LGBT culture in the Philippines

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LGBT rights in the Philippines Philippines
PHL orthographic.svg
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal
Military service Gays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve openly since 2009
Discrimination protections None at the national level but many anti-discrimination ordinances exist at the local government level.
Family rights
Recognition of
The Family Code of the Philippines defines marriage as "a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman". The Constitution of the Philippines does not prohibit same-sex marriage.[1]
Adoption Allowed for individuals but not allowed for same-sex couples.

Although lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the Philippines have a distinctive culture, their legal rights are limited. Gays and lesbians are generally tolerated (if not accepted) in Filipino society, but widespread discrimination remains. Filipino gays are known as bakla.

According to the 2002 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Survey, 11 percent of sexually-active Filipinos between the ages of 15 and 24 have had sex with someone of the same sex.[2] According to Filipino poet and critic Lilia Quindoza Santiago, Filipino culture may have a more flexible concept of gender; kasarian (Tagalog for "gender") is defined in less binary terms than the English word;[3] kasarian means "kind, species, or genus".[4]


Bakla and bading are Tagalog words for a man who has feminine mannerisms, or dresses or identifies as a woman. Although the terms are not the equivalent of the English "gay",[5] the bakla are the most culturally-visible subset of gay men in the Philippines. They are often considered a third gender, embodying femininity (pagkababae) in a male body.[6][7] Although bakla is sometimes used in a derogatory sense, bakla people have largely embraced it.

The bakla are socially and economically integrated into Filipino society. A common stereotype is a parlorista, a cross-dresser who works in a salon.[8] Miss Gay Philippines is a bakla beauty pageant.

In the Philippines, the word "gay" is used to refer to any LGBT person. For Filipino gays the Tagalog phrase paglaladlad ng kapa ("unfurling the cape") or, more commonly, paglaladlad ("unfurling" or "unveiling") refers to the coming-out process. Some lesbians (butch and femme) use the words magic or shunggril to refer to themselves;[5] paminta describes masculine gay men. Neutral slang terms for gay men include "billy boy", badette and bading. Although many of these terms are considered derogatory, they are sometimes used casually or jokingly by the Filipino gay and lesbian community.


Although legislation supporting same-sex marriage in the Philippines has been proposed several times in the Philippine legislature, none has been passed.[9] The Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC) disqualified the Filipino LGBT political party Ladlad from fronting a candidate in the 2007 general election, concluding that the party did not have a nationwide membership.[10] COMELEC again refused Ladlad's petition to contest the 2010 elections on the grounds of "immorality".[11] However, on April 8, 2010, the Supreme Court of the Philippines overturned COMELEC's decision and allowed Ladlad to participate in the May 2010 elections.[12]

The Philippines has been ranked one of the most gay-friendly nations in the world and is the most gay-friendly in Asia. In a survey of 39 countries (only 17 of which had a majority accepting homosexuality), the Philippines were the 10th most gay-friendly.[13] The survey, "The Global Divide on Homosexuality" conducted by the US-based Pew Research Center, showed that 73 percent of adult Filipinos agreed that "homosexuality should be accepted by society" (up from 64 percent in 2002).[13]


Swardspeak, or "gay lingo", is cant or argot derived from Taglish (Tagalog-English pidgin) and is used by the Filipino LGBT community.[14] It uses elements of Tagalog, English, Spanish and Japanese, celebrities' names and trademarked brands, giving them new meanings in different contexts.[15] Words derived from local languages or dialects, including Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Bicolano and other Philippine dialects, are also used by LGBT communities.

A Swardspeak speaker could be identified as homosexual, making it easier for people in the LGBT community to recognize each other. This created a group of speakers, helping the community resist cultural assimilation and marginalization. Straight people have begun to use Swardspeak, however, particularly in gay-dominated industries such as fashion and film.


In the Philippines there are no laws pertaining to same-sex marriage or unions, but at least one church cites freedom of religion in sanctioning what it calls holy unions.[16] Same-sex marriage is gaining some ground in Southeast Asia, with Democrat parliamentarian Wiratana Kalayasiri leading an initiative in Thailand. She drafted a legalisation bill which would make Thailand the first Asian country to do so. The Filipino Ang Ladlad party, whose founders, leaders and core constituency belong to the LGBT community, was recognized by the government and participated in party elections in 2013.[17]

Geraldine Roman is the first transgender to be elected to the Philippine congress.[18] She has been a staunch advocate of an anti-discrimination bill.[19] Entertainers Aiza Seguerra and Arnell Ignacio are the first LGBT-community members appointed as government officials; they were appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte chair of the National Youth Commission and vice-chair of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, respectively.[citation needed]



  1. ^ "CBCP exec: US should respect PHL law regarding same-sex marriage | Pinoy Abroad | GMA News Online". Retrieved 2014-04-06. 
  2. ^ "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. 
  3. ^ Garcia, J. Nelia C. (2000). "Performativity, the bakla and the orienting gaze". Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. 1 (2): 265–281. doi:10.1080/14649370050141140. 
  4. ^ "Kasarian." Tagalog-English Dictionary. 2nd. ed. 1986.[full citation needed]
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ LeiLani Dowell (17 February 2005). "New Peoples Army recognizes same-sex marriage". Workers World Party. Retrieved 17 November 2008. 
  10. ^ Aning, Jerome (1 March 2007). "Gay party-list group Ladlad out of the race". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 18 January 2010. 
  11. ^ "CHR backs Ang Ladlad in Comelec row". ABS-CBN News. 15 November 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2009. 
  12. ^ "SC allows Ang Ladlad to join May poll". ABS-CBN News. 8 April 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Tubeza, Philip C (8 June 2013). "PH ranks among most gay-friendly in the world". Retrieved 20 July 2017. 
  14. ^ Empress Maruja (27 July 2007). "Deciphering Filipino Gay Lingo". United SEA. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  15. ^ Jessica Salao (30 April 2010). "Gayspeak: Not for gays only". The Philippine Online Chronicles. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  16. ^ "Holy Unions". Metropolitan Community Church Philippines. Archived from the original on 30 June 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2017. 
  17. ^ Mark Gevisser (12 May 2013). "Ang Ladlad party brings beauty parlours and gay pageants out to vote in Philippines". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 July 2017. 
  18. ^ Heather Chen (10 May 2016). "Geraldine Roman: First transgender politician elected in the Philippines". BBC News. Retrieved 21 July 2017. 
  19. ^ Anna Bueno (17 October 2016). "5 things you should know about the Anti-Discrimination Bill". Archived from the original on 4 April 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2017. 
  20. ^ "About the Organizer". Metro Manila Pride. Retrieved 21 July 2017. 

External links[edit]

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