By Brontë H. Lacsamana, Reporter
Stories that feature Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning (LGBTQ+) themes now occupy a sizable chunk of mainstream Filipino media, according to Darwin D. Mariano, founder of digital event solutions company Ticket2Me and producer of a boys’ love (BL) series called Boys’ Lockdown.
“I think it’s important to show the [LGBTQ+] community and the country that these kinds of stories can be successful but also to be able to show kids … that you know what, there are stories like these and it’s okay to be different,” he said at a Pride event hosted by Google Philippines on June 21.
Cristina Elise A. del Rosario, head of design for fintech company First Circle, added that there are now so many queer content creators to be seen in social media alone.
“The great thing that tech has done for us is to really connect us all and let us know that we’re not alone. Social media has given a great platform to share our stories,” she said.
FROM VISIBILITY TO ACCEPTANCE
It’s one thing for a diverse LGBTQ+ population to be more visible, but it’s another to make its members feel more included and equal.
For Mark Lester C. Lacsamana, user interface (UI) design lead of talent recruitment software PageUp, it’s all about setting off a chain reaction so that more and more people will be inspired to cultivate a more accepting workplace.
“I didn’t realize that being as authentic as I am could change much when it comes to people. That’s why I continue to do that,” he said at Google’s event. “Beyond that, I always try to remind people that, no, gay and queer people have always been here.”
The tech space, with its emphasis on innovation and the future, should become a place where forward-looking standards of inclusion are set, the panelists agreed.
Policies are one way to ensure this, according to Rafael Arturo “Raffy” S. Fajardo, president and general manager of Procter & Gamble (P&G) Philippines.
“We value diversity and I think many companies say that, but maybe the deeper twist I want to talk about here is that it takes [appreciating] individualism,” he said at a June 20 media roundtable on workplace equality and inclusion.
Last year, P&G Philippines was named a champion for the gender inclusive workplace category in the United Nations’ 2021 Women’s Empowerment Principles Awards.
One of its programs that showed inclusivity is affinity group GABLE (meaning Gay, Ally, Bisexual, Lesbian, and Transgender Employees), which connects LGBTQ+ employees. Most lauded was the company’s “Share the Care” policy that grants new parents eight weeks of fully paid leave, regardless of gender, identity, orientation, or marriage status.
“This is available to all P&G employees. Male or female, LGBTQ+, adoptive or biological parents, single or married — it doesn’t discriminate,” said Anna Legarda-Locsin, P&G Philippines’ communications director, at the roundtable.
Mr. Fajardo added that, despite all progress, no workplace is perfect: “Gender continues to be a bias, even on the LGBTQ front … We find it because we have conversations with employees [and it] comes out, whether from those with biases or those affected by it.”
He shared that since bias is something people grow up with, removing it requires work — from team meetings and morning sessions on equality and inclusion to LGBTQ+ employees themselves coaching leadership teams about pronouns and the like.
Biases remain even at the top of global institutions, according to Chantale Y. Wong, the first lesbian ambassador in United States history. As the appointed US director to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), she’s also the only female board member.
“I am hopeful that there will be others joining me soon. It is very lonely always being one of a kind,” she said in her keynote speech at the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines’ general membership meeting on June 15.
“I have this role and I carry this extra burden of ensuring that gender equity and social inclusion is a part of every dollar that we provide,” said Ms. Wong, adding that having more LGBTQ+ people of color in high positions can greatly improve society.
She also warned that representation for the sake of it is not real inclusion, something she was wary of when the news broke about her appointment as ambassador.
Similarly, Mr. Fajardo of P&G explained that even though gender quotas can be a good barometer for whether there is equality or not, hard targets can’t be the only basis.
“Everyone is equally capable of rising, but sometimes there are trip wires that you don’t even know existed for some people,” he said. “It’s about looking back [and thinking], are we really healthy in the organization? Maybe there’s still trip wires we need to remove.”