Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older people in the Philippines have often survived a lifetime of poverty, family rejection, and discrimination, abuses that are compounded as they age. Many of their life stories center around fear and not knowing where to turn when in crisis: biological families are unreliable sources of support, rainbow networks are under-resourced and overextended, and seeking government assistance is daunting when there have been past experiences of ridicule and rejection based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
EnGendeRights Philippines and Outright International have produced a first-of-its-kind collection of stories by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older persons living in the Philippines. Golden Rainbow: Stories of Pain, Grit, Duty and Love of Filipino Older LGBT People shows common trends that one cannot turn away from, including being impoverished from a young age due to material scarcity, growing up in families that were the primary source of abuse instead of comfort and refuge, being forced to leave home and drop out of school in adolescence, being underprepared for employment in the formal labor market, and then navigating aging issues after a lifespan of discrimination. The stories depict constant struggles to earn a livable income, navigate the challenges of the COVID pandemic, and meet financial and caregiving obligations to biological and chosen families.
The story titles in Golden Rainbow are uplifting and hopeful, such as "Life is a rainbow of love and hope," "Be a beauty queen in thought, word, and deed," and “Let us paint the world with goodness, joy, and love," and "I am golden, never too late to dream and inspire others.” Likewise, the photographs in the book show the movement of time in the lives of the storytellers, from the past to the present moment. The narratives themselves are micro views of persisting macro problems, not only for aging LGBT people but also for LGBT communities in general in the Philippines.
In Asia, old age is endowed in the cultural imagination with respect, authority, and being cared for by family. In reality, there is more likely neglect, especially for marginalized groups with little or no access to aging resources and supports, limited or no protections from age discrimination and elder abuse, unaffordable healthcare, and reduced capacity for handling social and economic exclusion.
The anthology of stories is not despairing. In their reflections on growing old, storytellers critique their misjudgments and "roads not taken" with the wisdom of hindsight, not harshness. The common thread in the self-reflections for many storytellers in Golden Rainbow, is financial precarity. However, the book does not attribute individual blame. Instead, the stories drive home the harmful impacts of long-term discrimination on the lives of older LGBT people in the Philippines.
Golden Rainbow: Stories of Pain, Grit, Duty and Love of Filipino Older LGBT People is part of a three-year LGBT Elders Advancing Project that Outright coordinates in the Philippines and Nepal in collaboration with SAGE USA.
For more about the project, see: