With the Golden Gays, through Pride and beyond

With the Golden Gays, through Pride and beyond

They paved the way for us, so we have to keep fighting together.

Photos by Renzo Navarro

 

A group of wise Filipino philosophers once said, “There’s always a rainbow after the rain.” But what happens once the rainbow has come and gone? What comes next?

For most of us, the end of Pride means wiping off the glitter and face paint, stuffing neatly folded flags back into the closet, or maybe even finding the courage to leave that enamel pin on your bag. However, for the queens of the Home for the Golden Gays, the beginning of July means another 11 months of resistance. 

Established in the 1970s by activist and councilor Justo Justo, the Home for the Golden Gays served as a refuge for elderly and homeless gay men. Tragedy struck the group in 2012 with the passing of their founder and the repossession of their safe haven, leaving the Golden Gays scattered all over the Metro. But just like every other timeless girl group out there, these ladies were always bound to make a comeback.

 

For the Golden Gays, the power of Pride lies in its ability to bring the LGBTQIA+ community together.

 

Through the efforts of their new president Ramon Busa, the newly revived organization currently boasts a roster of around 40 comedy queens, pageant winners, lip sync assassins, and celebrity impersonators — one of which is Sharon Cuneta, the group’s Megastar impersonator-cum-pageant queen. “Buti naman may bago na tayong pamilya,” Sharon mused after tracing the chain reaction of invites that brought her back into the group. In the LGBTQIA+ community, where rejection is more common than acceptance, we are left to build our own families instead. The Home for the Golden Gays is more than just an organization for them; it’s also their chosen family.

Timeless marchers: Members of the Golden Gays, a home established by the late activist and councilor Justo Justo, staged their comeback at this year’s Pride March.

I got the privilege of joining five of the Golden Gays — Cherry Pie Picache, Didith Reyes, Lance Diva, Neneng Bagsik and Sharon Cuneta (also known as Ruel Mendiola, Cesar de Guzman, Rolando Enciso, Jose Ramirez, Jr. and Justin Gonzales) — on their float in collaboration with TaskUs (a company that has been supporting the organization through CSR initiatives since September 2018) before they embarked on the March. The silent anticipation was broken when the crowd caught a glimpse of the queens and the applause ensued. Recognition without any need for introduction is a testament to the impact that these ladies have.

For the Golden Gays, the power of Pride lies in its ability to bring the LGBTQIA+ community together. “Kita mo? Nagsasamasama pa rin tayo kahit galing sa iba’t ibang lugar. Sama-sama pa rin tayo sa hirap at ginhawa!” Neneng Bagsik exclaimed as she wove her hand over the crowd that was there despite the unforgiving rain. Her words were concise yet stirring, a trait perfected only by the most seasoned pageant queens. “Kasi kapag nagkakaisa ang mga LGBT, naipaglalaban natin ang mga karapatan na karapat-dapat sa atin.”

 

Unlike how it was during the time of Justo Justo, the queens still lack a place to call their own. They are left to live separately in apartments, boarding houses and homes of relatives.

 

We all nodded in agreement. There was a sense of solidarity in that brief moment of silence. As members of the LGBTQIA+ community, we are no strangers to oppression. Our rights are constantly withheld and violated. We are thus left with no other choice but to fight for these rights. This year’s Pride March elevated this struggle with its theme, #ResistTogether.

“Kailangan pang ma-apruba yang same-sex marriage!” Cherry Pie Picache said, breaking the silence, echoing the march’s call to arms. She said it with the drama and flair similar to that of her namesake. Didith Reyes chimed in and added, “Dapat lahat rin ng mga LGBTQ+ members ay mapasama sa mga project ng gobyerno.” Our increasing list of demands is a clear indication that we still have a long way to go.

What happens to the Golden Gays after Pride? Some of them have regular gigs, like Neneng Bagsik over at Joketime Comedy Bar in Pasay. The others continue on with their day jobs at the karinderya, ukay-ukay or parlor. And unlike how it was during the time of Justo Justo, the queens still lack a place to call their own. They are left to live separately in apartments, boarding houses and homes of relatives. What is a queen without her castle, after all?

The Golden Gays lived their true authentic selves in a world that was a lot less forgiving than what we have now. These queens should be living their golden years right now yet they still have to struggle on a day-to-day basis just to make ends meet. Our resistance should not be limited to a month of rainbow-colored capitalism. We have to continue to organize and rally for the elderly LGBTQIA+ that are displaced and neglected. We have to continue fighting for our brothers, sisters and non-binary siblings that suffer from workplace discrimination; the ones that are forcefully kicked out of their homes in places like San Roque and Mindanao; the ones that are mistreated by massive private companies; the ones that have fallen from a war endorsed by our own government. President Duterte will be delivering his fourth State of the Nation Address and we need to be there. There are also organizations, such as Rainbow Rights Philippines, GALANG Philippines, LoveYourself PH, and Bahaghari, that fight the good fight no matter what day of the year it is. A lot of these are non-profit and non-government organizations, and they could always use the extra hand. Just like what we did for Pride, we have to go out into the streets and let our voices be heard again.

 

Visit thegoldengays.wordpress.com for more details and let’s give these queens the fairytale ending that they deserve. Special thanks to TaskUs for arranging the interview.

Tags:
#gender #pride #profile

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