Op-Ed

What’s the deal with casual discrimination?

Tamsin Wu writes that the next time she encounters discriminatory remarks thrown nonchalantly, “I have to snap out of my drowsy, lazy or tired stupor to answer back, of course, in a dignified way. Lest I go through another internal struggle because of saying nothing about it. Silence, after all, is a tool of oppression. Keeping mum in the face of casual discrimination is letting discrimination win.”

The other day I was having a little chat with my boss about the recent ousting of Senator Leila de Lima as Justice Committee Chair. When we got to the part about Sen. Ralph Recto and Sen. Antonio Trillanes choosing to vote abstention, my boss remarked in this way: “…kung babakla bakla ka sa decision at mag-abstain, wala akong respeto sa ganun…” 

Although meant as an insult towards the two senators, it was also clearly discrimination against gay people. It carried the long-drawn-out idiotic mentality that gay men are cowards; that gay men possess feminine qualities and therefore, they are weak (conniving with the sexist view that women are weak).

At that time, I was not in the mood to retort back and chose to just let it go. In my head, I thought not to make a big fuss about it anymore.

But I realized I was having a hard time to simply forget about it. LGBT issues are something I feel very strongly about. The malicious spirit behind that remark, even though it was blurted out only between us, reminded me of the countless violence LGBT’s had to and continue to face due to such ignorant concepts and invalid opinions.

As if my boss’s comment wasn’t enough to make me feel uneasy, the following day, I overheard a colleague say something to this effect: “…ano ba naman si (insert name), ginagawang bading yung anak, gago…”

I wasn’t sure if I heard him right as I was still sleepy to function alertly at that time. Also, I wasn’t part of the conversation so I hesitated to ask him, or the other colleagues he was talking to, to repeat or clarify what he said.

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Those two consecutive incidents of hearing casual LGBT discrimination made me wonder: Where is the fine line between taking everything too seriously or personally and justifiably considering something as outright discrimination that must be fought? Should we, LGBT’s, address every kind of discrimination we encounter – even indirect, unintentional ones? Or, do we have to choose our battles and not expend energy on every single discriminatory remark we hear? Given a certain situation, do we have the license to sometimes just walk away and let it go?

But I guess, the real question that bothers me, at least in this case, is – Personally, can I actually do the latter, which is walk away and let it go without sacrificing my peace of mind?

I guess producing this article apparently means I couldn’t. Despite being open and comfortable about my sexuality, hearing casual discrimination can still induce a certain amount of pain in my psyche.

After hearing and thinking about their remarks, I am haunted by thoughts of those who fear coming out, who deny themselves the freedom of being out, who succumb into depression and eventually take their own lives, who face and fight discrimination in their lives (and I’m inevitably not exempt from that), all because of the stigma that such remarks grotesquely show and perpetuate.

As I’m aware that it is this belief – that there’s something awful about homosexuality – that triggers offensive notions, rhetoric, actions and crimes against LGBT people, I feel somehow ashamed that I didn’t make an effort to address the casual discriminatory remarks. It was such belief that made my boss and colleague imply that gayness is a bad quality to have. Ultimately, it is this belief that drives some people to do the unspeakable against the LGBT community for merely being their authentic selves.

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Now, I can’t go back in time and choose to correct them. I can only presently simmer in guilt, write it out and treat it as a lesson – that the next time I encounter discriminatory remarks thrown nonchalantly, I have to snap out of my drowsy, lazy or tired stupor to answer back, of course, in a dignified way. Lest I go through another internal struggle because of saying nothing about it.

Silence, after all, is a tool of oppression. Keeping mum in the face of casual discrimination is letting discrimination win.

With that being said, what I’m wrestling with right now is – as it’s said in French, l’esprit d’escalier.

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What’s the deal with casual discrimination?
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