This #PrideMonth, The Filipina Feminists interviewed Cal, founder and owner of The Gay Agenda PH. Cal is a young trans man entrepreneur, and they asked him about how his business started, his opinions about how the LGBTQ+ community is accepted in the country, and what advice he wants to give to closeted LGBTQ+ folks.
TFFs: Hey there! We're grateful that you gave us the time for this interview even though we know how busy you and your store get during #PrideMonth. To start off, please introduce yourself to our readers. Who are the founders of The Gay Agenda Ph? What are your interests?
TGAPh: Hi! So, I’m Cal and The Gay Agenda was co-founded with me by Monique but for personal reasons she’s no longer affiliated with TGA. I’m currently running it alone with the help of my friend Rachel who’s also the current photographer / social media manager of The Gay Agenda. I’m actually a college student right now and when I have the time I enjoy reading and writing.
TFFs: If it’s okay to share, what is/are your founder/s’ SOGIE and what pronouns do you prefer?
TGAPh: I identify as a queer trans[gender] man, so my pronouns are he/him. I can only speak for Monique but she’s a bisexual ciswoman whose pronouns are she/her.
TFFs: What inspired you to start The Gay Agenda Ph?
TGAPh: The Gay Agenda actually started in 2017. [I]t was my friend’s birthday and we all wanted to give her a Pride Flag. We had such a difficult time looking for a place which sold any sort of Pride paraphernalia that wasn’t Shopee or Lazada.
Even before, I already wanted a Pride Flag for myself but I had no idea how to get one. I thought it was actually impossible. This was what pushed me to open The Gay Agenda. I want to be able to provide Pride paraphernalia to the Filipinx LGBTQ+ community. I want the rest of the community to have a one-stop shop for all things Pride that’s based here in the Philippines, with prices which are affordable for us.TFFs: In your opinion, why is there a need for #Pride in the Ph?
TGAPh: In the Philippines, the LGBTQ+ community is, at most, tolerated. We are still so far from being accepted and there is no other way to open the eyes of everyone else here than to stand proud of who we are. Very few, even within the community, have the opportunity to learn about SOGIE and all the other little things about who we are.
I know a bunch of bisexual individuals in straight relationships who constantly need to remind everyone that they’re still very much bi and very much valid. I know a trans[gender] woman who still refers to herself as “bakla” because we don’t [acknowledge] the correct terms yet. I, myself, feel wary regarding being trans[gendered] in the Philippines because it feels as though I fit nowhere.
For example, [it's difficult for me to] pursue a straight girl even if she used my pronouns because I’m still [considered as] “not a guy”. It’s all these things, the mindset so many [Filipinx] still have in our society that shows how much we need #Pride and why we shouldn’t stop moving towards a more accepting society.
TFFs: We totally agree with you on that one! It's hard also when LGBTQ+ folks aren't represented well in media, but we know things are starting to improve content-wise. Do you have any LGBTQ+-centered books, movies, shows, music, or podcasts that you want to recommend to our followers?
TGAPh: A lot of books or shows or movies are seen as problematic by some people in the community. I’m not claiming that the ones I like are perfect but Tales of the City on Netflix was really good and even though it’s already outdated (and problematic) The L Word was such a relief to my younger self when all I wanted was a show with a little more representation.
I know there are a lot of books that are surfacing now which have LGBTQ+ characters but I still find myself going back to the first one I ever read. It’s entitled Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden and it’s quite old. For more adventurous readers I’d also recommend The Captive Prince Trilogy by CS Pacat and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.
TFFs: Cool! We'll definitely add them to our read and watch lists. Is there any famous member of the LBGTQ+ community who inspires you?
TGAPh: I’m not sure if these people are famous actually but Jamie Raines, a trans[gender] Youtuber from the UK always manages to inspire me. It was his transition video that I first saw when I was like 14 or 15 years old. He has come such a long way since he started transitioning and even though transitioning feels almost like an impossible dream for me, watching [his videos] always gives me something to hope for.
Another person who inspires me is a student in UP Diliman, Amber Quiban who’s a trans[gendered] woman and I’m not close with her or anything but her strong character has always been something that I admired and seeing her on campus makes me believe that I can be strong like that too.
TFFs: What’s your advice for any young LGBTQ+ folks who haven’t had the chance to come out yet?
TGAPh: It’s not easy and not everyone is as lucky as people who have supportive families but that’s okay. [I]t’s not a race and there’s no expiration date to your identity. You can come out whenever you’re ready and that doesn’t invalidate you one bit. It’s okay to wait, it’s okay to try and figure things out by yourself first.
It’s valid to wait to find a community which makes you feel safe before coming out. In fact, if you don’t want to come out, as long as you know that you are valid and that you aren’t a mistake, then that’s really all there is to it. Not everyone needs to come out, loving yourself and believing that you’re valid is enough. There is pride in acknowledging that.
TGAPh: I understand that we all come from different backgrounds. We were all raised a certain way with beliefs and values we can’t live without. I understand that you can’t even begin to imagine how someone like me is okay and real. I understand all of that, the being conservative and whatnot but I have a 92 year old grandmother who’s the most devout Catholic I know and she loves me. I know she can’t begin to understand my SOGIE but that was never enough of a reason for her to hate on me.
Not understanding something doesn’t equate to it being bad. We have so many resources now, so many ways to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community and I hope you could take the time to try and see us as human beings who just want to be able to love and live and be happy.TFFs: We couldn't agree more! In your opinion, how can cis and straight folks become better allies to the LGBTQ+ community?
TGAPh: Acknowledging their privilege? Just knowing that as members of the LGBTQ+ community, we were not given the same voice or the same chance as some of them. Acknowledging that there really are struggles we can’t explain enough for them to understand and with that, just standing by us in our fight for equality. Just having cis and straight allies who are willing to battle against this oppressive society, not because they’re being oppressed but because they believe in what we’re fighting for is the kind of inspiring thing that people need right now.
TFFs: Do you have any social media accounts you want to promote? Where can people find you?
TGAPh: We’re @thegayagendaph here on Instagram and on Twitter. We also have a Facebook page, The Gay Agenda. If ever, y’all can also Google us but please remember that we’re an online shop and we don’t have a physical store so please message us first if you want to place an order.
Local brands like The Gay Agenda Ph which find a balance between business and advocacy are definitely the ones we should support and watch out for. We thank Cal of The Gay Agenda Ph for granting us the opportunity for this interview.