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Op-Ed

Living Nelson Mandela’s words: ‘It is foolish to reduce the heat before the water boils.’

For Rev. Fr. JP Mogkethi-Heath, policy advisor on HIV, Human Sexuality, and Theology of the Church of Sweden, a holisctic approach is needed when dealing with HIV. “Today, whether we are talking about the post 2015 agenda, or ending AIDS by 2030, one thing is clear, medically it is possible, but unless we acknowledge and address the barriers to services for all people living with HIV the target of ending AIDS in our lifetime will be missed,” he says.

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This is part of Outrage Magazine’s coverage of the 2014 International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

The International AIDS Conference comes around every two years.This time it is in Melbourne, Australia. As with every conference there will be many things which are the same or similar to previous conferences, but there are always distinct differences as well. Melbourne is already making its mark, and this mark started before this conference already kicked off.

For months there has been significant communication amongst people working in the field of HIV. Visa requirements for Australia have been prohibitive! One of the questions asked of people applying for an Australian visa is “Have you ever had contact with a person who has TB?”. Now there is not a person living in Africa who can truthfully answer NO. We have all engaged with people who have TB, knowingly and unknowingly. Many times the person who we unknowingly engage with who has TB does not even know themselves. But for any person who answered YES to this question there was a demand of X-rays and blood tests, all of which will cost people who are already in a resource poor environment between SEK3000 and SEK 5000. Not surprisingly, many people who had jumped through these impossible hoops were still refused visas. Fortunately a strong network of NGO’s, faith communities and UNAIDS worked together to lobby with the Australian authorities to change many of these decisions. There were some victories, but my no means for all the people concerned.

This in itself raises the question of access, and of resource poor settings, and of barriers to entry. The GIPA (Greater Involvement of People living with HIV and AIDS) principle was first formulated in the 1994 Paris AIDS Summit. A key aspect of every AIDS conference is to hear the voices of people living with HIV as to their current understandings and current barriers to prevention, treatment, care and support. To have many of those voices denied access to the IAC it both tragic and outrageous.

The second event which has already created a huge impact on this conference is the horrific shooting down of flight MH17 has left a massive gap in this conference. Every time you meet a colleague in the corridor you grab them and say “Thank God you are alive”. Many key activists who had dedicated their lives to ensuring access to treatment for the most marginalized communities died on their way to Melbourne. This in and of itself reminds us yet again that day by day, year by year, the cost of lives lost because of inadequate responses to HIV is both continuous and unacceptable. At a time where medically we know more about HIV than ever before, a time when correct and available medical interventions means that people living with HIV should be able to live a normal life expectancy, across the globe there are still people standing in endless queues to receive medication which is destroying their lives, in quantities that are insufficient and at a costs which are immoral.

Through the years in the response to HIV, any different targets have been set. The first “impossible” task was set in 2003 – 3 by 5. This called for three million people to be put on treatment by 2005. While we failed in achieving this target, the drive towards it ensured that for the first time people in developing countries were being put on treatment, and by the end of 2005 we had moved from 100 000 people to more than 1.7 million people who were now accessing life saving, live changing antiretroviral therapy. Previously this had been considered impossible. The millennium development goals further highlighted keys areas of engagement that were needed to ensure universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support for all who lived with or were vulnerable to HIV.

The last number of years have put a far stronger emphasis on “no one should be left behind”. This has meant a new focus on hard to reach populations and in particular looking at five groups who have previously had very little visibility in the growing HIV response. These are people who use drugs, sex workers, prison populations, migrants and MSM (Men who have sex with men). Just to illustrate who marginalized these groups still are, current figures indicate that of HIV positive people who use drugs only 4% are accessing treatment. This gap expresses itself in the reality that there is an explosion of HIV amongst people who use drugs particularly in countries like Russia and the Ukraine. Equally the battery of homophobic legislation which criminalizes consensual loving relationships between people of the same gender has created the vulnerability that sees 44% of all new infections in Asia amongst MSM.

Today, whether we are talking about the post 2015 agenda, or ending AIDS by 2030, one thing is clear, medically it is possible, but unless we acknowledge and address the barriers to services for all people living with HIV the target of ending AIDS in our lifetime will be missed. We have 16 years, 16 years which need to be carefully planned, plotted and coordinated to ensure addressing criminalization, other legal barriers, funding discrepancies, inaction, misaction, apathy and access to prevention treatment, care and support. As faith based organizations and communities this is not a time to reduce our response, but rather to systematically and effectively scale up our response to achieve what we thought was unachievable.

“It is foolish to reduce the heat before the water boils”.

Rev. Fr. Johannes Petrus (JP) Heath was born in Windhoek, Namibia in 1964, the middle son of three children. He experienced his call to the priesthood while working in a bank. He moved to St George's Home for Boys as part of his formation. After two years of study at St. John the Baptist Seminary in Johannesburg, he was moved to St. Paul's Seminary in Grahamstown where he first finished his Diploma in Theology (with Merit), and then moved to complete a B.Th. (Honors) at Rhodes University. Fr. JP was ordained in the Diocese of Johannesburg in 1994 and served his curacy at St. Michael's, Bryanston. While serving at the Cathedral Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Johannesburg, he started a ministry for streetchildren – an outreach to people on the margins of society that continued when he was appointed as Rector of Christ Church, Mayfair, a parish placed in the middle of a predominantly Muslim and Hindu suburb of Johannesburg. In 2000, after testing HIV-positive, JP started exploring ways of initiating a ministry on HIV within the diocese of Johannesburg. Eventually, he confounded the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or Personally Affected by HIV (INERELA+) in 2001. He was the founding coordinator and then executive director of INERELA+ until December 2012. Fr. JP helped grow the network from an initial membership of eight, to a global network with more than 10,000 members from all faiths. In January 2013, he moved to Sweden, where he is now actively working as Policy Advisor on HIV, Human Sexuality and Theology for the International Department of the Church of Sweden. He continues to serve internationally on a number of Boards and advisory bodies, including the UNAIDS HIV and Human Rights Reference Group, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance HIV strategy group, the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiative in Action International Reference Group, and the Global Interfaith Network on All Sexes, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (GIN-SSOGIE) steering committee.

Health & Wellness

There are two sides to every story

In the Philippines, one in five people suffers from mental health problems. Between 17% and 20% of Filipino adults experience psychiatric disorders, while 10% to 15% of Filipino children suffer from mental health problems. But addressing mental health is not yet among the priorities in the country.

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It all happened one busy Monday, in between unfinished deadlines and piling up of workload. The conversation suddenly ended, and it left him dumfounded. He kept looking for answers why it happened. He questioned himself; reviewed all his replies. Everything seemed okay.

His name is Andy. He considers himself as an introvert. There may be times when he can be talkative, but “that is different; I am not face-to-face with the person.”

Sometimes, people call him a “player,” claiming that he just wants to hook them into his “game”.

What not everyone knows is that whenever he starts to be close to someone, he (un)consciously builds walls around him, preventing anyone to get through particularly when he feels there is an attempt to make a deeper connection.

Andy said his intentions are always good. But most of the time, “I am read wrong and taken negatively.”

And every time that kind of thing happens, it just contributes to the sound he has been hearing in his head.

Running away

Sometimes it takes on the form of fear… fear of the current situation or the unknown. There are times when it invades his dreams, waking him up in the middle of the night with either a bad headache or heavy breathing. It is usually mistaken as stress.

A glass of warm milk or chilled rosé, a dosage of paracetamol or Valium, counting backwards from 100 while listening to calming music – any of these usually help, but only temporary.

“I found out a few years back that I am dealing with emotional and psychological trauma. I never knew I had one,” Andy said.

A type of mental health condition, trauma is a response to a stressful event. This is usually triggered by a terrifying situation, either experiencing or witnessing it firsthand.

Edgewood Health Network Canada listed down some of the most common symptoms of psychological trauma, i.e.:

  1. Disruptive recollections of the trauma, including flashbacks
  2. Emotional and physical reactions in response to reminders
  3. Negative beliefs about oneself or others
  4. Inability to feel close to others
  5. Being easily startled
  6. Dissociation
  7. Emotional numbness
  8. Inability to remember aspects of, or all of the traumatic event
  9. Avoidance of anything that reminds one of the trauma
  10. Hypervigilance (Always being alert, scanning and assessing for threat)
  11. Difficulty concentrating and focusing on reality
  12. Inability to fall asleep or to remain asleep, frequent and frightening nightmares

“When I am interested with someone, to either date that person or befriend him, after a few days, all of a sudden I will shut down,” Andy said. “There are even times when I would literally run away towards the other direction.”

Studies show that trauma also causes anxiety. When there are frequent occurrence of situations related to what caused the trauma or constant exposure to trigger points – confusion and overwhelming emotional and psychological pain will set in – and these translate into anxiety.

In the Philippines, one in five people suffers from mental health problems. Between 17% and 20% of Filipino adults experience psychiatric disorders, while 10% to 15% of Filipino children suffer from mental health problems.

Dealing with trauma

“Sometimes it is better to be alone because you do not need to explain yourself or adjust to them,” Andy said.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are three common ways to cope with trauma:

  1. Avoiding alcohol and other drugs
  2. Spending time with loved ones and trusted friends who are supportive
  3. Trying to maintain normal routines for meals, exercise and sleep

How long will it last? Unfortunately, there is no way to find out since it is not possible to expedite the healing process of trauma. But the intensity of emotional and psychological pain reduces with time.

“I create distractions whenever I feel I am placed inside a box,” Andy said. “Just recently, when I did something like that, the person suddenly disappeared. I was left hanging, I felt like I was all alone.”

Distractions are created by anyone to give themselves breathing space, a moment to take a step back and look at the big picture.

Knowing the other side of the story

Before dismissing someone who seems “different” in terms of how he/she deals with situations, it is better to look a little longer first.

Here are few ways you can help someone who has experienced trauma, as listed by HuffPost:

  1. Realize that trauma can resurface again and again
  2. Know that little gestures go a long way
  3. Reach out on social media
  4. Ask before you hug someone
  5. Do not blame the victim
  6. Help them relax
  7. Suggest a support group
  8. Give them space
  9. Educate yourself
  10. Do not force them to talk about it
  11. Be patient
  12. Accompany them to the scene of the “crime”
  13. Watch out for warning signs

Keep in mind that it is not your experience/story that you can freely make judgements on, else “attack” it after feeling sour.

Photo by Ian Espinosa from Unsplash.com

“Some five years ago everything fell apart with my life, in my career and health, my partner at that time chose to fool around and left me alone. It was shit. My friends told me that I was broken for four years,” Andy recalled.

That moment did not leave his mind until now. And it affected his trust issues with anything and everything.

A 2016 report by MIMS Today noted that in the Philippines, one in five people suffers from mental health problems. Between 17% and 20% of Filipino adults experience psychiatric disorders, while 10% to 15% of Filipino children suffer from mental health problems.

Unfortunately, it seems like addressing mental health is not yet among the priorities in the Philippines.

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From the Editor

Stop humanizing a killer

Being jailed is supposed to punish AND rehabilitate a person. In Pemberton’s case… this is arguable. So stop humanizing him. When so many of you can’t even treat the victim – Jennifer – as a human being.

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By now, we all know that when Joseph Scott Pemberton – the American serviceman who murdered Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude in 2014 – returns to the US, he will go back to school. Oh, he plans to take up Philosophy. And while studying, he also wants to do sports – e.g. swimming.

These info were provided to us by news outlets; courtesy of the Filipino lawyer who’s been pushing for the convicted American killer, Pemberton, to be freed for his “good conduct”.

And – SERIOUSLY – this has to stop.

Fact: Pemberton killed Jennifer. In cold blood.

Fact: Pemberton considered Jennifer as less of a human, repeatedly referring to her as “it”.

Fact: When he was found guilty, Pemberton was jailed in the custodial facility of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Not in Muntinlupa, but in an air-conditioned “jail”.

Fact: Whether Pemberton exhibited good conduct or not is hard to ascertain EXACTLY because of the special treatment he’s been getting. (Heck, his supposed handlers should all be fired for not documenting Pemberton’s movements!)

Fact: Pemberton’s camp only recently paid what the court told him to pay the Laudes.

Fact: As mentioned in the news, Pemberton doesn’t “mind” apologizing to the family of Jennifer… though only via a statement/press release.

Being jailed is supposed to punish AND rehabilitate a person.

In Pemberton’s case… this is arguable.

So stop humanizing him.

When so many of you can’t even treat the victim – Jennifer – as a human being.
In case you’ve (conveniently) forgotten, her life was cut short.
Pemberton shoved her head in the toilet bowl until she died by asphyxiation by drowning. He then escaped after committing the crime.
She was only 26 when Pemberton killed her.
She was a breadwinner of her family.

But she is now gone.

She won’t be able to go to college.
Or study Philosophy.
Or choose any sport to have fun.

She’s dead.

And the person who killed her will live freely, even comfortably… and unapologetically.

Stop humanizing him; push to make him accountable for his crime.

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Op-Ed

Murderer Pemberton’s ‘absolute pardon’ unacceptable, ludicrous – LGBTQIA Filipinos

Unity statement of LGBTQI organizations against Pemberton’s presidential pardon, with the move said to send out a loud and clear message that a Filipino trans woman’s life does not matter and that it is open season for discrimination and violence against trans people.

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We strongly condemn the absolute pardon granted by President Rodrigo Duterte to Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, the US marine convicted for killing Filipino trans woman Jennifer Laude in Olongapo City in 2014. 

President Duterte’s claim that Pemberton has suffered injustice when he served time in a special holding cell in Camp Aguinaldo for just 5 years and 10 months out of a 10-year jail sentence is unacceptable and ludicrous. Pemberton should have served time in the National Bilibid Prison, and the President could have granted presidential pardon to a Filipino instead of an American.

Such acts done by the President at this time confirm how his government has been using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to promote and kowtow to foreign interests which have caused profound suffering, indignity, and injustice to the Filipino people. 

In spite of earlier pronouncements from Malacañang calling the Olongapo court’s order to release Pemberton earlier as “judicial overreach,” the President’s pardon shows that his so-called support for the LGBTQI community is just mere posturing and exposes the truth about Duterte and his legacy—that as a leader, he is nothing but unjust, misogynistic, and transphobic. 

President Duterte’s pardon of Pemberton sends out a loud and clear message that a Filipino trans woman’s life does not matter, that it is open season for discrimination and violence against transgender people, and that American soldiers will continue to get away with murder in Philippine soil. 

We urge the entire LGBTQI community and our allies to unite in our opposition against Duterte’s anti-transgender, anti-LGBTQI, anti-women, and anti-people policies. Contrary to propagandists’ claims that Duterte is the president who has done the most for the LGBTQI community, all he has done is to use the LGBTQI community to further his popularity. His government never served our interests nor protected our rights and lives, and today proves that only a murderer can empathize with another murderer.

Signatories:
Call Her Ganda Documentary
Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas
Pioneer Filipino Transgender Men Movement 
Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP Kababaihan, Inc.)
Transman Equality and Awareness Movement (TEAM)
Lagablab LGBT Network
Metro Manila Pride
Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders (PANTAY)
UP Babaylan
Rainbow Rights Philippines
Babaylanes, Inc. 
PUP Kasarianlan
BulSU Bahaghari
Benilde Hive
TUP DUGONG BUGHAW
Gayon Albay LGBT Org., Inc.
True Colors Coalition (TCC)
Bicol University – MAGENTA
KAIBA Academic Collective
UP Babaylan – Baguio Chapter
APC Bahaghari
Queer Quezon
GALANG Philippines, Inc.
Camp Queer
UP Babaylan – Clark Chapter
Tribu Duag
LGBTQ+ Partylist
Migrante Europe
Pinay sa Holland
GABRIELA Germany

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From the Editor

Call a spade a spade: Deadnaming Jennifer Laude makes you a small-minded bigot

To simplify this argument: You all refer to – among others – Dolphy, Fernando Poe Jr., Nora Aunor, Gary V., Lorna Tolentino, Ogie Alcasid, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Aga Muhlach and Julia Montes with the names they chose for themselves. But when a trans person chooses a name for him or herself, you… refuse? It really just makes you a hater; and one who refuses to learn.

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Photo by Brielle French from Unsplash.com

Jennifer Laude is, again, in the news. No thanks to the court-issued order to release her murderer, US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, after staying in a special jail for only six years.

As FYI: Pemberton was initially sentenced to six to 12 years imprisonment by the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 74, in December 2015. He was found guilty of murdering transgender woman Jennifer Laude.

Jennifer – who was only 26 years old at that time of her demise – was found with her head inside a toilet bowl in a room in Celzone Lodge in Olongapo City on October 11, 2014.

Pemberton himself admitted that he killed a “he-she.”

On September 1, the RTC said Pemberton already served a total accumulated time of 10 years, one month, and 10 days. This is including his Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA).

With the surfacing of this news is the deadnaming of Jennifer – e.g. by select media practitioners, haters of LGBTQIA people, and those claiming that they’re not haters/bigots but are only doing this because they’re using the “legal name” of the person.

As FYI: Deadnaming is when someone – whether intentionally or not – refers a transgender person with the name given them at birth.

And as another FYI: It’s wrong.

Let’s get this out there once and for all.

And enough already.

That this has to stop not just because it’s “PC” (politically correct). Deadnaming degrades and even erases a person – his or her life, agency, etc. At its very core is the individual’s right to determine who he/she is. And when you deadname, you basically refuse to respect this; you decide for the person because it’s what “comfortable” for you and your warped way of thinking.

This doesn’t make you “respectful” of the law (for those who say they’re “just” sticking to “legal names”).

This doesn’t make you “not hateful of the LGBTQIA community” (for those who may use this excuse, usually added with: “I can’t be anti-LGBTQIA because I know someone who’s LGBTQIA”).

This doesn’t make you “right” either.

It really just makes you a hater.

And for those who are well-read or actually know about this, it also makes you a hater who just refuses to learn.

To simplify this argument: You all refer to – among others – Dolphy, Fernando Poe Jr., Nora Aunor, Gary V., Lorna Tolentino, Ogie Alcasid, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Aga Muhlach and Julia Montes with the names they chose for themselves.

You all refer to Pope Francis as such; and you all know that’s not the name given him at birth.

You all call Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Madonna, P!nk, Bruno Mars, Gigi Hadid, Natalie Portman, Demi Moore, Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Prince Harry, Brad Pitt, Lorde, Miley Cyrus, Nicky Minaj, John Legend and Ludacris with the names they chose for themselves.

But when a trans person chooses a name for him or herself, you… refuse?

So let’s call a spade a spade: Deadnaming makes you a small-minded bigot.

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Lifestyle & Culture

How to raise a child as an LGBTQ parent

Even though the LGBTQ community is achieving significant recognition and representation in society, members still have a long way to go before being fully embraced as part of the current era. One essential but inadequately serviced aspect is recognizing LGBTQ households and providing a welcoming and supportive environment for such families to prosper.

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Even though the LGBTQ community is achieving significant recognition and representation in society, members still have a long way to go before being fully embraced as part of the current era.

One essential but inadequately serviced aspect is recognizing LGBTQ households and providing a welcoming and supportive environment for such families to prosper. There aren’t enough resources and professionals to provide the guidance needed for this community to grow mentally and emotionally as members of a family. 

This article provides an informative guide on how to go about raising a baby in such a family.

How do LGBTQ parents affect their children?

It is important to understand that children who have been raised by LGBTQ parents will probably need more emotional support and guidance to adjust well to the external environment and the challenges that may be posed put there. For instance, we have to see that LGBTQ has not been entirely accepted and embraced in society. 

Homophobic parents will almost always raise their children to be homophobic, so their interaction with your children may not always be smooth. It is important to talk to your children about this, prepare them to anticipate attacks and show them how to deal with them.

The first thing you should do is create a supportive environment at home. You want to make it a good and friendly place where the child can ask questions and get clear and accurate answers.

Do LGBTQ parents affect their children’s emotional development?

No. Research has already been done, and it proves that children raised by LGBTQ parents are not emotionally different from those brought up in heterosexual homes. They are not more likely to transform into LGBTQ members than children raised by straight parents and are neither more likely to be sexually abused. They also don’t show different gender identity and gender role behavior when compared to their peers raised in heterosexual households. 

It is essential to understand that the actions, relationship and emotional health of any child will be primarily determined by the way they interact and relate with their parents rather than the parents’ sexual identity.

What are same-sex parents options for having babies?

In a shallow perspective, it may seem like such couples don’t have many options when it comes to getting babies. On the contrary, however, they have just as many options as heterosexual parents. They will also face the same procedures and may have to deal with similar problems that occur regardless of sexual orientation, such as infertility and sterility. 

Some of the most common options include:

  1. Adoption – Just as in heterosexual families, gay couples can also apply for adoption and qualify if they meet all the terms and requirements.
  2. Insemination – This applies to lesbian couples. One or both members may be inseminated with a donor sperm which, if procedures are correctly followed, should fertilize and grow to a baby. You only need a confirmation that the process is successful and you can be on your merry way to buy baby clothes and whatnot.
  3. A gestational carrier – This is where the couples choose to have the fertilized egg grow to maturity inside a surrogate.
  4. Reciprocal IVF – in a lesbian couple, one partner provides the egg which is then fertilized and implanted in the other partner.
  5. Co-parenting – this is where the couple gets into planned parenthood with another party in a purely platonic relationship.

These are just some of the most common ways that LGBTQ parents can raise children. The list is not exhaustive though. Solutions can be tailormade depending on the needs, sexual identity and health of the partners. There is nothing to get in the way of LGBTQ members to stop them from getting children and raising them.

Your children’s behavior is affected more by your relationship with them and the environment at home than your sexual orientation.

How can LGBTQ parents prepare their children to deal with challenges stemming from discrimination?

Even though research shows that children from LGBTQ families and those with heterosexual parents adjust the same way, the former is more likely to be bullied and discriminated against based on their parent’s sexual orientation. Here are a few ways to prepare your children for this:

  1. Help them understand what the LGBTQ community is and what it is all about. Help them understand the meaning of sexual freedom (if you think that they are too young and this seems too complicated for them, explain that love has no sexual orientation)
  2. Gather some of the questions and comments they will most likely face and help them answer them truthfully with no fear
  3. Keep an open and friendly environment at home where they can ask questions and get appropriate responses with proper regard to their age.
  4. Use more LGBTQ-rich resources around them such as books with LGBTQ families and reasoning
  5. Listen to any teasing or inappropriate comments they may have come across and help them find appropriate responses to them. Have them practice answering these at home so they can say it with more confidence when you are not around to defend them.

Solutions can be tailormade depending on the needs, sexual identity and health of the partners. There is nothing to get in the way of LGBTQ members to stop them from getting children and raising them.

How can I build a support network for my family as an LGBTQ household?

The first thing you should do is create a supportive environment at home. You want to make it a good and friendly place where the child can ask questions and get clear and accurate answers. Educate them as well as you can about the LGBTQ community and include more resources for them to dig deeper when they want to.

You could also consider moving to a more supportive environment where the child is less likely to be discriminated. Enrol them in a supportive school where they use LGBTQ-friendly material to teach them and discourage bullying on this account.

Consider having your children interact more with others who have LGBTQ parents. This will help them build a support network with other children who they will consider the same as them.

In conclusion, your children’s behavior is affected more by your relationship with them and the environment at home than your sexual orientation. Raise them to appreciate who you are, and you will be allowing them to enjoy who they are. Above all, respect your children’s gender stand and get them appropriate footwear and clothes to go with it – things will become clear to them as they get older.

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Lifestyle & Culture

To come out or not to come out? That is the question

For a “conservative culture” like in the Philippines, where the influence of religion and the opinion of the elders are greatly valued, should the idea of coming out be on the table whenever possible?

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Gone are the days when hiding or staying inside the closet is the “ideal thing to do” — or is it?

Many members of the LGBT community are saying that coming out and being proud of one’s true self may be the best way to fully enjoy everything. There are others who are claiming that it can even help transform one’s life.

But for a “conservative culture” like in the Philippines, where the influence of religion and the opinion of the elders are greatly valued, should the idea of coming out be on the table whenever possible?

ONLINE DISCUSSIONS

On Facebook, discussions about this topic had attracted many users – where people from different walks of life share their reactions and thoughts about it.

One person said that the process of coming out is lifelong.

Another user posted a message saying that there is no right time or right way to do it.

And there were those who asked why some people express hate towards someone who chooses to stay in the closet.

MEDIA PORTRAYALS

At least in the recent months, the issue of coming out had also been one of the subjects of some of the non-fiction stories in the Philippine media.

For instance, on iWant’s “Beauty Queens” the topic was discussed in almost all six episodes.

Rica, the youngest child of Dahlia, came out as a transgender woman. It blindsided the entire family. Dahlia disowned her daughter after leaning it. While the oldest sibling, for the longest time, refused to call her “Rica”.

The plot thickened when it was revealed that Dahlia was in a relationship with another woman. And that she was just waiting for the right time to tell it to her family.

Isa lang ibig sabihin nito, Mommy (This only means one thing, Mommy): You have been a practicing lesbian. But you rejected me when I came out. How could you?” Rica asked her mother.

In the Pinoy BL (boys love) web series “Gameboys”, the topic of coming out was also tackled in some episodes.

Cairo, one of the main characters, was partly blamed by his brother London for the health condition of their father.

Dahil sa selfishness mo, nandito tayo sa ganitong sitwasyon. Hindi ko nga alam kung ano ang pumasok sa isip mo at ginawa mo ‘yun (Because of your selfishness, we are in this situation. I do not know what you were thinking when you did that),” London said.

Alam ko naman na kasalanan ko ito lahat. Araw-araw ko sinisisi ang sarili ko. Ako nga, ako nga ang may kasalanan. Hindi ko dapat ginawa ‘yun eh. Sana ako na lang. Alam ko, mali nga ako, kuya. Kuya alam ko mali ako, pero hindi ko ginusto ‘yung kay Papa. Hindi ko ginusto na magkasakit siya (I know that everything was my fault. I blame myself everyday. It was me, it was my fault. I should not have done that. I wish it was me. I know that what I did was wrong, but I did not want that to happen to Papa. I did not want him to get sick),” Cairo responded.

The story took a turn when he had a conversation with his mother after his father passed.

“Ma, I am sorry,” Cairo said.

“Why are you apologizing?” his mom asked.

“I am sorry I am gay,” Cairo answered.

“Cairo, do not be sorry. You do not need to apologize for being who you are. Kung dapat may mag-sorry dito, ako ‘yun. Anak, walang mali sa iyo. Ako ‘yung nagkulang (If there is anyone who needs to say sorry, it should be me. There is nothing wrong with you, son. I was the one who had shortcomings). I knew all along. I did not make an effort to gain your trust para maramdaman mo na puwede ka magsabi sa akin (I did not make an effort to gain your trust so you can feel that you can tell me), his mom said.

Coming out is one of the biggest and most important decisions any person will make. Finding the right moment can be as crucial as the decision itself.

READING THROUGH

Studies show that there are benefits in revealing one’s identity, including feeling good by the person coming out (i.e. he/she will experience less anger, less depression, and higher self-esteem).

“In general, research shows that coming out is a good thing. Decades of studies have found that openness allows gay people to develop an authentic sense of themselves and to cultivate a positive minority sexual identity,” said Richard Ryan, co-author of one such study.

It is also believed that when a person comes out, it will allow him/her to develop as a whole individual, have greater empowerment, and makes it easier to develop a positive self-image.

Another study also noted that when a person accepts his/her true self, it will not only bring happiness but can also be good for the health. 

“Coming out might only be beneficial for health when there are tolerant policies that facilitate the disclosure process,” said Robert-Paul Juster, author of yet another study.

While there are countless positive effects of coming out, there are also some disadvantages when someone decides to leave the closet – to a name a few: bullying, harassment, rejection from society, and violence.

In a 2018 survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 65% of the 7,233 15-year-old respondents said that they were bullied at least a few times a month.

In a school setting, it is a known fact that someone who demonstrates a “different” behavior may be susceptible to bullying. 

Coming out is one of the biggest and most important decisions any person will make. Finding the right moment can be as crucial as the decision itself.

DECIDING TO COME OUT

According to The Cass Theory by Vivian Cass, there are six stages that a person will go through when he/she decides to come out.

Stage 1 – Identity Confusion: This is where you begin to ask yourself if you identify differently than what you were assigned at birth.

Stage 2 – Identity Comparison: You start accepting the possibility that you may have a different gender identity and face social isolation that come with it.

Stage 3 – Identity Tolerance: Your acceptance of your new gender identity increases and you begin to tolerate it.

Stage 4 – Identity Acceptance: At this point, you have resolved most of the questions concerning your gender identity and have accepted it.

Stage 5 – Identity Pride: By this stage, you begin to feel proud of being part of the community.

Stage 6 – Identity Synthesis: Finally, you start integrating your gender identity in all aspects of yourself and life.

And in the end, this is what coming out is: A long — and sometimes endless — journey to finding oneself.

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