Celebrity photographer BJ Pascual and creative director Vince Uy have been actively participating in forums and talks that strengthen the spirit of the LGBT+ community in the country amid the ongoing health and economic crisis.
Their most recent appearance was at the digital press conference of the dating app Blued for #LetsTalkOnBluedPH, a series of virtual conversations it has organized as part of the Pride Month celebration this June.
Simultaneously, the app has also launched a fundraising campaign for the benefit of the Home For The Golden Gays, the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines, and the AIDS Society of the Philippines.
One of the key topics at the digital event that was held on June 10, 2020, was the advancement of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill in congress.
At the presscon, BJ enjoined the members of LGBT+ community to urge Congress to act on the SOGIE-Equality Bill as it has been sitting in the chambers for years.
The 31-year-old photographer said, "It's been put in the backburner for now, but I think, what we realize with what's happening now is important yung voices natin.
"Nakakaloka how this Anti-Terrorism Bill just flew behind our noses, as in bigla na lang siyang na-approve, and now nasa Malacañang na siya, ready for signing na.
"And SOGIE Bill, it's been twenty years, and wala pa ring nangyayari.
"I hope when this crisis slows down a bit, I hope lang na parang there would be some focus that would be put back on the SOGIE-Equality Bill."
STRENGTH IN UNITY
Meanwhile, Vince expressed optimism for the future of LGBT+ community; however, he admonished members to make themselves more visible.
The former Preview magazine creative director said, "My focus really is to encourage everyone to be visible.
"I think it's very important to be visible within your community and to everyone else outside that community.
"I think it starts with that. The more our voices are heard, the more people are convinced. People will appreciate our stories."
BJ also called for unity of the community, and again urged for strong support for SOGIE, especially now that the bill has the backing of Senator Risa Hontiveros.
He said, "Sana mas maging united lang. Actually before the whole crisis started, may initiative na talaga si Senator Risa to form an alliance na talaga, na mas united message for all the LGBTQIA+ organizations."
He emphasized the importance of the bill in light of the fact that the community is one of the most disadvantaged and stigmatized in the country.
BJ told the press, "The SOGIE BIll has a lot of provisions for us especially our trans-sisters.
"Sila naman talaga yung mostly na nadi-discriminate, especially sa work force or kahit sa civil na anything.
"Put yourselves in other people's shoes. Kung wala ka mabe-benefit dun, okay.
"But take yourself out that bubble and you'll realize na ang daming disadvantaged people in our country."
BJ continued to recall his experience of being shamed for being too effeminate.
"Nung nag-start yung Instagram, like people would only see me through Instagram, yung mga people na hindi talaga ako kilala in real life.
"It's just pictures that they see, and then when they see me talk or biglang may video, parang nagugulat sila.
"Kasi bakit, 'Oh my god, yung itsura mo ganyan, yung boses mo, boses kiki ka,' ganyan.
"Kahit naman before pa ng social media age, I would be shamed for my voice din, for having a gay voice.
"It's always been like a point of struggle for me na parang... ikinahihiya ko siya, like I wouldn't post videos talaga kasi alam ko na people would react that way."
Just recently, the celebrity photographer also experienced being "masc-shamed" for looking too buff on his Instagram photos.
"It's kasi recently I've been 'masc-shamed' naman. Siyempre, this whole quarantine naka-pambahay lang naman ako all the time sa mga stories.
"Lagi lang akong naka-gym outfit kasi yung lang lagi kong ginagawa dito sa bahay since walang work.
"I got a tweet, basically masc-shaming me na, 'O ngayon, masc ka na ngayon. Ikinahihiya mo na yung pagiging effem blah blah blah...'"
But through the years, BJ has learned to ignore the nasties and to focus more on the niceties.
He said, "You don't have to be pressured by anyone to be a certain way. Yun yung natutunan ko e.
"Parang whatever makes you feel comfortable, doon ka. I mean, it doesn't matter what people say.
"Madali siyang sabihin but siyempre nakakaapekto siya. It's a journey to self-acceptance. Maraming stages iyan, e."
Vince, on the other hand, rued the negativity within the community.
He said, "It's so sad that within the community, there's also discrimination.
"We're fighting so much battles already and even within the community pa.
"That's why we do our part in educating our friends... para hindi naman laughing stock ang pagiging effem, e, kasi nagiging ganun siya.
"Para siyang joke, which even shouldn't be a joke."
But overall, both BJ and Vince are proud to witness the rise of the community as a force to be reckoned with..
Vince said, "It has come a long way. People go out, ang daming men that are comfortable with who they are.
"And that's regardless whether they're masculine or feminine or they're both."