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"Gays and lesbians are silently tolerated" - An interview with Katharina Kacerovsky-Strobl

Text by Ralph Chan, Austria

Images copyright by Stonewall GmbH



Christmas is the celebration of love and love is known to show itself in different forms - be it in a heterosexual or a homosexual relationship.


The recent statement made by the World Cup ambassador that homosexuality is a "disease of the mind" and the tragic shootings in Colorado, USA or here in Europe in Bratislava, Slovakia in recent months show that the LGBTQIA+ community is not yet accepted by society. Roots & Wings is even more pleased to talk to the Filipina-Austrian Katerina Kacerovsky-Strobl. She is the CEO of the company organizing the Vienna Pride and who was also responsible for EuroPride 2019 in Vienna. In our conversation we touch on different topics such as Filipino perceptions, religion, and media in relation to the LGBTQIA+ community.


Copyright: Stonewall GmbH


Thank you for the opportunity to talk to you. Before we start with our conversation about the LGBTQIA+ community and the Filipino society, could you briefly explain to us, the differences between lesbians, gays, bisexual, transsexual, intersexual, queer, asexual?

I think the easiest way to explain to people are lesbians and gays. A gay man has relationships with other men instead of women and the same happens with lesbians, they are women who fall in love with other women. Bisexuals can fall in love with both sexes. Then we have the trans person, who is born in a body which the person doesn’t identify with. For example, there is a person born and defined biologically by doctors as a boy and the boy, often even at a very young age, just doesn’t feel like a boy but a girl. Whereas an inter person is simply biologically not just male or female (inter means “in between”). An asexual person is somebody who just doesn’t have a desire for sex at all. And a queer person is somebody for whom none of these labels fit.


Thank you for the explanation. I’d like to start with the question: As a half Filipina, do you think gender issues are discussed openly in the Filipino community?

Well, I think when you talk about gender issues, you are aware that it contains a very wide range. At the moment, we are focusing on LGBTQ, heterosexuals, but there’s also non-binary, gender-fluid people or people who don’t want to define whatever gender they have. I think not too many people are aware of the complete gender issue topic. Talking about the Filipino society, it is very important to know which age group and even which society group we are talking about. Here in Austria, the first Filipinos were nurses, mainly women who came in the 1970/80s to work. They are now 70+ years old. I think for them it’s a different gender issue than for the Filipinos in our age. Filipinos are talking about it; I would say not that openly because it’s a part of our Filipino culture to be polite and not to talk about topics which could make another person feel uncomfortable. Gays and lesbians are accepted. Often the parents themselves will not be the happiest persons about having a gay or a lesbian child but if it’s the child of your neighbor, the employee in the barbershop or your best friend who’s helping you in the household, for example, the butch lesbian is accepted. I mean they are not killed, not harassed but nobody’s talking about them. They are just quietly tolerated.


Does it mean that Filipinos in Austria are more liberated than in the Philippines?

To be honest, I cannot answer this question. In 2019, I was part of the very first big pride celebration. It happened in Marikina with more than 70.000 people. It was huge, even the mayor of Marikina was part of it. I was there to walk in the Pride parade together with the Austrian ambassador and other ambassadors. I was representing EuroPride and the mayor seemed really to be supportive and did a lot of TV interviews. His support was authentic. I was just like “wow this is really happening”. To your question, I don’t know if people who are over 70+ years old, who are living in Austria for 40 years, are more open or not.


Religion plays a big role for Filipinos. Do you think we as Filipinos are more accepting LGBTQIA+ people even though we are more religious?

I find this a very hard question because at first, I’d say yes. We are more accepting but it’s more different way of acceptance. Here in Austria, it’s always LGBTQIA+ against the Pope. Why? Because the Pope was against LGBTQIA+ people, he tells people that they should not use condoms even in countries where the families cannot feed their children or where many people have HIV/AIDS. That was before. Now the Pope started already to change his comments about the LGBTQIA+ community. He started to say, even if your child is from the LGBTQIA+ community, it is still more important that you love your child. There is already a change happening in the church and so I’m absolutely against the black and white picture. Because you belong to the LGBTQIA+ community, you must be against the church because the church as an institution. What has it got to do with your belief? Nothing! There are so many Austrians, they don’t go to church but when it comes to LGBTQIA+ acceptance they become very traditional, in a church way. And then we have Filipinos who go to church three times a week and then they don’t have a problem with LGBTQIA+ people unless it’s not their own child. That’s an important point.


Now about the media representation of the LGBTQIA+. Do you think you’re represented in media? Do shows like Drag Race Philippines help?

Shows like Drag Race Philippines can be funny. Sometimes it’s also a little bit ridiculous because they are only painting a picture of a very small part of the LGBTQIA+ community. It also creates prejudices like a gay man has to look like a gay man. There are men you would never know that they are gay. They don’t talk with a high voice, they don’t walk like a woman, they don’t like pumps. I don’t know what to say, how good is the show. It gives us visibility, of course, but it can also reinforce prejudices like having a bakla (gay man) in your friends’ group is something special because it’s fun to go out with them. Same with tomboy (butch lesbian) because they are cool, they support and will carry the bags of the women. But actually, it’s very sad right? That baklas always have to be funny to be accepted and that tomboys always have to play the male role to open the door to all my female friends to be accepted. When I’m invited to go shopping to the mall with my four female friends, I’m the butch lesbian to carry the bags. It’s very sad.


Let’s talk about the societal and political acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community. Hate crimes happened against the community in different parts of the world over the last few weeks. What is your take on this?

You still hear people saying I have no problems with gays. It’s their private thing what they do in their bed at home behind closed doors. The sentence alone shows how far away we are from real acceptance because heterosexual relationships are also not only celebrating their love and family behind closed doors. Also, it isn’t just about the bedroom. It is about who we fall in love with, our very normal, often even boring relationships. We have the same hopes and problems like everybody else. That’s why it is so wrong to think of us as different. That’s why it is important to know that the pride movement is internationally known as a demonstration movement for LGBTQIA+ human rights. And the development is not long ago. In 2017, I still remember when we started to prepare EuroPride 2019 in Vienna, I had so many meetings and appointments with local companies, local brands. Everyone explained me, no, pride – what has it got to do with us? It was hard work to convince companies that LGBTQIA+ and diversity are important topics for them as well and this was only five years ago.


With EuroPride in Vienna, we have been more visible than ever before. After the first societal acknowledgements, COVID came. It was hard for every one of us, a lot of hate came to us. When we organised Vienna Pride again last year, we faced a lot of hate and attacks. This is the reason why last year’s motto was ‘Pride Against Hate’. In 2019, during the last big EuroPride, it was ‘Together and Proud’ which not only meant the whole community but also together with everybody in society, also working together with companies, with politicians. It is not only about LGBTQIA+ rights, but also about rights of women, of people with disabilities because pride stands for an open, modern world where everyone deserves the same chances. So, when we marched last June 2022 at the Vienna Pride parade, we were about 180.000 people. It was really a beautiful feeling to see people celebrating in the streets for love, meeting friends and having the contact again, being close without mask. People were dancing, screaming, hugging, being happy. That’s also the reason why we will plan again the full Vienna pride program in 2023. We will have the Pride village at the city hall square.


This is a very good bridge because Filipino Austrians are interested to know if there will there be a Pride wagon next year that consists of Filipinos, a ‘Filipinx Pride Wagen’?

Well, the thing is, it’s a demonstration and whoever is registering a truck or a walking group as a private person can walk. I think in 2019 there was Filipino folklore group and they walked. We are not the one organizing the trucks. This comes from the community, but I think it would be very lovely to have a Filipino truck.


Lastly, how can we support the LGBTQIA+ community with our own actions and what is your advice to a young person who is currently struggling identifying their gender and read this article?

There is a wide range of possibilities. I think the most important point is asking questions to LGBTQIA+ persons. Ask them how they want to be addressed. If you go to a parade, not to see it as a party. Don’t make fun of it in celebrating your hen party there. But raise your voices even if it’s only a small thing. Say what is your problem with gays. Speak up and ask a lot of questions. And if somebody comes out to you, try to not treat them any different. Even if that’s hard, maybe because it is your child. That person is still the same child you had yesterday. When you are in the position to change something because you are leading a department in your company, have awareness days or invite someone for a workshop who is clearing up about the topic. It will be an improvement for the whole team. And to the young person, I think it is very important to seek for trusted persons who are in the LGBTQIA+ community because even though you have a good relationship to your family or friends, you also need to look for persons who lives the same struggles, the same questions and who can emotionally understand you. I think especially for a young person, it is important to seek for an LGBTQIA+ teenage group or for some evenings in an association who do some program activities for young people.


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Copyright: Stonewall GmbH


Copyright: Stonewall GmbH


Copyright: Stonewall GmbH




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