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Pride and prejudice: LGBTQIA+ representation matters

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June is Pride Month, and the Philippines owns the distinction of having Southeast Asia’s largest Pride festival, Metro Manila Pride, which this year will be a virtual march and festival at 7 PM on June 26.

Since 2016, the volunteer-managed, non-partisan, not-for-profit organization Metro Manila Pride has been holding an annual, open-access Pride event that is both a celebration and a mass protest, with this year’s theme being “SULONG, VAKLASH! Sama-samang Pag-aklas Ang Ating Lunas”. In a predominantly Roman Catholic country like the Philippines, it is heartening to see more and more Filipinos fighting for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, and reclaiming the legacy of gender equality and inclusivity of our pre-colonial, pre-Christian past and the gender-fluid societies of our ancestors.

Generation LGBTQIA+

June is Pride Month, and the Philippines owns the distinction of having Southeast Asia’s largest Pride festival, Metro Manila Pride (MMP), which this year will be a virtual march and festival at 7 PM on June 26. Image credit: Metro Manila Pride
Image credit: Metro Manila Pride

The struggle to protect the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community and fight against prejudice and religious bigotry is one that is taking place all over the world. One of the most encouraging developments is that the younger generation is rejecting the old binary notions of gender and sexuality.

“Jasper is a member of Generation Z, a group of young Americans that is breaking from binary notions of gender and sexuality — and is far more likely than older generations to identify as something other than heterosexual.

“One in six adults in Generation Z identifies as LGBT, according to survey data released early Wednesday from Gallup, providing some of the most detailed and up-to-date estimates yet on the size and makeup of the nation’s LGBT population.”

This shifting mindset is also reflected in, and nurtured by, increasing LGBTQIA+ representation in pop culture, including movies, TV shows, books, and comic books. As the mythology of our modern world, it’s important for pop culture to tell more stories from and about the LGBTQIA+ community and create characters that they can identify with, especially the youth.

Queer superheroes FTW

It took decades, but diversity is finally thriving in comic books, which over the years has seen the Big Two, Marvel and DC, making LGBTQIA+ superheroes more mainstream.

DC was doing this way before Marvel, but it’s great to see that both comic book industry giants have been giving more representation to queer superheroes, supervillains, and other characters — whether creating new characters, having established characters come out of the closet, or officially confirming what comic fans have suspected all these years.

At DC Comics, for instance, Wonder Woman is bisexual, Batwoman is lesbian, while Harley Quinn is in a relationship with Poison Ivy. Meanwhile, over at Marvel Comics, Deadpool is pansexual, Iceman was outed as gay, while Northstar had the first same-sex marriage in superhero comic books.

And while of course it’s the superheroes of American comic book companies that get worldwide attention, we also shouldn’t overlook the queering of Philippine comics.

“Locally, it wasn’t until 2003 when the black and white world of comics became a little more colorful when Carlo Vergara’s superheroine Zsazsa Zaturnnah entered the scene. It paved the way for an LGBTQIA+ narrative to be introduced on the medium, because behind the fiery locks and the voluptuous body of the female warrior is the gay beauty salon owner Ada.

“’Her (Ada) story is a universal story,’ Carlo said in a previous interview with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. ‘You have a simple person, trying to live a normal life, but thrust into an extraordinary situation. Her being LGBTQIA+ was seen as groundbreaking in the early 2000s, so I hope people recognize that, given the greater representation we’ve been seeing of late.’

“Carlo’s work is a true game-changer in the industry and has opened many opportunities not just for LGBTQIA+ stories to be shared but also for individuals of the community to pursue the art of comics.”

LGBTQIA+ moments in pop culture

With movies and TV shows based on comic books also taking over pop culture, we can expect even more LGBTQIA+ superheroes on our screens.

But even more important are the stories of ordinary characters in movies and TV shows that are helping normalize LGBTQIA+ relationships and creating memorable moments in media.

For instance, “Sesame Street” has introduced a family with gay dads.

“In a June 17 Facebook post, actor Alan Muroaka said he was ‘honored and humbled’ to have co-directed ‘Family Day,’ which he described as ‘an important and milestone episode.’

“’Sesame Street’ has always been a welcoming place of diversity and inclusion,’ wrote Muroaka, who also plays a character named Alan on the show. ‘Love is love, and we are so happy to add this special family to our Sesame family. Happy Pride to all!!!!'”

Meanwhile, Blue of “Blue’s Clues” teamed up with “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 11 contestant Nina West.

“In the video, an animated version of West leads a Pride parade featuring adorable furry critters as she sings along to the melody of ‘The Ants Go Marching.’ The song includes updated LGBTQ-inclusive lyrics celebrating the diversity of queer families, the importance of loving people for exactly who they are and the joys of allyship.”

I’m looking forward to pop culture becoming an even bigger ally of the LGBTQIA+ community, and for more countries to recognize their rights and stop supporting and spreading homophobia.

Because, seriously, if you’re a homophobe, you have to calm down and accept that LGBTQIA+ people have the same rights as you.

Love is love. People are people. And the world isn’t black and white, but full of many beautiful colors.

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