B/PROUD: A BENCH/ Pride Month Special – Part 3 of 4

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On Fiona & Erika: Tops by HerBench
Photography by Patrick Diokno
Produced by Paolo Lorenzana with assistance from Ina Jacobe
Shot on location at the Palet Express & Playground Studio

Many still consider queerness dangerous territory; its public display, beyond their comfort zone. Filipino men and women who look and act like men and women, yet couple with someone from the same gender, are perceived shameless. Their public affection is seen as transgression, as if to love was a decision to provoke and unsettle.

In parts 1 and 2 of the B/PROUD series, we showed numerous gay couples expressing their love to one another, be it through lips locked or hands held. By making these acts of love more visible through a brand embraced by the Filipino people, we hope they’ll become just as pervasive, just as welcomed.

This edition of the B/PROUD campaign continues to capture members of the LGBTQ community coming together in establishments that are part of a thriving new Manila. At Makati co-working space The Palet Express, freelancers and startups can congregate and get creative, while The Playground Studio offers alternative ways to get fit through group exercise.

Featured in these two establishments are 17 of B/BLOG’s #100HappyGays, each showing that wherever you find yourself, what’s most natural to you shouldn’t be kept in. It should be lived out.

Support the campaign and tell us what being gay means to you today. Our hashtag: #100HappyGays.

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On Fiona & Erika: Tops by HerBench

Fiona Faulkner & Erika Fernandez 

21, Environmental Science Student at ADMU // 28, Works for Beneficial Life Insurance

Fiona: “I have always associated ‘gay’ with the word ‘happy’ because it still does mean you’re happy when you’re gay. When you’re out there, you’ve got nothing to fear anymore. If people don’t accept you for who you are, then you’re not doing anything wrong – it’s the world viewing you negatively. You do you, basically.”

Erika: “Gay today is a symbol of strength. Nothing seems to be stronger than the word itself. Coming out for me is the scariest and bravest thing any gay man or woman will ever do in his or her life. Even more so in a society that doesn’t truly understand gays due to external influences like showbiz. Gays are more often than not put on a pedestal, laughed at, understood through an interpretation that is comfortable for the general public. The hardest thing is to make straight people understand that we are just like them.”

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Teks Pabuayon 

35, Creative Director at MINT College

Teks:It’s actually hard to find places that cater specifically to lesbians here in Manila. There are no lesbian bars to hang out in. What we have are exclusive parties which usually involve sexy ledge dancers. That’s okay but it’s not really my thing. 

Recently, a lesbian group called Spectrum MNL held a queer prom party for lesbians. A bit heteronormative still, but at least there are now more options for lesbians. So for me, the best way really to meet other lesbians is just to widen your network as much as possible. There’s work, there’s the friend of a friend, there’s the Facebook group you belong to, there’s the gym and so on. From experience, I’ve never met a girlfriend from any exclusive party. It was always through common friends or through my extended network.

Being a lesbian in Manila can be quite challenging and daunting. I am lucky that my company acknowledges and accepts who I am. We still have a long way to go if we will ever have equality for the LGBT, most especially lesbians. Even in the LGBT community, I feel that lesbians lack representation. There are really no strong figureheads that we can look up to. Where are the women?

I just hope that those struggling with their identity will find their strength in the community, which is why we need to represent and be visible. That’s saying, ‘We are here and you are not alone in your journey. Many others have done what you dread doing, so you can do it too.'”

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Top by HerBench

Tatum Ancheta 

32, Creative Director at Digital FCB Manila

Tatum:Personally I don’t see much of a difference in what gay is for me then and what gay is for me now because I have always been out. For others, it could mean a lot. For me, gay has always been about being proud. It’s accepting who you are, being out about it, and being okay. Because if you’re okay, nothing else matters. Being gay, it’s like playing music, and even if it’s imperfect and not everybody hears it, it’s still music.” 

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On DEUCE MANILA’s Patty & Kat: Tops by HerBench

Patty Tiu & Kat De Jesus of DEUCE MANILA 

23 & 24, Club DJ Duo

Patty: “I think every individual has their own description of what gay is but for the two of us, it’s being different and not conforming to a standard. Being gay is also being Deuce Manila, being ourselves, trying to make it in the industry and trying to survive. We’re not just playing what’s heard on the radio but it’s still for everyone.”

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T-shirt by BENCH

Gabi Perez

23, Copywriter & Artist

Gabi: “It’s just a label rather than a stigma or rather than something to look down upon. If you see sexuality, it’s in a spectrum. And you know sexuality is very fluid. Straight guys can be a little bit more feminine, girls can be a little bit more masculine. It’s very liberating because there’s no set standard for being gay anymore.  You can be buff and you can go for guys. You can be buff and you can be a bottom. You can be a twink and you can be a top. You know, it’s all about self-expression and self-exploration and discovery of who you are in terms of your sexuality.

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T-shirt by BENCH

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Howie de Ocampo

26, Product Manager

Howie: “Even if I shouldn’t, and we’ve been together for over two years, I still flinch just a little whenever I have to tell people that we met on Grindr. It isn’t exactly the best start to a great love story. But it just so happens to be the start of ours. And I think it worked for us since our whole relationship unfolded so organically. No expectations. No fancy first date. No initial hopes of anything real. The first night that we met, we were just who we were. And for gay men, I think being real is something that we should strive to be, and something I myself continue to work on. We aren’t straight, so we don’t have to live by their rules. We don’t need to meet our prospective partners through common friends or a chance encounter in some sappy, cutesy setting. We don’t have to have a masculine and feminine role in the relationship. We don’t have to get married and have kids just because it’s the ‘correct next step.’ We define who we are and that extends to our relationships because we are who we are. Love is love. That is that.” 

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On Juliette & Jeanine: T-shirts by HerBench

Juliette Boa & Jeanine Gonzales 

19, Soleslam Store Manager // 18, Film Student

Juliette & Jeanine: “As long as we’re happy together, the opinion of others doesn’t matter to us.”

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On Pau: Jacket & t-shirt by BENCH I On Michelle & Steff: T-shirts by BENCH

Pau Villanueva, Michelle Dee, and Steff Legaspi

20, Visual Communication Student at UP Diliman // 18, BS Biology Student at DLSU // 18, Landscape Architecture Student at UP Diliman

Michelle:I think gay for me is not a choice. People are born gay. I don’t think sexual preference or how you look should define who you are.” 

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Chang Casal & Sarah Buendia 

20 & 22, Filmmakers

Chang: “We’ve been together almost a year. For some reason, both of us came out for each other. Long story but it ended up that I came out first to my parents because they were starting to notice that we were spending so much time together. They took it well naman. In high school, Sarah’s mom didn’t like the fact that she was going out with girls. When she got together with me, she decided to finally come out to her mom. Her mom took it well, too. It wasn’t hard for us to come out and be together out in public. What’s difficult is that there’s still a lot of people who, when we’re out in public, give us weird looks. Judgmental stares, like, ‘What are you doing? What’s happening?’

Even though people aren’t really confrontational, you can feel that a lot of people are still against it. We’re very affectionate in public kasi we don’t want to hide it. We’re not ashamed of being gay. We want to be the type of people who would start making it okay for other people to see gay couples together. The more that you see gay couples together, the more you get used to it.”

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Jacket & tank by BENCH

Lourd Ramos

34 // Hairstylist, Makeup Artist, and Owner of Creations Salon

Lourd:Gay for me is doing what you want, what you like, what you envision your goal is. It’s just that you’re responsible for everything that you’re doing. And being gay makes me happy. And I become happier when I make people happy, and being happy makes me beautiful.” 

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Shirt by BENCH

Laurel Fantauzzo 

Ateneo Professor & Palanca Awardee for Nonfiction

Laurel: “Gay has a multiplicity of meanings  – it depends who’s wielding the work. In places like Uganda, Mississippi in the States, and certain parts and provinces here in the country, gay can be a death sentence and an insult. In my own personal life, gay is something very free and identifying. It helps me find community when people use it as a compliment or an inclusive identifier. Gay is a very adaptable term sadly, right now in our modern world. But I’m hoping eventually the definition would be descriptive and positive and not so dangerous for us.

B/PROUD: A BENCH/ Pride Month Special – Part 4 of 4
B/ PROUD: A BENCH/ Pride Month Special – Part 2 of 4
  • ikaklit

    i wish u had included/would include prof bernadette neri, gender office director at up diliman. she’s a superb writer – writing short stories, childen’s stories, and essays on lgbt issues. her palanca winning children’s story, ang ikaklit sa aming hardin, is a groundbreaking piece of literature as it is the first children’s storybook in the mainstream that tackled a lesbian couple’s aspirations to build a family. where else should acceptance start and nurtured but in our very homes, right? the book was painstakingly self-published after being turned down by several printing houses for its daring theme. only 30 years old, there’s more we can expect of prof neri to raise consciousness on lgbt issues.

  • True_Catholic

    I wish you had included persons who came out of homosexuality, such as Ansel Beluso and Vins Santiago, or those persons who may still experience same sex attractions but do not espouse LGBT ideologies.

    Bench has to realize that when they promote these billboards on space, they will lose persons who do not espouse LGBT ideologies. I am giving talks on chastity education, and I will definitely promote boycott of Bench products.

    • B Chief

      We forgive you. We love you. Good luck with your endeavors.

      • True_Catholic

        And also with you.
        May you open your eyes to the biased advertising you are making in favor of LGBT ideology – the gay agenda.
        May God hold you accountable for the number of young people that you mislead with the kind of hedonistic and egotistical billboards you put up.

  • True_Catholic

    Do you really embrace diversity?

    Watch this compelling video of persons who seeks to align their feelings with their beliefs.

    http://vimeo.com/93079367

  • Laurel Fantauzzo

    While I will not engage this or any anti-gay poster here directly, I want to point out that the religious rhetoric against LGBTQ identity inflicts real violence. I have written about this before and just want to offer these resources for anyone struggling with the agendas and damaging ideologies pushed by religions.

    http://laurelfantauzzo.com/post/85407645144/responding-to-anti-gay-religious-discrimination

    http://grantland.com/features/an-open-letter-manny-pacquiao-gay-filipina-american-concerning-champion-boxer-recent-comments-gay-marriage/

    http://laurelfantauzzo.com/post/76306226341/letter-from-a-catholic-high-school-classmate-who-said

    http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/299095/opinion/to-filipino-parents-tempted-to-change-their-gay-children

    • True_Catholic

      Just to balance things presented:

      “What gets lost in the debate over homosexual “rights” is the fact that active homosexuality involves specific sexual behaviors that come with a higher risk of bodily harm and disease. While homosexuals engage in a wide range of sexual activities, certain behaviors are common to men who have sex with men (MSM) and to lesbians.”

      http://www.ncfamily.org/FNC/0707S3.html

      ******************************

      “Sexual relationships between members of the same sex, however, expose gays, lesbians and bisexuals to extreme risks of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), physical injuries, mental disorders and even a shortened life span”

      http://factsaboutyouth.com/posts/health-risks-of-the-homosexual-lifestyle/

      ******************************

      “Men who have sex with men accounted for 63% of the estimate new HIV infections in 2010.”

      http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/

      ******************************

      “Astonishingly, these activists admit what we have been saying for years, that “gay/bisexual men have a life expectancy 20 years less than the average man” in Canada. Even the life expectancy of lesbians, though not as severely impacted, “is still lower than the life expectancy of the general population.”

      Suicide rates, they admit, are anywhere from double to 13.9 times higher than the general population. By their own estimates, homosexuals comprise 30% of all suicides in Canada.

      They admit that smoking rates among gays are up to three times higher, alcohol use up to seven times higher, and illicit drug use up to 19 times higher than the general population.

      They themselves openly acknowledge that 76.1% of all AIDS cases since statistics were first kept occur in gay and bisexual men, and further acknowledge that the infection rate is up to 26 times higher than among the population as a whole.

      When it comes to cancer of various types, they candidly admit that “gay men, lesbians and bisexual men and women are at higher risk for some cancers as a result of their sexual orientation (emphasis added).” Smoking and alcohol use puts them at elevated risk of lung and liver cancer, while their sexual activity increases their risk of anal cancer and cancers of the head, throat and neck through frequent exposure to HPV, the human papilloma virus.

      If there was ever a clarion call for our entire society to say with one united voice that homosexual behavior is a danger to health and should be discouraged at all costs, this is it. We’ve found one voice as a society with regard to drug use and drunk driving; it’s time we find it with regard to homosexual behavior.”

      http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/fischer/090313