MANILA -- LESBIAN, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Filipinos already face major life challenges because of social discrimination, homophobia or transphobia. But imagine if you are not only a member of the LGBT community, but also have one or more disabilities such as blindness, deafness, or speech impairment?
This question was explored among the community of deaf LGBTs and human rights activists today in the human rights learning forum dubbed "Deaf Talks: A Forum for Deaf LGBTs on Human Rights and HIV." The Rainbow Rights Project (R-Rights) and the Commission on Human Rights led the sessions for the benefit of the Deaf Rainbow Philippines (DRP), a newly formed organization of Filipino LGBTs with hearing and speech impairments.
Deaf Talks is the third event launched by R-Rights for the project called Outgames Philippines 2012: Leveling the Playing Field, a sports and human rights festival that highlights the aspirations of the neglected LGBT sectors, the "marginalized within the marginalized." The other two accomplished events are a sports tournament among low income transgenders in Caloocan City and a scuba training for gays and lesbians in Batangas.
Bibo Lee Perey, founder and president of the DRP, shared the stories of living with hearing loss and how this compounds and at the same time challenges individual group members to help each other out overcome multiple layers of discrimination.
Speaking through a sign language interpreter, Perey said the most overwhelming problem is the lack of jobs and employment for LGBT deaf persons, which in turn breeds many complex problems.
"With no job, no money. Then difficult to find partner. Even on Facebook, gay men with normal hearing ridicule us. Because of broken grammar," Perey explained.
A deaf lesbian participant complained that even in simple joys in life they are discriminated against. She said that they want to play street basketball but they are driven away by other women who consider them abnormal.
CHR executive director Atty Jake Mejia welcomed some thirty participants to a whole day capacity building on international human rights mechanisms and services that can strengthen the deaf LGBTs' ability to defend their own rights. Dr. Renante Basas, CHR Director for Assistance and Visitorial Office, provided a basic primer on the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its manifestation in Philippine law.
David Michael, editor of the Outrage Magazine, has been helping the Deaf Rainbow group since it was founded two years ago. Michael noted that one of the effects of marginalization is the lack of appropriate information materials among health advocates to train the deaf LGBTs to practice preventive measures against HIV and sexually transmitted infections.
"We organized Deaf Talks as our contribution to the deaf LGBTs so that hopefully they learn about human rights laws and use this knowledge to advance and protect their human rights both as LGBTs and as persons with disabilities. We should work with them as equal partners in developing society and not treat them as helpless recipients of assistance from others," said Germaine Trittle Leonin, founding president of R-Rights.
According to R-Rights program manager Oscar Atadero, the Outgames sports and human rights activities aim to provide some safe space for disadvantaged sectors of the LGBT community. The activities use fun and sports to show the participants ways to access services and justice mechanisms that are out of their reach.
The 2nd Asia Pacific Outgames were held Wellington, New Zealand in March 2011 and featured sports events, a human rights conference and cultural events for LGBT leaders from all over Asia, the Pacific and Australia. The Outgames created a fund to help LGBT organizations in the region such as R-Rights to create local Outgames events to promote their human rights advocacies.
The Outgames was launched in Montreal, Canada in 2007, inspiring regional sports and political conferences for LGBTs in many cities of the world.