Last weekend, as part of Outgames Philippines 2012: Leveling the Playing Field, the Rainbow Rights Project and the Commission on Human Rights hosted Deaf Talks: A Forum for Deaf LGBTs on Human Rights and HIV. The event was geared toward raising awareness for Deaf Rainbow Philippines, a relatively new organization devoted to supporting LGBT Filipinos who are deaf or hearing-impaired. Accessibility is not always as big a focus in LGBT movements as it should be, so this event was a critical step toward advancing inclusion of people with disabilities in the LGBT community.
Deaf Talks provided attendees with information on the United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as capacity building sessions so that activists would have the tools to campaign for equal rights on a global scale. It also provided an opportunity for deaf LGBT people to share stories and discuss intersectionality, particularly as it relates to experiencing multiple forms of oppression. Bibo Lee Perey, the founder and president of Deaf Rainbow Philippines, discussed the challenges that queer deaf people face when seeking employment and romantic interests:
With no job, no money. Then difficult to find partner. Even on Facebook, gay men with normal hearing ridicule us. Because of broken grammar.
Germaine Trittle Leonin, a representative from the Rainbow Rights Project, explained the significance of the forum:
We organized Deaf Talks as our contribution to the deaf LGBTs so that hopefully they learn about human rights laws and use this knowledge to advance and protect their human rights both as LGBTs and as persons with disabilities. We should work with them as equal partners in developing society and not treat them as helpless recipients of assistance from others.
Everyone should have the opportunity to advocate for their own communities and equal rights. But this gets to be complex, when movements are inaccessible to many of their own members. By hosting Deaf Talks, the Rainbow Rights Project, Commission on Human Rights and Deaf Rainbow Philippines were able to provide knowledge and support for activists who needed the assistance and, by extension, strengthen the participation of people with disabilities in the LGBT movement. Hopefully, future Outgames Philippines will be similarly accessible and feature similar opportunities.