Pinoy Pride Vancouver comes out in Filipino-Canadian community

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The first Filipino-Canadian gay and lesbian group in B.C. is coming out, and its pioneers hope that they will find understanding and acceptance in a community steeped in traditional values.

Pinoy Pride Vancouver will hold its launch on Friday (May 6) with a dance party in the city’s West End, the epicentre of gay and lesbian life in the Lower Mainland.

“We want them to understand that, ”˜Hey, we’re just one of the guys; we’re no different from you,’” the group’s founding cochair, Santi Pelaez, told the Georgia Straight in a weekend interview at a downtown Vancouver café.

Pelaez, an accountant, was joined by cochair Stella Reyes and core group member Gary Lising in the conversation. They talked about the challenges of being queer in an ethnic setting where Catholic beliefs and high expectations of males to marry and pass on the family name hold sway.

Lising, a retail-business manager, was only four years old when his family left the Philippines. “When they knew I had some gay, feminine attributes when I was growing up here in Canada, they really went after that, correcting those behaviours,” Lising related.

Lising has been out for 20 years, but it was only quite recently that his extended family in his native country learned about his sexual identity.

“I went back last year in May, and the biggest thing when I went back was when I told my relatives, ”˜Bakla ako [I am gay],’ ” Lising recalled. “They were really surprised. Their concept of bakla is a man who wears women’s dresses. I was redefining it to them that, ”˜No, I’m bakla, but I can be masculine and also be in upper management in whatever job I do and also be strong and sensitive.”

Reyes, who works in insurance, said she was lucky to grow up in a family of artists who held liberal views. She came out as a lesbian in high school.

“Not everyone is fortunate to have a family that’s as open as mine,” Reyes said.

UBC professor emeritus Aprodicio Laquian, a Filipino-Canadian academic who has extensively studied the community, considers the formation of Pinoy Pride Vancouver as a milestone for this growing minority group.

“Filipinos are supposedly very religious, and the Catholic religion doesn’t really accept homosexuality, and so on,” Laquian told the Straight by phone. “There is a little contradiction in the community that is focused on the church, where Filipinos are usually found in churches on Sundays, and yet those who go to mass, they follow their own conscience. And gays and lesbians, they don’t consider it [being queer] as a sin.”

PPV may have blazed the trail for other Filipino-Canadian queer groups. In B.C., there’s already a diversity of groups representing LGBT interests in the South Asian community. There’s Sher, Trikone, and Salaam Vancouver, which caters to Muslims.

The PPV pioneers recalled that they began meeting after the first participation by Filipino-Canadians in the Vancouver Pride parade, in 2010. The community float designed by a local group called MUSICA Society won the best
little-float award during that event.

Vancouver-Kensington NDP MLA Mable Elmore helped organize the community’s delegation in that parade, which included kids. The openly lesbian Filipino-Canadian politician later introduced people to each other who would eventually form Pinoy Pride Vancouver. “I came out as a lesbian when I was 20 years old, and it was a challenge,” Elmore told the Straight in a phone interview. “And that’s why I’ve always been involved in trying to advocate gay and lesbian issues.”

Proceeds from PPV’s May 6 dance party at J Lounge (1216 Bute Street; doors open at 7 p.m.) will help fund the community’s participation in this summer’s Pride parade in Vancouver.

Comments (8) Add New Comment
Elmo
The Philippines is very open to the gay community - gays and lesbians over enjoy so much freedom in being who they are. I am gay and grow up in the Philippines and my parents had always known my sexuality and were very accepting, to include my siblings. I accept and do not deny my sexuality but I do not go about flounting - I behave according to company. If with bakla, talyada ako at mahadera, if with straight group - I am a lady of finesse and act accordingly, di ba?
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suzanne Didier
Yet another example of dividing people. Are gay people from the Philippines somehow different than the rest of gay people in Canada? Why oh why do we continue to make these distinctions? When are Canadians going to be treated equally not different?
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Pinoy Pride Vancouver
One of our aims is to encourage more participation of Filipino-Canadian LGBTQs in larger community events. Part of our plan is to work on collaborative projects with wide variety of groups. Our op word here is collaborative and not divisive. We are after all, one big family.
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Gary Lising
These experiences are my experiences. Last year when i went back home to the Philippines, which was a life changing experience - I fell in love of my birth country. After I was quized and asked about my marriage status and age, my extended family immediately started finding suitable young ladies for me to meet. They could not distinguish I was gay due to my mannerism and the way I behave. After a week an a half - I got tired being introduced to beautiful single women, I had to come out to my extended family. They were surprised and commented, "we could not tell." I believe either if you're in Canada or in the Philippines some hetrosexuals still have some old stereotypes about the GLBT community. Therefore, I remind myself that I must remain grounded and understanding to those I speak to in regards of my sexuality. "God did not make junk."
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George Pick
Events like these are so important, and I would say even necessary so that everyone in this fantastic, multicultural country can feel not only welcome but like they truly belong. The Filipino gay community is doing a great service to the larger gay Asian community by proudly proclaiming that they are a large, integral part of the fabric of Canada. Well done and my most sincere and heartiest of congratulations to the organizers of this fun-filled cultural event!
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Jen Andrieshyn
I am proud of the organizers of PPV. I know how hard it is to be GLBT and come from a country known to have very strict Catholic religious beliefs. Perhaps this "coming out" of a Pinoy queer group will educate the old school Filipinos who are stuck with stereotypes and bring a sense of collective support among the Filipino gay community. I'm sure this will empower more and more Pinoy GLBT to come out and be comfortable as individuals. I remember the first time I realized I was bi and it absolutely horrified me because I KNEW how my family would react if they found out and other than the local GLBT support group at SFU at the time, I didn't know where else to go and be amongst people that share my same ethnicity and understand exactly the issues I was facing. Glad to know there is such a group now!
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RRC
Hi. How do I join the community?
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Stella Reyes
Hello, RRC! you can email us at pinoypridevan@yahoo.ca or join our Facebook Page listed as Pinoy Pride Vancouver. We have 2 big events for July, the Kaboom Dance Party on July 30th and on the 31st you are wecome to march with us as we showcase the PPV float entry for the 2011 Vancouver Pride Parade.
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