I couldn’t help but tweet how turned off I was: immediately after Hidilyn Diaz bagged the Philippines’ first Olympic gold (no doubt an unforgettable moment in our nation’s history), politicians and brands came swooping in, showering her with praise and prizes.
It’s not that Hidilyn didn’t deserve it. She deserves all the applause and congratulations she received for her victory. She made every Filipino proud and inspired all of us to dream bigger dreams.
What I find off-putting about the whole spectacle is the absurdity of it all, in light of Hidilyn’s desperate plea for people to fund her Olympic training in 2019.
Athletes like Hidilyn should not resort to begging. Athletes, especially someone of Hidilyn’s caliber who have already proven themselves in previous competitions (she bagged a silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics), should get financial support for representing our country.
This is the government’s responsibility, without a doubt. For the record: we are not absolving the government of its responsibility to our athletes.
But the deafening silence from the brands, after she posted in 2019 on her Instagram that she hoped private companies could help her Tokyo Olympics bid, was in stark contrast with the cheers and adulation brands are showering on her now.
My disgust comes from experience: as a member of the LGBT+ community, I’m no stranger to brands trendjacking our Pride Month, heaping us their messages of support, and changing their social media profiles with rainbows behind their logos.
All these brands come out for the party every June. After that, they’re conspicuously silent when the community needs support to help pass the landmark SOGIE Equality Bill into law, ask sponsorships for our advocacy programs to help the community–or when they’re flagged for their non-inclusive company policies.
Companies slapping on rainbows and pinkwashing themselves as progressive entities, without truly risking their profits nor transforming their organizations into SOGIE-diverse and -inclusive safe spaces, have led to massive distrust from the community.
The existence of successful people like Hidilyn in the athletic community and Boy Abunda, Vice Ganda, and Geraldine Roman in the LGBT+ community does not wave away the systemic barriers and dismal conditions our respective communities experience.
Let’s reiterate it, since a lot of people seem to miss these very important points:
It is unfair and unjust that there are so few of us winning in our respective fields, just because material and non-material support and opportunities within our fields are either absent or very scarce.
It is unfair and unjust that the system doesn’t provide a space that nurtures more champions, either because resources are not properly allocated, or that, in the case of the LGBT+ community, we don’t have laws to protect us from discrimination or to allow us an even playing field in schools or the workplace.
“I want to tell everybody, not just the government, that we should not focus only on the outcome.
We should look at how the athletes prepare, what the athletes need, and which people the athletes need.”
We aren’t discouraging the private sector to support Hidilyn, much like how we aren’t preventing brands from joining Pride celebrations.
What we’re doing is asking them to dig deeper instead of just lightly skimming the surface.
If they truly believe in athletes like Hidilyn, then they should support her and her fellow athletes.
If they truly believe that LGBT+ people deserve equal rights, then they should support our fight for SOGIE equality, going beyond Pride Month promos and rainbow profile photos. They should also ensure that they have SOGIE-diverse and -inclusive company policies and programs, as well as refusing to support politicians and celebrities who are against the LGBT+ community.
When the victory high is gone and the parade is over, there’s still more work to be done.
And trust us: we’re watching out who just came to have fun.
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