The ties that bind LGBTQI+

Published July 9, 2020, 3:12 PM

by Kerry Tinga

Pride Conversations with Google Philippines highlight the importance of a strong and accepting support system

The visibility of LGBTQI+ community members is extremely important for so many reasons. When a young person sees a bit of themselves in someone who is given a platform to have their voice heard, it can give that young person much-needed confidence to take on the world. It also normalizes conversations on sexuality and gender identity, breaking away from heteronormativity and societal expectations of what a person “should” be.

Last Pride Month, Google Philippines hosted “Pride Conversations,” which brought together members of the Filipino LGBTQI+ community who are making strides in their respective industries and fields. The talk was live-streamed on Google Philippines’ YouTube channel.

Taking part in the conversation was Barangay Mayamot kagawad Kristine Ibardolaza, who is the first trans woman elected in Antipolo City; aesthetic surgery fellow Dr. Berry Beriña, a trans woman who plans to pursue training in gender reassignment surgery; motorcycle enthusiast and vlogger Gaki Azurin, better known as GakiMoto; comedian and content creator Mikey Bustos; and Google Philippines program manager Melai Lopez. The Pride Conversations discussion was moderated by Jolly Estaris of Google Philippines.

From the Pride Conversations, the theme of the importance of a strong and accepting support system came out. Whether it is from a biological family or a family they got to choose, whether it is finding that family or starting one, there is strength and confidence in the community.

Family ties

When Jolly asked the participants to show an item that represented their journey, Dr. Berry brought out a blade holder that was given to her by her parents. It represented the unwavering support of her family throughout her endeavors, from her transition while in pre-med to the grueling academic journey of medical school.

“In aesthetic surgery, we deal with the form and function of the human body. […] We also do reconstructive surgery, such as after a traumatic accident or cancer surgery. It is good for the self-esteem and recovery of the patient,” says Dr. Berry.

Dr. Berry Beriña is an aesthetic surgery fellow who is engaging in sub-specialty training in gender reassignment surgery

Similar to reconstructive surgery, her sub-specialty training in gender reassignment surgery can help patients’ self-esteem as form reflects who they are inside. Drawing from her own experiences, she hopes to champion diversity and pay it forward to others within the community.

Melai of Google Philippines also shared a treasured item that was given to her from her family.

“Part of the reason why I have been able to focus on my work and excel in the workplace is because I didn’t have to worry about my family during my transition,” says Melai, showing off the fashionable choker that was given to her by her father. “But I recognize that a lot of people are not as fortunate to have a supportive family, so I really treasure them.”

Melai Lopez has found a supportive home at Google Philippines, aside from her role as a program manager, she is also has an active role in [email protected], an employee-initiated network for supporting the LGBTQI+ community

Beyond her immediate family, Melai’s workplace at Google Philippines has also prioritized inclusivity and fostered diversity. It is not only in the benefits offered to employees, such as emotional wellbeing support and non-discriminatory parental leave policies for non-birth parents, but also normalizing non-binary pronouns and gender terms.

Sharing and caring

“When we were traveling, my partner and I never addressed it on the blog,” shares Mikey. By “it” he was referring to his same-sex relationship with his partner. “We had to hide certain things or adjust how we were telling the story. When I came out [as bisexual], I was expecting to lose subscribers or endorsements, I was scared of upsetting others.”

YouTube content creator Mikey Bustos rose to popularity with his hilarious and informative videos, pictured here with his long-time partner and manager RJ Garcia
Screenshot from the Pride Conversations, Mikey Bustos sharing the fan art he received from a subscriber showing Mikey with his long-time partner RJ Garcia in the style of the painting “American Gothic” by Grant Wood

Mikey was pleasantly surprised when his announcement was met with a positive response. During the “Pride Conversations,” he shared some fan art that he and his partner received from a subscriber, a powerful symbol of support from fans that had become family.

Creating a community

With her motorcycle helmet in view on the livestream, GakiMoto proudly shared to viewers that it reminded her of the memories she formed with her all-female motorcycle group, which was how she met her current girlfriend. The motorcycle field comes across as male dominated. Undeterred by the optics, at the beginning of her career, GakiMoto pushed through the barrier and made a space for other female motorcycle enthusiasts. Using her platform, she gave visibility to the group, breaking social stereotypes, and creating a community.

Motorcycle vlogger, or “motovlogger,” Gaki Azurin vlogs about her adventures on her popular YouTube channel GakiMoto

Kagawad Kristine has used her political influence and power to foster inclusivity and diversity in her community. She had previously founded two local organizations that support LGBTQI+ community in Antipolo City, forming a support system for her fellow brothers and sisters. Waving a small rainbow flag, Kristine showed a photo of a 30-yard rainbow flag she proudly sewed and displayed in a Pride March. It had to be held by dozens of people, symbolizing bringing people together, much like the Pride Conversations.

Screenshot from the Pride Conversations, kagawad Kristine Ibardolaza showing a photo of the 30-yard rainbow flag beside a smaller rainbow flag