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Op-Ed

Debunking arguments against same-sex marriage

With many Filipinos still not supportive of extending the right to marry to LGBT people, Peter Jones Dela Cruz looks at the “reasons” many anti-marriage equality people raise and deconstruct them one by one.

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Majority of Filipinos don’t like two men or two women to get married for reasons we already know. The critics of marriage equality have come up with both religious and non-religious reasons for their objections. It’s important that we look at these reasons because they become important in discussions and debates that will affect the lives of same-gender couples.

Same-sex marriage is unnatural.

This is one of the most common arguments against same-sex marriage. It’s also one of the easiest to destroy. Supposing we say it is unnatural, so what? Is something necessarily or inherently wrong because it is unnatural? The inherent goodness of something is independent of whether it is natural or not. Typhoons, earthquakes, cancer, and gamma ray bursts are natural. Smartphones, batteries, air-conditioning systems, and computers are not.

Also, marriage is in itself unnatural. It’s a social, cultural, and legal construct. Animals don’t get married. They just mate. Heterosexual marriages are not necessarily natural. “Natural” is the wrong word. They are just common.

Nevertheless, this naturalistic fallacy just doesn’t die.

Marriage is for procreation.

If it were, why does the state allow sterile couples and seniors to get married, knowing they won’t be able to reproduce? This inconsistency destroys the argument, though. Clever marriage equality critics may then say: But sterile and senior couples are the exception to the procreation rule. Why, then, can we not extend this exception to same-sex couples?

Besides, there are many ways for same-sex couples to have children, such as in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and surrogacy. Many straight couples actually use these techniques, too.

It’s against God’s will.

It’s against our religion. It’s against our faith. It’s against our convictions. It’s against our concept of morality. These appeals to religion and bias do not hold water in a democratic country that upholds the doctrine of separation of Church and State. Marriage equality advocates are not asking the churches to wed same-sex Filipino couples. We are asking the State. Whether this form of marriage is against God’s will is debatable even within the domain of Christian belief and should not be taken as a statement of fact that should dictate legislation.

Section 6 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines states that the separation of Church and State is inviolable. Section 5 of Article III, on the other hand, states that no religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.

It’s also hypocrisy when we allow religion to interfere with something as private as marriage, considering there are many things religious texts admonish against but we do anyway. We do not make eating shellfish (Lev. 11:9-12) or wearing mixed fabric (Lev. 19:19) or eating pork (Lev. 11:7-8) illegal because God said these things are abominable just as sleeping with someone of your gender is.

You’re redefining marriage.

This is another argument that can be easily destroyed with this question: So what? Let’s redefine marriage to afford gay and lesbian couples the right to get married. Marriage was not always between one adult man and one adult woman throughout history and across cultures around the world. Marriage is an arbitrary concept. Christians do not have the monopoly over its definition. It’s not their concept alone to begin with. Marriage certainly did not originate as a Christian ceremony. And even if it did, it doesn’t mean it is for Christians or religious people to define and claim as solely theirs.

It threatens the sanctity of marriage.

This is another appeal to religion. Marriage is holy. Marriage is sacred. It is a union done under God’s grace, and because it’s done in the presence of God, it should only include a man and a woman because the Bible forbids homosexual partnerships.

So this is very much like the third argument that has been debunked.

First, we are not asking religious institutions. We are asking the State.

Second, that marriage is sacred is a matter of religious bias and is not a statement of fact. Again, we are a secular and democratic state, and such state does not adhere to religious dogma, especially when making and amending laws (Article III, Section 5).

Third, I personally do not think it threatens the sanctity of marriage or the sanctity of heterosexual marriages for that matter. I don’t see how the marriage of two men or two women will affect the marriages of all heterosexual couples in the country. I don’t see how such marriages will suddenly make the other marriages unholy or unsacred. It doesn’t make any sense, especially considering same-sex marriages will not be shoved down the throats of churches or their followers. Again, we are asking the State, not the churches.

This will lead to people marrying kids, dogs, etc.

This slippery slope fallacy just does not die, too. All right, nowhere in marriage equality campaigns can you see advocacy for pedophilia, incest, bestiality, and polygamy. In addition, supposing same-sex marriage does encourage supporters of polygamy or pedophilia/ephebophilia or incest to lobby their own advocacy, then let them. They are free to do that. But their advocacy is not the marriage equality advocacy. Also, it does not mean we can stop same-sex marriage discussions dead in their tracks because we have this assumed slippery slope. My point is, same-sex marriage should be discussed in its own right. The other issues brought up are nowhere near related to same-sex marriage and are therefore irrelevant in the discussion and serve only as a distraction.

The logic behind this slippery slope goes like this: Straight unions are presumed to be superior to gay or lesbian unions, and we cannot move the limits of legal recognition of unions for the inferior minority because it may lead to moving the limits further down the scale. This slippery slope is composed of an asserted truth and an appeal to uncertain consequences.

Several decades ago, people did regard Black people and women inferior. But when African-Americans gained civil rights, were civil rights extended to monkeys? No! People understood that White and Black Americans are equal, and so the recognition of their civil rights was not a matter of moving the limits of such legal recognition to include an “inferior” race, because there was no inferior race. There was no moving down the ladder from White Americans to African-Americans down to monkeys and then dogs. When women gained voting rights, suffrage rights were not extended to cats.

More importantly, kids cannot give consent because they do not have well-developed cognitive faculties yet. Neither can dogs or monkeys give consent, let alone sign on a marriage certificate.

The genitals don’t fit.

First of all, genitals don’t get married. People do. Second, this argument assumes that marriage is done for purposes of sex only. Marriage is not defined as the union of genitals. It’s not all about sex. It’s also about commitment, togetherness, non-sexual intimacy, mutual respect, and so on.

Men are for women.

This is related to the argument above, minus the genital component. This argument assumes that because a man and a woman are needed for reproduction, thus follows that marriage should be only between a man and a woman. But we already have discussed that marriage is not solely for procreation. Besides, marriage is not necessary for procreation.

Another version of this argument asserts that men and women have complementary biological and psychological qualities that make them fitting for each other in a partnership and that same-sex couples do not possess this kind of complementary qualities. But partnerships do not require these complementary qualities between two people sharing mutual affection, because the only significant factors here are their mutual affection and their commitment. Asserting these supposed complementary differences only explain why heterosexual marriages are good and does not really say anything about same-sex partnerships, effectively rendering the assertion irrelevant in discussions about the latter. We know that despite such assumed complementary roles and qualities, heterosexual couples still break up and file for annulment. In other countries, they file for divorce. And we know many gay and lesbian couples who say strong despite the lack of such an assumed complementary biological and psychological components.

Same-sex partnerships and marriages may become a norm.

Let us look at the countries where gay couples can get married. Why haven’t gay unions become a norm in these places? Because gay marriage doesn’t change the percentage of gay people in the population. While legal recognition of such unions allow gay and lesbian people to get married, it doesn’t at all increase the number of gay and lesbian couples to a point wherein most marriages become same-gender marriages. In short, that argument is ridiculous.

Humans will go extinct.

This is like an extension of the previous argument. That humans will go extinct because of same-sex marriage assumes that too many people will get gay-married to a point wherein the population will decline. It’s absurd. At best, we can consider this argument a ridiculous digression or an exaggerated sarcasm. It doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t follow that when you legalize this type of marriage, everyone, including straight people, will start marrying members of the same sex or stop reproducing. Are people in Belgium or The Netherlands at the brink of extinction?

United Nations’ population projections show that there will be more than 11 billion people in the world in 2100. There is so much procreation going on despite the presence of same-sex unions in many countries.

Marriage is for the protection of children.

This is another asserted truth. Notice how its true message becomes preposterous — same-sex marriage is wrong because marriage is for the protection of children. See how it becomes a dishonest non sequitur? In other words, just because you think marriage is for the protection of children doesn’t mean two men or two women can’t get married.

Marriage is not parenting. Its primary purpose is to legally bind couples and afford them privileges and rights under such state-sanctioned unions. Marriage is not for procreation, let alone for the protection of children. People get married because they want to spend the rest of their lives with the people they love. Having kids is an option, not a requirement.

The other problem with this argument is it assumes gay and lesbian couples cannot protect children or uphold their welfare. Many studies have shown that there is no significant difference in the quality of lives or the psychological development between children raised by straight parents and those raised by gay parents. The parents’ ability to raise children and secure their welfare has nothing to do with their sexual orientation.

A variation of this argument goes like this: Children of gay parents will only get bullied. Although this is more like an argument against joint adoption by a same-sex couple, it feigns as a compelling argument against gay marriage.

Bullying is wrong. No one wants their kids to be bullied. The problem is not same-sex couples raising children, but the bigotry within the society. We should be addressing this problem through educating people that same-sex unions are not inferior to opposite-sex unions. Stopping gay marriage in this case does not address bigotry; it only endorses it.

We should tell people to stop bullying anyone. Tell your kids to stop bullying other kids.

It will lead to more HIV/AIDS cases.

This argument can be translated like this: same-sex marriage is wrong because it leads to unsafe sexual practices that raise the married couple’s risk of HIV.

Gay sex is mistakenly identified as the culprit of HIV/AIDS. It seems logical. Cases are well and alive among men having sex with men. Because of that, same-sex marriage is wrong. Or so say the marriage equality critics. There’s one inconsistency, though. Lesbian women have the least cases of HIV or STIs for that matter.

The argument also assumes that same-sex marriage will encourage more promiscuity among gay men, but that is yet to be seen. One can argue that marriage creates a social and legal responsibility among homosexual couples to be together in fidelity and monogamy.

But the most important counterargument for this spurious claim is that gay sex doesn’t cause HIV. Nor does it lead to more cases on its own. The real culprit is unsafe sexual practices, such as engaging in casual sex with multiple partners without appropriate protection; and it doesn’t matter whether you are gay or straight. Two HIV-free men in a committed and monogamous relationship having sex will not get HIV no matter how many times they engage in sex. They will get tired, though, for sure. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get married because frequent sex causes fatigue.

There are more important issues.

This is a fallacy of relative privation. There are always more important issues. Poverty, territorial disputes, and peace and order problems were around when legislators debated and approved the then Anti-Cybercrime and RH bills. If they waited until all these important issues were resolved, would they have passed and approved new bills? Laws for relatively less important issues get passed every time, because legislators discuss bills in their own right without appealing to “more important” issues that have nothing to do with those bills.

As an analogy, do you skip dinner because there are hungry homeless children in your town?

It’s special rights.

Without a law that allows same-sex couples to get married, they simply do not have an alternative. They can only live together as cohabiting couples whose unions are not recognized by the state for illogical reasons. They do not enjoy the benefits that come with state-sanctioned unions. They do not have conjugal property rights, next-of-kin rights, joint adoption rights, etc. We are not talking about petty rights. These are major rights that have major implications on the lives of couples. Currently, there are no alternatives. Same-sex couples do not even have cohabitation rights, and that’s only because they are same-sex couples.

The right to get married is a basic right. Freedom from discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation is a basic human right. Not recognizing same-sex unions is a form of discrimination and should not be exercised in a country that adheres to the principles of human rights.

Gay men can marry women.

This is an extension of the previous argument. Marriage equality critics consider same-sex marriage special rights because they argue that gay men can marry women or lesbian women can marry men, anyway. It sounds like a good argument until we dig deeper and find that most men and lesbian women do not want to marry women and men respectively. Gay men are not attracted to women and thus do not form romantic and intimate relationships with women, let alone want to marry them. So, telling them they can marry women does not make any sense.

We are a Christian country. It is against our culture.

Both statements sound valid except that they are both appeals to religion, tradition, and common belief, hence fallacious. Most of the people in the country are Christians, but it doesn’t mean that this country is theocratic. Legislators do not invoke the Bible or any religious scripture in drafting laws, and they should not. Laws are secular. They do not adhere to a common religion. Otherwise, we would have enacted laws against female non-virginity before marriage or banning of work on Sundays. The Philippine Constitution stipulates the separation between Church and State. Whereas the church can give its opinion regarding same-sex marriage, it cannot and should not interfere with or influence the legislative process of passing and approving of bills.

Regarding the Philippine culture, it has to be stressed that the culture is dynamic, not static, and that the culture and the law go hand-in-hand in shaping a nation. The culture shapes the law, but the law also shapes the culture. Neither is above the other. Laws can be established to uphold the rights of gay, lesbian, and transgender people to promote a culture of equality regardless of sexuality or gender. In other words, laws for marriage equality and non-discrimination based on SOGI can change our culture into something that is truly LGBT-inclusive.

Majority are not in favor of it.

This is very much similar to the previous argument. Just because the majority share the same opinion regarding something doesn’t necessarily follow they’re right. The reasons why eight in 10 Filipinos do not like gay marriage are laid out in this article, and we are debunking them.

When the Supreme Court of the Unites States ruled in favor of marriage equality, it ruled in favor of the rights of same-sex couples and considered their rights and dignity to be above popular opinion, culture, or religion. The SCOTUS operated under the principle of equality, reminding people that the law serves to protect the minority and that it serves to keep the majority from oppressing the minority.

It’s against the Family Code.

Of course. That’s why we’re discussing it.

Laws are not static and can be amended. This is why marriage equality advocates are lobbying for same-sex marriage. The Articles 1 and 2 of the Family Code discriminate against two-men or two-women partnerships. Changing the legal definition of marriage to remove its heterosexist veil would be a crucial step in ensuring any two adults in a committed and monogamous relationship can get married regardless of their sexes or genders.

I don’t think that the marriage equality proponents in the country are so optimistic that they see their advocacy being signed into law anytime soon. It’s going to be a long walk towards marriage equality, but we’ll walk the long path anyway.

Peter Jones Dela Cruz is a gay demiguy, a heretic, and someone who believes popular opinion and norms should be challenged if they are devoid of reason. He yearns for a future wherein everyone is treated equally regardless of who they love or what they wear ― a future where labels no longer matter. Apart from ranting for LGBTQ rights, he also likes to snap pictures and sing covers.

Editor's Picks

Covid-19 and the freelancer’s dilemma

The Philippines is home to a “vibrant gig economy”, with an estimated 1.5 million freelancers in the country. But Covid-19 responses actually do not include them, so what happens to them now?

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Kate is a visual artist. She resigned from her day job to pursue her passion two years ago. Painting and creating origami, her income mainly came from the sales of her artworks; supplemented by home-based art classes to elementary and high school students.  

Nicole is a freelance makeup artist. Her clients varied from celebrities to socialites to brides and debutantes… and everything in between. Nicole used to earn a minimum of P3,000 per client, with the amount increasing depending on the type of service being offered.

Lumina is a drag artist, a common face in dance clubs and in events. Aside from her “talent fee”, she also used to get “tips” from customers.

But when the Covid-19 related Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) took effect in Luzon starting last March 17, their capacity to earn a living was also put on hold. And people like them – a.k.a. “freelancers” – are many.

In May 2019, PayPal (the payment system company) reported that the Philippines is home to a “vibrant gig economy”, with an estimated 1.5 million freelancers in the country. In fact, this is a segment that is fast becoming an influential part of the Filipino workforce and a key engine driving the growth of the country’s economy.

The terms used to refer to them may vary – e.g. In October 2019, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that of the 73,528,000 population in the Philippines, ages 15 years and over, 95.5% are employed. And 25% of them are “self-employed workers”. Freelancers also fall under PSA’s categorization.

And ECQ has been devastating to these Filipinos.

“The current lockdown left us, freelance workers, in a complete halt — events and shows were cancelled. It technically made us jobless since we do not have the option of working from home,” Lumina said.

Like Lumina, Kate said freelancer workers are “so tied to the situation.”

“Even if I want to sell my work or earn a living, I cannot do anything right now,” Kate added.

Painting and creating origami, Kate’s income mainly came from the sales of her artworks; supplemented by home-based art classes to elementary and high school students. Everything was affected by Covid-19.
Photo by Fallon Michael from Unsplash.com

What gov’t support?

There are supposed to be government support for workers affected by the ECQ.

In a statement released last March 17, for instance, the Department of Labor and Employment stated that they “may be able to address the pressing needs of the rest of the affected workers in the quarantined areas.” 

DOLE developed the following mitigating measures: “Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program” (CAMP), “Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers” (TUPAD), and “DOLE-AKAP for OFWs”.  

CAMP will serve “affected workers regardless of status (i.e. permanent, probationary, or contractual), those employed in private establishments whose operations are affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic.” TUPAD “aims to contribute to poverty reduction and inclusive growth.” The program is “a community based (municipality/barangay) package of assistance that provides temporary wage employment.” And the DOLE-AKAP specifically caters to overseas Filipino workers who have been displaced due to the imposition of lockdown or community quarantine, or have been infected with the disease.   

DOLE reiterated that the only qualified beneficiaries are the underemployed, self-employed and displaced marginalized workers. To help these people, “employment” is offered – i.e. the nature of work shall be the disinfection or sanitation of their houses and its immediate vicinity, and the duration will be limited to 10 days. The person will be receiving 100% of the prevailing highest minimum wage in the region.

Pre-Covid-19, Nicole could earn from P3,000 per client; nowadays, she relies solely on what her barangay provides: relief goods and minimal ayuda.

Another government body eyeing to supposedly help is the Social Security System (SSS), where employees of small businesses may apply to be considered for the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) Program. 

To add, the government agency is also geared up to pay some 30,000 to 60,000 workers projected to be unemployed due to possible layoffs or closures of Covid-19 affected private companies.

Some arts-focused institutions like the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) also developed their own “disaster-triggered funding mechanism” to help address the “lack of support from the government.” In FDCP’s case, the program aims to help displaced freelance audio-visual workers—from talents, to production staff and technical crew members.

But note how all efforts are mum on freelance workers.

For drag performer Lumina, Covid-19 “technically made us jobless since we do not have the option of working from home.”

Making ends meet

And so many are left to do something they never did – i.e. rely on others just to survice.

In the case of Nicole, she relies solely on what her barangay provides: relief goods and minimal ayuda

Sobrang hirap ng sitwasyon ngayon. Hindi ko alam kung saan ako kukuha ng panggastos. ‘Yung ipon ko paubos na, tapos kailangan ko pa magbayad ng renta sa bahay at ibang bills (The situation now is very hard. I don’t know where to get money to spend. My savings are almost gone, and yet I still have to pay for my rent and the bills),” she said.

Lumina, for her part, is “lucky” because she still lives with her family, and “they have been providing for my basic needs since the lockdown started.”

Her luck isn’t necessarily shared by many – e.g. Human Rights Watch earlier reported that “added family stresses related to the Covid-19 crisis – including job loss, isolation, excessive confinement, and anxieties over health and finances – heighten the risk of violence in the home… The United Nations secretary-general has reported a ‘horrifying‘ global surge in domestic-based violence linked to Covid-19, and calls to helplines in some countries have reportedly doubled.”

To add: “In a household of six members, I think the goods that we are receiving from the government is not enough,” Lumina said, hoping that “every freelance worker also receive benefits from the government that would in a way cover the earnings that we lost.”

Bleak future?

In 2017, when PayPal conducted a survey of over 500 freelancers in the Philippines, the results showed that the country had a “very optimistic freelancer market”, with 86% of freelancers claiming they anticipate future growth in their businesses. In fact, at that time, 23% of the respondents said their business is growing steadily, while 46% said their business is stable.

But Covid-19 turned everything upside-down for many.

There are rays of hope.

Toptal survey, for instance, pointed out that 90% of companies depend on freelancers to augment their professional workforce, and – get this – 76% of surveyed executives intend to increase use of independent professionals to provide expertise either to supplement full-time talent or to access skills and experiences they lack in their workforce. 

This may be particularly true to those whose works do not involve face-to-face engagement (e.g. graphics design, BPOs).

And so for the likes of Kate, Nicole and Lumina — and many other freelance workers for that matter, whose works rely on being with people — the way to get through now is to just to make do with what they can grasp on… while hoping for a better future, where reliance (including in a non-responsive government) is not in the picture… 

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Health & Wellness

The mental cost of Covid-19 lockdown

As the country copes with the “new normal”, the issue of mental health continues to be in the back burner. “Priorities” now continue to focus on: controlling the spread of Covid-19, and mitigating its impact on the economy. This is even if experts warn that the crisis could have a “profound” and “pervasive impact” on global mental health now and in the future.

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Photo by Ian Panelo from Pexels.com

“Three of my closest friends committed suicide last week,” John Albert shared in a post. “I could not believe the news when I heard it. I saw them before the lockdown; everything seemed fine.”

I chatted with John Albert, and in a short online conversation, he said that one of these friends was a lesbian. Her body was reportedly found by a barangay tanod who was patrolling their area. When they checked the phone beside her, there were 30 missed calls and 57 unread notifications. According to John Albert, the last message his friend sent was to her brother: “Ang hirap pala ng ganito, nag-iisa ka lang at wala kang makausap. Nalulungkot ako pero wala akong choice. Sana matapos na itong lockdown.”

But John Albert’s lesbian friend isn’t the only such case – at least it seems – of members of the LGBTQIA community dealing with the mental strife brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tere, a transgender woman who started her transition this January, lives in a small apartment and is used to doing things on her own, in her own way. But it changed on March 17, when Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte enforced the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon, which halted just about everything.

Most people were forced to adjust to what is only available. And in Tere’s case, this meant “temporarily” moving back to her parents’ house. And there, she does not exactly feel fully welcomed.

“For some reason, my father always scolds me. He wants me to do this and that, always asking me questions about my decision to transition and what will happen to my future,” shared Tere, who lamented that all her movements are being monitored so she cannot do her usually routine. “It had already come to a point that I just stay in my room the whole day and cry. I started questioning myself, too.”    

It is worth stressing that for those dealing with mental health issues, know that there are ways to lessen the stress and burden on the mind.
Photo by Alan Cabello from Pexels.com

FOCUS ON MENTAL STATE

“The new normal” – as people are now referring to the time of Covid-19 – is also testing how strong one’s coping mechanism is, particularly with the need to socially isolate that could trigger loneliness, which the American Psychological Association says increases the risk of premature mortality

After all, two of the major factors that may contribute to a person’s mental health is the sudden change in physical and social environments. And so: What if you are someone who is struggling to manage how you think, feel and behave given the current controlled environment?

At this point, there’s the acknowledgement that the Covid-19 pandemic not only attacks the body’s immune system, but also wreaks havoc on the mental state of people. 

A recent chat with Filipino persons living with HIV (PLHIV), for instance, showed that aside from the paranoia about the disease (e.g. how it spreads, the constant danger of being in close contact with someone who has it), the battle with one’s self can just be as difficult.

Sadly, there are no available outlets to release these anxieties, just the confines of your home/room/house. And for many, this is proving to be very difficult.

Perhaps even more so for LGBTQIA people going through additional difficulties because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression.

LOOKING FOR A WAY OUT

John Albert’s lesbian friend’s demise highlights how bad things can turn out.

And suicide isn’t “rare” in the Philippines – even if still not as widely discussed. In 2016, the World Bank reported that the Philippines’ suicide rate was 3.20 per 100,000 inhabitants. The rate has actually been growing since 2000.  

And as the country slowly copes with the “new normal”, the issue of mental health continues to be in the back burner. “Priorities” now continue to focus on: controlling the spread of Covid-19, and mitigating its impact on the economy. 

In a paper published in Lancet Psychiatry, scientists already stressed the need to also prioritize mental health, since a crisis could have “profound” and “pervasive impact” on global mental health now and in the future.

The World Health Organization (WHO), itself, acknowledged that “as the coronavirus pandemic rapidly sweeps across the world, it is inducing a considerable degree of fear, worry and concern in the population at large and among certain groups in particular…”

WHO stressed that: “In public mental health terms, the main psychological impact to date is elevated rates of stress or anxiety. But as new measures and impacts are introduced – especially quarantine and its effects on many people’s usual activities, routines or livelihoods – levels of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol and drug use, and self-harm or suicidal behavior are also expected to rise.”

But there are steps that can be taken.

US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added practical ways to cope with stress:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body.
    • Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
    • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
    • Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep.
    • Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

It is worth stressing that for those dealing with mental health issues, know that there are ways to lessen the stress and burden on the mind. And perhaps apt to stress is the need to help each other. Just as Cebu City-based transgender woman Magdalena Robinson, CEO of the Cebu United Rainbow LGBTIQ+ Sector Inc., said, this is the right time to “fix each other’s crown.”

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Op-Ed

Covid-19 for people living with HIV

With persons living with HIV voicing their concerns regarding COVID-19, especially if their immunocompromised status makes them more vulnerable to the coronavirus, the AIDS Society of the Philippines provides the following advice for prevention.

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By AIDS Society of the Philippines

How can Persons Living with HIV protect themselves from COVID-19?

Recently, persons living with HIV have been voicing their concerns regarding COVID-19, especially if their immunocompromised status makes them more vulnerable to the coronavirus. The AIDS Society of the Philippines acknowledges and empathizes with the key affected population, and provides the following advice for prevention.

Adhere to ARV regimen

Continue to faithfully take your anti-retrovirals (ARVs) and ensure you have enough supply of ARVs. Reach out to your treatment hub, primary care facility, or community-based organization so they can help expedite your ARV refill despite the community quarantine in NCR. Call them to set an appointment before you visit.

Maintain a strong immune system

Continue to maintain a strong immune system with proper diet and enough sleep. Currently, there is no COVID-19 data specifically about persons who are immunocompromised. However, Dr. John Brooks from the HIV/AIDS Division of the CDC said publicly that, most likely, the risk for severe illness will be greater for persons at lower CD4 cell counts and those who aren’t virally suppressed.

Follow general precautions vs. COVID-19

Continue to follow DOH and WHO advice in COVID-19 prevention. This includes frequent handwashing, practicing cough hygiene, avoid touching the mouth, eyes, and nose, social distancing (maintain 3 feet distance), working from home, going out as little as possible, and seeking medical care when you have fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.

If you have been exposed to a Person Under Investigation or Person Under Monitoring (PUI and PUM) for COVID-19, contact your treatment hub or primary care facility to request for advice. Home quarantine will likely be required, even without symptoms. If symptoms appear, visit your nearest government hospital for triaging and indicate the presence of co-morbidities.

Keep in touch with friends and family

Continue to take care of your mental health by reaching out and staying in touch with friends, family members, and support groups remotely or through the Internet. Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. But advise family and friends that due to your status, you have to limit your exposure to others. Finally, encourage other PLHIV and fellow Filipinos.

We stand with you in this difficult time. Stay strong—we will get through this together.

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Lifestyle & Culture

It’s 2020, time to teach teens ‘safe’ sexting

This is not about encouraging sexting behaviors, any more than sex education is about encouraging teens to have sex. It simply recognizes the reality that young people are sexually curious, and some will experiment with various behaviors with or without informed guidance, and sexting is no exception.

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Photo by Cristofer Jeschke from Unsplash.com

Preaching sexual abstinence to youth was popular for a number of decades, but research repeatedly found that such educational messages fell short in their intended goals. Simply telling youth not to have sex failed to delay the initiation of sex, prevent pregnancies, or stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. Since the advent of photo- and video-sharing via phones, children have received similar fear-based messages to discourage sexting – the sending or receiving of sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images (photos or video) usually via mobile devices. Unfortunately, messages of sexting abstinence don’t seem to be reducing the prevalence of adolescents sharing nudes.

Consequently, in a new paper published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers from Florida Atlantic University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, say that it is time to teach youth “safe” sexting.

“The truth is that adolescents have always experimented with their sexuality, and some are now doing so via sexting,” said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., co-author and a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry, and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. “We need to move beyond abstinence-only, fear-based sexting education or, worse yet, no education at all. Instead, we should give students the knowledge they need to make informed decisions when being intimate with others, something even they acknowledge is needed.”

Hinduja and co-author Justin Patchin, Ph.D., a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, acknowledge that although participating in sexting is never 100 percent “safe” (just like engaging in sex), empowering youth with strategies to reduce possible resultant harm seems prudent.

Hinduja and Patchin collected (unpublished) data in April 2019 from a national sample of nearly 5,000 youth between the ages of 12 and 17, and found that 14 percent had sent and 23 percent had received sexually explicit images. These figures represent an increase of 13 percent for sending and 22 percent for receiving from what they previously found in 2016.

The authors do want youth to understand that those who sext open themselves up to possible significant and long-term consequences, such as humiliation, extortion, victimization, school sanction, reputational damage, and even criminal charges. But they also want youth who are going to do it anyway to exercise wisdom and discretion to prevent avoidable fallout.

“This is not about encouraging sexting behaviors, any more than sex education is about encouraging teens to have sex,” said Hinduja. “It simply recognizes the reality that young people are sexually curious, and some will experiment with various behaviors with or without informed guidance, and sexting is no exception.”

Simply telling youth not to have sex failed to delay the initiation of sex, prevent pregnancies, or stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.
Photo by Jack Sharp from Unsplash.com

Hinduja and Patchin provide suggested themes encapsulated in 10 specific, actionable messages that adults can share with adolescents in certain formal or informal contexts after weighing their developmental and sexual maturity.

  1. If someone sends you a sext, do not send it to — or show — anyone else. This could be considered nonconsensual sharing of pornography, and there are laws prohibiting it and which outline serious penalties (especially if the image portrays a minor).
  2. If you send someone a sext, make sure you know and fully trust them. “Catfishing”– where someone sets up a fictitious profile or pretends to be someone else to lure you into a fraudulent romantic relationship (and, often, to send sexts) — happens more often than you think. You can, of course, never really know if they will share it with others or post it online, but do not send photos or video to people you do not know well.
  3. Do not send images to someone who you are not certain would like to see it (make sure you receive textual consent that they are interested). Sending unsolicited explicit images to others could also lead to criminal charges.
  4. Consider boudoir pictures. Boudoir is a genre of photography that involves suggestion rather than explicitness. Instead of nudes, send photos that strategically cover the most private of private parts. They can still be intimate and flirty but lack the obvious nudity that could get you in trouble.
  5. Never include your face. Of course, this is so that images are not immediately identifiable as yours but also because certain social media sites have sophisticated facial recognition algorithms that automatically tag you in any pictures you would want to stay private.
  6. Make sure the images do not include tattoos, birthmarks, scars, or other features that could connect them to you. In addition, remove all jewelry before sharing. Also, consider your surroundings. Bedroom pictures could, for example, include wall art or furniture that others recognize.
  7. Turn your device’s location services off for all of your social media apps, make sure your photos are not automatically tagged with your location or username, and delete any meta-data digitally attached to the image.
  8. If you are being pressured or threatened to send nude photos, collect evidence when possible. Having digital evidence (such as screenshots of text messages) of any maliciousness or threats of sextortion will help law enforcement in their investigation and prosecution (if necessary) and social media sites in their flagging and deletion of accounts.
  9. Use apps that provide the capability for sent images to be automatically and securely deleted after a certain amount of time. You can never guarantee that a screenshot was not taken, nor that another device was not used to capture the image without you being notified, but using specialized apps can decrease the chance of distribution.
  10. Be sure to promptly delete any explicit photos or videos from your device. This applies to images you take of yourself and images received from someone else. Having images stored on your device increases the likelihood that someone — a parent, the police, a hacker — will find them. Possessing nude images of minors may have criminal implications. In 2015, for example, a North Carolina teen was charged with possessing child pornography, although the image on his phone was of himself.

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Literary Pieces

Posteng Bato

Elmo Ellezo writes about the apathy of those who have more in life, even if – by choosing to lend a hand – they can help effect changes in other people’s lives.

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Ni Elmo Ellezo

May mga taong umangat lang sa buhay,
parang naging katulad ng bahay na bato ang puso.
Kasing tigas at wala ng pakiramdam sa iba.

Parang bato,
posteng bato na naghihiwalay sa kanilang sa sarili
sa reyalidad ng malawak na mundo.
Bingi sa mga ingay sa labas.
Binulag ng mga bakod at posteng bato,
ayaw tumanaw sa kabilang bahagi ng mundo.

Gwardyado, akala moy kaaway ang mundo,
Ayaw makibahagi oh umambag sa mga walang laman ang kaldero
Ayaw makipagkapwa tao.
Naka-kandado pati ang kanilang mga puso.

Tanging paraan na silay mamulat ay delubyo.
Kapag tinumbahan na ng mga posteng bato.
Kapag binaha na katulad ng mga nakatira sa estero.
Kapag nagutom, namatayan na katulad ng mga ordinaryong tao.

Anong klaseng mundo ang nililikha nitong mga posteng bato.
Mga kaaway ang mahihirap at walang tiwala sa kapwa tao.
Makasariling pag uugali at walang pakialam sa mundo.

Sana maibalik ang aking pagkabata.
Walang mga poste at bakod na naghihiwalay sa sinasabi kong kapwa.
Kung saan ang daigdig ay pinagsasaluhan ng lahat.
May pagkakaugnay ugnay, tiwala at pakikipag kapwa.

Munti kong panalangin ay mawasak ang mga posteng bato.
Mga posteng batong isinasara ng bakal at mga kandado.
Mga posteng batong nagpapamanhid sa kalagayan ng dumadaing na mundo.
Ang posteng batong naglilikha ng taong bato ang puso.

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Op-Ed

Being LGBTQ+ means nothing

Being unaware of and deviant from what that community is intentionally fighting for clearly does not make us a part of it. We have to realize that our identity does not really matter as much as what we actually say, do or stand for.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash.com

We’ve heard it all before — a woman who still espouses misogyny, Filipinos who can be insulting towards their own skin color, a devout Christian who has little knowledge about the Bible and the history of Christianity, a gay person who is against the rights of other LGBTQ+ folks. These seemingly self-contradictories show that our identity is nothing but superficiality.

Our identity does not hold the substance of what we’re all about.

Having a certain identity does not follow that we know all there is to understand about it.

More importantly, it does not immediately give us the authority or credibility to speak on behalf of a larger group we supposedly belong to. Otherwise, we only cause much harm and misinformation.

What does a community mean? Fumbling through the dictionary, we would find similar definitions that basically sum up as “a group of people sharing a commonality of interests, attitudes, characteristics, values, goals – even history – and living in a particular location or within a greater area”. Applying this to the so-called LGBTQ+ community, since LGBTQ+ persons obviously do not live in the same quarters or have exactly the same lived experiences (hence the need for the acronym with a plus sign), we need to take only the spirit of the word — that is, a community is a social state of more than skin-deep commonality.

People who label themselves as LGBTQ’s do not see the whole picture if they go against equality and the principle that human rights must be bestowed to all regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, physical appearance and so forth. Such people who proclaim they are “part of the LGBTQ+ community but…” are merely disruptive tumors. They are not part of the community but only a part of the problem, which is compounded by ignorance, indifference, hate and discrimination.

So before we open our mouths and ascribe to some sort of community or identity, let’s be truly certain first that we know what it’s all about. Being unaware of and deviant from what that community is intentionally fighting for clearly does not make us a part of it. We have to realize that our identity does not really matter as much as what we actually say, do or stand for.

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