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Op-Ed

Any hope for LGBTQ Filipinos in a conservative country?

When the Supreme Court of the US ruled on same sex marriage, Peter Jones T. Dela Cruz noted that it created waves that rippled across the globe. In the Philippines, “the message I got from wild online discussions and quasi-debates was clear: This country is not yet ready to tackle serious issues that involve the LGBTQ citizens. Religious bigotry is alive and well. That saddens and irks me.”

The SCOTUS ruling on same sex marriage created waves that rippled across the globe. The waves hit the shores of this archipelago and made us Filipinos, progressives and conservatives alike, jump from our seats either in shared joy or shared disgust.

The message I got from wild online discussions and quasi-debates was clear. This country is not yet ready to tackle serious issues that involve the LGBTQ citizens. Religious bigotry is alive and well. That saddens and irks me.

According to a recent survey, seven in 10 Filipinos are against same sex marriage. When you ask these people why, their response is because it offends their religion. The government seems to glorify this opinion, maybe even endorsing it.

Such an ideology is hard to quash. You can’t quash it when majority of the citizens believe and promote it. Let’s face it. Right now, the religious people have the upper hand, and they dictate how everyone should live their lives in this supposedly democratic country.

Are we really in a democratic country? Or are we in a quasi-theocratic state feigning democracy?

With conservatives influencing legislation, it’s hard even to get the Anti-Discrimination Bill noticed. It fell through the cracks after 2004. Who knows what happened to it? I read that it was re-filed but fell through the cracks again.

The conservatives are most likely scared of the propositions of the bill. They’re scared it’ll subdue their religious freedom. They’re scared it will make them unable to exercise their faith under a law that wouldn’t tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. They’re probably scared that a law that prohibits discrimination will gag them and deny them their “rights” to exercise their moral convictions.

You can’t reason out with these people without being accused of offending or disrespecting their personal beliefs. The “respect my religious beliefs” card would stop the average person dead in their tracks. The dishonest, self-serving, and biased slogan is what bigoted religious people brandish to intimidate people who oppose them to silence.

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The slogan, however dogma-centered, is effective in its intentions. People are scared or reluctant to challenge religious conventions. We don’t want to offend the people who promote such beliefs because they share the same beliefs as many of the people we know. You then realize fighting these people also means fighting some of our friends and families. We Filipinos are too nice to do that, right?

And so the culture of silence continues. The culture of letting tradition rule. The culture of accepting the conventional and enduring the norm prevails despite our knowledge of the damaging aspects of the norm. The next thing you know, you either concede and agree with the conservatives or silence yourself to indifference. Hence, the culture of tolerating hate proliferates.

We’re forgetting these personal beliefs are offending us, too. Religion validates antigay hatred. Religion is the root of hostility towards gay people. And that is on top of Abrahamic religions being the root of and a tool for patriarchy and misogyny.

Let’s be truthful about this. Most of the people who abhor queers are religious people. Armed with their quotes from Leviticus and their tales of Sodom, they admonish against same sex love. They don’t call it love. They call it lust.

Imagine these beasts brainwashing gay teens in their Sunday ministries, Bible meetings, and religious services. We have gay and trans people who lock themselves up in the closet because of these wolves who constantly demonize and stigmatize being queer. These young, naive victims of indoctrination and oppression are defenseless. Amid the loudly chanting congregation, theirs is but a tiny voice―unheard, unrecognized, and suppressed. We fight for these young people!

From what I have observed, the battle for gay and transgender rights in this country is a battle fought by the LGBTQ rights advocates against the conservatives, including the worst in their ranks―the fundamentalists. The moderate Christians are mostly indifferent. They are irrelevant to the equation. They are the bystanders, the fence sitters. But who knows, maybe in time, they’ll come out of their closets as either supporters or opponents.

The progressive Christians who support our cause are an extremely tiny minority. I personally thank them. And I apologize if in the process of fighting for what I believe is just and right, I have offended your faith.

On the other hand, who knows, maybe, just maybe if we keep talking, if we keep appealing to reason and compassion, we may be able to create further change in this country. I’m talking about change that is significant. I’m talking about change, not just in ideology, but in legislation. Reason and secularism should prevail, not religion.

We are stronger now because of our elders, the staunch gay Pride marchers who came before us and who braved their plight in a more conservative world. We stand now because of them. However, the battle is far from over.

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This is our turn to speak up, not only for ourselves, but also for the younger generation, for the victims of religious indoctrination and conservatism who have to keep themselves in the closet, for the LGBTQ teens who are too naive and fragile to fend off the bullies and haters, for the victims of discrimination and hate crimes, for the parents of LGBTQ kids who are worried about their kids’ future, and for the queer couples who, despite the deep love they share, couldn’t even hold each other’s hands in public.

Hope is within reach. But we have to work together.

ALL PHOTOS FROM THE 21st METRO MANILA PRIDE MARCH
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