The Philippines is home to the world’s only LGBT political party, Ladlad. Director S. Leo Chiang gives audiences a fascinating look at gay rights activism in a country that is predominantly Catholic in his documentary “Out Run.”
“Out Run” follows the work of Bemz Benedito, a trans-woman who aspires to be the Philippines’ first transgender member of Congress in Manila. Benedito first formed Ladlad in 2010, but lost after only a short campaign run. It’s now 2013 and Benedito is back with her fellow activists at Ladlad to once again try to gain at least one seat within the Philippine Congress. Ladlad literally means “to unfold” but is used as a term for “coming out.”
Benedito hopes that by gaining a seat in Congress, she can shed light upon the discrimination that people in the LGBT community face in the Philippines, which includes job discrimination due to homophobia. Benedito wants to bring an anti-discrimination bill into action that will protect the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender Filipinos.
Watching “Out Run” enlightened me on how LGBT people are viewed in Filipino society. I was surprised to learn that in cities like Manila, gays, lesbians, and trans-men and women are highly visible members of society, even more so than in Thailand, yet they are only tolerated within the stereotypical roles given to them, like hairdressers and makeup artists.
Many Filipino cities hold gay beauty pageants that are open to the public. But in spite of this visibility, being gay is considered unacceptable, especially by the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations. Gays are tolerated within the beauty salons, but not in more “serious” jobs like government offices.
It was inspiring to watch Benedito and her colleagues refuse to settle for “tolerance,” and seek full acceptance by mainstream society. It was also interesting to see how Benedito tried to balance the issues by avoiding the subject of gay marriage, which she felt would cause too much backlash, yet, it appears that more controversy could have garnered Ladlad more support.
“Out Run” is nominated for a Halekulani Golden Orchid Award for Best Documentary.