns like Closeup’s #FreeToLove and Bench’s adorable perfume ad. However, many others feel much more like surface-level bandwagon propaganda in their efforts to ride the Rainbow rather than a genuine attempt at embracing the members of the community they claim to support.
As an online publication that consists of a primarily straight, female writer pool, the PV team has long wanted to be more inclusive in our discussions about beauty, confidence building, and self-love. And as a publication that regularly reviews and collaborates with brands, we also wanted to know what steps brands can take in order to put out more genuine campaigns for Pride rather than commercializing it. And so we posed this question to a few of our peers:
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, what do YOU think are personal, meaningful, and concrete steps that you hope to see from your circles, from those who identify as LGBTQ+ allies? How could these insights translate into better, more effective campaigns that you’d like to see from brands in the future?
Digo Bengzon, gay, him/he, 20
On an individual level, I think one of the most impactful things a person can do for their LGBTQ+ family and friends is be willing to have the hard conversations with them. Oftentimes, in discovering aspects of one’s identity, clashes arise with friends and family; and looking back on my journey as a queer person, there have definitely been times wherein my support system and I have struggled to understand one another. However, what made a world of a difference was the fact that despite the arguments that arose, at the end of the day, we were still willing to still talk to one another, to have the hard conversations and try to understand the point of view from the other person. In seeing my friends and family struggle to understand, but see the importance of trying to anyway, I realize that they were showing just how important I was to them, including the parts they didn’t quite understand.
On a more national level, I urge corporations and brands to continue their support for the LGBTQ+ community even after Pride Month. Oftentimes, we see many brands take on the advocacy in June and drop it as soon as the month ends. In many ways, Pride Month is a call to continue the fight for the advocacy year round, so I hope corporations and brands see that. As a consumer who sees allegedly pro-LGBTQ+ companies, I urge them to be transparent about how they intend to support the community. If companies take on the advocacy, they need to be transparent about how they’re contributing to it. For example, some companies release where they allocate their earnings specifically to further support the advocacy and how much of it is allocated. Efforts to be more transparent about this reassure consumers like myself that major corporations are doing their part in the fight for the advocacy.
Bela, demiromantic asexual, she/her, 23
I know that a lot of the people in our country may not always be as welcoming or as kind towards people with different beliefs as them. However, those who do try to understand and try to be more accommodating towards the community can also engage in some behaviors that disrespect what the community is all about. Some tend to treat people that identify as gay or lesbian as a trope character or accessory. I see people wishing that they have that "fun, always-there-for-you gay friend" or that "lesbian pal that they can kiss to test if they’re into girls". People have to look beyond these tropes and see that these are real people, and not an element that completes your teen drama checklist.
One of the most concrete things you can do is definitely respect and listen to LGBTQ+. If they tell you what they identify as and what pronouns they want to use, use those pronouns and normalize saying it. Reaching out to other people who don't understand this concept is super important as well. If your friend is being insensitive about someone's sexuality or is treating them like an accessory, don't be afraid to talk to them about it and tell them that they are doing hurts people.
Remember that at the end of the day, the LGBTQ+ community is something rooted in love, by accepting yourself and other people. People just want to have basic rights to be themselves and to be treated kindly!
Arthur Iglesias, gay, he/him, 28
As someone who identifies as a gay male, it would mean a lot if more brands showed how it’s beautiful to be who you are no matter who you are - because of who you are with the product as an enhancement. Not in the “perfect ideal” sense but in that they care to have products for ordinary LGBTQ and straight people.
It’s admittedly the older generation that can be very mean-spirited, but that’s out of ignorance. As for peers and allies, educating others - especially their elders - about how LGBTQ people are and calling out comments that reflect an insensitive, hateful attitude to LGBTQ persons [is important]. Giving them safe spaces for expression online (like a chat room) or physically (when out as a barkada) is good. Also, I have yet to see straight male allies in my experience, so hearing more from them and ending a culture of toxic, insecure masculinity (which I see as a root cause of this) is another start.
Maria Mediarito, lesbian, she/her, 20
Although the bandwagon of allyship is sometimes shallow (taking part in surface-level activations such as redecorating their site/logo while facing a number of allegations of social inequality either directly affecting LGBT+ groups or sexual discrimination), it's great to know that at the very least, companies are making an effort to generate popularity for allyship. After all, image and meaning, although at times mutually exclusive, directly affect one another.
Normalizing queerness, or treating it like straightness, is what is needed in order to be equal. The violent history of the LGBT+ movement makes it cruel to joke about it, while the advantage of straightness makes it easy to joke about - and it can even be seen as an act of rightful protest to joke about straightness. A lot will perceive this attack on ‘straightness’ by the LGBT+ as cruelty or misplaced justice. But personally, I think we should just make fun of everyone all the time. The difficulties lie in that, heterosexuality jokes never put a heterosexual in danger of being outed, assaulted, etc. because heterosexuality enjoys safety that homosexuals do not. With this, heterosexuals have a great opportunity to support the movement while also being protected. Consider straights talking to their straight family about LGBT+ rights: their family may perceive them as also homosexual because they fight for homosexual rights. One shouldn't be afraid to come off being "gay" just because they want to be humanitarian.
Ava Pelayo, asexual, she/her, 21
In recent years, I’ve noticed that the LGBTQ+ community [has been] commercialized in such a way that trivializes us as nothing more than its symbols. One of the things we can do is to empathize with the community and know where we’re coming from. You can’t say you’re an ally with exceptions. Stop playing the “who has it worse” game and acknowledge the fact that there ARE social biases that work against us. It’s all relative, yeah, but the minute you disregard one’s experience in favor of another’s, you’ll end up becoming apathetic as you make excuse after excuse of why you just can’t. Second, don’t rely on band-aid solutions to deeply-rooted issues.
You see it frequently when a company donates towards organizations that advocate for equality, but fails to enact policies that promote this amongst themselves. You can’t start sporting the rainbow flag to represent your support for the community without addressing the issues at hand. Integrate it in your foundation then work upwards from there. If these seem far-off and detached to you, all you have to do is actually LISTEN. Everything has to start somewhere after all, and to genuinely become inclusive, you have to first be open to the ideas presented by others. Real change takes a lot of time and effort, but we all need to take the first step for it to take effect. In the future, I hope to see these walls broken down to reveal that the colorful facade is a cover no more.
Gigi Esguerra, heterosexual transwoman, she/her, 21
The most important thing for our community to thrive is to be able to be seen out there as a regular, normal human being - just as any other human beings are. The problem [of] why we’re so alienated and discriminated [against] is because of the prevalent ignorance and apathy that circles amongst those outside our community. They do not understand us, and as humans, our response to something very foreign to us is to respond with either ignorance or prejudice. But once people know who we are through compassion, kindness, and understanding, this initiative will fruition into a more accepting society for all.
Knowing this, it is our responsibility to act using all kinds of medium that we have in today’s society. Social media right now has done great things for the LGBTQIA+. I remember 5 years ago when I really felt as if I was being merely tolerated, and not accepted, in Ateneo because not a lot of people have the initiative to know who we are. But as the power of social media grew, so did the acceptance for us.
Our society should take advantage of this powerful medium to further our advocacy in making LGBTQIA+ people more visible. Brands can do this through diversifying their market and being more inclusive when it comes to whatever they’re trying to produce. Once people see that we actually exist, that we are simply humans in essence, I believe that more and more people will come to accept us wholeheartedly.
J, pansexual and genderqueer, she/her, 22
Sometimes, I wonder if living "in the closet" in the family and "out of it" outside the family is something I regret. However, I realized that the chance to show everyone that there is no difference among genders is a journey for everyone. For people who are in a similar situation, in the process of coming out, or are already "out", never forget to show the world your most beautiful self. Whoever that self may be, I hope you get to breathe kindness into the world, the kindness it needs. It's pretty much like the saying "Kill them with kindness," which, may sometimes go against the need to fight for everyone who is facing discrimination. In the end though, I think this is one basic thing that every person, whatever gender, shares and sometimes forgets: we're all people, and it's just unfortunate (and maybe not so) that some of us must shine brighter to remind others of our worth and the beauty of love and acceptance that we can give to a changing world.
Apart from being kind to yourself and others, I think it's also important to talk to people and engage them about how society has pitted itself against those who are different, those who they do not yet understand. Engage with people, explain the technical things and definitions if you have to. Engage with kindness, and make them curious, make them see that there is a great amount of acceptance and understanding here. Always listen and speak remembering that there is no "better," "more," or "less," way of being. Even within the community, I hope we always try to listen to the stories and paint them the way that we are trying to show the world that it is full of diversity and that's so valid.
Moosh Reyes, bisexual, she/her, 20
What I realized to be the best thing for the people in my life to do in terms of my sexuality is to do nothing. I see my sexuality and my LGBTQ+ allies' [sexualities] as something that should be treated with equal respect as straight people! It's hard at first to adjust but what matters to me is that you make efforts to adjust and try to make both of the LGBTQ community and their allies comfortable.
[As for companies], more representation would be great, of course, but it shouldn't only be done at a certain time of the year. It should be something that is constantly growing and offered to the LGBTQ+ community. Perhaps putting some corny (but respectful!!) taglines during Pride Month would help show the continuing support that the brand has already shown throughout the year. All in all, the best campaign is one that starts with the small steps. Hire LGBTQ+ people not only as models but as employees and let them offer their input! The small steps can really go a long way.
It’s clear that society, in general, has a long way to go in terms of being sufficiently and genuinely inclusive through and through. But it’s easy to see that no matter where we are in terms of being better allies, the LGBTQ community simply wishes to be treated with equal respect as everyone else. Not only because this is owed to them as members of the queer community, but also as fellow persons. Whether as business entities or as individuals, we should strive to see LGBTQ persons as beyond their stereotypes and beyond token representation. Moving forward, they must be seen as real people, and an accepted and celebrated part of our everyday lives.
Pride is a continuous celebration; one necessary as a venue to celebrate and make some noise until LGBTQ persons get to enjoy the same respect, treatments, rights, love, and protection that straight individuals do. The best way to be allies is to love them as they are and treat them as we would anyone else.
Responses have been edited for clarity. All images are courtesy of and used the permission of the respective interviewees.