Back to the grassroots: Building a movement for sexual & economic rights

by ANNE LIM (interviewed by DEEPA PANCHANG)

Anne Lim on right SOURCE/Toward Freedom

Anne Lim is from Quezon City, Philippines, where she serves as Executive Director of GALANG, a lesbian-led organization that works with urban poor LBTs (lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people) in the city. She was recently nominated for the 2014 Baldwin Award, which recognizes human rights work outside the U.S. Anne gave this interview during the last Association for Women’s Rights in Development conference in Istanbul.

I’m Anne Lim from the Philippines and I’m a lesbian rights activist. It’s an identity I embrace because I feel that it’s the aspect of my life that’s caused me the most pain. That sounds a bit dramatic but…I think this is something I share in common with many lesbians in my country.

Currently I’m running an organization called GALANG Philippines. Galang is the Filipino word for respect. Our model is evidence-based advocacy through the formation of LBT people’s organizations. That’s a mouthful, but really what we do is build the leadership capacities of LBTs in metropolitan Manila, particularly in Quezon City.

You say “LBT.” Many people talk about how focusing on LGBT, or even LGBTQ, can expand the set of potential allies. Why do you focus only on LBTs?

LGBTs across the spectrum experience discrimination, and problems with employment and housing. That goes without saying. But then again, for gay men in the Philippines, at least they’re perceived a little more positively by society because they’re seen as fun, they’re seen as energetic, they get hired; often not for regular jobs, but as beauticians or emcees for beauty pageants and things like that. It may not necessarily pay much and tends to box gay men into stereotypes, but at least they have these opportunities.

Lesbian women, on the other hand, are usually perceived as violent and psychologically unbalanced. The perception is that all they do is sit rude and unapproachable in the corner, or kill themselves when their girlfriend leaves, and they’re not able to support their families. And so, as lesbian women–because GALANG was formed by lesbian women–our heart was with lesbians, because we’re lesbians ourselves, and it was clear that the need at the community level was with LBTs.

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