We, the seventyfive lesbians in attendance represent 208 lesbians from the ranks of the workers, students, professionals, urban poor, peasants, indigenous people and other sectors who participated in the sectoral consultations prior to the conference. We have gathered from the different regions of the Philippines which include Davao, Baguio, Laoag, Cotabato, Olongapo, La Union, Cebu, Nueva Vizcaya, Manila as well as the United States and Canada. We speak different languages and express ourselves in distinct ways, our knowledge and experiences are rich and varied, and we define ourselves and realities in many ways. Our views, political beliefs and actions are diverse. We have come together to share and discuss the stories of our lives. We discovered the multiplicity of our existence and have agreed to process our experiences towards a common analysis, action and vision.
However, we live in a society that cannot accept us yet. Homophobia, the irrational fear and hatred of gays and lesbians, is a giant shadow that looms over us. We encounter violence in its many forms. We face so many obstacles towards the expression of our sexuality. We are denied the opportunity to express our knowledge, capabilities and skills in various fields of endeavor. We are deprived of the right to lead and conduct our lives freely unlike other people. This situation is further compounded by the existing discrimination levelled against women and the economically disadvantaged in general.
Today, we claim the rights that have been denied to us by our society. We will communicate to our families and friends the realities of our existence towards understanding and respect. We shall slowly dismantle the discrimination, fears and the negative images sown by churches and the mass media.
We reiterate that our rights as lesbians are human rights.
Now is the time to harness strength and take action. We claim the right to live as lesbians in our society with dignity, respect and integrity. We shall set the direction that we wish to take.
On this day, the 9th of December 1996, on the eve of the international human rights day, we loudly declare that we are here united as we claim our lesbian rights and existence!
First National Lesbian Rights Conference '96
December 7 - 9, 1996, Silang, Cavite>