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LGBT culture in the Philippines

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LGBT culture in the Philippines

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the Philippines have a distinctive culture but limited legal rights. Gays and lesbians are generally tolerated, if not accepted, within Filipino society, but there is still widespread discrimination. The most visible members of the Filipino LGBT culture, the Bakla, are a distinct group in the Philippines.

According to the 2002 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Survey, 11% of sexually active Filipinos between the ages of 15 and 24 have had sex with someone of the same sex.[1]

Filipino poet and critic Lilia Quindoza Santiago has speculated that Filipino culture may have a more flexible concept of gender because kasarian, the Tagalog word for "gender", is defined in less binary terms than the English word gender.[2] Kasarian means "kind, species, or genus".[3]


  • Nomenclature 1
  • Rights 2
  • Linguistics 3
  • Politics 4
  • Advocacy 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


A bakla and bar rabanzo is a man who displays feminine mannerisms, dresses as a woman, or identifies as a woman. The term itself is not the equivalent of the English term "gay",[4] but bakla are the most culturally visible subset of gay men in the Philippines. They are often considered a third gender, embodying femaleness (pagkababae) in a male body.[5][6] The term bakla is sometimes used in a derogatory sense, although bakla people have largely embraced it.

Bakla individuals are socially and economically integrated into Filipino society and are considered an important part of society. The stereotype of a bakla is a parlorista, a cross-dresser who works in a salon.[7] Miss Gay Philippines is a beauty pageant for bakla.

In the Philippines, the term gay is used in reference to any LGBT person. For Filipino gays, the Tagalog phrase paglaladlad ng kapa ("unfurling the cape"), or more commonly just paglaladlad ("unfurling" or "unveiling") refers to the coming-out process. Tibo, T-Bird and tomboy are derogatory terms for butch lesbians just as bakla is for effeminate gay men. Some lesbians, both butch and femme, use the terms magic or shunggril to refer to themselves.[4] Neutral slang terms for gay men include billy boy, badette, bading, and paminta (masculine gay man).

While many of these terms are generally considered derogatory, they are sometimes used casually or jokingly within the Filipino gay and lesbian community. For example, gay men often refer to their gay friends as bakla or baklatutay when talking to each other.


Although legislation supporting same-sex marriage in the Philippines has been proposed several times to the Philippine legislature, none has ever been passed.[8]

The Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC) disqualified the Filipino LGBT political party Ang Ladlad from running in the 2007 general election when COMELEC concluded that Ang Ladlad did not have nationwide membership.[9] COMELEC again refused Ang Ladlad's petition for permission to run in the 2010 elections, this time on grounds of "immorality".[10] However, on 8 April 2010 the Supreme Court of the Philippines overturned the decision of COMELEC and allowed Ang Ladlad to participate in the May 2010 elections.[11]

The Philippines has recently been ranked as one of the most gay-friendly nations in the world, and the most gay-friendly in Asia. On a global survey covering 39 countries, only 17 of which had majorities accepting homosexuality, the Philippines ranking as the 10th most gay-friendly. The survey titled “The Global Divide on Homosexuality” conducted by the US-based Pew Research Center showed that 73 percent of adult Filipinos agreed with the statement that “homosexuality should be accepted by society,” up by nine percentage points from 64 percent in 2002.[12]


Swardspeak, or "gay lingo", is a cant slang derived from Englog (a Tagalog-English pidgin) and is used by a number of homosexuals in the Philippines.[13] Swardspeak uses elements from Tagalog, English, Spanish and Japanese, as well as celebrities' names and trademark brands, giving them new meanings in different contexts.[14] It is largely localized within gay communities and uses words derived from local languages or dialects, including Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Bicolano, and/or other Philippine dialects.

The use of Swardspeak once immediately identified the speaker as homosexual, making it easy for people of that orientation to recognize each other. This created an exclusive group among its speakers and helped them resist cultural assimilation. More recently, though, straight people have also started to use this way of speaking, particularly in industries dominated by gays, such as the fashion and film industries.


LGBT Politics: In the Philippines, the Communist Party of the Philippines Marxist–Leninist and Maoist revolutionary proletarian party in the Philippines are the one and first to introduce and promote the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. They recognize the LGBT as part of the bulk of the masses that can encourage and recruit for their revolutionary work. The revolutionary leader admitted that in their rank. The wide spread of sexual intercourse within their rank and same sex that brought their party principle to set a guideline for those belong with the LGBT's. They also allow to married their fellow same sex revolutionary party member as long it will not affect their revolutionary task in the party organization. Document of the CPP-MLM guideline "Gabay Para sa Rebolusyunaryong Pakikipagrelasyon at Pagpapakasal".

There is an intersection between the ivory trade and Filipino gay men in particular.[15]

In the Philippines, there are no existing laws pertaining to same-sex marriage or unions. There are no laws legalizing nor calling it illegal. It has simply gone ignored. [3]

Same sex marriage is taking gaining some ground in Southeast Asia. In Thailand, the initiative is led by a Democrat parliamentarian, Wiratana Kalayasiri. She drafted a bill that would legalize same sex marriage. The argument being made for this bill is that in 1957, a law was passed to decriminalize sexual assault, rape, etc. An incentive for Thailand is to be the first Asian country to recognize and legalize same-sex marriage. Because of conservative parliaments, assessing LGBT rights is difficult. The intention of the LGBT community is to have a stand in the government and gain the support from policymakers and legislators to obtain and have better political influence.

Another instrumental LGBT group in the Philippines named Ang Ladlad, was able to be recognized by the government and participated in party elections which was a milestone for the Philippines. Here is a party whose founding leaders, members, and core constituency belong to the LGBT community. [4]

Unlike the Philippines, Singapore has made little strides to support LGBT members and their platform. The country has kept in place the infamous Section 377A of the Penal Code which criminalizes sex between members of the same sex, specifically between men.

As a huge slight to the LGBT in the Philippines and Southeastern Asia in general, Thailand's draft of same-sex marriage was denied by members of the parliament, homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, and the Ang Ladlad Party failed to get enough votes to win a seat in the Philippine Congress. Vietnam has not been ruled out when it comes to supporting the LGBT community. They have not out right spoken in support of it but have also not denied it. ***


  • GATAS Gays of talomo association of DAVAO CITY
  • University of Southeastern Philippines. Established in 2013
  • Barangay Los Angeles: Barangay Los Angeles, or Barangay LA, is the oldest, most established Filipino LGBT organization in the United States currently serving the Los Angeles Filipino LGBTQ community.
  • Polytechnic University of the Philippines
  • University of the Philippines Diliman (Metro Manila)
  • Doll House: group for open-minded individuals based in the Ateneo de Manila University
  • ProGay: gay rights organization (Metro Manila)
  • Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network (LAGABLAB)
  • Can’t Live in the Closet: lesbian activist group (Metro Manila)
  • Lesbian Advocates Philippines (LeAP) (Metro Manila)
  • Lunduyan ng Sining ("Sanctuary of Art"): registered lesbian arts organization providing a venue for lesbians to showcase their art; it has produced a lesbian literary and art folio entitled What These Hands Can Do and regularly holds monthly music, film or art performances at Mag:net Katipunan, Quezon City
  • IWAG: gay social support group (Davao City)
  • Northern Samar LGBT Community (NSLGBT): (Northern Samar)
  • GAHUM: gay support and advocacy (Cebu City)
  • Rainbow Rights (R-Rights) Philippines : (formerly the Rainbow Rights Project) is a non-profit and non-partisan non-governmental organization that works to create an environment that genuinely upholds human rights for all and ensures equal opportunities for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression (SOGIE).
  • Society of Transsexual WOMEN of the Philippines (STRAP) (Metro Manila)
  • PinoyFTM: Founded in July 2011, the first organization for transsexual and transgender men in the Philippines. PinoyFTM is based in Metro Manila but has members from all over the country.
  • Order of St. Aelred: spiritual gay center (Metro Manila)
  • AKOD: gay support group (Davao Oriental State College of Science and Technology)
  • Gorgeous and Young (GAY): gay support group
  • Philippine Forum on Sports, Culture, Sexuality and Human Rights (TEAM PILIPINAS): promoting human rights, sexual and gender diversity and equality through sports, culture and recreation (Philippines and global)
  • University of the Philippines Los Baños; promotes gender equality within the university, among the student body, and beyond; holds activities such as Pink Flicks (a film festival showing movies which revolve around gender issues), symposia, educational discussions and tie-ups with other LGBT organizations
  • Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines: Founded in 1999, TFP is the official convener of the annual community-driven Metro Manila Pride season. This volunteer-managed, non-partisan, and not-for-profit network of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups, individuals, and allies works towards a future that recognizes and respects both the diverse expressions of responsible sexuality and the rights of LGBT persons to a dignified life without discrimination and prejudice.
  • Pinoy Pride Vancouver (PPV): Filipino-Canadian LGBTQ group aims to increase visibility, raise awareness & acceptance and to provide a safe & respectful space for its members, family, friends and allies (Vancouver, BC)
  • LGBTS Christian Church is a family-oriented, progressive, ecumenical community of faith of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight people in Quezon City.
  • The Knightingales - (Davao City) - an awareness group, a non-profit organization that aims to uphold the LGBT rights especially the gay rights. This group is a no-nonsense group for the members themselves is educated in an exclusive school in Davao City. Although the organization is not recognized by the institution, it still gained campus(and to other universities in Davao) popularity because of the organization’s yearly pageant, Miss Gay University, that aims to crown a beauty with purpose. It was established as an organization to consolidate the gay and lesbian community in a prestigious university for the effective advocacy of gay rights both in the University and in the local sphere. Founded in 2001, Knightingales is 'sui generis' - of its own kind/genus –in the history of the prime university in Mindanao. Its membership is composed of respected and well-educated lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students, alumni and faculty supported by the entire academic community.
  • Quezon City Pride Council (QCPC) - Quezon City - is a pioneering initiative of the Quezon City local government and the first of its kind in the country. It is a Council created for the purpose of enforcing LGBT rights and gender-based policies and programs for all LGBT in Quezon City. It was constituted to oversee the integration of all city programs and projects for the LGBTs (lesbian, gays, bisexual, transgender) community. Created by the Mayor Herbert Bautista through an office order, it was formally launched March 25, 2013 to highlight the city government’s continuing support for the implementation and enforcement of gender-based policies, programs and activities.
  • Equality Philippines (EqualityPH) - It is a non-stock, non-profit organization created to promote and safeguard the rights of LGBT members and its allies in the country, articulate the concerns of LGBT and influence policy and development affecting its Filipino members through social engagement.
  • True Colors Coalition (TCC) - A political LGBT organization that aims to continue the LGBT community's struggle for equality, acceptance, and freedom through organizing, educating, and mobilizing the LGBT people and allies/supporters as well as campaigning to stop all forms of discrimination. True Colors Coalition aims to educate the LGBTs that in joining the struggle of the whole oppressed people is the only way to achieve the true essence of equality, acceptance, and freedom. TCC is a member organization of Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KILUSAN).


  1. ^ "Survey shows young Filipinos are opening up homosexual activities" (PDF). 23 July 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 April 2005. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  2. ^ Garcia, J. Nelia C. (2000). "Performativity, the bakla and the orienting gaze". Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 1 (2): 265–281.  
  3. ^ “Kasarian.” Tagalog-English Dictionary. 2nd. ed. 1986.
  4. ^ a b Garcia, J. Neil C. (2008). Philippine gay culture: binabae to bakla, silahis to MSM. University of the Philippines Press.  
  5. ^ Aggleton, Peter (1999). Men who sell sex: international perspectives on male prostitution and HIV/AIDS. Temple University Press. p. 246.  
  6. ^ Casabal, Norberto V (2008). "Gay Language: Defying the Structural Limits of English Language in the Philippines". Kritika Kultura (11): 89–120.  
  7. ^ Benedicto, Bobby (2008). "The Haunting of Gay Manila: Global Space-Time and the specter of Kabaklaan". GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 14 (2-3): 317–338.  
  8. ^ LeiLani Dowell (17 February 2005). "New Peoples Army recognizes same-sex marriage". Workers World Party. Retrieved 17 November 2008. 
  9. ^ Aning, Jerome (1 March 2007). "Gay party-list group Ladlad out of the race".  
  10. ^ "CHR backs Ang Ladlad in Comelec row". ABS-CBN News. 15 November 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2009. 
  11. ^ "SC allows Ang Ladlad to join May poll". ABS-CBN News. 8 April 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2011. 
  12. ^ Tubeza, Philip C (8 June 2013). "PH ranks among most gay-friendly in the world". Retrieved 22 October 2014. 
  13. ^ Empress Maruja (27 July 2007). "Deciphering Filipino Gay Lingo". United SEA. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  14. ^ Jessica Salao (30 April 2010). "Gayspeak: Not for gays only". The Philippine Online Chronicles. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  15. ^ Bryan Christy (1 October 2012). "Ivory Worship". The National Geographic Society. Retrieved 2 July 2014. 

External links

  • Barangay Los Angeles - Filipino LGBT organization in Los Angeles.
  • Outrage Magazine - publication for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and ally (GLBTQIA) communities in the Philippines.
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