English photographer captures elegant portraits of Filipino ‘Golden Gays’

(Original photo from


The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines is better received compared to its Asian neighbors. In other countries, being gay is illegal, or worse, subject to persecution.

But the “acceptance” of our LGBT community could just be mere tolerance from some Filipinos. LGBTs are still not fully accepted. Just read some of the hateful comments in articles about Jennifer Laude’s death.


Related: The Pinoy gay-cabulary: 2014 edition


Without a doubt, the “Golden Gays” of Pasay City have faced similar prejudice and discrimination, as shown by a series of photographs captured by English photographer Esther Theaker.

The Golden Gays, affectionately called “Lolas,” were once part of Home for the Golden Gays (HGGI), an elderly care facility founded by Justo Justo, a writer and an LGBT advocate, in 1975.


Related: Q and Gay: My ex-boyfriend wants me to be a groomsman at his wedding. Should I attend?


HGGI provided the Lolas with a sense of community, security, and freedom of expression, until Justo’s death in 2012 led to the residents’ disbandment.

Theaker became interested in the Philippine gay-bar scene in 2012, and she came back in 2013 to document the Miss Golden Gay competition, an annual beauty contest to honor the elderly members of the LGBT community.




Quoting Theaker via The Independent:

“Watching the Lolas transform into their characters was unlike anything I had ever seen. There’s a professional poise and precision with which they assemble their looks. They might not have a home but they have a shared aesthetic and attitude. At the pageant itself, the Lola’s sing and dance to recent pop songs. Despite the adversity they face, the atmosphere is decidedly upbeat.”

The event is an opportunity for HGGI members to mingle with each other, in fully made-up faces and beautiful clothes provided by the invited guests.

“All of the Golden Gays take strength from wearing these beautiful clothes and accessories,” Ramon Busa, president of the HGGI told The Independent. “It’s a strength that helps them to survive. We are the only group to have lasted this long and remained this healthy. Disease does not hold us back, despite being given no attention by the government. We have survived all the worst odds in life. We are survivors and we achieve this through awareness.”




The Lolas were forced to leave the facility, which fell into a state of degradation since Justo’s death. They were left with no choice but to live on the streets of Pasay.

“They find their own place under the Moon. Unless it is raining, then they must take refuge under a bridge.”

See more of Esther Theaker’s works here.

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