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Power in Diversity: Brian Tenorio, Chair & Founder of the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce, reveals the true colors of business

By Brian Tenorio

We at the Philippine LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Tansgender) Chamber of Commerce define diversity to be a source of creativity, innovation, and yes, even power.

Plowing through articles and texts, and discussions on LGBT, more often these take the perspective of minority, oppression, of LGBT as victims or recipients of hate and discrimination. While this is wholly true and prevalent, the LGBT Chamber exists to highlight another perspective:

  1. Where, instead of “different”, we say, “special”

  2. “Variations,” we think, give us “possibilities”

  3. To have a “handicap,” we know means, “to have unique insight and a unique capability”

  4. Of things that are “focused and limited,” we shout and ask for, “versatility”

When as a community, we discuss ways to create a safer workplace for our employees, rights for individuals when it comes to protection, privacy, and dignity, we feel that we should also discuss the leadership potential of LGBT in every sector. LGBT as leaders.

The Chamber’s goal is to activate these LGBT in leadership positions to have them manage and develop for others the change that they have experienced in themselves.

Personal experience

I remember from three years back. I was invited to an event where I was one of the “execs” there to chat up some of the fast runners of the tech community of the country. In the hall, was I with my big hair, boots, and a wrap and a few female colleagues and a roomful of men. While, typically that would sound like an enjoyable time, I felt otherwise because of the uneven spread. But as we progressed with the event, our difference certainly felt like an advantage in getting heard, in gaining attention, and with those, getting things accomplished.

My friend, Bess Hepworth (who gives talks about Out Leadership), spritely highlights this talent of engagement by calling it “gayvantage.”

This insight is severe, actually, but I love it. All our lives, we’ve been navigating through social negotiations (with our parents, classmates, office peers, dates and lovers, bullies and difficult bosses, social media and even government) and also coursing through all this via informal communication – certainly rarely position papers and love letters, but more often perhaps a wink here and there, or a half smile when the situation is unpleasant.

Here in the Philippines, we must shift our perception of diversity from being mostly a disadvantage to also an advantage, on some days, a superpower. Our adaptability, resourcefulness, and versatility are characteristics that are required for a successful delivery of any species.

Just last year, theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, wrote that technology and automation will wipe out jobs that involve muscle, precision, and most mechanical skill sets. But jobs that involve compassion and caring, understanding and human interaction, creativity, and resourceful thinking, will be left untouched. With this, it may be easier to theorize that diversity is the future of humans in industry.


While initially, from my presentations for the Chamber, the verbiage we use when describing the population of the LGBT in the Philippines would be “let’s say somewhere from 2%, very conservatively, to wildly 20% of the population. “Wildly” is not usually a word we can use in business, but that number certainly feels reassuring. We also say, from 5% to 8% in our more sober conversations.

One of my most favorite data representations is this from the J Walter Thompson Innovation Group, from just earlier last year, 2016. According to this market study, more than half of the population of 20 year olds and younger in the United States are not absolutely straight.

We must prepare ourselves for the next few decades where we are no longer a minority. We must prepare ourselves for a future where we are a majority, where this form of diversity becomes the biggest demographic in the world population.

In the United States, in the next ten years, there will be more LGBT and LGBT-ok individuals than Latino Americans, African Americans, American Christians, football lovers, pizza eaters, and maybe even college graduates. This could be the largest demographic any marketer can get his hands on. This diversity could be the largest voting bloc (should it be tapped that way), the largest target market of consumers, the largest audience for media products. Imagine a world of “straight indie movies” because most mainstream films will have this diversity. Imagine that.

With these, as we believe so in the Chamber, there is certainly advantage, innovation, and power in diversity.

*With excerpts from the speech given by Brian Tenorio at “On the Margins of Development: Asia-Pacific LGBT Inclusion, Poverty Reduction and Prosperity”, hosted in recognition of 16 Days of Activism on Violence Against Women, held at the Asian Development Bank last December 5 2016.

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