The Philippine Women Centre of Vancouver, in partnership with the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University and the Congress of Progressive Filipino Canadians, will host a conference that focuses on the struggles and victories of the Filipino LGBTQ community, captured by the stories and experiences of its members.
The conference entitled “Strength, Struggle, Stories: LGBTQ National Consultative Forum” will feature academic and non-academic talks on LGBTQ experiences within the sphere of the Filipino community.
Inspiring courage through storytelling
Ashley dela Cruz Yip, a featured storyteller, wishes to share words of encouragement that touch on her experience of coming out at a young age.
“I was fortunate to have a supportive family and social network. It made this uncertain time in my life far more manageable,” explains dela Cruz Yip.
The aim of her talk is to help LGBTQ identifying youth to affirm who they are and maintain a positive outlook during this process. She seeks to do this by example, demonstrating through her achievements that coming out is not always a bad experience.
“There are resources, especially in Vancouver, for youth who are struggling: this includes youth counselors, Queer/Straight alliances in schools, and Q-community,” says dela Cruz Yip.
She is, however, aware of the struggles that could potentially arise from identifying as LGBTQ in a predominantly Catholic culture.
“I want this conference to overturn the taboo of LGBTQ by encouraging a dialogue that promotes and reflects the interests of a sexually diverse community,” dela Cruz Yip says.
Dela Cruz Yip is a scholarship-winning basketball player at Capilano University with an ambition to one day play Canadian Intermural Sport basketball. At the start of her career, she realized that there were not any lesbian or queer athletes in basketball for her to emulate.
“There weren’t even Filipino women I knew who played basketball. For this reason, I never envisioned myself being this committed to the sport,” says dela Cruz Yip.
With basketball as her outlet, Ashley is looking to foster a strong athletic environment at Capilano University, while finding ways to bring about her commitment to social inclusion.
“After my basketball career is over, I would like to study to be a sports psychologist, or a youth counselor for prominently LGBTQ youth,” says dela Cruz Yip.
Event organizer Ken Santos, a child of a former live-in caregiver, is also inspired to collaborate with the organization, having been sensitized to the poverty and economic marginalization that the next generation of Filipinos currently face.
“LGBTQ in the Filipino Canadian community faces particular struggles on top of our existing struggles, given the pervasive conservative culture of patriarchy and machismo within our own community,” says Santos.
Santos explains that one of the clear objectives of the conference is to identify and challenge the dominant culture that has alienating effects on those who fail to fit into such a paradigm.
“The goal as an organizer is to transform it [the dominant culture] into a progressive one that respects all people’s human rights and upholds their dignity. Our national consultative forum is a starting point to better understand the issues of Filipino Canadian LGBTQs,” explains Santos.
In contrast to some of the harsh realities facing Filipinos and LGBTQ Filipinos alike, dela Cruz Yip is hoping to build on the positive aspects of a big-hearted, collaborative community.
“There is a lot of love in the Filipino community, and so many people willing to show you that love,” says dela Cruz Yip.
The forum will take place Oct. 24–25 at Simon Fraser University (Harbour Centre)