June 20, 2017
Lucia Edna P. de Guzman
Cover art Erka Capili Inciong
The internet is there for all your publishing needs, whether you’re a poet, a fictionist, an essayist, or a gorgeous blend of all three, there’s a platform for you. Still, seeing your words in ink on paper gives another sort of high.
“The internet creates a break in mainstream publishing and its worth exploring in terms of widening horizons and diversifying aesthetics in writing,” Janine Go Dimaranan, one of the editors of Gantala Press told SparkUp after the All Women and LGBTQ Better Living Through Xeroxography (BLTX) last May 27, at the Other Room, Quezon City. “The advantage of published material is that they’re usually acknowledged better. If you have printed works like in journals, university presses, etc. then it gives you a sort of privilege that your work has an approval like a thumbs up seal from those who have ‘mastered the craft’.”
But it’s not as easy to get published when you’re a woman and/or a member of the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, and others), who have expressed during the event that they still have a hard time finding publishers who will bank on craft that represents their respective fields of experience.
Filipino views on sex and sexuality are, after all, still fairly conservative. Even winning the Palanca Award for Children’s Literature in 2006 did not make it easy for Bernadette Villanueva Neri, who only after six years found a publisher for her story about a little girl with lesbian parents.
There’s a sea change—people are more outspoken than they were years ago—but it’s a gradual changing in the tides.
And literature is important. It affirms the way we think or changes us. It molds ideas. It shapes character. How often has literature—whether it’s through print or film or sound—helped get us through the day?
That’s why women and the LGBTQ+ might find temporary solace in independent publishing. This is the first time the BLTX—a small press expo gathering comic artists and authors—had a theme, in order to provide a platform to the marginalized genders.
“We thought of a theme as a reaction to most workshops and institutional events that are happening around the Metro that basically only gives platforms to men. So we questioned the balance of the representation between men and women in these events that they organized,” said Ms. Dimaranan.
“We thought of creating our own platform to voice out our issues, our struggles and also our gaze on how we understand the world and how we make sense of things. Because if we only have men represented in these writing gatherings, you can only get their subjective view points.”
And there is an audience for women and LGBTQ+ literature. The Other Room was jam packed with artists and readers alike, trading stories and getting a few beers together at the bar next door. It was crowded inside that one‑room co‑working space in the heart of Diliman.
Gantala press, an independent feminist publishing team dedicated to making the voice of cis and trans women heard through their creative works, is just one of the publishers during the BLTX and continues to work outside of that venue. Still, they’re just one publishing team. And indie publishing can only reach so many.
But it doesn’t stop there.
“The struggles of women and LGBTQ+ doesn’t really end in creative work,” Ms. Dimaranan said. “Continued engagements for solidarity is going to be the solution to address the issues of women and LGBTQ+. But engagement doesn’t just end in creative work, there are many ways to get involved.”
“This means that whether or not there will be a BLTX in the future, there are still avenues around that we can enter and participate in to really drum up this kind of advocacy.”
And so, the women and LGBTQ+ will continue their swim, until mainstream changes its course.
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