(In)Visible light: Unheard voices in the spectrum of diversity

By Andrea Jobelle Adan

As dusk began to settle and shadows came to life, Diliman remained animated, its sidewalks littered with rainbow flags, banners, tarps, people marred with rainbow art.

That, and liberation.

But whose?

Unabashed in his wig, dress and high heels, University Student Council (USC) Chairperson Bryle Leaño expressed that the liberation of the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders, Queers, Intersex, and Asexuals (LGBTQIA) would include addressing class struggle and discrimination.

Steps have been taken to address the latter, such as House Bill 5687, also known as the Anti-Discrimination bill, making a comeback in this 17th Congress after 16 rejections since its creation.

“We have to share more stories. Or else the congress is going to ask why the public isn’t clamoring over the issue,” Dinagat Islands Representative Kaka Bag-ao, one of the principal authors of the bill, implored during the HIV forum last Sept. 15 at the UP College of Law.

Yet, notably, in the bill’s definition of sexual orientation, there had been no nod towards the asexual umbrella as they were not mentioned at all in the entire bill.

Asexuals, in the most general sense, do not experience sexual attraction. They are often confused for being celibate, giving the erroneous notion that asexuality is a choice.

According to Vince Liban, one of Pride week’s key coordinators, the bill aims “to prevent discrimination regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.” To drive the point, he called it “anti-discrimination for all of humanity.” Leaño’s opinion mimics this tune as well.

The question then is: In this dire to attempt to share more stories, is every voice being heard?

Do we truly see each color of the rainbow’s critical role in the whole picture?

Sin Posadas knows this crisis to be a thing of the past. A demisexual herself, being part of the asexual umbrella introduced her to the many treatments people who called themselves “ace,” “gray-ace,” or “demi” received.

Being demisexual means feeling the sexual pull only after a deep bond has been established with another person.

“Ang stigma dati is that asexuals shouldn’t even be considered part of the spectrum due to the nature of the definition of the word “sexuality.” Bakit daw isasama ang “asexual” doon, when asexuals barely feel sexual attraction, if at all,” Posadas said in an online interview.

Given the nature of the anti-discrimination bill, as well as the contents of Outrage magazine and Rainbow Rights Philippines’ Media Reference Guide, her seemingly outdated knowledge on the asexual struggle may continue to hold merit.

The Media Reference Guide, though aware of its contents probable inaccuracy, only includes heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexulas under its definition of sexual orientation.

“It’s hard to be inclusive kapag hindi mo alam ang full picture,” Posadas said. But more than obliviousness, some groups continue to treat asexuality with malice.

Sites whose credibility are often questioned but retain popular to most like Psychology Today, still treat being asexual as a disorder, caused by horrendous and superbly dramatic experiences, lack of attention, or psychological problems.

This and Posadas’ experiences seem every bit the gay-gets-drowned-to-change narrative, except here they aren’t asking you to change, they’re denying your existence, your narrative, altogether.

In the Philippines, mass media repeatedly brings to the fore the question, “does asexuality exist?”

Discussion of the orientation ranges from this seemingly harmless question to the notion that perhaps people who claim to be asexual are “broken.” After all, some deduce, sex is an absolute human desire that must be credited for the expansion of life.

UP Psychology Society member Mariel Cunanan, however, argued that though unusual to some, asexuality must cease to be called the “sexual desire disorder”. Labels like these put people who identify under the orientation under even more discrimination.

Just as Posadas explained, it all came down to information.

Pride march first-timer Aly Sulaik, her eyes alight with both curiosity and the Pride party’s strobe lights, admitted she had no idea what being demisexual meant. The Public Administration sophomore also said she believed asexuals were receiving less attention than other members of the party.

Posadas, an alumni of the UP College of Mass Communication, has had to answer a lot of inquiries and assumptions on demisexuality, making up for what she believed to be a “striking indifference” towards asexuality and demisexuality.

She recalled one instance when a friend of hers invited her to walk around a campus to search for her “type”, insisting that Posadas was capable of being attracted at first sight.

“I proved her wrong, instead. Napagod lang siya sa kakalakad,” she recounted.

People inject their own beliefs for each time she tries to explain. She has been called old-fashioned and sapiosexual. She has been toured by her friends, each one attempting to quickly ignite an attraction in whoever man or woman by pointing them out.

All attempts ended in the bin.

“It meant nothing to me,” Posadas said. “If my past relations and attractions are anything to go by, then I’m pretty sure that my demisexuality is real.”

In the Philippines, men who have gone off to remain bachelors are degradingly called “paminta”, while women who stay single are either good-for-nothing women, or presumably lesbian.

Earnest learning, and not mere assumptions, Posadas believes, is what this society needs.

She asked, “What are these labels [worth] if we do not fully understand what they stand for and what they mean to each other?”

Since time immemorial, the struggles of the queer community have been considered as a fight fought by what is considered the minority. Even with the debunking of the misconception that heterosexuality is not equivalent with the terms “normal” and “majority”, unheard voices still reside within the queer community.

As children we were asked to memorize red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet, and they made us call it the rainbow. Now, it has become vital to understand the shades in between. And maybe then, finally, we land a step closer to liberation.

Author: TNP

The Official Student Publication of the UP College of Mass Communication.