I first met Danton Remoto in Bali at an international AIDS conference (ICAAP9) last year. I was attending as a media scholar and he was attending as the Communications Officer for the UNDP (United Nations Development Program).
We sat beside each other in the pressroom while I was reviewing the slides for a presentation. I was going to make about campaigning for safer sex in the Philippines. One slide in my presentation included a European condom commercial. The commercial had, ehem, distinct sounds of people in the midst of copulating and not knowing that the volume of my computer was turned up rather high, I had inevitably filled the newsroom with sounds of moans and groans. It sent the otherwise busy journalists pounding away at their keyboards, giggling.
Danton, who was beside me, was also laughing. He introduced himself to me as I scrambled to lower the volume and profusely apologize to everyone in the newsroom for disturbing them. Not that he needed an introduction. I had been to many of the press conferences hosted by the UNDP and other LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) events where Danton was a speaker. I was regaled by his stories of how members of the LGBT community dealt with blatant or otherwise forms of discrimination. (One of my favorites is how a lesbian was suspiciously asked by a prospective employer, “Are you a practicing lesbian?” to which she replied, “No, I’m quite good at it already.”)
Danton and I saw each other again at a post congress party that evening and nearly keeled over laughing as old songs were played and we tried to guess what grade we were in when the song was made popular.
After Bali, we became Facebook friends. I followed Danton as he led the Ang Ladlad party in filing Commission on Elections (Comelec) accreditation—a motion which we all know, was denied as Ang Ladlad was deemed as unfit to run for office. Later, Ang Ladlad was labeled by a Catholic bishop as having an abnormal condition and that voting for them would be insulting to the Christians and the Muslims who have strict views against homosexuality.
These discriminatory and homophobic comments enraged not just the LGBT community, but other advocates of human rights, including the Commission on Human Rights head Leila de Lima who called rightfully called the Comelec decision “retrogressive.” I would follow Danton’s saga by reading his blog and how he and the supporters of human rights and the LGBT community staged indignation rallies and filed a case in the Supreme Court to overturn the Comelec decision.
In one blog entry, Danton describes the start of one hearing:
Commissioner XXX: How shall I address you, Miss or Madame?
Danton Remoto: You may call me Professor Danton Remoto, or Mr. Danton Remoto.
I was overseas when I got the message from a fellow journalist that the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of Ang Ladlad.
“Wahoo! Let the games begin!” I replied.
The proclamation was a slap to those who had made self-righteous declarations and a huge victory in the fight for equality and recognition for other marginalized communities.
Since then, Danton and Ang Ladlad have been feverishly campaigning and painting the town pink. Danton’s updates on Facebook are filled with short stories about the overwhelming support they have been shown during their sorties. During a campaign in Pasig, a beautician ran out of the parlor while shampooing a customer to shake Danton’s hand and apologized because his hands were still wet with shampoo. In Camarines Norte, the Ang Ladlad coordinator raised funds by asking for donations from everyone he knew. In the public market of Daet, a gay man who sold kalamansi and tomatoes fished for a P20 bill from his apron and gave it our coordinator, saying, “Donasyon ko tabi.”
Danton’s wall is filled with pictures of pink motorcades—some posted by friends and supporters—and messages of encouragement and support.
His latest status message read: “Pink warriors in the LRT [Light Rail Transit] and MRT [Metro Rail Transit], motorcades galore, coco cloth tarps hanging in the highways of Bicol, Central Luzon turning pink and the solid north going for Ang Ladlad party list, number 89 sa balota. Onwards to victory.”
In one blog post, Danton wrote: I feel so vindicated. As cities and citizens continue painting themselves pink, it shows that Danton couldn’t be more correct.
This column is a salute to Ang Ladlad for not cowering to the barefaced insults and the flagrant discrimination; for bravely waging the fight for equal rights and to Danton, for leading it.