After decades as the so-called ‘sick man of Asia’, the Philippines has adopted the export-driven model of economic development followed by wealthier Asian countries (Makabenta 2014) and has begun to address the pervasive corruption that has perennially deterred investment.
With the Aquino administration’s prosecution of high-profile cases of corruption and implementation of various tax reform measures, the country’s credit rating has improved tremendously, attracting the attention of investors. Unfortunately, this economic growth has not trickled down to the millions of Filipinos living in poverty and nor has it resulted in job creation.
It is in the slums of Metro Manila, far from the buzzing finance district, where GALANG Philippines’ constituency of lesbians, bisexual women and trans men (LBTs) struggle against oppressive poverty in the face of the additional burdens of social ostracisation and bigotry. ‘Galang’ is the Filipino word for respect. GALANG is also the name of a duly acclaimed feminist human rights organisation that works with economically marginalised LBTs in the Philippines. In this case study, GALANG seeks to identify strategies in which Filipino LBTs cope with workplace discrimination and the severe lack of gainful employment opportunities in the country.
GALANG argues that Filipino LBTs are more likely to be tolerated by their respective families when they make a substantial financial contribution. Because SOGIE-based biases make finding gainful employment especially challenging for sexual minorities, many LBTs have turned to creative livelihood sources to empower themselves economically and contribute to family coffers in order to gain acceptance.
Additionally, this case study examines the motivations, aspirations and personal lives of LBT Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong. It tackles the links between and among financial independence, economic empowerment, family acceptance, migration and sexuality, specifically in the context of Filipino LBTs. Homosexuality and lesbianism are often described as ‘social costs’ of migration. This research goes against the grain of this argument. It seeks to illustrate how financial independence sets the stage for lesbians to better come to terms with their sexuality.