It’s L.G.B.T.Q Pride Month and we need to fill the gaps in the society and accept everyone’s diversity. In relation with the L.G.B.T.Q Pride Month, we all should be aware of the foundation of the famous L.G.B.T.Q Movement that created a huge significant impact for the L.G.B.T.Q Community. It was on June 28, 1969 when the Stonewall Uprising happened because of the raids the police were making in Greenwich Village gay bar called the Stonewall Inn. The police raids ignited violent conflicts and protests that lasted for days. The L.G.B.T.Q. community had a long process of acquiring their rights and that is why today there is change as they are more empowered and accepted.
However, the battle is not yet done; there are still a lot of people who narrow mindedly discriminate the beautiful rainbow handprints of the L.G.B.T.Q community. The world should be a secure place for every human being in this world and the menacing problem in discrimination is that it induces mental health problems. Everyone should bear in mind that human rights are embedded in the rule of law and Gay Rights are human rights as well.
In relation with the illustrious celebration of Pride Month, we interviewed an expert in LGBT Psychology who is also a part of the LGBTQ community herself and also a member of the Psychological Association of the Philippines- LGBT Psychology Special Interest Group, Ms. Riyan Portuguez, RPsy, RPm.
During the interview, we asked her how she usually cope up with people who do not recognize your difference and rights?
She calmly stated that:
“As time passed by, I learned to not be bothered by these people. Reacting too much on their negativity feeds them. So instead, I focused more on what really matters such as continuing the LGBTQ+ campaigns, taking charge of the conversation when there’s opportunity for me to educate others, increasing LGBTQ+ visibility through social media, etc.”
As the interview went on, we delved to asking how the stigma and discrimination affect the L.G.B.T.Q Community as it is a common notion that the L.G.B.T.Q Community is still facing a lot of puddles in walking with life everyday with people who are questioning them.
Ms. Riyan Portuguez explained that:
“There are a lot of stigma and discrimination going on. There are almost 80 countries where being LGBTQ+ is illegal and worse, there are 5 countries where being LGBTQ+ is punishable by death. In workplace, there are still existing reports whereby LGBTQ+ are deprived of hiring and promotion despite their competencies. In most religions, some of us who are persecuted and discriminated against. We are told that our souls will perished in hell and the only way to be saved is by letting them help us. In some households, LGBTQ+ are evicted from their home, deprived of or threatened to discontinue their education because of their SOGIE, and being beaten by coming out as LGBTQ+. There’s a lot more stories that you can’t even imagine, these are few things we deal with the world and it’s disheartening because no people deserved to be treated this way. LGBTQ+ rights are not special rights but of basic human rights. It is normal as it is part of human sexuality supported by numerous research evidences.
It’s no wonder why we are highly vulnerable to mental health problems because on top of general stressors, there are stigma and discrimination. Imagine the hurdles we face for being LGBTQ+?”
It has always been a question how people should be sensitive and respectful towards a member from the L.G.B.T.Q. community and to those who needs help to come out to their true selves.
Ms. Riyan Portuguez imparted her knowledge that:
“They (people) just need to be more understanding, empathetic, accepting, and nonjudgmental. Whenever they see someone who has difficulty in coming out, they just need to be there. When the person feels accepted and safe, they will come out. They don’t need to out the person that will be rude.”
In relation to how to be sensitive and respectful towards a member of the L.G.B.T.Q community, we asked how we can all be able to advocate in decreasing the stigma and discrimination. Her reply was:
“As I have said, I increase the visibility of LGBTQ+ through seminars, workshops, social media, interview engagements, attending pride march, and wearing LGBTQ+ merchs for others to know that I am one with them.
I also join advocacy works such as collaboration with organization or institutions that will help zero in stigma and discrimination on mental health, domestic and family violence, and bullying.”
As we look into more with the connection of mental health with the L.G.B.T.Q. community, we asked for proposed solutions in line with mental health since some studies show that the risk of a mental health condition, like depression, anxiety disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is almost three times as high for youth and adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), some even dies by suicide as some of them are not accepted by their own families? In this question I learned more that members of the L.G.B.T.Q community do not commit suicide, they die from it because society stimulates it as it wants to accord life with the traditional and parochial approach they had been fond of without realizing how insensitive it is.
Ms. Riyan provided an eye opening answer when she said:
“I hope organizations, such as United Nations, will realize that aside from women empowerment, LGBTQ+ should be included in Sustainable Development Goals to achieve gender equality. True gender equality will not be achieved by only including men and women. If you look for Sustainable Development Goal #5 of UN, you will see that Gender Equality goal focused more on women and girl empowerment. I hope they will include us as well since most institutions, especially in the government sectors, follow their plan.
Gender and development offices should also include LGBT+ dialogues and create more projects for LGBTQ+ to alleviate mental health problems.”
We provided a follow up question on how can we help those are still scared and depressed to come out to themselves as part of the LGBTQ since they may lost some of their friends and become hated by some of their family members?
In her authentic answer, she uttered that:
“I just make them feel safe, accepted, and heard. I let them talk about their problems without interrupting them and ensure that it’s okay for them to take a little time to come out. I try to be their friend through their darkest day. I think these things are effective since I got feedback from previous LGBTQ+ on their coming out.”
In schools and in some workplaces, discrimination in the L.G.B.T.Q community in the Philippines is still prevalent since only 15% Filipinos reside in areas protected by ordinances against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/06/21/just-let-us-be/discrimination-against-lgbt-students-philippines).
This current situation in the Philippines helped us create our next question on: “What advice can you give to those individuals who are part of the LGBTQ that are victims of homophobic bullying and the gossip mill they face whether it be in their workplaces or schools?
Ms. Riyan Portuguez gave a very informative reply to:
“Make sure to report the incident, increase your social and emotional support, and don’t be afraid to seek help. You can also join LGBTQ+ support groups so you can feel safe and accepted.”
As a lot of people from the LGBTQ community go through each day afraid that someone will hurt them because of who they are, what advice can you give for them to cope up every day as well? Ms. Riyan gave a beautiful advice:
“Reshift your focus to things that really matter. There are more people who love you for who you really are. Know that you are important and beautiful. There’s nothing wrong for being true. Okay? Always love and trust yourself.”
Our next question sparkled from the youth since nowadays, young ones can already determine that they are part of the LGBTQ community but some of them still cannot understand it so we asked Ms. Riyan what is the best way do we to talk with kids about their sexual orientation and prejudice that no mental health problem would affect them as they grow up?
Miss Riyan’s sparking answer puts an emphasis on a reminder what we all need to be aware of that we must:
“Remember that sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE) dialogues aren’t exclusive for LGBTQ+ so it will be helpful to all kids to talk about this at their early age. It will teach them to be more accepting, understanding, and empathetic to other kids who don’t share the same sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE). It will also help them to understand that it’s a normal part of human sexuality that no kid should be stigmatized and discriminated against by being what and who they really are.
Lastly, we asked what we must be done to improve more the acceptance of the LGBTQ community. She ended the interview very empowered by saying that:
“I think, we need to keep doing what we’ve started and continue to engage more on our advocacy. We are hoping for the passage of the SOGIE Bill to protect our rights.”