By S. Leo Chiang and Johnny Symons
Bemz Benedito is the first transgender woman to run for a seat in the Philippine Congress. Her party calls itself the only LGBT political party in the world. Together, they’re on a historic quest to convince voters that gay and transgender people belong in hair salons and drag competitions – and also in national politics.
Running a grassroots campaign with the support of LGBT beauty parlor owners, Bemz converts salons into informal local headquarters across the nation, saying, “Tolerance doesn’t equate to acceptance or equality of rights.” She takes the stage at the “Miss Gay” pageant to underline her support for anti-discrimination policies. Her supporters can be flamboyant: one of them parades down the streets of Manila to drum up votes.
Bemz and her party are promising equal rights for the LGBT community nationwide. OUT RUN is the story of their campaign, and asks: In this heavily Catholic and often conservative country, can they win?