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Zion from Cotabato: ‘Educate Mindanawons to empower them’

By Ronel Angeles

Originating from Cotabato City, gay Moro Zion A. DM desires for the “complete liberation of the LGBT community,” he said. This is why – since 2010 – he’s been a community organizer and a Moro human rights advocate, believing that “true liberation only happens when all minorities – including LGBT people and, in the Philippines, the Moro people – gain their rights to be who they are.”

Zion, of course, recognizes the seeming “disconnect” between the two – i.e. being LGBT and being a Moro. This is particularly because “many Moro people continue to frown on our very existence.”

Zion is somewhat “lucky” since he is – by and large – accepted by his family. There is transphobia, nonetheless, and even anti-women sentiments. “Kapag sa pamilya ko, okay naman, tanggap naman. Basta hindi ako nag-wear ng pang-girl na damit (My family, they’re generally okay with me being gay. As long as I don’t transition as a woman/dress as a woman traditionally would),” he said.

But this “luck” is now shared by everyone from Mindanao.

He expressed sadness, for instance, that “LGBT people (from where I am, in Mindanao) can get punished because of who they are,” he said. This is true in such places like Marawi.

Dangerous lives: Being LGBT in Muslim Mindanao

And so, Zion said, “maingat kami kapag pumupunta kami sa mga lugar na ‘yan kasi baka hindi kami makakauwi ng buhay (we are careful when going to these places because we could get killed there).”

Zion is part of a youth organization, Liga ng Kabataang Moro. In his estimation, he is the only one who is open about his SOGIE there because of fear of other of being bullied. This is why he advocates for education.

For Zion, “education is what is needed for the people in Mindanao.” To start, LGBT people from the southern part of the Philippines “should be made aware of their rights, particularly as these relate to their self expression.”

Zion, nonetheless, believes that the struggle needs to be holistic.

LGBT people from Mindanao, for instance, need to also be aware of the Bangsomo Basic Law (BBL), as it could also affect them. “People talk about autonomy and peace negotiations and all that,” he said, “and yet these are not often inclusive, neglecting people like us.” This is why “we need to push for our actual inclusion in such State-sanctioned efforts as the BBL.”

This emphasis on the need for a holistic approach is why Zion said that “LGBT struggle can’t (always) be separated from the struggle of other sectors – e.g. farmers, students, workers, et cetera. We are all minorities trying to be heard.”

And then “may mga LGBT naman na farmers, na manggagawa, na estudyante (there are LGBT people who are farmers, who are workers, who are students), and so on,” he said.

In the end, “the struggle is basic: rights as humans.”

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The Mindanao group of islands in southern Philippines has long been called as the country's "Promised Land" - albeit this is often said as a yet-fulfilled potential, instead of highlighting what the place now has to offer. We don't only believe it's wrong; we also strongly believe time to correct this and highlight everything about this place that is, indeed, a land full of promise. So here's... Mindanaw Magazine!

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