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Holding our allies just as accountable

When a suposed LGBT ally says something against the LGBT community, are LGBTs supposed to just let it pass? What are LGBTs to do?

When resigned Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri was questioned by Yahoo! Southeast Asia about the “persistent rumors” surrounding his sexuality, he was quoted as saying: “They should ask my wife. My wife must be happy. She’s very happy with her husband”. And for those who supposedly insist that he is hiding in the closet, he supposedly added: “Anyone who says that to my face, be ready to put their dukes up because I was the world champion of arnis in 1989. I represented the Philippines. And I was the wushu champion as well so they can try saying that to my face.”

The same was posted on Outrage Magazine’s Facebook page – and the same received comments from LGBT leaders in the Philippines, i.e. that we go easy on Migz because he has been (by and large) LGBT-friendly. In fact, as pointed out, it may just have been his “frustration talking”, considering that he was once the LGBTs “staunchiest supporters” particularly in the pushing of the Anti-Discrimination Bill in Congress (and back when only Akbayan was willing to support LGBTs); and he actually supports Ladlad’s (current) push for inclusion (and so we need to be “fair to those who have extended a helping hand”).

And so a question needs to be asked: Is it okay for our so-called allies to say something we don’t agree with, just because they are our – well – allies?

My answer: NO.

Years ago, when the notion that bakla=gay=transgender was what’s dominant, I interviewed a transgender woman. While the exposure I provided was appreciated, I nonetheless received flak for the pronouns I used – i.e. I erroneously used “he” and “him” to refer to the interviewee, even though she self-identified NOT as a bakla, but as a woman. In my limited knowledge and awareness then, I made a blanket application of the bakla=gay=transgender approach – something I know now should NEVER be done. I was repeatedly reprimanded – and it was a reprimand I should say I deserved.

I, too, lived through so many of the hardships that members of the LGBT community continue to experience (see some here). But just because I am gay (and because I experienced suffering for being a gay man) does not mean my errors were (or still are) immediately forgivable.

What my experience highlighted, though, is the need to continuously educate.
Yes, we need to educate other LGBTs – e.g. that at times we’re victimizing ourselves, and that discriminating fellow members of the LGBT community is wrong .
But we also need to educate our allies (real or so-called allies).

Because whenever an “ally” (knowingly or unknowingly) associates being gay with being weak (e.g. unable to fight), he/she is doing us wrong.
And we need to call his/her attention for this (intended/unintended) act.
Otherwise, his/her “ally” credentials should be questioned.
Because if we don’t, then we – in the LGBT community – need to question ourselves why we continue to support him/her, when he/she still (consciously or not) sees us as inferiors.

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Educate.
Educate.
Educate.

Whenever a relative says it’s okay for you to be gay, as long as you remain “respectable” (usually meaning for you not to be a transgender), explain to him/her why this is wrong.
Whenever a friend tells you he/she is happy for you and your boyfriend (for gays or transwomen) or girlfriend (for lesbians or transmen), but that you should keep your PDAs hidden, explain why this is unfair.
And whenever a politician who is supposedly supportive of us says something not good for us, he/she should be made aware of it  – he/she will be better for it; and we will definitely be better for it.

Teach them that there’s always George Clooney’s response to learn from, whenever one’s sexual orientation or gender identity is questioned:

I think it’s funny, but the last thing you’ll ever see me do is jump up and down, saying, ‘These are lies!’ That would be unfair and unkind to my good friends in the gay community. I’m not going to let anyone make it seem like being gay is a bad thing. My private life is private, and I’m very happy in it. Who does it hurt if someone thinks I’m gay? I’ll be long dead and there will still be people who say I was gay. I don’t give a shit.”

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