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In the Philippines, the religious taboo on sex, gender and sexuality remains prevalent. This taboo represents a major challenge in HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health services for children and young people.

As a response, there are select efforts that help advance talks on sex, gender, and sexuality in faith-based contexts – e.g. in the case of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), there is now work on sex, gender and sexuality modules.

Here are six ways Filipino Protestants are breaking the taboo on sexuality.

1. Understanding how faith influences knowledge

Research demonstrates that faith-based organizations influence HIV knowledge in the youth.

In 2014, after engaging 213 teenage Pentecostal Botswana church members, Mpofu et al. found that the church youth “conceptually frame their HIV prevention from both faith-oriented and secular-oriented perspectives. They prioritize the faith-oriented concepts based on biblical teachings and future focus.”

The NCCP notes the effects on the youth of the church’s silence on sexuality.

“Sometimes young people feel the need to talk about sexuality. But because the church as a whole is not talking about it; they feel that it is not worth talking about inside the church,” said Ms. Arceli Bile, acting program secretary of the Program Unit on Ecumenical Education and Nurture of the NCCP.

2. Breaking the silence

“We find it unfortunate that issues on sexuality are not discussed in the open due to a wrong perception that sex talk is indecent talk,” said Bile.

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Thus, in 2015, the NCCP General Convention approved a statement on creating safe spaces for discussing human sexuality. “We offered this to member churches and associate members. We need to provide material that would help the discussions,” Bile added.

Giving sex education is mandated by the Reproductive Health Law signed in 2010 by then-President Benigno Aquino III. Specifically, comprehensive sexual education is to be incorporated into science, health, English, and physical education courses. This education begins in grade 5 and extends through grade 12. However, opposition by the Roman Catholic Church continues. They believe that sex education encourages the young to engage in sex outside marriage earlier.

As of July 2016, the Department of Education has yet to develop the minimum standards of sex education. Once developed, schools and other learning facilities should comply with the standards.

3. Knowing that the youth are most harmed

The low level of knowledge and awareness in the youth on sex-related matters – including on HIV – has increased vulnerability. Risks are higher among key affected populations, particularly in young women, gay, bisexual, other males who have sex with males, and transgender people.

A 2013 survey by the University of the Philippines Population Institute showed that one out of 3 Filipino youths (aged 15–24) has had pre-marital sex. More alarming than this is the fact that 78% of those who had pre-marital sex for the first time in this age bracket did not use any protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.

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Not surprising then is the significant rise in the incidence of HIV among the same age group as well as a rise in teenage pregnancy noted from 2014 to 2018. In 2016, 14% of all the AIDS-related deaths reported in the country were in youth aged 15–24 years old.

4. Making churches come together

In 2015, NCCP conducted a study on HIV-related efforts among its member churches. It revealed that member churches strongly support comprehensive sex and sexuality education. The study also described existing efforts by the churches on sex and sexuality education to children and youth. These efforts are often integrated in existing church initiatives. These efforts included discussions of human sexuality in Christian education in schools, youth gatherings (usually for those aged 12 and up), sex education classes, and youth camps.

However, not specified in the study were the age brackets of the young people reached and the types of sex and sexuality education offered. In addition, none of the education efforts included sex and sexuality issues of LGBT youth.

As a response, the NCCP, in partnership with the Church of Sweden, gathered theologians and academics in 2016. They worked on a framework that comprised objectives and key concepts in providing discussions on sex, gender, and sexuality.

“We had our study sessions and reflections on how this can be embraced by the churches or not. Especially on issues on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression,” said Bile. “We discussed this thoroughly because the writers still have a lot of confusion. Especially on how we can use more inclusive terms in dealing with younger children. Sometimes we consider whether they really need to know these concepts at such an early age.”

READ:  I wanted to die when I became HIV positive...

5. Valuing the local context

“In localizing this educational material in the Philippines, we need to understand these concepts in our context. This understanding would result in experiential activities. We should provide something that they can relate to, instead of getting some ideas from elsewhere,” said Bile.

The material will cater to nursery and kindergarten students, up to senior high school.

“We hope this material could be of help in providing safe spaces for discussion, then, we will conduct pilot tests to check if this is appropriate. We are thinking of holding training on how to facilitate this as well as check for revisions and modifications,” added Bile.

6. Transforming theologies

Bile anticipates some resistance from the churches but remains hopeful.

“The theological understanding of the body may be one of the controversies in accepting this kind of material. What we hope is that we are also producing a theology that is more inclusive and non-discriminatory,” she said. “This material would promote a theology that challenges the churches to be more compassionate and open, as well as, one that reaches out especially those who are discriminated.”

A registered nurse, John Ryan (or call him "Rye") Mendoza hails from Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao (where, no, it isn't always as "bloody", as the mainstream media claims it to be, he noted). He first moved to Metro Manila in 2010 (supposedly just to finish a health social science degree), but fell in love not necessarily with the (err, smoggy) place, but it's hustle and bustle. He now divides his time in Mindanao (where he still serves under-represented Indigenous Peoples), and elsewhere (Metro Manila included) to help push for equal rights for LGBT Filipinos. And, yes, he parties, too (see, activists need not be boring! - Ed).

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Phl votes for LGBTQIA rights at UN Human Rights Council

The UNHRC adopted a resolution to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert focusing on the protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

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ALL PHOTOS TAKEN DURING METRO MANILA PRIDE PARADE 2019

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert focusing on the protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 27 in favor, with 12 voting against and seven abstentions.

Now this is worth highlighting: The Philippines voted in favor of the resolution.

The Philippines’ UN voting history vis-à-vis LGBTQIA people has been inconsistent. In 2016, when the UNHRC adopted the resolution on “protection against violence and discrimination based on SOGI (which created the post for the Independent Expert), the Philippines abstained from voting for the resolution. It was then under the presidency of Benign Aquino III.

Also to date, the country still does not have a national anti-discrimination policy protecting the human rights of LGBTQIA Filipinos, even if various versions of the anti-discrimination bill (ADB) have been filed in the Upper and Lower Houses of Congress for 20 years now. In 2017, during the last – 17th – Congress, it passed the House of Representatives; but its counterpart version in the Senate failed to gain traction.

Created in 2016, the UN Independent Expert on SOGI has been supported by a growing number of States from all over the world. This new resolution to create and renew the mandate was presented by a Core Group of seven Latin American countries – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and Uruguay.

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The UN Independent Expert on SOGI is tasked with assessing implementation of existing international human rights law, by talking to States, and working collaboratively with other UN and regional mechanisms to address violence and discrimination. Through the work of this mandate since 2016, the impact of criminalization of same-sex relations and lack of legal gender recognition, the importance of data-collection specific to SOGI communities, and examples of good practices to prevent discrimination have been highlighted globally, with visits to Argentina, Georgia, Mozambique and Ukraine.

As a top-to-bottom approach, however, the immediate impact of the UN Independent Expert on SOGI on grassroots LGBTQIA activism remains a sore issue for those critical of its.

The renewal process of the mandate had to overcome 10 hostile amendments, but the core of the resolution in affirming the universal nature of international human rights law stands firm.

RESULTS OF THE VOTE

Voting in favor of the resolution

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nepal, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Tunisia, Ukraine, UK, Uruguay

Voting against the resolution

Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia

Abstaining on the resolution

Angola, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Hungary, India, Senegal, Togo

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SOGIE Equality Bill filed anew in 18th Congress

In the Lower House, Lumad leader-turned-Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat has refiled the SOGIE Equality Bill as House Bill 258. Meanwhile, in the Upper House, Akbayan Sen. Risa Hontiveros refiled the bill as Senate Bill 159, one of her priority measures.

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ALL PHOTOS TAKEN DURING METRO MANILA PRIDE PARADE 2019

We continue to #ResistTogether.

Versions of the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill have been re-filed in the Lower and Upper Houses of Congress.

In the Lower House, Lumad leader-turned-Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat has refiled the SOGIE Equality Bill as House Bill 258. Co-authors are Bayan Muna Reps. Karlos Ysagani Zarate and Ferdinand Gaite.

Meanwhile, in the Upper House, Akbayan Sen. Risa Hontiveros refiled the bill as Senate Bill 159, one of her priority measures.

The explanatory note of HB 258 talks about intersectionality, stating that “LGBT (people) often find it difficult to exercise their rights as persons, laborers, professionals, and ordinary citizens.”

For instance, “LGBT students are denied admission or expelled from school due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Companies block the promotion and stymie the career advancement of gay or lesbian employees due to the deeply embedded notion that homosexuality denotes weakness. Laws such as the current anti-vagrancy law are also abused by the law enforcement agencies to harass gay men.”

Incidentally, the latter – i.e. anti-vagrancy law – was repealed in March 2012 (via Republic Act 10158), but members of the LGBTQIA community (particularly gay and bisexual men) often still fall prey victim to harassment by law enforcers.

“It is therefore imperative to define and penalize practices that discriminate against LGBT (people),” continued the explanatory note of HB 258.

Hontiveros, for her part, said the time has come for the enactment of the SOGIE Bill; even vowing that the incoming Congress will be a “massive victory against hate and discrimination.”

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“If the Senate’s 17th Congress was a big win for women and health, the 18th Congress will be a massive victory against hate and discrimination. The SOGIE Equality Bill will pass. It is a measure whose time has come,” Hontiveros said.

In 2017, the House of Representatives actually passed the SOGIE Equality Bill. The Senate’s version, however, did not gain the final approval of the 17th Congress.

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Over 50,000 parade for Pride in Metro Manila

The Pride-goers gathered not just to show force and then party, but also to highlight the need to create safe spaces for LGBTQIA Filipinos.

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Growing rainbow number.

Over 50,000 people gathered in Marikina City to attend the annual LGBTQIA Pride parade in a largely disorganized event affected by sporadic downpours and marred by event planning/execution issues. The Pride-goers gathered not just to show force and then party, but also to highlight the need to create safe spaces for LGBTQIA Filipinos.

While confusion continued to exist even during Pride day about what revelers were supposed to #ResistTogether – this year’s catchy theme – there was at least a call to recognize the sector (particularly with the number) by passing the anti-discrimination bill (ADB) that has been pending in Congress for two decades now.

And despite the numbers fascination, the total number of attendees is still undetermined even with the mandatory/forced registration of all participants (else not be allowed entry into the premises), with the information desk “told to say it’s 52,000” while a host inconsistently bragged figures reaching 70,000. All the same, this year’s number easily eclipsed last year’s estimated 25,000 revelers.

Notably, this year’s gathering attempted to “return” the format to the older Pride parades in Metro Manila by allowing various groups/organizations to speak onstage, as opposed to only those affiliated with the political party/leaning of the organizing Metro Manila Pride.

According to Regie Pasion, who helms LGBTbus, the Marikina-based LGBTQIA organization that helped in organizing this year’s Pride (and the gatherings in 2017 and 2018), “at it’s core, Pride remains a protest” and “will remain so until LGBTQIA human rights are recognized”.

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Locally, for Marikina, while the ADB continues to languish, the city’s mayor Marcy R. Teodoro signed the local anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO), passed ahead of the Pride parade. In signing, Teodoroo said that the ADO will “nagbibigay sa lahat ng pantay at parehong karapatan sa trabaho, edukasyon, tirahan, at mga serbisyo ng pamahalaan (give everyone equal right to access education, work, accommodation and government services).”

The same ADO was passed after Marikina hosted the Pride parade for three years; pushed exclusively by the local LGBTQIA community.

Coming from Lucena City to attend the 2019 Pride parade, Aaron Moises Bonette of QZN Pride and Bahaghari QZN said that the challenge remains “for us to utilize this same number to take the same streets to fight for our actual rights (and not just to parade),” he said.

Last year’s Pride parade, for instance, may have gathered over 20,000 revelers, but when it came to rally for the ADB, the organizers were not able to attract 50 participants.

“Don’t get me wrong: Reaching this big number is admirable. But Pride shouldn’t start and end in June. It should be done every day (hopefully by as many, or even by more) people until we are treated as equals. Otherwise, this thing we call ‘pride’ is but an ideal,” Bonette ended.

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Now illegal to discriminate against LGBTQIA people in Marikina

Marikina City joins the list of local government units (LGUs) that now has an anti-discrimination policy that eyes to protect the human rights of its LGBTQIA constituents. Offenders may be penalized from P1,000 (first offense) to P2,000/P5,000 (second and third-time offenders), along with imprisonment of up to 15 days.

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The rainbow cometh.

Marikina City has joined the list of local government units (LGUs) that now has an anti-discrimination policy that eyes to protect the human rights of its LGBTQIA constituents.

The host of Metro Manila Pride parade since 2017, the city was also – for a while – under scrutiny for claiming to be pro-LGBTQIA but with (seemingly) limited LGBTQIA-related efforts topped by the once-a-year parade held in June.

But the ordinance introduced by councilors Paul Dayao, Mario de Leon, Manuel Sarmiento and Zifred Ancheta eyes to make it a policy of the city to hold non-discrimination of LGBTQIA people (at least there).

Discriminatory acts included in the ADO include: employment- and school-related discrimination; refusal to provide goods/services/accommodation because of a person’s SOGIE; and by subjecting (verbally or by writing) people to ridicule because of their SOGIE.

Offenders may be penalized from P1,000 (first offense) to P2,000/P5,000 (second and third-time offenders), along with imprisonment of up to 15 days.

The ordinance introduced by councilors Paul Dayao, Mario de Leon, Manuel Sarmiento and Zifred Ancheta eyes to make it a policy of the city to hold non-discrimination of LGBTQIA people (at least there).

Surprisingly, while the ADO is creating an Anti-discrimination Mediation and Conciliation Board to deal with ADO-related violations, no LGBTQIA organization/party will be among the board members.

The ADO is awaiting the signature of Marikina Mayor Marcy R. Teodoro, though this is already expected. In 2018, Teodoro told Outrage Magazine that hosting Pride is a way to show the city’s support to Metro Manila’s LGBTQI community, particularly since his office in particular supports this community’s push for a nationally enacted anti-discrimination policy. In the end, Teodoro said, “we want to be known as an inclusive community. We can only do that by recognizing everybody as all equal to each other.”

READ:  I wanted to die when I became HIV positive...

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Sexuality continues to change and develop well into adulthood – study

Substantial changes in attractions, partners, and sexual identity are common from late adolescence to the early 20s, and from the early 20s to the late 20s, indicating that sexual orientation development continues long past adolescence into adulthood. The results also show distinct development pathways for men and women, with female sexuality being more fluid over time.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash.com

Traditional labels of ‘gay’, ‘bisexual’ and ‘straight’ do not capture the full range of human sexuality, and whether a person is attracted to the same, or opposite sex can change over time.

This is according to a study, published in the Journal of Sex Research, which analyzed surveys from around 12,000 students, and found that substantial changes in attractions, partners, and sexual identity are common from late adolescence to the early 20s, and from the early 20s to the late 20s, indicating that sexual orientation development continues long past adolescence into adulthood. The results also show distinct development pathways for men and women, with female sexuality being more fluid over time.

“Sexual orientation involves many aspects of life, such as who we feel attracted to, who we have sex with, and how we self-identify,” said Christine Kaestle, a professor of developmental health at Virginia Tech. “Until recently, researchers have tended to focus on just one of these aspects, or dimensions, to measure and categorize people. However, that may oversimplify the situation. For example, someone may self-identify as heterosexual while also reporting relationships with same-sex partners.”

In order to take all of the dimensions of sexuality into account over time, Kaestle used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, which tracked American students from the ages of 16-18 into their late twenties and early thirties. At regular points in time, participants were questioned about what gender/s they were attracted to, the gender of their partners, and whether they identified as ‘straight’, ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual’.

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The results showed that some people’s sexual orientation experiences vary over time, and the traditional three categories of ‘straight’, ‘bisexual’ and ‘gay’ are insufficient to describe the diverse patterns of attraction, partners, and identity over time. The results indicated that such developmental patterns are better described in nine categories – differing for both men and women.

For young men these patterns have been categorized as:

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  • ‘straight’ (87%),
  • ‘mostly straight or bi'(3.8%),
  • ’emerging gay’ (2.4%)
  • minimal sexual expression’ (6.5%).

Young women on the other hand were better described by five categories:

    null
  • ‘straight’ (73.8%),
  • ‘mostly straight discontinuous’ (10.1%),
  • ’emerging bi’ (7.5%),
  • ’emerging lesbian’ (1.5%)
  • ‘minimal sexual expression’ (7%).

Straight people made up the largest group and showed the least change in sexual preferences over time. Interestingly, men were more likely than women to be straight – almost nine out of 10 men, compared to less than three-quarters of women.

Men and women in the middle of the sexuality spectrum, as well as those in the ’emerging’ gay and lesbian groups showed the most changes over time.

For example, 67% of women in the ‘mostly straight discontinuous’ group were attracted to both sexes in their early 20s. However, this number dropped to almost zero by their late 20s, by which time the women reported only being attracted to the opposite sex.

Overall, women showed greater fluidity in sexual preference over time. They were more likely (one in six) to be located in the middle of the sexuality continuum and to be bisexual.

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Fewer than one in 25 men fell in the middle of the spectrum; they were more likely to be at either end of the spectrum, as either ‘straight’ or ’emerging gay’. Relatively few women were classed as ’emerging lesbian’.

“In the emerging groups, those who have sex in their teens mostly start with other-sex partners and many report other-sex attractions during their teens,” Kaestle said of her findings. “Then they gradually develop and progress through adjacent categories on the continuum through the early 20s to ultimately reach the point in the late 20s when almost all Emerging Bi females report both-sex attractions, almost all Emerging Gay males report male-only attractions, and almost all Emerging Lesbian females report female-only attractions.”

Kaestle said that the study demonstrates young adulthood is still a very dynamic time for sexual orientation development.

“The early 20s are a time of increased independence and often include greater access to more liberal environments that can make the exploration, questioning, or acknowledging of same-sex attractions more acceptable and comfortable at that age. At the same time – as more people pair up in longer term committed relationships as young adulthood progresses – this could lead to fewer identities and attractions being expressed that do not match the sex of the long-term partner, leading to a kind of bi-invisibility,” said Kaestle.

For Kaestle, “we will always struggle with imposing categories onto sexual orientation. Because sexual orientation involves a set of various life experiences over time, categories will always feel artificial and static.”

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Importantly, although the study found nine categories of sexual orientation development, limitations in the statistical methods used mean that more categories could exist.

The names of the categories are also in no way meant to replace or contradict any person’s current self-labelled identity. Rather, Kaestle hopes that these findings will help researchers in the future to better understand how a range of sexual orientation experiences and patterns over time can shape sexual minorities’ experience of distinct health disadvantages, and the effects of discrimination.

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Transgender people are not mentally ill, says WHO

The new classification is not expected to affect the healthcare provision to respond to the needs of transgender people, but – all the same – it’s expected to improve social acceptance among transgender people while still making important health resources available.

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Photo by Cecilie Johnsen from Unsplash.com

The World Health Organization (WHO) has decreed that transgender people are not mentally ill, with the WHO’s legislative body voting to move the term used to describe transgender people – “gender incongruence” – to the panel’s sexual health chapter from its mental disorders chapter.

The new standard of classification appears in the 11th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11); but will go into effect on January 1, 2022.

The WHO uses “gender incongruence” to describe people whose gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned at birth.

The new classification is not expected to affect the healthcare provision to respond to the needs of transgender people, but – all the same – it’s expected to improve social acceptance among transgender people while still making important health resources available, according to the United Nations health agency last year when it announced the intended change.

Dr. Jack Drescher, a member of the ICD-11 working group, wrote: “There is substantial evidence that the stigma associated with the intersection of transgender status and mental disorders contributes to precarious legal status [and] human rights violations”.

It is worth noting that the WHO still classifies intersex traits as “disorders of sex development”.

This is not the first time the ICD changed a classification related to sexuality. In 1990, the WHO declared that “sexual orientation alone is not to be regarded as a disorder.”

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