LGBT culture in the Philippines

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the Philippines have a distinctive, influential culture but limited legal rights. Gays and lesbians are generally tolerated, if not accepted, within Filipino society, however widespread discrimination remains. The most visible members of the Filipino LGBT culture, known as the Bakla, are a distinct group in the Philippines.

According to the 2002 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Survey, 11% of sexually-active Filipinos between the ages of 15 and 24 have had sex with someone of the same sex.[1]

Filipino poet and critic Lilia Quindoza Santiago speculates that Filipino culture may have a more flexible concept of gender because kasarian, the Tagalog word for gender, is defined in less binary terms than the English word gender.[2] Kasarian means "kind, species, or genus".[3]


A bakla and bading is a man who displays feminine mannerisms, dresses as a woman or identifies as a woman. While the term itself is not the equivalent of the English term gay,[4] bakla are the most culturally visible subset of gay men in the Philippines. They are often considered a third gender, embodying femaleness (pagkababae) in a male body.[5][6] The term bakla is sometimes used in a derogatory sense, although bakla people have largely embraced it.

Bakla individuals are socially and economically integrated into Filipino society and are considered an important part of society. A common stereotype of a bakla is a parlorista, a cross-dresser who works in a salon.[7] Miss Gay Philippines is a beauty pageant for bakla individuals.

In the Philippines, the term gay is used in reference to any LGBT person. For Filipino gays, the Tagalog phrase paglaladlad ng kapa ("unfurling the cape"), or more commonly just paglaladlad ("unfurling" or "unveiling"), refers to the coming-out process. Tibo, T-Bird, and tomboy are derogatory[citation needed] terms for butch lesbians, just as bakla is for effeminate gay men. Some lesbians, both butch and femme, use the terms magic or shunggril to refer to themselves.[4] "Paminta" is used to describe masculine gay men. Neutral slang terms for gay men include billy boy, badette and bading.

While many of these terms are generally considered derogatory, they are sometimes used casually or jokingly within the Filipino gay and lesbian community. For example, gay men often refer to their gay friends as bakla or beki when talking to each other.[citation needed]


Although legislation supporting same-sex marriage in the Philippines has been proposed several times to the Philippine legislature, none has ever been passed.[8]

The Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC) disqualified the Filipino LGBT political party candidate Ang Ladlad from running in the 2007 general election when COMELEC concluded that Ang Ladlad did not have nationwide membership.[9] COMELEC again refused Ang Ladlad's petition for permission to run in the 2010 elections, this time on grounds of "immorality".[10] However, on April 8, 2010, the Supreme Court of the Philippines overturned the decision of COMELEC and allowed Ang Ladlad to participate in the May 2010 elections.[11]

The Philippines has recently been ranked as one of the most gay-friendly nations in the world and is the most gay-friendly in Asia. On a global survey covering 39 countries, only 17 of which had majorities accepting homosexuality, the Philippines ranking as the 10th most gay-friendly.[citation needed] The survey titled "The Global Divide on Homosexuality", conducted by the US-based Pew Research Center, showed that 73 percent of adult Filipinos agreed with the statement that "homosexuality should be accepted by society", up from 64 percent in 2002.[12]


Swardspeak, or "gay lingo", is a cant slang derived from Englog (a Tagalog-English pidgin) and is used by the LGBT community in the Philippines.[13] It uses elements from Tagalog, English, Spanish and Japanese, celebrities' names and trademark brands to give them new meanings in different contexts.[14] Words derived from local languages or dialects, including Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Bicolano, and other Philippine dialects, is also largely used within LGBT communities.

Initially, a speaker using Swardspeak could be identified as homosexual, making it easy for people in the LGBT community to recognized each other. This created an exclusive group among its speakers and helped the community resist cultural assimilation and marginalization. However, more recently straight people have also started to use Swardspeak, particularly in industries dominated by gays, such as the fashion and film industries.

LGBT Politics[edit]

In the Philippines, there are no existing laws pertaining to same-sex marriage or unions. There are no laws legalizing nor calling it illegal. Legislature regarding the LGBT community has simply gone ignored. [1]

Same sex marriage is gaining some ground in Southeast Asia. In Thailand, the initiative is led by a Democrat parliamentarian, Wiratana Kalayasiri. She drafted a bill that would legalize same sex marriage; an incentive for Thailand to be the first Asian country to recognize and legalize same-sex marriage. Because of conservative parliaments, assessing LGBT rights is difficult. The LGBT community's intentions and goals is to have a stand in the government, gain the support from policymakers and legislators and obtain more political influence.

In 2013, an instrumental LGBT group in the Philippines named Ang Ladlad, was recognized by the government and participated in party elections; a milestone for the Philippines. This is a party whose founding leaders, members, and core constituency belong to the LGBT community. [2]

Geraldine Roman is the first transgender to be elected in the Philippine congress.[15] She has been a staunch advocate of the anti-discrimination bill.[16]

Entertainers Aiza Seguerra and Arnell Ignacio were the first LGBT members who were appointed as government officials as they was appointed by President Rodrigo "Rody" Duterte as Chairperson of National Youth Commission and Vice Chairman for Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation respectively.

Unlike the Philippines, Singapore has made little progress in supporting LGBT community members and their platform. The country has kept in place the infamous Section 377A of the Penal Code which criminalizes sex between members of the same sex, specifically between men.

As a huge slight to the LGBT in the Philippines and Southeastern Asia in general, Thailand's draft of same-sex marriage was denied by members of the parliament[citation needed], homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia[citation needed] and the Ang Ladlad Party failed to get enough votes to win a seat in the Philippine Congress[citation needed]. Vietnam has not been ruled out when it comes to supporting the LGBT community. They have not verbalized support of it but have also not denied it.


  • Alpha Nu Fraternity: A university-recognized fraternity of the University of the Philippines-Diliman, Alpha Nu advocates non-violent initiations, gender sensitivity and psychological support. It holds annual fora on HIV awareness. The fraternity is considered the first openly gay fraternity in the Philippines which began in 2014.
  • GATAS Gays of Talomo Association of DAVAO CITY
  • USeP Maharlika: The first LGBT student organization in the University of Southeastern Philippines. Established in 2013
  • Barangay Los Angeles: Barangay Los Angeles, or Barangay LA, is the oldest, most established Filipino LGBT organization in the United States currently serving the Los Angeles Filipino LGBTQ community.
  • PUP Kabaro: A leading gender equality activist organization at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines
  • UP Babaylan: Established in 1992, UP Babaylan is the first LGBT student organization in the Philippines. They remain as the only LGBT support and advocacy student group in the University of the Philippines Diliman (Metro Manila)
  • Doll House: A community group for open-minded individuals based in the Ateneo de Manila University
  • ProGay: A gay rights organization (Metro Manila)
  • Metropolitan Community Churches (Philippine Network), a network of LGBT Affirming Church under the United Fellowship of the Metropolitan Community Churches (Global)
    • MCC Quezon City
    • MCC Metro Baguio
    • MCC Makati
    • MCC Marikina
  • Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network (LAGABLAB)
  • Can’t Live in the Closet: A lesbian activist group (Metro Manila)
  • Lesbian Advocates Philippines (LeAP) (Metro Manila)
  • Lunduyan ng Sining ("Sanctuary of Art"): A registered lesbian arts organization providing a venue for lesbians to showcase their art. The studio has produced a lesbian literary and art folio entitled What These Hands Can Do and holds monthly music, film or art performances at Mag:net Katipunan, Quezon City
  • IWAG: A gay social support group (Davao City)
  • Northern Samar LGBT Community (NSLGBT): (Northern Samar)
  • GAHUM: A gay support and advocacy (Cebu City)
  • Rainbow Rights (R-Rights) Philippines : (formerly the Rainbow Rights Project) A non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works to create an environment that genuinely upholds human rights for all and ensures equal opportunities for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression (SOGIE).
  • Society of Transsexual WOMEN of the Philippines (STRAP) (Metro Manila)
  • PinoyFTM: Founded in July 2011, the first organization for transsexual and transgender men in the Philippines. PinoyFTM is based in Metro Manila but has members from all over the country.
  • Order of St. Aelred: A spiritual gay center (Metro Manila)
  • AKOD: A gay support group (Davao Oriental State College of Science and Technology)
  • Gorgeous and Young (GAY): A gay support group
  • Philippine Forum on Sports, Culture, Sexuality and Human Rights (TEAM PILIPINAS): A forum that promotes human rights, sexual and gender diversity and equality through sports, culture and recreation (Philippines and global)
  • UPLB Babaylan: A student LGBT organization and support group at the University of the Philippines Los Baños; promotes gender equality within the university, among the student body, and beyond. The organization holds activities such as Pink Flicks (a film festival showing movies which revolve around gender issues), symposia, educational discussions and tie-ups with other LGBT organizations
  • Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines: Founded in 1999, TFP is the official convener of the annual community-driven Metro Manila Pride season. This volunteer-managed, non-partisan, and not-for-profit network of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups, individuals, and allies works towards a future that recognizes and respects both the diverse expressions of responsible sexuality and the rights of LGBT persons to a dignified life without discrimination and prejudice.
  • Pinoy Pride Vancouver (PPV): Filipino-Canadian LGBTQ Group aims to increase visibility, raise awareness and acceptance to provide a safe & respectful space for its members, family, friends and allies (Vancouver, BC)
  • LGBTS Christian Church: A family-oriented, progressive, ecumenical community of faith of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight people in Quezon City.[citation needed]
  • The Knightingales of Davao City: An awareness group. This non-profit organization aims to uphold LGBT rights, especially gay rights. It holds a yearly pageant, Miss Gay University, that aims to crown a participant with purpose. It was established as an organization to consolidate the gay and lesbian community in a prestigious university for the effective advocacy of gay rights both in the University and in the local sphere. Founded in 2001, Knightingales is sui generis in the history of the university in Mindanao. Its membership is composed of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, alumni and faculty supported by the academic community.[citation needed]
  • Quezon City Pride Council (QCPC) - Quezon City - Is a pioneering initiative of the Quezon City local government and the first of its kind in the country. It is a Council created for the purpose of enforcing LGBT rights and gender-based policies and programs for all LGBT in Quezon City. It was constituted to oversee the integration of all city programs and projects for the LGBTs (lesbian, gays, bisexual, transgender) community. Created by the Mayor Herbert Bautista through an office order, it was formally launched March 25, 2013 to highlight the city government’s continuing support for the implementation and enforcement of gender-based policies, programs and activities.
  • Equality Philippines (EqualityPH) - Is a non-stock, non-profit organization created to promote and safeguard the rights of LGBT members and its allies in the country, articulate the concerns of LGBT and influence policy and development affecting its Filipino members through social engagement.
  • True Colors Coalition (TCC) - A political LGBT organization that aims to continue the LGBT community's struggle for equality, acceptance, and freedom through organizing, educating, and mobilizing the LGBT people and allies/supporters as well as campaigning to stop all forms of discrimination. True Colors Coalition aims to educate the LGBTs that in joining the struggle of the whole oppressed people is the only way to achieve the true essence of equality, acceptance, and freedom. TCC is a member organization of Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KILUSAN).


  1. ^ "Survey shows young Filipinos are opening up homosexual activities" (PDF). 23 July 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 April 2005. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  2. ^ Garcia, J. Nelia C. (2000). "Performativity, the bakla and the orienting gaze". Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. 1 (2): 265–281. doi:10.1080/14649370050141140. 
  3. ^ "Kasarian." Tagalog-English Dictionary. 2nd. ed. 1986.[full citation needed]
  4. ^ a b Garcia, J. Neil C. (2008). Philippine gay culture: binabae to bakla, silahis to MSM. University of the Philippines Press. ISBN 978-971-542-577-3. 
  5. ^ Aggleton, Peter (1999). Men who sell sex: international perspectives on male prostitution and HIV/AIDS. Temple University Press. p. 246. ISBN 1-56639-669-7. Retrieved 5 June 2010. 
  6. ^ Casabal, Norberto V (2008). "Gay Language: Defying the Structural Limits of English Language in the Philippines". Kritika Kultura (11): 89–120. doi:10.3860/kk.v0i11.754. Retrieved 27 January 2011. 
  7. ^ Benedicto, Bobby (2008). "The Haunting of Gay Manila: Global Space-Time and the specter of Kabaklaan". GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. 14 (2-3): 317–338. doi:10.1215/10642684-2007-035. 
  8. ^ LeiLani Dowell (17 February 2005). "New Peoples Army recognizes same-sex marriage". Workers World Party. Retrieved 17 November 2008. 
  9. ^ Aning, Jerome (1 March 2007). "Gay party-list group Ladlad out of the race". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  10. ^ "CHR backs Ang Ladlad in Comelec row". ABS-CBN News. 15 November 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2009. 
  11. ^ "SC allows Ang Ladlad to join May poll". ABS-CBN News. 8 April 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2011. 
  12. ^ Tubeza, Philip C (8 June 2013). "PH ranks among most gay-friendly in the world". Retrieved 22 October 2014. 
  13. ^ Empress Maruja (27 July 2007). "Deciphering Filipino Gay Lingo". United SEA. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  14. ^ Jessica Salao (30 April 2010). "Gayspeak: Not for gays only". The Philippine Online Chronicles. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  15. ^
  16. ^

External links[edit]

  • Outrage Magazine - publication for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and ally (GLBTQIA) communities in the Philippines.