10:37 PM

Queer Pin@ys, Unite!

Posted by Prosy Delacruz

“ To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses – that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things. “
- Pablo Neruda, Childhood and Poverty

Ten years ago, the first Queer Pin@y (ampersand symbol equates to Pinoy and Pinay) Conference (QPC) was co-founded at UCLA by Christine Balance and Mark Tristan Ng because of these reasons:

Because our friends were addicted to crystal, poppin' multiple ecstasy pills, and having unprotected sex. We did not want to judge them, we just wanted to stop, ask, and understand

Because Filipinos had the highest HIV infection rates in the API community.

Because we wanted to bring together the great minds and good people of our worlds, hoping that others we did not know would pop out of the woodwork.

Because we had questions. We were going through life and needed to hear answers from people who walked our shoes... we needed to to see mentors, to build community, to share stories - to be reminded that we were not alone.

During a holiday, I remember the topic at our table was what the bible allegedly says about gays. One of my guests openly shared her intolerance: “Homosexuals are the earth’s curse and they are committing sin.”

I responded that God is love and God made everyone in His Likeness, a product of His divinity.

She described their modes of making love and that to her, it is a sin and proceeded to quote the Bible. For the life of me, a biblical saying also popped out of my mouth. "Judge not, for you will be judged. “ I asked her if gays have censured her and her husband, on how to make love to one another. Why would she censure acts done in the privacy of their bedrooms? Isn’t there a right to privacy? She did not expect the tables to be turned.

Do we not evolve by walking in someone’s shoes, when we become critical of our beliefs and question their relevance? I asked her.

She kept persuading us to agree with her, until I asked, as a mother, for her to consider this: “You gave birth to all your sons, one is gay, others are straight. Why would you advocate for the outside world to be hostile to one and not the others? Why would you, as his mother, invite hostility towards your own, when all your sons were conceived in love inside your womb?" She cried. I told her that love is not supposed to hurt. Love is about comfort, about making another feel safe and secure. Love is about sharing and giving.

Not too long ago, Matthew Shepard was beaten, tied to a post in the cold of winter and left to die because he was gay, hated by the straight folks who tortured him. Harvey Milk, an openly gay member of the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors was also assassinated years ago.

It seems that some straight folks have resorted to hatred and violence when it comes to gay people. But some does not mean every heterosexual individual. I choose to be one of those who embrace the reality of homosexuality and I am here to listen and empathize with the gay community.

I choose to be here to walk, literally and figuratively, in their tsinelas.

Tsinelas in pink with blue strings, aka flip-flops, were pasted on the wall in UCLA’s Ackerman Union with affirmations of how it feels to be gay, some with continuing struggles to keep their identities secret, but now being shared with this community to consider, some who are still unsure about who they are, some not quite aware of what words to use, some who feel they still do not belong. Tsinelas was developed by Ashley Yu “ who hopes to convey a glimpse into the ongoing journeys of the queer and ally pin@y communities..to instill…understanding as…audiences learn to take a walk in each other’s tsinelas."

Parents, sons and daughters seek refuge and understanding by attending QPC. QPC organizers, Christine Balance and Mark Ng cited a parent who took her son to one of the QPConference just so he would not feel alone.

Ten years later, QPC attempts to be inclusive, inclusive of everyone including straight parents with gay children who are called P-Flag (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). I wear that designation proudly, by the way.

Being here with the queer community is to be greeted warmly and to be applauded for simply showing up. Every thought, word and action is carefully considered. The objective is to provide a safe space for gay people to speak openly, without fear, about their dreams and aspirations.

Even the icebreakers, normally just that, were about welcoming folks to make them feel that they belong.

Tablecloths and balloons on the center stage were of all colors of the rainbow. In actions, in props, in words, each one is made to feel welcome, safe and secure. Their gestures include snapping their fingers to signify they agree with what the person is saying, validated each time as fingers snapped loudly. It felt weird to hear the continous snaps, but as the conference progressed, it felt good to hear the volumes of laughters resonating with the sounds of fingers snapping. It was about finding a common ground, seeking commonalities and joyful sounds getting louder, not superficially, but in depth.

This conference is unlike thousands of conferences I've attended. It is not just about themselves, it is about others as well. How will you be remembered? What will be your legacy to others?

When asked, some non-Pin@ys remarked: “ I am best friends with Queer Pin@ys and I want to know what makes them feel like having fun all the time. I want to learn more about Pin@y culture. I want to enjoy and see queer from another ethnic identity. ”

And in their community agreements, they ask for no snap judgments -- to test the boundaries, think critically, open minds and hearts, listen to one another and say ouch, it hurts!, but with the objective of educating and making one feel safe.

Finally, it is about their higher selves being called to envision what they want to see for their community. To take that vision within each of them and to build that world that they want to see now. To be the change they want to see in the world.

I thought for a while that I was in heaven, but then, I realized I was in QPC at UCLA. Jason Tengco, one of the co-organizers had this to share “ QPC to me is more than just a conference: it is a means of mobilizing, educating, and encouraging both queers and allies alike to put ourselves in others' shoes to internalize and to be conscious of our words, our actions, and our stories. In doing so, we are able to bring back our knowledge as we become active agents in the progress of the queer Pin@y community."


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