Pride Month: Sowing the Seeds of Freedom
Feature Image: Karen, Jenny, and Kiki Krunch at Mt. Cloud. Image from North Luzon Pride at Instagram
Last weekend, my partner and I were invited to be guests of a story-sharing Pride month event. We were honored to have been given the chance to talk about our relationship and how we’re navigating through all the challenges of being an LGBTQ couple in the Philippines.
At one point in the conversation, I asked if everybody in the audience was out because I was genuinely surprised at the age range. There were children as young as 10 and adults in their 40s or 50s. The answer was interesting because many said that they were only partially out. By that, they meant that they were out to their friends and not to their families or some iteration of that.
It hit me that I am one of the lucky ones because I am now at a place where I can confidently express who I am without fear of rejection or judgment. Years of self-work and support from family and friends have afforded me that.
My experiences moving through a sometimes kind and an oftentimes hostile environment for LGBTQIA++ has compelled me to always try to be a safe space for people. Reserving judgment has more benefits that we could automatically just glean from the surface. What happens when we allow people to be fully themselves without fear of criticism almost always creates a beautiful outcome. When we let let people tell their stories through their lens unencumbered by the need to fit in or to please, the space becomes freeing. And freedom, we know from history, is something our ancestors fought for. It is also something we continue to fight for today.
Last March, we launched our seed sovereignty campaign. While the use of the word sovereignty has become more common, the concept is still rather abstract and difficult to define. The closest I’ve come to a direct translation in Filipino is “kasarinlan” which means “to be in control of the self”. It would be very easy to just say it means independence in English but like every language, Filipino has nuances in how it formulates words that just giving a direct translation results in losing some of the depth of the original word. To give a little context, kasarinlan comes from the root word “sarili” which means self.
This idea of autonomy is similar in every arena. In seed sovereignty, it is fighting to regain control over the growing, saving, and sharing of seeds. In the LGBTQIA++ movements, it is fighting to create safe spaces to just be and fighting to be afforded the same rights and freedoms as everyone else.
It is so much easier to give up. But that’s me coming from this privileged place of being open about who I am. The hope that someday, the children who were in the audience would not have to struggle and would not need to come out because they’re loved and accepted for who they are is what gives me strength to keep on. Every battle won is like a reassuring hug to my younger self: it’s going to be okay.
Fighting for freedom in the present is holding on to the vision of a better future: a future where kasarinlan is not just an abstract concept but a reality.
Happy Pride Month!
When I was asked to write about June Pride, it took me a long time to decide what to write. But then it hit me. I should write a letter to myself. My 15-year-old self. I just hope this reaches people who need this. It’s definitely not a literary piece. But it’s real. It’s how I would have talked to myself if I were able to talk to me when I was 15. It took me years to come out. And when I did, my world changed for the better. Freedom does that. It changes everybody’s world for the better.
Why is this relevant? This is relevant because seeds bring people together. We’ve seen our work impact people from different backgrounds, races, beliefs, ages, and sexual orientations. Seeds have the power to create connections. We’ve witnessed that. There is nothing more beautiful than a world where everyone is food secure and where everyone is free to love who they love. We are committed to ushering a better world by the work we do—a world free from oppression, injustice, discrimination, hatred, anger, and violence.
We at Global Seed Savers and Global Seed Savers Philippines are committed to holding a safe space for everyone no matter your religion, color, belief, race, age, and background. Join us!
Karen’s Letter to her 15-year-old self
Yes, I’m here. I’m okay.
I promised myself a few months ago that I would never give a blasé answer to anyone who asks me how I am doing. Not everyone is sincere about asking how I’m doing, I’m aware of that. And it’s likely not everyone is expecting a different answer than “I’m okay.” But taking the question as an opportunity to examine my state, though briefly, is important. And here are my reasons why.
As I write this, the noise of the world is so overwhelming that sometimes it’s difficult to hear yourself. Taking a minute to check in on yourself is important to gaining the skill in listening to knowing what you’re truly feeling. Second, answering the question by looking inward is a way of honoring the life that’s in you. Plus, it shows that you’re not dismissing the person asking you the question.
I want to check on you. How are you? You’re 15. You’re lonely and you need a hug.
I remember you. I was there when you thought you weren’t normal because you felt things that girls shouldn’t feel. I remember you hiding behind so many masks until you almost forgot who you were in the process. All because you couldn’t speak about your feelings to the people who mattered to you. To the people who needed to hear it the most. To the people you wanted to be loved by the most.
I remember you. I remember feeling so lonely that I couldn’t do any proper schoolwork. I remember you having to keep up a brave face every time you would hear snide remarks about your identity. I remember you dying so many times so people wouldn’t see who you were. See, I know you’re going through a very painful time trying to fit in but never being able to.
It’s going to get better. Trust me… Or trust you. You’re beautiful and you’re strong. Most importantly, you have a kind heart.
You won’t believe where I am now. Yes, the world is in the grip of a very unrelenting pandemic. To make matters worse, there’s so much injustice, bigotry, and anger. It’s palpable everywhere. But everywhere there are countless people being kind. Countless people going out of their way to help each other. And everywhere, tiny miracles are happening.
Oh. And you have friends. Real friends. Yes, you have friends.
You work for a wonderful organization that allows you to extend so much kindness to so many people. And you work with a great team. People of different backgrounds and stories just like yours. But you’re able to come together and produce beautiful results. The rainbow wouldn’t be a rainbow if it did not have different colors, after all! And your family knows about your love now and it’s okay. They love you. And I know that means the world to you.