Allyship in Action: Challenges and Triumphs on Philippine Inclusivity

Written by: Adela Lorete | 9 months ago

Last August 25, Queer Safe Spaces again held an online panel discussion for its third installment of Queer Talks. The episode was hosted by Eah Antonio and the event was graced by Hon. Bernadeth Olivares, City Councilor of San Pedro, Laguna. Alongside the counselor, Amir Sanchez, the External Division Officer of El Consejo Atenista from Ateneo de Zamboanga. With them are Anne Jeanethe Casalme, a Gender and Development Specialist, and Mary Grace Esmaya, a volunteer during the Metro Manila Pride.

During the almost two-hour session, Queer Safe Spaces alongside the esteemed guests, navigated what it means to be an ally. Here are the key takeaways:

What is allyship and what does it mean to be an ally?

Amir Sanchez has viewed allyship as the involvement of everyone in taking action to address gaps regardless of race, gender, or religious affiliation. To Mary Grace Esmaya, it is standing up not only for one’s friends but for others, too.

Allyship is a dynamic and active practice of supporting and advocating for a marginalized or underrepresented group, such as the LGBTQA+ community. Allies are individuals who are not members of the marginalized group but work alongside them to promote understanding, acceptance, and equal rights.

What is Being Done by Allies All Across the Philippines?

Honorable Olivares shared that the city of San Pedro has already passed an ordinance that contained provisions that could protect members of the LGBTQIA+ community. She also shared the salient points of their ordinance, such as allowing for penalties for those who refuse to provide equal access to members of LGBTQIA+ members. She also commended the high participation rate that came from the youth and the education sector, and she mentioned Angat Kabataan - San Pedro and Kaya Natin - San Pedro.

According to Hon. Olivares, legislation is important to institutionalize the rights and to push the welfare and development of the LGBTQIA+ community. The city of San Pedro, Laguna has ensured the diversified representation of sectors in their Pride Council.

More than a thousand kilometers away from San Pedro, young students from Ateneo de Zamboanga put a highlight on their Orgullo Festival. Orgullo means pride, and the festivities are both a celebration and a protest to continually stand beside members of the LGBTQIA+ communities.

As a gender and development specialist, Anne Casalme’s work ensures that there is a holistic approach to the implementation of policies that were passed by lawmakers like Hon. Oliveros or in the holistic involvement of other stakeholders in the implementation process of programs that benefit not only the LGBTQIA+ sector but other marginalized sectors as well.

Mary Grace Esmaya, who is also a teacher, also shared her experiences of being an ally. According to her, even if there’s only one person who can recognize and support a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, that would already mean so much.

What are the challenges for allies and how can they addressed?

Allies, while crucial in advocating for marginalized groups, often encounter several challenges in their journey to support and promote inclusivity. These challenges include facing misunderstanding or misconceptions from others who do not understand their role or intentions, as some individuals might perceive them as part of the marginalized group they are supporting, leading to stereotypes and stigma. 

Advocating for change can be met with resistance, especially from individuals or groups who hold prejudiced beliefs or fear change, which can result in hostility or backlash. Allies also grapple with their own privilege, constantly reflecting on their own biases and privileges, making it a personal challenge to address their own prejudices. It is important then, to understand where these gaps are “coming from” in order for it to be understood and addressed.

Additionally, being an ally can be emotionally and mentally taxing, as allies often listen to and support individuals who have experienced discrimination or trauma, which can lead to burnout or stress, which is why it is advised to create a distance between the realities of being an ally and the emotions that come with it. 

Despite these difficulties, many allies continue their important work, recognizing the positive impact they can have on promoting equality and inclusivity, and they seek to support, educate themselves, and engage in self-care practices to effectively address these challenges and continue their advocacy for marginalized communities.

What’s Really Important…

It's important to remember that while the path of an ally may be challenging, the impact of their dedication is immeasurable. Allies play an indispensable role in fostering change, challenging prejudices, and creating more inclusive societies. 

By facing these challenges head-on, allies help pave the way toward a brighter, more equitable future for all. Their unwavering commitment to standing alongside marginalized communities, listening, learning, and advocating for justice, is a testament to the power of allyship. As we reflect on the challenges they confront and the progress they inspire, let us not forget the profound positive transformations that can occur when individuals unite in the pursuit of a world that embraces diversity, equity, and respect for all.