Inquirer Super

LGBT+ life: ‘We exist and have always existed’

By: Ruth L. Navarra

Shefra Zamora can’t pinpoint a specific moment when they came out to their family. They never had “the talk” or made an announcement about them being nonbinary.

“I just gradually changed and had a girlfriend. Acceptance was gradual as well. With my family, I didn’t think they knew until I went home for my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary,” they said.

Zamora was supposed to be the maid of honor while the rest of their cousins were supposed to be part of the entourage. They found out that they were not the only ones who refused to go out in public wearing a dress.

“Turns out I had a teenage lesbian cousin who refused to go out in public in a dress and my uncle, in frustration, asked me to talk to her. That’s how I knew they somehow knew despite hiding my personal life from my family,” they said. They both ended up wearing dresses for the occasion.

They said that they were not close to their family. They live on their own in Manila while most of their family are in the province or abroad.

Big family

Shef Zamora and their family

When Zamora’s partner and her baby came into their life, they started thinking that their daughter deserves to have a big family. They wanted to have as many people for their daughter as possible.

“So, one Christmas morning I showed up with a girlfriend and baby in tow. They all fussed over our daughter and just accepted them ever since,” Zamora said.

Equality remains elusive for Zamora and their family. Because they cannot legally get married, there are benefits and rights that they cannot enjoy.

“When my daughter was born, a nurse refused to let me see her in the nursery despite having a power of attorney. Good thing that our pediatrician was a kind ally and called to give me an update on my partner and our baby,” they said.

They also recounted, “I once had to go see a doctor and the doctor refused to have my partner in the room during checkup due to the Data Privacy Act. My partner has full knowledge of my condition, medication and she can best answer all of their questions.”

Zamora refrained from relocating to another country for career opportunities because family cannot relocate with them. They also need to entrust their partner and daughter’s best interests to their family members if they die.

“And of course, the worst fear of all, what would happen to our daughter, if my partner (her legal mother) dies, and she is still underage? Under law, I am a stranger to them and that is something we worry about every day,” Zamora said.

Prejudice and ignorance also diminish their role as a father and provider. Once, Zamora was asked to talk about being an LGBT parent and they were referred to only as a coparent. It is not unusual for them to hear things like “iba pa rin pag lalake ang tatay” (having a man as a father is still better).

Judged


“Of course, we cannot avoid being judged and prejudiced [against]. But my partner and I live our lives as independently from other people’s opinions as possible,” Zamora said.

As a couple, they do their best to give their daughter a “normal” life. They chose to home-school her to shield her from bullying and social stigma. Families can differ from one another, they tell her. She grew up enjoying cartoons that feature same-sex relationships, like “She-Ra” and “Dragon Prince.” They said that they have a network of lesbian parents from whom they get their support. This is also where their daughter gets to play with others like her—children who receive so much love from same-sex parents.

Zamora has used their voice to raise awareness about LGBT and their rights in their workplace. They hold sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (Sogie) training once a year for the employees of their multinational company.


Pride group

Zamora is the cochair of London Stock Exchange Group Pride Network. They come up with activities and events that promote awareness about issues involving LGBT groups as well as offer support to the LGBT staff in the company. They have events for Pride Month, International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, and World Aids Day.

“We also offer talks specifically designed for managers on how to maintain a culture of inclusion and acceptance within their teams and develop their LGBT direct reports to uncover their potential,” Zamora said.

We’ve had more discussions on how to keep the culture of inclusion moving forward. I know that we’re still not at 100-percent level of understanding and acceptance. Perhaps, those who still oppose the idea just remain silent because the trend is to stay politically correct. But there’s still something to be said about the popular opinion favor LGBT’s acceptance over discrimination. -Shefra Zamora

Interestingly, they said that diversity and inclusion in multinational companies lead to trillions of dollars in revenue and high increase in productivity and profit.

“Major investors now lean more toward socially responsible companies, or those that follow economic, social and governance benchmarks. LGBT awareness and acceptance is now more than just a social issue, it’s now also a considerable factor in the global economy,” Zamora said. They continued, “There is a need to educate employees as everyone makes up the building blocks of an entire company’s culture. Companies need to do more than just create rainbow logos during Pride Month or meet a minimum number of minority groups in leadership or staff to make the best out of this potential.”

Zamora and colleagues in one of the events of their Pride network


‘We exist’

Some of the issues that Zamora has dealt with in the past include questions challenging the existence and validity of Sogie and the very existence of LGBT. Zamora said that they try to answer them as factually as they can. They added that this is why being seen in mainstream media is very important.

“The more LGBT people come out, the more that we show to the world that we exist and have always existed,” they said.

Thankfully, questions have evolved in such events. From questioning their existence, people are now asking for best practices in the workplace.

“We’ve had more discussions on how to keep the culture of inclusion moving forward. I know that we’re still not at 100-percent level of understanding and acceptance. Perhaps, those who still oppose the idea just remain silent because the trend is to stay politically correct. But there’s still something to be said about the popular opinion favor LGBT’s acceptance over discrimination,” they said.