Op-Ed

Resisting as the norm

John Ryan Mendoza: “May the normal we know that continues to dehumanize and divide us as LGBT people, PLHIVs, women, peasants, workers and Indigenous Peoples be a rallying point of solidarity to push in us a new normal – to resist.”

ARTWORK BY AARON BONETTE

It was in 2007 when – while I was working as a health worker for a Lumad community in Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao – soldiers sat in one of the health classes I was giving to the local community. They asked about my very presence there, use of acupuncture needles, and the words “human rights” that were written on the manila papers that I used. I was told that they expected nurses to be in hospitals, not in the mountains. I was told, too, to “just provide tablets” and not discuss Lumad people’s right to health, their own land, and self determination. To emphasize, the soldiers said it was dangerous for me to stay there.
But I did not leave.
I was doing nothing wrong.
It was right to resist.
For me then, it became a new normal.

In 2011, I was with my (then) boyfriend for his birthday. He was holding my hand while we were heading to a dining place in Makati, when a sea of people poured out of a chapel that we passed by. We were met with a firing squad of looks and whispers; a mother even veered her children away from our direction.
He squeezed my hand and looked at me, pained.
I did not let go.
We were doing nothing wrong.
It was right to resist.
This is my new normal.

It was in 2016, during a church exposure program on issues around sexuality, when I brought Lutheran pastors from Liberia (a West African country where homosexuality is criminalized) to a picket line of workers protesting unjust wages and contractualization in Laguna. They were puzzled, perhaps (initially_ confused with the connection between sexuality and workers’ issues. That is… until they heard stories from workers who are also gay, transgender and/or living with HIV.
As pastors in the conservative churches where they came from, they are forbidden to show public support to LGBT issues. But at the Manila Pride parade that year, they braved to march in solidarity with us.
They said they were doing nothing wrong.
They said it was prophetic to protest standards considered by society as normal, but excludes people on the basis of health status, gender and social class.

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My struggle as a gay man against society’s acceptance of cisgender heterosexuality as a normal standard is not that different from the tolerance of the non-recognition of ancestral lands and socio-political systems of the Lumad and other Indigenous Peoples. It is also runs on the same vein as the demonization of the organization of labor and collective bargaining by workers’ trade unions. Because we need to br critical of any system that “normalizes” unequal treatment.

May the normal we know that continues to dehumanize and divide us as LGBT people, PLHIVs, women, peasants, workers and Indigenous Peoples be a rallying point of solidarity to push in us a new normal – to resist.

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