Kerby Salazar, Mela Habijan raise awareness on SOGIE and gender equality through CLACSG’s Bahagi Ka, Bahagi Ako: Bahaghari Natin Ito
Featuring guest speakers such as Hon. Kerby Salazar, a Provincial Board Member of the Provincial Government of Cavite, and Miss Trans Global 2020 Mela Habijan, the College of Liberal Arts and Student Government (CLACSG) held the webinar Bahagi Ka, Bahagi Ako: Bahaghari Natin Ito on May 29 from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM via Zoom Meetings. The event aimed to discuss the roles of LGBTQ+ in nation building, as well as raise awareness on the LGBTQ+ community’s experiences and struggles in their continuous fight for equality.
The vast and colorful spectrum
Everyone has their own Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Orientation (SOGIE)—Miss Trans Global 2020 Mela Habijan emphasized—adding that it does not only pertain to the LGBTQ+ community, but also to every individual with a sexual orientation, as SOGIE is not exclusive to a certain group of people only. Here, we establish that the essence of SOGIE should not be specifically confined within a box of societal expectations.
Delving deeper, Habijan used the Filipino term kasarian, interpreting how it was derived from the word sari which has two meanings: classification and diversity. “Gender and sexuality is a spectrum, a rainbow, because it is diverse,” she stated, connecting it to the analogy that gender itself is boundless.
Habijan also stressed the difference between sex and gender, explaining that sex indicates the genitalia of a person, while gender is the psychological and emotional aspect that leads to self-awareness.
“The only person who can define our gender is us alone, gender is a personal discovery of oneself,” Habijan shared, citing the many classifications that we know today, such as cisgender or the “straights,” transgender or those whose gender identity is contrary to the gender assigned at birth, non-binary or genderqueer, and the like.
Habijan herself takes pride on being a transgender and even mentioned, “Hindi naman namatay si Erick, nagpakalaya lang.” According to her, Erick, her past identity, has always been a she and continues to be an important aspect of herself. Additionally, Habijan believed that love is and will always be beautiful in every form that it takes, and because of love, she continues to live.
The never-ending struggles of the LGBTQ+ community
Besides the spectrum and diversity of gender, the webinar also tackled the struggles and challenges of the LGBTQ+ community as Hon. Kerby Salazar looked back on how he witnessed discrimination while growing up. This sparked his determination in removing the stigma against the LGBTQ+ in the country, becoming a living testament to Habijan’s statement that “being LGBTQ+ is political.”
Within the early years of his term, Salazar recalled the incident where four people who are gays were violently beaten up in General Trias City, Cavite. This account made him realize that the laws being passed are not enough to protect the minorities, particularly the LGBTQ+ community, pushing him to legislate the City Ordinance No. 16-06 or the General Trias Anti-LGBT Discrimination Ordinance.
This was followed by the Provincial Ordinance No. 200, which aims to provide protection for the LGBTQ+ community. This includes establishing LGBT Helpdesks in every barangay within the Province of Cavite, and aims to promote programs against discrimination, and to encourage embracing diversity in schools and workplaces regardless of one’s sexuality.
“It’s really important for our community to be recognized and accepted lalo na ang dami pa rin nagdi-discriminate sa amin,” Salazar pointed out. Even with the laws that were passed, Salazar is aware that the community continues to experience various struggles and challenges like the lack of legal gender recognition, violence against LGBTQ+ children, discrimination in accessing social services, education, labor and employment, and lastly, the killings of LGBT persons.
Allies to love’s cause
More than awareness, it is important for us to listen to the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community, and take part in advocating a progressive future where each voice will be heard and each individual could experience equal rights. But in order to achieve that, strong and fruitful relationships must first be established.
For Habijan, the first step in becoming an ally to the community is to be a friend. “Are you ready to fight for her? Are you ready to hold her hand? Celebrate her beauty? Become her light? If yes, then that’s how you know that you are her friend, or better yet, a sister.”
Similarly, Salazar also expressed that “Pwede tayong maging kapatid, kapamilya, at kaagapay nila. And important din that we listen and know their struggles,” believing that allyship is friendship.
As an example, he shared that even if he has already achieved a position in politics, the challenges will still remain, along with the pain brought by those experiences. But for Salazar, this is all the more reason to continue fighting for the LGBTQ+ community:
“Kung hindi ako magiging matatag, sino na ang tatayo para sa kanila?” Salazar said, as he explained why fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community is of high importance in giving them protection.
At any given moment, we have the freedom to choose love in all its entirety. Challenges may storm in, but through the rainbow’s beaming colors, we are constantly reminded that love is the most beautiful thing that we have in this world, along with the friendship that comes from fighting side-by-side to achieve equality and equity. As stated by the two guest speakers, “Love who you want to love, because love always wins.”
Slider courtesy of College of Liberal Arts and Communication Student Government (CLACSG).