How You Can Put LGBTQIA+ Safe Spaces on the Map
Local advocacy group MapBeks and online platform QueerMap by qiekub share a concrete way you can lend support to the queer community
Recent events have once again renewed the debate on where Filipinos truly stand regarding LGBTQIA+ issues. It’s been a struggle to arrive at a verdict here: Where does tolerance end and acceptance begin? The answers, no matter how varied, not only tend to raise a mindset issue on the individual level but the lack of acknowledgment and support by larger institutions.
The good news, at least, is that change is underway. Among the LGBTQIA+ and their allies, initiatives are put in place to safeguard the rights and wellbeing of members of the community. In some instances, this happens through awareness and education on matters like sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC). In others, through creating safe spaces whether online or in real life.
At last weekend’s event hosted by MapBeks, a group that rallies for diversity inclusion and LGBTQIA+ representation on OpenStreetMap, advocates sought to combine both efforts in what turned out to be one of the biggest SOGIESC 101 and LGBT Mapping Parties in the world.
Prefaced by a guide on SOGIE basics led by PANTAY Pilipinas educator Genica Bucao and an LGBTQIA+ rights and policy situations recap by Amnesty International Philippines human rights educator Rocky Rinabor, the mapping party drove home the point that securing safe spaces is a community endeavor. On the online platform QueerMap by qiekub, anyone can help get LGBTQIA+ safe spaces on the radar of those who need them.
For MapBeks’ lead advocate Mikko Tamura, collaborating on this platform means acknowledging the existing anti-discrimination ordinances stand to be improved and expanded. But even the wait for government agencies to act can be put to good use. “In order to effect lasting change on a micro-level, we want to push forward securing memorandum of agreements from the safe spaces nominated,” shares Tamura. “Marking these places––commercial establishments, restaurants, health service providers––as safe spaces is important because instantly, this signals the LGBTQIA+ that they can freely express themselves here, seek support or feel comfortable without the threat of discrimination or harm.”
Apart from identifying the safe spaces themselves, what’s equally important is making them visible on an easy-to-navigate platform. This is where German computer science student, programmer and QueerMap by qiekub creator Thomas Rosen comes in.
“In Cologne, Germany, I noticed that there were a lot of LGBTQIA+ spaces but the people who needed them didn’t know they existed,” begins Rosen. “There was data, but it was scattered. So I wanted to find the information––all over the web and even by word-of-mouth––and put everything on one map so that people from the community can find what they need at a single glance.”
Originally meant to map queer spaces solely in the Philippines, QueerMap by qiekub quickly made developments that allowed the expansion into other countries. “I don’t want to focus anymore on little maps for little regions,” adds Rosen, announcing that plotting LGBTQIA+ safe spaces across the globe is now possible. “With this, even tourists can know where they are safe when they visit another country.”
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QueerMap by qiekub is where you can find the total number of safe spaces per region––all verified and logged into the QueerMap database.
To nominate a safe space, zoom into the region your nominee is located. Then, on the lower portion of the map, click on “Add New Place.” Fill in the necessary information like the type of location (whether a bar, school, organization, community center, etc.), its geo-location, exact address, the name of the establishment and other helpful contact details.
Once submitted, your safe space is queued for validation by members of the QueerMaps team, who personally call in to have representatives of the nominated establishment declare that it is indeed a safe space for the LGBTQIA+.
“This platform was made for participatory data collection, so really, anyone can be a part of this and help get the word out on safe spaces they know,” says Tamura. “It’s also through this map that we are able to represent ourselves and the places that matter to us.”
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver