And so, yesterday, I thought of CDO native Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach – not just because she’s “our” Miss Universe, but also for her publicly-spoken statements of support for LGBT people, and for (as a cliché goes) ACTUALLY putting money where her mouth is. She may have haters (but hey, who doesn’t?), but she has – indeed – put a spotlight particularly on an issue of importance to the LGBT community (i.e. HIV).
Now why did Pia enter my mind?
See, I had a chance encounter with an international celebrity (who shall remain unnamed) with a HUGE LGBT (particularly gay) following. Exactly because so many members of the LGBT community put her on a pedestal that my short chat with her eventually led to the push for an anti-discrimination bill (still stuck in Congress after 17 years; though this year pushed by the likes of Reps. Kaka Bag-ao and Geraldine Roman in the Lower House, and Sen. Risa Hontiveros in the Upper House) and the move to have civil union recognized (as advocated by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez).
I asked this celebrity: “Considering your LGBT following, do you have anything to say on this?”
I was expecting some motherhood statement about equality being important to everyone.
Instead – to my surprise – she told me: “I’m neutral on those issues.”
Somewhat flabbergasted (perhaps more so than if I just received motherhood statements), I said: “You know of the cliché, right? That the only thing that needs to happen for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing?”
She insisted on her neutrality on the issue.
I acknowledge – even if I don’t necessarily agree with – the move “not to offend sensibilities or parties of different positions,” as it was put to me. But I STILL don’t get how there are actually people who – considering how they can help push the struggle for equal rights for all – will, instead, choose to be mum on an issue of life and death.
That very moment highlighted to me some things.
First, how this “neutrality” is feeding the hatred. Every time someone whose voice is listened to (whether that person deserves it or not) opts to stay silent over an issue of importance, that person has become part of the erroneous system. Again, it may now be cliché, but it remains true that – YES –it’s only when (good) people choose to do nothing that evil triumphs.
Second, having encountered so many LGBT people from all over the Philippines whose lives are “defined” by sufferings, I can’t “place” neutrality anywhere. There’s Claire of Laguna, a victim of labor malpractices, even as she also experienced harassment in the workplace because of who she is. Mark of Makati, who accepts as somewhat of a norm being physically abused by a loved one because of who he is. Lesbians in Mindanao, who allege – among others – “corrective rape” committed even by family members who aim to turn them into “real women”. Transwomen who are blamed for the discrimination they experience. So much suffering, that turning the blind eye is way, way beyond disappointing…
And third, I have to learn to give credit where it’s due – and here, as I said, I immediately thought of Pia.
On the one hand, her support has been very public, both for HIV advocacy and for the LGBT community. She had herself publicly tested for HIV to help remove the stigma; and when she posted a rainbow flag on her Instagram account following the mass shooting that happened in Pulse nightclub in Orlando in the US, Pia stated that her post is “because I am Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach from a highly conservative Catholic country but I am not afraid. Celebrated but also sometimes criticized. And staying true to my word, the LGBT community is close to my heart. It’s 2016, people. There’s no room for hate anymore.”
On the other hand, she helped raise funds for a local HIV-related organization.
So… daghang salamat and padayon, Pia!
The likes of Vilma Santos; Cheche Lazaro; Dr. Margarita Go-Singco Holmes; Lea Salonga; Jessica Soho; Prof. Solita “Winnie” Monsod; Maria Salvacion “Inday” Espina Varona-Mendiola; Sylvia Estrada Claudio, M.D., Ph.D; Karen Davila; Vicky Morales; and Kara David also come to mind… and I suppose saying “THANK YOU!” ought to be done not only more often, but also aloud.
Visayans have a word: “mamuyboy”, meaning to count what was given in return for a favor made. The (closest) Tagalog version would be “nagbibilang”. I am mentioning it here because many may not necessarily be impressed with the “little” things these LGBT supporters do (considering the support we give them, their fame, and so on). But when considered in the context of “neutrality”, the “little” matters A LOT…
I know we will always have people who would rather be “neutral”. I know that is their call. But that doesn’t lessen the sting, I suppose, of that “neutrality” – because, truth be told, if you really, REALLY want to be remembered for anything, it might as well be for effecting changes in people’s lives, instead of sitting on the fence even after seeing evil. And upholding the human rights particularly of a minority sector (made minority solely because of who they are) sure seems like a good, if not great, start…