The ISM LGBTQ+ Community: Struggles and Hopes for the Future

Written by: David (he/him)

Edited by: Chris (he/him)

Visual by: Summer (she/her)

The LGBTQ+ community has made strides in improving the wellbeing of queer people. From the passing of laws allowing same-sex marriage to revisions in codes of conduct to penalize discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, many parts of the world are slowly becoming better and safer for queer people.

Despite recent triumphs, the LGBTQ+ community still has much more work to do, especially in the Philippines. A report by the Human Rights Watch found that policies aimed at protecting LGBTQ+ youth from bullying and discrimination fall flat due to poor oversight and implementation. Only 15% of Filipinos live in areas protected against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, so the vast majority of individuals are left to fend for themselves. (Human Rights Watch). The report also revealed that while abuse and harassment are instigated by peers, teachers are either indifferent or end up participating and perpetrating this behavior.

Thus, BT interviewed student leaders of the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) to hear their thoughts on the issues faced by LGBTQ+ students today. Aiko Ferrarini (they/them), the co-president of GSA, said that one of the most prevalent issues facing LGBTQ+ students is the lack of a space to express themselves properly, most notably at home. “It’s quite worrying especially now because we’re at home most of the time. Even in school and in online school, there aren’t many places for LGBTQ+ people to be themselves.”

There’s also an issue of discrimination within the school setting because “there are many microaggressions that queer students have to go through that may be from other students,” said Diana Mamatkulova (she/her), the GSA’s treasurer. She agrees that misgendering is a major problem, stating that “openness to these gender pronouns is something we need to work on.” Though Diana clarified that she is only an ally of the LGBTQ+ community and doesn’t know exactly what they’re going through, from her perspective, they are seen positively at ISM.

Aiko, on the other hand, said that overall LGBTQ+ students are perceived negatively. Aiko identifies with the LGBTQ+ community, telling us that “at home, families tend to be quite neglectful to their children if they are queer. At school, there is a kind of false positivity with how queerness is aestheticized and glorified in a sense.” They also discussed the lack of significant social advancement, citing how “GSA was inactive for a couple years because it’s just hard to progress in a society that is just so unwilling to progress.” Aiko added that “it’s quite sad because our aims are to make sure people aren’t using the wrong words to refer to people, which is quite simple to me.” 

When asked about some barriers to wider acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals, Aiko also brought up the notion that sexuality and gender are seen as invisible identities. “It’s invalid to some people because it’s like ‘oh, it’s just something that exists in your mind.’” Meanwhile, Diana pointed out the disconnect in values between generations: “A lot of parents are open-minded, but some don’t know or are not comfortable with what we’re trying to implement. They grew up in a different generation so they don’t really understand this type of stuff.” 

Moreover, they both observed that ISM’s curriculum doesn’t effectively promote awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals. Diana commented that “the curriculum focuses a lot on gender but there isn’t much of LGBTQ+ representation. We don’t really learn much about the community.” Aiko is similarly concerned, as while “there have been some attempts by some teachers to introduce queer or feminist literature, it doesn’t go far and often backfires when the teacher misgenders people or they state the wrong facts.” They believe queer history should be explored because “a lot of people don’t know about it; there’s not even a glimpse into that.” For queer literature, “talk to queer people about what literature should be implemented”, was Aiko’s suggestion. 

Recently, the GSA, their supervisor Ms. Tao, and ISM administration have been trying to implement pronouns in PowerSchool to give students the ability to state their preferred pronouns without the mental burden of being misgendered. However, parental disagreements and technical difficulties have made it an uphill struggle. The ISM Admin is also trying to get gender neutral bathrooms throughout the school, as currently the only ones are in the libraries. On a national front, Aiko hopes that the government prioritizes the protection of LGBTQ+ individuals, especially for students and minors, as they are the most vulnerable in the population.

The LGBTQ+ community has continually challenged the modern societal norm of the binary gender. Locally and nationally, the community and their allies work towards a better, safer society for queer people to thrive in. To truly make this hope a reality, we at ISM should take a stand, and be proactive in ensuring its fruition.

Works Cited

“‘Just Let Us Be.’” Human Rights Watch, 11 Sept. 2017, http://www.hrw.org/report/2017/06/21/just-let-us-be/discrimination-against-lgbt-students-philippines.