Filipinos join transgender community at rally vs. transphobia

LOS ANGELES – Filipinos joined the National Day of Action on Tuesday calling for awareness on transgender rights.

Activists blocked an East Hollywood intersection known to have a large pocket of transgender residents, to raise awareness on transgender rights.

Makeshift coffins lined the streets representing murdered transgender victims.

“It’s very important to raise awareness of our issues and the murdering of transgender has got to stop,” said Karina Samala, a transgender community leader. “This violence against the transgender community and all of us, it happens worldwide. It happened in the Philippines with Jennifer [Laude].”

Statistics show that trans people are 50 percent more likely to be murdered compared to gays.

For Filipinos-Americans, one transgender woman’s death has sparked international outcry: Jennifer Laude, who was allegedly killed by a US Marine in the Philippines last month.

“We’re keeping her memory alive because we have to up the ante when the trial begins,” said Jolene Levid, a Fil-Am activist. “We’re still mourning her death but were also using it to fuel our anger. That’s why we’re here in the streets today.”

The rally comes as the Philippines Supreme Court reviews the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, or EDCA, a deal between the US and the Philippines that gives US military more access to the country.

Activists argue that these treaties make transgender rights more vulnerable.

“President ‘Noynoy’ Aquino has basically allowed for the violence and repression against transgender people to run rampant in the Philippines,” said Terrie Cervas, Vice Chair of Gabriela USA, “through agreements like the Visiting Forces Agreement and the EDCA, where US soldiers can commit crimes in the Philippines without repercussion and without having to be subject to the Philippine judicial system.”

While many await the verdict of EDCA and the Laude case, Samala added there will also be a day of transgender remembrance on Thursday in West Hollywood, honoring transgender people who have been killed throughout the world.

As the transgender rights movement picks up steam, Filipino activists will continue monitoring the Jennifer Laude situation, not just the criminal case but also how one transgender life lost can change foreign ties.

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