Speaking exclusively to 429Magazine is Michelle Jhoie Ferraris, the LGBT activist who was instrumental in the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance in the Philippine City of Angeles. Under her leadership as president of the United Gay Power Movement (UGPM) she singlehandedly organized the LGBT community in Angeles to be not only a political force but a community that helps and educates its members.
429Magazine: What’s your history in LGBT activism?
Michelle Jhoie Ferraris: I began advocating for the LGBT Community when I migrated to the United States in 1997. There, I immediately saw the importance of having an organization that fights for equality and respect for humanity. Then when I first decided to live in the Philippines for good, almost 2 years ago, I was elected as the President of the United Gay Power Movement (UGPM) which had been around for more than 2 decades but had not done anything for the LGBT Community except pageantries and parties. Then when I was inducted by the Mayor of Angeles City, I got inspired to talk to the President of the Lesbian group and I asked them if we could form a LGBT Committee and we did.
429Mag: What motivated you to act so passionately?
Ferraris: Well I had seen people that are leaders and advocates in the LGBT community, but I did not see the real essence and passion of being a leader in them. So I decided to challenge myself to make a difference and to be more influential. I firmly believe in using that amiable x-factor to do what needs to be done and to get what we are fighting for.
429Mag: What would you like to see achieved in the LGBT community?
Ferraris: I would like to see LGBT issues more focused upon in school settings and in corporate/company settings. I would like to see awards, merits, and recognitions given to all deserving LGBT people because as we all know, we are highly intelligent, productive, and organized and most of all integrated! The majority of us are achievers and we should not be denied our rights of receiving the highest awards that can be given in schools or corporate settings.
429Mag: Is there anything in the LGBT community that you’d like to see improved upon?
Ferraris: Well what disappoints me most is the fact that more than 50% of LGBT people do not even know that advocates exist and then there is no strong awareness about their own human and legal rights. Mostly we’re kept in silence about issues of discriminations and harassments. Most LGBT people don’t even know that they should all be together to fight for our collective rights.
429Mag: What was it like to organize the LGBT community that had never really been politically active before?
Ferraris: It was quite hard to organize the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders here in the Philippines. They only had their own agendas! It was the first time in the history of our city that we organized and became one. When I was elected as the Chairman of the LGBT Committee in Angeles City we had to begin a lot of social services and the beautification of our city. We started to raise community support by cleaning up the streets, planting trees, feeding the homeless and then we had to train the right people with the right skill and talent needed to bring about real organizational potential.
429Mag: So your strategy was to get the support of the city and regular people to help get the Anti-Discrimination Bill get passed in Angeles?
Ferraris: Yes. We became popular and got closer to The Angeles City Council, until the point came when I could ask the Mayor and the Vice Mayor and the 5 councilors needed to help me draft provisions and sections of the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance.
429Mag: So what have you and your organization done thus far to help the livelihoods of LGBT people in the Philippines?
Ferraris: To date we have contributed to the beautification of Angeles City and have promoted, campaigned and supported our beloved Mayor Ed Pamintuan, and with the help of the LGBT Community, he was named and proclaimed as one of the 10 best Mayors of the world wherein he ranked 8th for the world and 1st in Asia.
Also, importantly, I was able to pass the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance in a span of 30 days which I am very proud of because it is the 1st in Luzon (the biggest Island of the Philppines) and we are only the 3rd city in the whole Republic of the Philippines who have been able to pass the Ordinance in history.
429Mag: What would you say your personal impact on the LGBT community has been so far?
Ferraris: I have worked hard and spent a lot of time and effort to get the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance passed in our city. And I have helped to bind the LGBT community together as one. Now the LGBT community is more centered and works as a great support network for each other and we no longer compete with one another.
429Mag: What are you currently working on for the future?
Ferraris: Our future plans include promoting strong awareness about our health, awareness on safe sex and HIV prevention and helping and supporting HIV infected people so that they can live a full life and be strong in coping with life’s challenges. I also want to encourage LGBT people to lead and to become political leaders in order to set an example for the future generations and a legacy that marks Rights and Equality.
429Mag: Any last comments?
Ferraris: I just want to reiterate that to be an LGBT advocate one should carry a very strong awareness about our responsibilities, about being productive and about organizing and developing our talents/skills and our God given potentials. My sincerest thank you very much to all at 429Magazine, especially to Matthew Rodgers.
It is an exciting time for LGBT politics in the Philippines. The Ladlad Party, the world’s only LGBT political party, launched their campaign to win three seats in the Philippine House of Representatives. If elected in May, the Ladlad Party is determined to get an Anti-Discrimination Ordinance passed for the entire nation, the first in Asia. Also, thanks to LGBT activist Raymond Alikpala, the National Philippine Police Force has opted for LGBT sensitization training – also a first for Asia.