Sino ang bet mo?
It was a question directed at the staff of the Institute for Labor Studies (ILS) as they started to undergo a brief learning session on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) on May 25, 2015.
As though they were candidates in a pageant anticipating the nerve-wracking Q&A portion, some answered “family,” “men,” “R…,” “women with brains,” “Ian Veneracion” and “myself,” but mostly with little hint yet as to why the question had been asked in the first place.
“When we talk about sino ang gusto mo, sino ang like mo, sino ang love mo, it’s a question of desire. And desire is not something that’s bad as most people would tell us,” said Commissioner Perci Cendaña of the National Youth Commission (NYC), who facilitated the SOGIE session during the ILS Seminar-Workshop on Gender Sensitivity for Public Servants held on May 25 and 26.
“Sexual orientation is mediated by desire—our capacity for intense, profound, hugot, kilig, feelings for another person or for many people. They can either be members of the same sex or members of the opposite sex or, in some cases, members of both sexes” the NYC official added.
SOGIE means recognizing and respecting the right of every person to be himself or herself regardless if that being himself or herself may not correspond to the biological body.
SOGIE-LGBT inclusion in gender discourse, mainstreaming
The session on SOGIE-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) was a step taken by ILS in its efforts to further mainstream gender issues and concerns not just in policy and research priorities but also in workplace relations.
“For the longest time now, gender discourse and mainstreaming among government agencies have been largely limited to the issues of women and men—that is the cisgender. But we know all too well that there is such an ‘alphabet’ of other gender identities which must also be included in the whole process,” said Kim Pacete, chairwoman of the ILS Gender and Development (GAD) Committee.
“LGBT community has long been in the shadow of discussions on how best to implement the gender mainstreaming mandate in all public offices. This SOGIE activity, though brief, is definitely a proactive step toward fully realizing that mandate,” she added.
The GAD committee organized the training pursuant to the mandate of all government agencies for gender mainstreaming as a strategy to implement Republic Act No. 9710 or An Act Providing for the Magna Carta of Women. With the support of the management, Ronell Delerio proposed to integrate SOGIE-LGBT dimensions in gender mainstreaming efforts of ILS even in the absence of a policy or legal basis.
Building gender-sensitive public servants
The overall training was also conducted in recognition of the leading role that government employees and officials should play in delivering public services without discrimination against a certain sector of society on the basis of gender identity.
“Public servants must take the lead in levelling the playing field for all Filipinos—and all workers for that matter—regardless of gender and other bases of identity, to freely and equitably benefit from political and socio-economic development gains of the country,” said Atty. Stephanie Tabladillo, deputy executive director of ILS, in her closing remarks.
The seminar-workshop provided an opportunity for the ILS employees to surface personal and workplace gender-related issues and to propose ways forward to address them. Through participatory approach, it also served as a springboard for other gender-related initiatives relevant and responsive to the needs of ILS staff.
University of the Philippines Center for Women Studies Foundation, Inc. (UPCWSFI) training staff Maya Tamayo, Wanet Lacsamana and Gina Chan were tapped as main facilitators of the gender sensitivity training. Executive Director Meggan Evangelista of Babaylanes, Inc. also facilitated the training with a short discussion about transgender.