MANILA, PHILIPPINES — As part of Google Philippines’ Pride Month celebrations, they held another edition of “Pride Conversations,” their annual campaign to promote inspiring LGBTQIA+ stories and the importance of allyship. For this year’s session, Google put a spotlight on professionals in tech — app & web developers, UX designers, and more — who shared their experiences with building safe spaces for members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the local tech industry.
The roundtable discussion was composed of six leaders who work in various fields in tech and the digital space, including Google Philippines video & Media Sales Lead Jolly Estraris, who moderated the discussion.
Before the panel, the event kicked off with opening addresses by Google Philippines Country Director Bernadette Nacario and Miss Trans Global 2020 Mela Habijan.
Nacario shared all the ongoing efforts that are being made at Google to ensure that they do their part in making the industry, online spaces, and society as a whole safer FOR and more welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community.
“Only if we work together towards cultural and policy change can we be in a world that is equal and without prejudice,” said Nacario.
Hajiban also set the tone for the discussion with her rousing speech about how, when she felt like she wasn’t allowed in spaces she wanted to thrive in and was being denied opportunities because she is a trans woman, her saving graces arrived in the form of social media, tech, and the digital world. All of which gave her the space and platform that she needed and deserved to be herself and thrive.
“Sabi ng mundo, kapag LGBTQ+ ka, wala kang karapatan mangarap,” she expressed. “Little did I know I would meet three fairy godmothers along the way: social media, digital world, tech. What powerful names they are.”
Habijan also called on others who also feel like they cannot dream because of their identity to not give up and to not hide who they are.
“Stand for what you believe in and break free from the world that says ‘hindi pwede‘ because there are three powerful things that can be your tools too: tech, social media, and the digital world,” Habijan expressed. “Together, let’s build with pride, and reclaim your power.”
The stories that the panelists shared in the roundtable discussion proved what Hajiban shared: through tech, there are more safe spaces being built and more platforms being created for the LGBTQIA + community.
This was true for Maki Gingoyon, one of the founders of mytransgenderdate.com. She talked about how trans women deserved a dating space online where they are not being fetishized and where their safety and comfort come first. Creating the dating site allowed for that.
“We created mytransgenderdate because there is a need for a safe space and a dating site for my trans sisters,” she said.
For Ticket2Me Founder Darwin Mariano, the platform he created allowed for more diverse stories to be seen and create more diverse representation on people’s screens. Through shows like Boys Lockdown, the Ticket2Me platform is able to help foster a culture of inclusivity in the entertainment world.
“It’s important to show that these stories can be successful [and to show] kids who realize they’re different that there are stories like this, it’s okay to be different, and it’s okay to love who you want to love,” he remarked.
Cristina del Rosario, the head of design at FirstCircle, also shared that the online world, in general, has made it easier to connect with fellow members of the community. “I think that tech has really been a godsend to the LGBTQ+ community in terms of safe spaces that we have online where we can gather, ask for advice, and offer support to other people.”
The panelists also discussed how making the tech industry a welcoming space for the community doesn’t just end with creating online platforms. Rather, the environment at the workplaces behind these platforms needs to be inclusive and safe too.
Estraris weighed in, talking about how his time and work at Google have shown him how it has become and continues to be a platform for diversity. “Google is one of the companies where the support for Pride and #LGBTQ+ is not lip service,” he said.
PageUP UI Design Lead Mark Lacsamana also shared his own experiences as someone who is also out in the workplace, recounting a time when his resolve to be himself and not tone himself down made others feel safer in being out in the workplace as well. “I didn’t realize that being as authentic as I am can change that much when it comes to other people.”
Making sure to note that creating a safe space at work includes not turning a blind eye when that safety and respect are threatened, Sam Rose Cruz, Xsplit’s product designer emphasized, “We have to make sure that leaders don’t just idly stand by [while discrimination is happening] in the workplace,” adds Cruz. She continues on to say that people in the LGBTQIA+ community can only truly thrive if they know that their coworkers — and particularly their leaders — have their back and will stand up for them in the face of discrimination.
The event wrapped up with parting words from Habijan, who expressed the importance of these insights and stories, and how everyone needs to take part in not just creating and maintaining these safe spaces. “The goal doesn’t end with just simply creating safe spaces [but also] maintaining it so that our children can also make use of whatever safe spaces we have created now and enjoy it for the rest of the generations to come.”
Check out adobo Magazine‘s Twitter coverage of the event here:
#Events: This evening, #adoboMagazine is tuning in to @GooglePH's Pride Conversations: Celebrating #LGBTQ and Allies in #Tech, where various tech professionals will be talking about shining the spotlight on the LGBTQ+ community and allies in the local industry.#BuildWithPride pic.twitter.com/AynbJ92WMj
— adobo magazine (@adobomagazine) June 21, 2022