There’s an ‘Echo’ Reverbing for LGBTIQ human rights in Quezon City

With the placement of a big rainbow-decorated sticker on the outside of the building, it becomes official: the barangay is now LGBTIQ friendly.

Since 2017, the barangays, or the small administrative districts of Quezon City in the Philippines, have been receiving training on how to provide appropriate, respectful, and sensitive assistance to LGBTIQ people who are victims of domestic or family violence.

The success of increasing LGBTIQ friendly communities is thanks to the efforts of Ging Cristobal, Project Coordinator for Asia and the Pacific of OutRight Action International. A long-time lesbian feminist activist, Ging has been working with EnGendeRights, a feminist legal NGO that seeks to empower and achieve equality for women, to conduct the trainer’s training and echo seminars to Barangay service providers.

The name is fitting, as it signifies the reverberation of a powerful first step, and many of the results of Ging’s work are evidence of that ripple effect. The rainbow stickers, emblematic of a successful training seminar, being one of them.

Since beginning the seminars in 2017, six trainers trainings and 65 echo trainings have been held in 72 barangays. Under supervision from Ging’s team, sexual orientation, sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity (SOGIE) inclusive treatment and service is passed to other barangay staff members that builds a community sensitive to SOGIE issues and concerns.

While the echo seminars can be classified as the source of a chain of reactionary change, they can also fall under the effects of the ripple created by the passing of Quezon City’s Gender Fair Ordinance in November 2014. The landmark legislation established protections and anti-discriminatory guidelines to protect the LGBTIQ community in Quezon City. Ging’s work throughout the city’s barangays is a manifestation of the ordinance in action.

The hope with the echo seminars is that the effects of the trainings will resonate for far longer than their initial introductions. Because when the trainings end, the certificates have been handed out, and the rainbow stickers are placed, how do we ensure that the effects last? How are behaviors changed so that the appropriate, respectful, and sensitive assistance needed for LGBTIQ victims of domestic/family violence is not only given but maintained?

Ging comments on what makes these trainings resound within the community and how these effects can be long-lasting, saying:

“What made the work of OutRight and EnGendeRights in the barangays unique and impactful is its continuous commitment to go beyond just providing information to barangay service providers. There was a conscious effort to provide a space for introspection for the participants regarding their attitudes and behaviors toward LGBTIQ persons along with a space to to make necessary change and commitment to be better and more equipped barangay service providers.

What is also unique about this project is that after the trainings, monitoring of the barangays include providing technical assistance and onsite engagement with the service providers to monitor the impact and effect of the training to the kind of service provided to LGBTIQ persons. One of the stories on proper handling and sensitized intervention of LGBTIQ complaints happened during the intervention and counseling provided to lesbian sisters who were brought to the barangays because of a domestic violence complaint. The Barangay service provider was able to pacify and help resolve the conflict between the two lesbian sisters and intimated that because of the training they received, they were able to handle the case with confidence, using appropriate terms and with a more open mind and heart.

While change in laws is important in improving protection towards LGBTI persons, educating and making people see the humanity of LGBTI persons is more crucial to ensure that communities are extending respect not out of compliance but because they believe that LGBTI persons deserve the same respect of that of any person in the community.”

Quezon City is the first of the many cities and there are many more that needs these efforts.

Let’s spread these efforts beyond Quezon City. Beyond the Philippines. To place rainbow stickers outside of our communities and make it official: the world can be LGBTIQ inclusive.