LGBTQ+ advocates: Pass SOGIE Equality Bill to enable a more inclusive response mechanism to climate disasters

Quezon City—The enactment of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill, also known as the Anti-Discrimination Bill, will ensure a more equitable and rights-based response to climate-related disasters. 

This was emphasized during the 31st episode of The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ Klimatotohanan webcast series entitled “Coming Out for Environmental Rights and Gender Equality: How LGBTQ+ Activism Intersects with Climate Action.

The SOGIE Equality Bill, which has been languishing in Congress for decades, was recently re-filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros under the 19th Congress. The bill seeks to ensure safe schools, accessible health care, and sufficient livelihood for people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics.

The impacts of the prevailing climate crisis exacerbates the marginalization, disenfranchisement, and discrimination currently being experienced by low-income, LGBTQ+, and gender minorities.

“Yung ating environment sustainability movement sobrang heteronormative. Wala tayong enabling infrastructures and laws for gender-inclusive approaches in our climate justice work, ” Joel Chester Pagulayan, Advocacy Officer for Climate Change and Energy Transition at Oxfam Philippines, said during the webcast’s special Pride Month episode.

Atty. Faith Sadicon, OutRight’s Program Officer for Asia and Pacific, added that climate disasters expose the lack of institutional and social support to LGBTQ+ that manifests in the prevailing policies, structures, and lived culture.

Impacts of the climate crisis on LGBTQ+ communities

Introducing Judith Butler’s concept of precariousness and precarity, Atty. Sadicon divulged how the occurrence of climate disasters exposes humans to risks and vulnerabilities (precariousness) while being deprived of protection relative to others (precarity).

For instance, the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) only considers heteronormative families when distributing aid while excluding the queers. She added that LGBTQ+ individuals are either prohibited to enter the shelters as they were considered threats or lacked the freedom to be in shelter spaces they are most comfortable with.

“We want to build a queer-quick reaction that is based on principles that would make a queer-inclusive humanitarian response. It has to be intersectional, community-rooted, community-driven, collaborative, transparent, and transformative. Ito yung pagkilala mo sa multiple layers of oppression that people experience,” Atty. Sadicon emphasized.

Research conducted by Prof. Pierce Docena on the lives of internally displaced LGBTQ+ survivors of Typhoon Haiyan confirmed the marginalization of LGBTQ+ in disaster risk reduction and management responses. Relief and recovery efforts, resettlements, and livelihood programs post-disaster failed to recognize the immediate needs and rights of LGBTQ+ individuals.

“Yung iba sa LGBTQ+ individuals ay may partner at may anak pero hindi sila recognized legally as family. May isang transman living with a female partner at may pinapalaking anak. Hindi sila nabigyan ng priority sa pabahay kasi hindi sila considered as family when in fact nawasak din ng bagyo yung bahay nila,” Prof. Docena said.

“Nakita namin sa mga online spaces na maraming mga bastos o manyak na comments na naka-target sa ating mga kababaihan na gusto lamang pumadyak papunta sa kanilang paroroonan,” Jessica Reyes shared.

Being a cyclist herself, Reyes discussed the apprehensions of women about cycling. For one, catcalling instills fear among women to cycle on roads. She added that objectifying women should stop because each one has an individuality that transcends gender roles set by society.

Queering the climate action

While climate action receives growing traction from activists and advocates, deep impacts on communities are disproportionately seen, Pagulayan observed. 

He criticized the linear and hierarchical approach of development works where advocates shove solutions to communities for their perusal. Realizing its unfruitful impact on the stakeholders, Pagulayan called the need to shift from this dynamic. 

“Tanggalin natin sa isipan natin na tayo yung may dala ng solution sa kanila. Dapat ay sa kanila manggagaling kung paano nila gustong tugunan yung kanilang problema. Hindi na ito bago sa atin, may naririnig tayo na participatory development sa pag-strenghten ng community participation para mabago natin yung ganung system sa development work,” he stated.

Pagulayan is a queer climate activist pushing for climate justice through queer ecology. Queer pertains to the unconventional and not-so-traditional approaches to which the climate movement should start adapting to address the intersectional issues of marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ groups. 

He suggested the concept of decolonization relative to queer ecology. This requires a shift from Global North-centered innovations to indigenous practices, knowledge, and system in solving the climate crisis. 

Atty. Sadicon agreed, saying that the climate movement needs queering, which fosters constant interrogating and stabilizing consciousnesses of practices.

Meanwhile, Alisandra Abadia, Program and Communications Associate of Just Associates Southeast Asia, highlighted the importance of queer feminism in forging stronger communities and bringing change to the marginalized and the oppressed.

“Queer feminism understands that the full emancipation of women and LGBTQ+ can only be achieved with the full emancipation of people from systemic violence. There needs to be a grounding in understanding that climate injustice is not born out of our individual actions. Climate injustice is about the historical and contemporary actions that are born from the economic, political, and social systems currently in place,” she explained.  

Advocating more LGBTQ+ related policies and programs

Policies in many jurisdictions continue to criminalize, stigmatize, and disregard LGBTQ+ communities. Atty. Sadicon highlighted how national laws and policies fail to address the specific needs and positions of LGBTQ+ individuals. For one, disaster risk reduction mandates lack specific provisions for LGBTQ+ communities. 

In turn, Abadia demanded inclusion and centering of conversation around women and queer people in policy making. 

“They always assume that people who are from rural communities, indigenous communities, from urban poor communities are unaware of system oppression but this is their lived reality. The theories we learn in school are the lived realities of people. Let us always come in a place of empathy,” Abadia said. 

Prof. Docena shared that LGBTQ+ disaster survivors recommended the passage of more LGBTQ-related policies and programs to the administration such as the SOGIE Equality Bill.

“Kapag wala tayong ganitong polisiya [SOGIE Equality Bill], mas lalong mama-marginalized yung mga sectors. Kasi hindi lang siya usapin ng kasarian, pero usapin sya ng karapatan at pagpapakatao,” Pagulayan added. 

The fight against climate change and alongside LGBTQ+ communities continue regardless of the administration in position. Atty. Sadicon heightened the need for movement-driven engagement with the new administration. “Ang tagumpay ay hindi ibibigay sa administrasyon kundi sa naging lakas at pagsusumikap ng mga kilusan,” she pointed.