Weaving Queer and Trans Love, Care, and Resistance

Weaving Queer and Trans Love, Care, and Resistance

Blog written by Mauriene Tolentino, Dinaly Tran, and Jhona Binos of Makulay atbp.

The relaunch of Ingat Palagi by Pinay Collection and Makulay atbp reaffirms our fierce love for queer and trans kin. 

The illustration by Jovie Galit, artist and founder of Pinay Collection, embodies “the interconnectedness of community care, the tenderness of caring for one’s self, and the privileges we hold now as Filipinos because of the work of the revolutionaries that came before us.” This original weaving design was inspired by the use of “Ingat” during martial law and the Marcos regime in the 1970s. Ninotchka Rosca described this significance of “Ingat” as “the last word uttered between and among those meeting to discuss what had to be done, in ways big and small, to end the Marcos Dictatorship. It was said with all the love and respect one was capable of. Because chances were one would meet again only in a prison cell, or a torture house, or at a wake.”

Photo by Dinaly Tran

In its most recent design transformation, Ingat Palagi, is weaved with the colours of the trans flag. Alongside our community zine, Ang pride ay magpakailanman (Pride is forever), this merch launch highlights the tender love and community care queer and trans people foster among one another in our resistance against ongoing transphobia rooted in colonial and imperial violence. 

Transphobia is rooted in colonialism and imperialism, which have sought to erase queer and trans people across nations, cultures, and histories of the Philippines. 

From pre-colonial times to now, queer and trans people in the Philippines were celebrated as healers, nurturers, teachers, and artists. For instance, Babaylans (or asog, bayok, or katalonan in other regions) have been likened to shamans of pre-colonial Philippines, and while most babaylans have been referred to as trans women, it is difficult to fully describe the expansiveness of their identities because there were no gendered or binary systems before. Babaylans embodied the power of femininity and were revered as healers and priestesses, many of whom were trained warriors and had an intimate connection to nature and access to the spiritual world. 

Spanish colonization, Christianism and American imperialism aimed to erase queerness and gender fluid identities that did not fit the colonial binary of ‘male’ and ‘female’. More importantly, queer and gender fluid people like the babaylans held powerful status in Philippine society who often took care of their communities and understood the importance of resisting colonization. In fact, many babaylans, such as Tamblot in Bohol, led uprisings against Spanish and Christian conquests. Babaylans were thus a threat to the Spanish rule, and the ongoing American imperialists, and were demonized as ‘uncivilized’ evil witches. 

Today, ongoing colonial and imperial violence against trans people in the Philippines is perpetuated by the very tangible ongoing presence and land control of our colonizers on Philippine soil. In fact, Balikatan exercises, annual military exercises by Philippine and US troops, are currently taking place until May 8th. The presence of American soldiers holding military exercises and operations in the Philippines have brought upon numerous cases of violence against women and LGBTQIA+ people. 

Remembering Jennifer Laude

We remember and honour Jennifer Laude, a transpinay who was murdered by US soldier, Joseph Scott Pemberton on October 11, 2014. Pemberton was set to be convicted for this brutal hate crime, which would have made him the first US soldier to be convicted of their crime against Filipino people. Pemberton’s conviction was the first against a US soldier that was not overturned, and was seen as a historic victory towards holding the American military accountable for violence against Filipino women and LGBTQIA+ people. 

However, while supposedly serving jail time, Pemberton was granted many protections under the Visiting Forces Agreement, a 1999 policy that governs temporary activities of foreign troops, mainly the US military, in the Philippines. Among Pemberton’s privileges, he maintained his military rankings and continued to receive pay that totaled up to $160,000 until he was granted pardon by the then President Rodrigo Duterte just under 6 years of his conviction.

A movement among queer Filipinos in the Philippines and in the diaspora was reignited in rallying against Jennifer’s death, highlighting the ways LGBTQIA+ people in the Philippines are especially targeted in modern forms of imperialism today, such as the militarization in our motherlands. As Reyna Valmores-Salinas, chairperson of Bahaghari, writes: “[t]he critical analysis for us as LGBTQ+ is clear: we cannot ignore or remove the power relations between the colonizer and the colonized in Jennifer Laude’s death.”

Photo by Basilio Sepe

Jennifer’s death highlighted an unsettling pattern of heinous violence where LGBTQ+ people are harassed, raped, and murdered in the hands of the US military who are protected by the US imperial state and its neocolony of the Philippines. This unearthed a truth that many of those fighting for true sovereignty in the Philippines already know. To this day, US imperialism continues to harm those most marginalized in the Philippines, especially poor women and LGBTQIA+ people. 

See Bahaghari PH’s statement on the Balikatan exercises here.

Colonial and imperial violence affect queer and trans people across nations, from Turtle Island, to Palestine, to all other nations occupied by settler colonial states.

Colonial projects aim to violently erase queerness across Indigenous and native nations. European, Spanish, Zionist colonization have all used false notions of bringing culture, education, and liberal outlooks to societies they deemed as uncivilized. In much of global histories of invasion and colonization, sacred forms of queerness and expansive gender expressions that were revered in Indigenous and native cultures have been demonized and continue to be marginalized in society today.

Transphobia in Canadian healthcare and education policies

There has been an alarming rise of overt transphobia in so-called Canada. In the past few years, we have seen not only a rise in targeted hate crimes against queer and trans people, protests against queer-inclusive education in schools, and the introduction of anti-trans policies and legislation across education and healthcare sectors.

In Alberta, the provincial government plans to introduce a bill this fall that will restrict gender-affirming health care options for youth and limit teaching materials on gender and sexuality across their schools. If passed, this bill will bring harmful measures that infringe on the health care and bodily autonomy of trans children and youth, including access to gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers and hormone therapies. These proposals follow and extend beyond other policies instituted by other provinces, such as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” in Saskatchewan and policy changes in New Brunswick that restrict a youth’s use of their chosen name and correct pronouns. These policies mirror anti-trans legislation that have been implemented in many US states.

These policy changes are a clear violation to queer and trans youth’s basic human rights. Legislating limitations to a trans person’s access to gender-affirming care violates their rights to bodily autonomy. Removing protections that safeguards somebody’s gender identity blatantly removes one’s freedom to be themselves. 

Weaponization of queer violence in the genocide against Palestinians

The Zionist state has weaponized homophobia in the efforts to dehumanize Palestinian communities and advance their genocide against Palestinian people. In the 200 days and beyond, the Israeli state has laboured to legitimize their genocidal occupation in Palestine, using the fabricated guise of introducing “queer rights” and “liberties” to Gaza. This is a form of pinkwashing, a deliberate colonial tactic and strategy the Israeli state uses to mask their human rights violations against Palestinian people. This includes the criminalization of same-sex relations and other forms of queerness in Palestine introduced by the Zionist military occupation themselves. Queers in Palestine unpacked the pinkwashing of the genocide against Palestinian people, naming that the Isreali state “dangerously decontextualize the violence queers suffer from its historical colonial roots, and dissociate it from the impacts of current settler-colonial violence.” 

The weaponization of homophobia in the genocide against Palestine, the rise of anti-trans policies in Canada, and the ongoing violence against trans women and LGBTQIA+ people in the Philippines are not siloed events. They are linked struggles against colonialism, imperialism, and Zionism across the globe – ongoing attempts to further marginalize and erase queer and trans people and our resistance. Queer liberation, therefore, cannot happen through settler colonialism. For us queer Filipinos, our historical and ongoing resistance against colonial and imperial violence is at the very core of our fight for queer liberation.

The weaving pattern, or mga habi, of the Ingat Palagi design calls us to remember the strong resistance of queer and trans people then and now.

As queer and trans Filipinos in the diaspora, we are privileged to be able to uplift, protect, and take care of ourselves and each other because of the revolutionary and liberatory work of those before us. We honour the babaylans who resisted the Spanish colonization and beyond, including queer and trans revolutionaries, healers and caretakers across nations and cultures who remain unnamed because of colonial erasure. 

Today, the spirit of resistance against colonial and imperial violence is fiercely shepherded by queer and trans kababayans back home, as well as the Indigenous, Black and racialized queer liberation movement on Turtle Island and across the world. 

We look to the work of Bahaghari PH who continue to fight for protection for LGBTQIA+ people in the Philippines, the livelihood of peasants and workers, and true sovereignty from foreign powers. Queers in Palestine and Arab and SWANA (South West Asian/North African) groups and allies in the diaspora have continued to call for an end to the Zionist occupation in Palestine, standing firm in the fact that there is no pride in genocide. Locally in Toronto/Tkaronto, Students for Queer Liberation have been on the front lines of protesting anti-trans legislation in healthcare and schools and the genocide in Gaza. Like other groups fighting for queer liberation, they affirm that [t]he fight against transphobia is fundamentally a fight against colonialism everywhere.

For us at Makulay atbp., tender love and community care is our pathway towards healing from intergenerational impacts of colonialism and imperialism.

We do not hold the privileges of experiencing joy, rest, and healing lightly, and to experience all of this in community with other queer and trans kapatids. 

While we can take to the streets, depute anti-trans legislation, and fight to end Zionist occupation and genocide, we know that cultivating opportunities of rest, joy, and healing is necessary to sustain ourselves and our resistance. In fact, it is in our intimate relationships with each other that we are resisting the impacts of colonialism in our everyday. Bringing each other food, scheduling in time for collective play and silliness, and holding space for each other in times of grief, are all tangible ways we affirm our rights to love, to be, and to live.

Photo by Dinaly Tran

When creating our community zine, Pride is Forever (Ang pride ay magpakailanman), we asked our kapatids: how do we experience joy and healing in the everyday? How do we foster care among our chosen families in the past, present, and future?

This zine, and the relaunch of the Ingat Palagi tee with woven colours of the trans flag, is our love letter to ourselves and the community we have built. It also embodies our firm stance that there is no place for transphobia in our fight against colonialism, that trans people are sacred and loved. We’ve got each other’s backs.

We thank our friends who have contributed to our community zine. Ang re-launch na to ay para sa inyo, para sa ating lahat. This re-launch is for you, for all of us. 

About the merch

100% of the profits made from this collection will be donated to Bahaghari PH, and mutual aid funds for Palestinian families in Gaza and those who have arrived in the Philippines. This month, we will donate to support Basel El Maqosiu, an artist and teacher for children with disabilities in Gaza. Learn more about Basel and the fundraiser here. A portion will also go back to Makulay atbp. to continue building community in Tkaronto/Toronto.

Important readings and resources

About Makulay atbp.

Makulay atbp. (at iba pa) translates to “colourful, and many more” in Tagalog. We are a collective of queer and trans friends, centering intergenerational joy and healing for queer and trans Filipinos in the Greater Toronto Area.

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