Not only is June a season for weddings and romantic unions; it is Pride Month as well. As part of the celebration, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) has launched a film festival showcasing LGBTQIA+-themed audiovisuals in cinema houses nationwide until June 26.
I was among those invited by the FDCP Channel to attend its screening of the 1999 controversial film “Boys Don’t Cry,” directed by Kimberly Peirce. It stars Hilary Swank, who won an Oscar for Best Actress for her role as Brandon Teena (Teena Brandon in real life), a transman and the main character who goes through a sexual crisis.
“Boys Don’t Cry” is a perfect film with which to discuss the importance of a law to protect and promote the interests of gay people in a socially discriminatory society. After the screening, it served as a perfect topic for the speakers, the US Embassy’s political counsellor, Brett Blackshaw, and Filipino actor, director and singer Ice Seguerra, formerly Aiza Seguerra, who identifies as male and is now a transman.
According to Blackshaw, the US government has been very supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community whose goals are aligned with the democratic traditions and beliefs of Joe Biden’s administration. Even before he was elected president of the most powerful country in the world, Biden has been an advocate of gay rights and liberation in America.
Laws to uphold rights
Blackshaw underscored the need for laws to uphold and safeguard the rights of every member of the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersect, asexual, plus) community in the United States. Same-sex marriage is one freedom that gays and lesbians there have been enjoying—something that Ice Seguerra also wants to happen in the Philippines.
“It’s high time same-sex marriage was recognized and approved in the Philippines for … gay people who want to assert their rights as individuals,” Ice said in an interview.
During the throwback session, Ice lamented the delay in the passage of the equality bill authored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, which is the very essence of SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity expression). In a recent public announcement, Hontiveros expressed optimism that the bill would be passed into law during the 19th Congress.
Ice noted that “the bill is already OK in the House of Representatives. “It’s only among the senators that the bill has been languishing… What’s happening? Is there a lobby group that opposes the approval of the bill?” he said.
The Philippines being an overwhelmingly Catholic country, with conservatism still a core characteristic of the religious sector, including the different Christian denominations, the bill must free itself from the dictates of parochial minds.
That’s why Ice called on all the members of the Philippine LGBTQIA+ community to rally behind the passing of the SOGIE bill.
“Let’s show them that we deserve a better life, a free choice of our gender,” declared Ice. “Let’s march for our gay rights.”
During the showing of “Boys Don’t Cry” at the FDCP Cinematheque Centre Manila on June 8, many viewers, including Ice, were observed emotional and shedding tears.
Speaking in Filipino, Gem Suguitan, a visual artist, heritage conservationist and writer, said: “Oh my God! I was crying during the part where Brandon Teena was being raped by his newfound male American friends, who can’t accept a female person who became a transman.
“In the scene which supposedly elicited the idea that once is not enough, she’d be ganged up on again. I also cried. Then, when her two male friends in Nebraska totally stripped her to expose her as a female, I cried again.”
Said Ice, his voice trembling: “My body was shaking towards the end of the film. I could empathize with Brandon Teena. She was totally violated—her rights, her body, her soul.”
A Christian woman in the audience was also disturbed by the violence inflicted on Brandon.
According to Blackshaw, the film remains a valid example of how America is dealing with the gay emancipation movement. Twenty-three years after the film was made, there are still many cases of sexual discrimination not only in the United States but throughout the world.
I asked Blackshaw if he had been consulted by Filipino lawmakers on the SOGIE bill. He said he was open to discussion and consultation if needed.
Many members of the Philippine LGBTQIA+ community are celebrating Pride Month. Even if most of them are office-bound, they are adding their voice to the free-gender battle cry.
In show business alone, many gays and lesbians are active media workers. They are proud to be part of this often-ostracized community and continue to fight for their rights despite the grudging acceptance of most people, particularly heterosexuals.
Vice Ganda is one gay leader who fights for the rights of fellow gays, although sometimes she is dissed for her critical comments on gays and their actions or behavior on television.
Boy Villasanta writes an entertainment column for the OpinYon weeklies (https://opinyon.net) —Ed.