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Do we deserve the abuse we get?

Michael David C. Tan notes that discrimination against LGBTs only happens if LGBTs themselves do not do a thing about what they go through. Because while “we don’t deserve the abuse we’re getting, if we don’t say anything, the abusers think we’re okay with getting abused.” He calls for a change of LGBT minds “if we are to change this world”.

When Australian freelance writer Doug Hendrie interviewed business tycoon Ricky Reyes, the Filipino otherwise known as Mother Ricky was quoted as saying that gays should leave marriage to heterosexuals. “I get mad at gays pursuing things that are impossible. My God, give it to the men and women. If you love somebody, live with them. Living with and understanding someone is better than marriage,” Reyes supposedly said.

And here – for me – lies a problem.

Yes, as the oft-cited cliché goes, everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion.

But if that opinion infringes on my right to live a life in the same way that everyone (i.e. heterosexuals) has, then we have an issue. Actually, when this happens, WE (ALL) SHOULD HAVE AN ISSUE.

There are numerous instances in the lives of LGBT that we should be raising our fists in anger.

Even as a fresh graduate, while applying for a job in an advertising agency, I was told by the human resource (HR) officer that my CV was already impressive, “but will you be willing to change the way you dress up for you to be accepted? Masyado kasing… gay (You look too… gay),” were her words. “And being gay is no good.”
My reaction was to just give up on my application; for me then, why force yourself on someone/something that doesn’t want you?
Reports after reports continue raising this issue – i.e. members of the LGBT community getting refused employment even if they are highly qualified, simply because they are LGBTs. This way of thinking glorifies the mediocre, as long as they are not LGBT; greatness – if among LGBTs – is (stupidly) not considered good enough at all.

I have been bypassed for promotions a few times because of stereotypes attached with being gay. In discussions that ensued about this occurrence in one of my past jobs, one administrative officer in a political office actually had the guts to openly tell me that “no offense, ha, pero bakla ka kasi – alam mo naman ang mga bakla, mahirap pagkatiwalaan (no offense meant, but it’s because you’re gay – you know how untrustworthy gay men can be).”
I didn’t question her (and that office’s way of seeing LGBTs). Even until that time when I left.

Growing up in Cotabato City, I knew that the Philippine Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) kept (and maybe still does) the gays off the field, particularly during the tactical inspections. They would ask those who are openly gay to go from one platoon to another, picking out those they think are gay. This was because as ROTC officers repeatedly stressed: “Kahiya-hiya kasi kung may bakla (It’s embarrassing for us to have gay men).”
As I myself experienced, the gays were forced to work in other areas, as long as they were not seen – e.g. as interior decorators of the ROTC commandant’s office, as members of the medical team, and even as bugaw (pimp), since we were asked to look for female sex workers to “make the visitors happy”. When the inspections happen, they gays were given two options: 1) Claim to be sick (by coming up with illnesses) and then be counted as a “legit” member of the commandant’s office’s staff; or 2) Hide (i.e. don’t wear the uniform) during the actual inspection, and then just surface again when the visitors left.
And yet no one openly attacked this practice…

There are more of similar experiences, of course.

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But what is worth highlighting is the need to change the very ways of seeing of LGBTs themselves.

Mother Ricky is – for me – wrong in saying that gays should leave marriage to heterosexuals. He is forgetting one EXTREMELY IMPORTANT aspect, i.e. the push for EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL. Not everyone will agree with the concept of marriage, this is true; but this doesn’t mean ONLY FEW PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO MARRY.
Put simply: Mas malaki ang buwis na binabayaran ni Mother Ricky kesa sa mga lalaki o babae na inaayusan niya; pero bakit mas may karapatan ang mga lalaki at babae na ito kesa kay Mother Ricky (Mother Ricky pays more taxes than the men and women he beautifies; and yet these same men and women have more rights than Mother Ricky)?
This is not to say that Mother Ricky should have more rights, or be given special rights (simply because he pays more taxes). This is simply to say that Mother Ricky should (rightfully) get what is given others.
Discrimination is – plain and simple – wrong.
And the one issue here is EQUALITY (marriage for same-sex couples just happens to be one of those issues that LGBTs are clamoring for equal treatment).

Here’s the thing, though: FOR AS LONG AS WE LOOK THE OTHER WAY, THE SYSTEM WILL NOT CHANGE; hanggang hindi natin ito pupunahin at i-di-deadma lang natin, hindi magbabago ang maling pag-trato ng lipunan sa atin.

It is when we ignore the ills that we see that we let the culprits get away.
And bad as this may sound, when we let the evil get away, we may – even if we didn’t intend for this to happen – be empowering the evil-doers to abuse us.

Because some things can be done.
And no, we all need not join rallies (if this is the supposed elitist fear of “activism”).
But we can call out these abuses as they happen.

In hindsight – even if I refused, I should have called out the HR officer’s bigotry. I had nothing to lose (since I didn’t want to be working in her company anymore, anyway); but my calling out her vitriolic ways of seeing LGBTs may have (wishful thinking here) paved the way for changes to be done in her company.

As she insulted me (and other LGBTs), I could have confronted the administrative officer’s homophobia, instead of letting her continue believing that gays are untrustworthy simply because they’re gay. My sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) is not directly connected with my capabilities – after all, the self-identifying heterosexual man that they promoted lasted in the job for only a few weeks, since he was apparently ill-qualified for the position.

And as gays were getting discriminated against by ROTC officers, I – and the other gays – could have done something, anything to open the discussions about this. A sad part was my belonging with the student publication at that time, and we didn’t even write about this…
We could have; we should have.

Because, yet again, some things can be done.
Complain anonymously (as needed, if you have to protect your person).
Get the Netizens up in arms (even if you can’t get those in your immediate community to act).
Write a blog (then link it to LGBT-friendly politicians).
Meet other LGBTs (network, network, NETWORK).
Organize into groups (helping each other out helps – a lot!).

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We don’t deserve the abuse we’re getting.
But if we don’t say anything, the abusers think we’re okay with getting abused.
So we first have to change if we are to change this world.

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan completed BA Communication Studies from University of Newcastle in NSW, Australia; and Master of Development Communication from the University of the Philippines-Open University. He grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City), but he "really came out in Sydney" so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing, and a developed world". Conversant in Filipino Sign Language, Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, and research (with pioneering studies under his belt). He authored "Being LGBT in Asia: Philippines Country Report", and "Red Lives" that creatively retells stories from the local HIV community. Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism, and Art that Matters - Literature from Amnesty Int'l Philippines in 2020. Cross his path is the dare (guarantee: It won't be boring).


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