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When 21-year-old Gigi Esguerra saw a woman holding up a big sign saying “It’s not ok to be gay!”, she offered her a yellow flower. The woman responded to the gesture with, “Kahit anong gawin mo, lalaki ka pa rin (Whatever you do, you’re still a man).” Smiling, Gigi left the flower at her feet and went on to give more flowers.

Believe it or not, it took a lot for Gigi to do what she did, even after attending the Metro Manila Pride March for the third year in succession. During her first two years, people would shout at her and say she wasn’t real, and she would respond with curses and look at herself as she was above them.

“I would always be fueled with so much anger and hate towards them because how dare they tell me that I wasn’t real”, shared Gigi, “I didn’t choose to equate myself to these people, so I wouldn’t even bother educating or treating them fairly.”

Photo by James Olaivar

But this year she realized that one cannot simply fight fire with fire, that the hatred she expressed would not bring about the change everyone in the LGBTQIA+ was protesting for, so she decided to tackle it the best way possible: by breeding love through compassion and understanding.

“I know that I’m true and that I’m valid… no one can tell me otherwise. So long as I support those who are being alienated and love those who need more love, I know that I’m living out the best life that I could,” said Gigi, and that is why she decided to share what she had to those who did not understand.

Pride defined

For Gigi, Pride is not so easily contained in a single definition, it’s as unique and diverse as the people who participate in it. Some see it as a celebration of the truth of that marginalized uniqueness, while others view it as protest against the systemic oppression which has allowed hatred and prejudice to breed.

But in simple terms, Pride can be “an acknowledgement of the love we have for those whom we consider special to us”, no matter who they may be. It’s an “avenue for everyone from all walks of life to experience and understand the realities of the LGBTQIA+ community”, so they may emphasize the struggles they face.

That is why it meant a lot for Gigi, and the rest of the LGBTQIA+ community, to see that 70,000 people gathered for this year’s rainy Pride March last June 29 at the Marikina Sports Center. The rise can be attributed to the country’s slow progression of acceptance, but more because the youth are not afraid of the truth about the LGBTQIA+ community.

Where Pride goes from here

Apart from the hecklers standing in the rain holding their signs and speakers, Gigi gave flowers to the children present at the Pride March – some even wanted to have a photo with her. For her it is important that the youth are more informed and educated about people’s identities, and that they are all valid.

“All I’m hoping for is that more and more people get to understand us more and accept us for who we are,” said Gigi, “We hope that our agenda of love and equality gets pushed towards fulfillment, and I hope that there are more changes of heart happening in the years to come.”

Gigi herself feels that Pride has a bright future ahead, with attendance growing bigger each year. She only hopes that companies do not exploit the LGBTQIA+ community’s agenda through ‘rainbow capitalism’, for what is needed is “genuine love, support, and allyship.”

As someone who’s known her whole life that she was queer, Gigi truly believes that “visibility is really important for people to understand who they are.” Through her own reflection, she realized her truth. And she wants everyone to see that truth, simply because people posses the most powerful force in the universe: love.

“A simple act of kindness penetrates deeper than any other force could,” ends Gigi, “The truest act of defiance is compassion and by doing so, you resist all kinds of hate and discrimination the world is showering you.” Nobody knows for sure what the future holds but for Gigi, things will definitely get better.

“the truest act of defiance is compassion.” For the past few #PRIDE marches I attended in, I directed most of my energy…

Posted by Gigi Esguerra on Saturday, June 29, 2019

Gigi Esguerra recently started a YouTube channel where she talks about her life as a transwoman. You can subscribe to her and see her videos at this link.

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