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Op-Ed

Manny Pacquiao and the death of common sense

Peter Jones Dela Cruz: “Perhaps it’s time to send ‘common sense’ to its deathbed because what’s common doesn’t always make sense. And when ‘common’ doesn’t make sense, the results can be dangerous.”

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LGBT rights and marriage equality are issues that quickly polarize people. However, two things that show me hope are the growing number of people who view SOGIE issues positively and the growing number of political figures supporting LGBT people. All of this means more people are showing interest in the welfare of everyone. Gone are the days when the only thing you can see on TV or read on the news about queer people is comic ridicule and ostracism.

Occasionally, the ugly head of traditional beliefs about human sexuality crop up to take us back to a time when societies persecute gay people. This leads me to a recent interview the world-renowned Filipino boxer and congressman, Manny Pacquiao, gave to Bilang Pilipino regarding same-sex marriage.

Translation: “It’s common sense. Do you see two male animals or two female animals together? The animals are better, being able to distinguish between male and female. Now if it’s two men or two women, then man is worse than an animal.”

I wish the senator aspirant were more charitable towards gay and lesbian people. But then I see the same opinion from religious conservatives, many of whom have negative views towards LGBT people. So maybe I shouldn’t be too optimistic.

The controversy escalated quickly, drawing ire from the LGBT community here in the country and abroad. Rep. Pacquiao already asked for an apology and cited his personal beliefs. The conservative community came to his rescue, and the exchanges inundated threads. Discussions get a little too murky, so I decided not to participate anymore and to just put my thoughts about the things that were said into writing.

What exactly is common sense? I don’t understand what common sense is anymore. People like to invoke the “common sense” in arguments and discussions to charm naive audiences and make them agree without having to think the issue through. Really what is common sense based on? Is it based on facts? Is it based on statistical data? Is it based on research? Is it based on logic?

When you say you don’t support marriage equality because common sense is telling you marriage is for a man and a woman, where is this common sense based on? Is it based on your religious beliefs? If so, are we going to adhere entirely to your religious beliefs? Supposing you say yes, by virtue of looking at your religious beliefs as grounded on Biblical morality, then are you ready to follow entirely what the Bible says?

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There goes the problem with following the Bible in its entirety, because from observation, hardly any Christian follows the Scripture completely. One of the things that intrigue me is the gross ignorance of many homophobes of the ridiculous Leviticus passages, such as admonitions against eating shellfish or wearing mixed fabric. Of course, they get at least two excuses. One, Jesus had abolished the Old Testament, or so at least one of them told me. Two, we’re taking, for instance, Leviticus 11:10 out of context. The funny thing is antigay Biblical passages can be taken literally, but something like wearing mixed fabric or eating shrimp should be reinterpreted first. So the shrimp lovers get a convenient excuse.

The New Testament causes trouble when some of its parts are taken literally. Thus, 1 Timothy 2:12 should be subjected to exegesis first so that it doesn’t sound too misogynistic. Of course, I disagree with 1 Timothy 2:12 whether I take it literally or I take the reinterpreted version. But then you have Romans 1:31-32, where homophobes only single out the word “homosexual” for the death sentence and leave out gossipers, braggarts, and disobedient kids. Not that I want disobedient kids to die. No, of course, not.

It seems to me that Christians who oppose the LGBT rights advocacy only admonish against homosexual behavior but don’t admonish against premarital sex, concubinage, or adultery. Suddenly, guys who had had sex with their ex-girlfriends are worried about someone else’s sin. Of course, they tell you or lie to you that they’ve repented already, so they’re now entitled to point out the sins of other people. It’s ridiculous because anyone who had engaged in gay sex can also just repent and call out straight fornicators for fornicating. After all, from a Biblical standpoint both will not inherit the kingdom of God. So what’s the point?

In addition, calling homosexuality a sin doesn’t make any sense from the Biblical and logical perspective in many ways. The Bible condemns a lot of things without offering sound explanations why it does so. It only says if a man lies with a man as he lies with a woman, then he has committed an abomination, but there’s no sound explanation really as to why it considers it an abomination. The typical religious fanatic would just say it’s true because the Bible says so. Some of them resort to appeals to nature (e.g. procreation) to explain why it’s wrong. Even that is problematic because population data tells us that despite the existence of gay people and gay sex, the human population growth has been exponential. So you have to look at the population growth charts when you say people should stop doing gay or lesbian sex for the sake of preserving the human race. Don’t you still get it? Humans won’t go extinct just because some of them engage in gay relationships and gay sex.

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But wait a second.

So “common sense” takes the form of the usual “a man and a woman can create a baby.” That’s right if we’re talking about sex. Heterosexual marriages per se don’t lead to having children. Heterosexual sex does, and not all the time. So when you think about it, the procreation argument is not an argument for heterosexual marriages; it’s an argument for heterosexual sex and against homosexual sex. The problem is, we’re not talking about sex. We’re talking about marriage and relationships. Marriage doesn’t necessarily beget sex, and neither does sex necessarily beget marriage. Realistically speaking, people have sex whether or not they’re married. Procreation is not a requirement for marriage. It doesn’t always and doesn’t necessarily follow marriage. That’s why seniors and sterile people can get married. So when conservatives use the procreation argument, I hope they figure out it doesn’t make any sense in the issue of marriage. Of course, they don’t figure it out.

The other problem with basing your opinion with regard to same-sex marriage on the Bible is the fact that same-sex marriage is an issue of legislation and not religion. Religion is irrelevant in this discussion because gay or lesbian couples are not after priests or imams to wed them. They are after state recognition. We’re not going to march into churches and force priests to officiate a marriage ceremony — supposing gay marriage becomes legal. I think that’s something many antigay religious people don’t understand and therefore should be said over and over. If you think that gay relationships are immoral, you’re free to think that way. But when you start imposing your beliefs, that’s where we have to draw the line between your freedom to express your religion and our human rights.

Another problem with the Bible-based common sense is its truthfulness. I understand your emotional attachment to your religion, and this emotional attachment means you take Biblical passages by heart and exempt them from intellectual discussions, deconstructions, and analysis — unless, of course, if you’re a theologian or a scholar, in which case I would sit down and listen to you. Of course, the average antigay Christian never cares about interpreting the Sodom and Gomorrah story, for instance. That’s okay. What’s not okay is when you use this “common sense” in arguments for legislative discourse. Again, same-sex marriage is an issue of legislation, not religion. What I’m saying is if you can’t make an intellectual case for your religion-based opinion against same-sex marriage, then you have no business telling the secular community what to do in this case. In other words, leave us alone.

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Now supposing you say your common sense isn’t based on religion, but is based on nature, then be ready to face the brute facts. The claim that animals don’t exhibit homosexual behavior doesn’t work. It’s not even true. Anyone who uses this argument shoots themselves in the foot from the get go. We know that many animals, including vertebrates and mammals, exhibit homosexual behavior. You can actually just go to YouTube and watch two male dogs having sex.

But the appeal to nature is wrong on another level, and even antigay conservatives realize it when you show them male dogs having sex. The argument morphs into “we shouldn’t base our lives on animals.” Wait, I thought we were supposed to follow animals because you claimed they didn’t engage in gay sex. But this one I can agree with — on some level. I don’t think it’s fair to compare relationships between humans with relationships between animals. Animals don’t have cognitive circuitry as complex as humans do, so the relationships are different from the perspective of psychological experience.

Sarcastically speaking, animals don’t get married. Dogs can’t read a marriage certificate, let alone sign on it. This whole comparison with animals is plain ridiculous. Besides, dogs don’t care that some male dogs have sex with each other. This homophobic nosiness is only present in humans. So maybe Manny Pacquiao is right after all. Humans may be worse than animals, but not in the way he thinks.

Perhaps it’s time to send “common sense” to its deathbed because what’s common doesn’t always make sense. And when “common” doesn’t make sense, the results can be dangerous.

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.

Op-Ed

Your discomfort over our human rights?

Naomi Fontanos tackles the othering of members of the LGBTQIA community, often justified with making prejudiced/bigoted people more “comfortable”.

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Photo by Cody Chan from Unsplash.com

By Naomi Fontanos

Ang ipilit na ang di pagiging komportable ng mga kababaihan (o kalalakihan man) sa presensya ng mga trans woman sa loob ng pampublikong palikuran para sa babae ang kailangang manaig sa usapin na ito ay isang uri ng diskriminasyon.

Lahat ng uri ng diskriminasyon ay nag-uugat sa ganitong pag-iisip: di-komportable ang mga puti sa mga itim o kayumanggi ang balat, kaya’t ang karapatan ay para lamang sa mga puti; di-komportable ang mga walang kapansanan sa mga may kapansanan, kaya’t ang karapatan ay para lamang sa mga walang kapansanan; di-komportable ang mga mayayaman sa mahihirap, kaya’t ang karapatan ay para lamang sa mga mayayaman; di-komportable ang mga kristiyano sa mga di-kristiyano, kaya’t ang karapatan ay para lamang sa mga kristiyano, at noong sinaunang panahaon, di-komportable ang mga lalaki sa mga babae, kaya’t ang mga karapatan ay para lamang sa mga lalaki.

Nguni’t nagbabago ang lipunan kasama ng pag-uunawa ng tao na hindi wasto na sabihing di tayo komportable kaya’t tama lang na walang karapatan ang mga di puti ang balat, mga may kapansanan, mahihirap, di-kristiyano at kababaihan.

Sa gitna ng usaping ito ay ang prehudisyo/prehuwisyo o ang di-makatwirang paniniwala tungkol sa mga taong LGBTIQ+ na nag-dudulot ng sistematiko at istruktural na pang-iiba at pang-mamata at di-pantay na pagtrato sa atin.

Ang akusahan ang mga trans woman na manyak, namboboso, nambabastos, at gagawa ng karahasang sekswal laban sa mga kababaihan sa loob ng palikuran ay manipestasyon ng prehuwisyong ito.

At ito ang dapat nating tutulan at i-wasto bilang basehan ng pampublikong patakaran o ng pakikitungo natin sa isa’t isa bilang tao.

Naomi Fontanos heads Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) FIlipinas, a human rights organization that promotes the dignity and equality of transgender people in the Philippines and beyond.

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Op-Ed

Why sex segregated toilets don’t make sense

We don’t sex segregate bathrooms at home, we shouldn’t need to anywhere else. Toilets can be safe for everybody as long as they are in a well-lit public location.

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By Chase Tolentino

This article first appeared in Transgender Philippines; published with permission from the author.

You may have heard about Gretchen Diez, a trans woman, who was barred from entering the women’s restroom at Farmers Plaza, Araneta Center, Cubao last August 13, 2019. The janitor at the mall illegally detained, physically and verbally abused, and humiliated her all because she wanted to exercise a very basic human right – to relieve herself in the toilet.

These issues could have been diminished by the SOGIE Equality Bills filed in the Senate and House of Representatives by Risa Hontiveros and Geraldine Roman, respectively.

Why do we sex segregate toilets?

People usually state safety, cleanliness, and myths as reasons. But let’s be real.

It can’t be to prevent men from looking at women’s genitals and to prevent women from looking at men’s genitals because no one is looking at genitals in the restroom. And even if someone was, stalls prevent you from seeing people go about their business. The purpose is certainly not to prevent predators from entering the restroom because no unlocked door and sex symbol stamped on that door is going to prevent a sexual pervert from entering.

And men aren’t inherently dirty, but we as a society allow them to be because we think it’s normal. Men can be as clean as women if we taught boys to be as conscious about cleanliness as we do girls. Men can see the mess – they just aren’t judged as harshly for it as women are.

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To the uneducated, there’s also the myth that since sperm come out with men’s urine, if a man urinates on a toilet seat and a woman sits on it, she will surely get pregnant. This is a myth that just won’t die.

We don’t sex segregate bathrooms at home, we shouldn’t need to anywhere else. Toilets can be safe for everybody as long as they are in a well-lit public location.

Problems created by sex segregated toilets

  • It causes businesses more money to build and maintain than all user toilets
  • Promulgates irrational fears and labels men as predatory by nature
  • It prevents parents with opposite sex children from entering a restroom comfortably with their child (I have seen women berating mothers with male children for bringing them into the women’s restroom.)
  • It prevents carers and their opposite sex patients from entering a restroom comfortably
  • It prevents transgender people from entering a restroom without fear of discrimination and humiliation
  • It prevents intersex people with sex characteristics that differ from the binary from entering a restroom without fear of discrimination and humiliation

Why we should have all user toilets

  • It costs less to build for businesses
  • It’s friendly for parents with opposite sex children
  • It’s friendly for carers and their patients
  • It’s friendly for transgender people
  • It’s friendly for intersex people
  • Actually it’s just friendly for everybody!

Now the issue businesses may have when they already have sex segregated toilets is that they would have to spend to renovate their bathrooms or to build a gender neutral bathroom but there are actually many solutions where the only cost is a few new signs.

  • Designating all sex segregated restrooms as all user restrooms
  • Designating some sex segregated restrooms as all user restrooms
  • Designating restrooms as “Restrooms with urinals” and “Restrooms with stalls”
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And let’s not forget that there should always be a restroom for PWDs and senior citizens.

This will work

Many places have adopted all user toilets and while there is an initial shock for first time users from areas without them, they have been generally accepted without major incident.

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From the Editor

3 HIV-related questions (plus sub-questions) to ask re the PhilHealth scam

Every PLHIV is allocated P30,000 per year. As of April 2019, 37,091 PLHIVs are on treatment. Multiply that by P30,000 per person (per OHAT Package/coverage), and the amount involved here is P1,112,730,000. Too much money involved for us not to ask how the money is getting spent.

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Here are the facts:

  • As early as last year, two former employees of WellMed Dialysis Center already reported that it has been forging signatures of patients who have long died to file claims from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) from 2016-2018.
  • Typical in the Philippines (e.g. think of Napoles, PDAF, fertilizer scandal, et cetera), this was soon “forgotten” (or at least not as widely covered anymore particularly by mainstream media, so not gaining traction with the public). That is, until June, when the Philippine Daily Inquirer detailed the scam (again) via an investigative report.
  • Still in June, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would “reorganize” PhilHealth after the agency lost some P154 billion to “ghost” patients and deliveries.
  • WellMed Dialysis Center’s accreditation was (finally) withdrawn in June. But in a privilege speech, Sen. Panfilo Lacson alleged that PhilHealth continued to pay WellMed Dialysis Center even after its accreditation was suspended because of its involvement in a scam.
  • A hearing was started by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee (chaired by Richard Gordon) to look at the allegations of corruption in the Department of Health (DoH), and – yes – PhilHealth.

Now why is this issue important to PLHIVs and those in the HIV advocacy in the Philippines?

Aside from the fact that there may be LGBTQIA Filipinos who may also be needing dialysis, the money that actually pays for the “free” treatment and antiretroviral medicines of Filipinos living with HIV come from PhilHealth.

No, darling, you don’t get “free” meds; a PLHIV is expected to enroll in PhilHealth before he/she can access the treatment. Meaning, YOU are paying for your treatment via your P2,400 (if voluntary) PhilHealth contribution. Anyone who tells you the meds are “free” is hiding the truth from you, or is outright lying to you.

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And so the talk about stealing P154 billion should be an issue to PLHIVs and those serving them; particularly since it is not rare to encounter service providers who say that they can only offer shitty (and often lacking) TCS (treatment, care and support) services because there’s no money available (DUH!).

Every PLHIV is allocated P30,000 per year. As of April 2019, 37,091 PLHIVs are on treatment. Multiply that by P30,000 per person (per OHAT Package/coverage), and the amount involved here is P1,112,730,000.

Now off my head, here are a few questions that should also be asked as we tackle the PhilHealth scam (and questions that particularly touch on HIV in the Philippines).

1. Does PhilHealth monitor the use of the OHAT package, or they solely rely on reports that can – apparently, as the case of WellMed Dialysis Center highlighted – be faked/made up? Can individuals access the individual reports filed for them (on the use of their OHAT package)? If there’s none, why not? If these can be accessed, are there mechanisms to question the same?

These questions have to do with whether a PLHIV actually uses his/her allocation.

The Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment (OHAT) Package covers: drugs and medications; laboratory examinations based on the specific treatment guideline including Cluster of Differentiation 4 (CD4) level determination test, viral load (if warranted), and test for monitoring anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs toxicity; and professional fees of providers.

But in 2015, when interviewed by Outrage Magazine, PhilHealth’s Medical Specialist III and Millennium Development Goals Benefit Products Team Head Dr. Mary Antoinette Remonte said that “it has come to our attention that some treatment hubs charge for some laboratory tests, even after the release of the OHAT Package circular.” And so while the circular may specifically mention covered items, the same circular should not be taken too literally.

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For instance, VL is not included in the circular, but if a PLHIV needs “viral load, if it’s really needed, they can still charge it on the OHAT package. Any laboratory tests related to ART treatment, they can use the OHAT Package for it.” For Remonte, “even if viral load testing was not written in the first circular, it was already included in the coverage.”

2. The baseline tests are still not specified in the circular/OHAT Package. This is why many PLHIVs are lost to TCS – i.e. they are told to pay for their own tests (e.g. chest X-ray, CBC) before they can get their hands on the life-saving meds (the ARVs). Why is this idiotically still not included in the OHAT Package, and even knowing that (many) PLHIVs won’t end up consuming the P30,000 allocated them anyway?

3. Do they also withdraw the accreditation of treatment hubs/clinics/satellite clinics that claim the P30,000 even if they did not actually use the entire amount for the use of the PLHIV? Has there ever been a service provider that lost its accreditation because of non-delivery of services?

We have spoken with PLHIVs who were told to get lab tests outside of their treatment hubs (e.g. chest X-ray, VL, CD4 count); they were told to pay for the same. No, they may NOT use their OHAT Package for the same, a handful of them were told. They have to shell out their OWN money.

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The thing is, if these are already supposedly covered by PhilHealth, why the additional expenses? Who then benefits from the OHAT Package? The service providers not offering the services and yet getting the money? Isn’t this theft? And if one thinks so, what are the mechanisms for complaining? Are there any at all?

Let’s be blunt here: If these are not answered, here’s another avenue where profiteering is happening via PhilHealth, and at the expense of PLHIVs.

To end, let me state this to stress this: Every PLHIV is allocated P30,000 per year. As of April 2019, 37,091 PLHIVs are on treatment. Multiply that by P30,000 per person (per OHAT Package/coverage), and the amount involved here is P1,112,730,000.

Too much money involved and yet service providers still often saying “there’s no money” to help PLHIVs…

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Editor's Picks

5 Ways to #ResistTogether after #Pride

Be constantly reminded that #Pride is never (just) about partying. It’s about the ongoing struggle for the human rights of LGBTQIA people (no mater what sector they may be part of).

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ALL PHOTOS TAKEN DURING METRO MANILA PRIDE PARADE 2019

A few days into July, after the June Pride month, I was chatting with someone from Grindr; he boasted that he was at the “essence of pride: the Pride parade” (his words, not mine). The chat revolved around shaming, particularly of other LGBTQIA people; that now that the one-day celebration is over, things (including his way of “booking”) are “just back to normal.”

See… right after the “very proud” placement of the #ResistTogether hashtag in his pick-up account (particularly while he was in Marikina City), it has been refreshed, reverting back to claiming “NO chubs; NO oldies; NO femmes. Don’t dare me, I have unliblock.”

This got me thinking about this “brand” of exclusivist #Pride; and how we should instead be making (and continuing to make) it inclusive…

And so – off my head – here are five ways to #ResistTogether after the #Pride parade…

1. Stop the shaming from within the LGBTQIA community.

Change should start from within our community; and this can happen if our community members become more aware that – frequently – hatred starts from within.

Stop shaming the “oldies”; we’d all grow old.

Stop shaming the “chubs”; ALL bodies are beautiful.

Stop hating on the femmes; every gender expression is VALID.

Stop discriminating against sex workers; there is no shame in trying to make a living.

Our community is minority, as it is. Stop creating more minorities from within our community with your biases.

2. Donate… not just because you want merchs.

I get this concept of “what’s in it for me?”. This is the “driver” of so many of our actions – e.g. if companies give money to “support” Pride, they expect to get media mileage from it; and if we give money to “make Pride happen”, we may as well have that sticker (or whatever) to prove that… yes, we gave money.

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But helping should be done not because of any return; it should be done because it’s the right thing to do.

And so if/when someone asked you to donate (however small the amount may be) to help establish an actual home for senior LGBTQIA Filipinos, give.

If someone asked you to chip in (no matter how small the amount you can give) to help pay for the PhilHealth of a person living with HIV, give.

And if someone asked you to donate (whatever amount) to help finance the picket line of LGBTQIA workers who were illegally dismissed from their jobs after they (rightfully) asked to be made regular employees, give.

LGBTQIA-related issues happen EVERY DAY of the year, not just in June. So if you’re willing to cough up cash to look glamorous/fab ONLY in June, you should also be willing to do so the rest of the year…

3. Be the voice of other minorities.

This shouldn’t be a divisive issue, but it is becoming that – i.e. the supposed “hijacking of commies of Pride month” by highlighting other issues that those who complain say have nothing to do with the LGBTQIA community.

These issues include: contractualization, wage hike, extra-judicial killings, war on drugs, and so on.

Here’s the BASIC thing though: LGBTQIA people do not live in a vacuum. Some of us are contractual workers (e.g. LGBTQIA people working for – say – Zagu, or Jollibbee, or the baggers in department stores). Many of us LGBTQIA people do not get the wages we deserve (e.g. LGBTQIA people who are also nurses and teachers). There are LGBTQIA people also killed because they were allegedly involved in the drug trade; and this is even if the claim may be true or not.

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We say that LGBTQIA people are EVERYWHERE. Well, WE ARE; including among other minority sectors.

So that we can’t separate THEIR issues from OUR issues.

4. Be seen the rest of the year.

You, like many others, helped create the noise for LGBTQIA issues during Pride month. That’s all good (and thank you, truly, for this). But please, please don’t disappear after June (or worse, don’t be the source of discrimination after June – as noted in #1).

If you can’t be bothered leaving your desk, that’s your call; but continue making noise for the LGBTQIA community.

But if/when you are able to/you are keen to, join the ongoing struggle for our total liberation – e.g. join the call for rally for the anti-discrimination bill, attend gatherings pushing for marriage equality, attend events of LGBTQIA-related NGOs (including HIV-related events), physically support LGBTQIA-related shows/productions/et cetera.

Just BE SEEN BEYOND JUNE; it matters a lot.

5. Go back to the streets… and not just to party.

So you had fun attending the parade; perhaps even more so when you attended the after-parade party/ies. That’s all good. Not one to miss out on fun, I am one with you here…

BUT be reminded that #Pride is never (just) about partying. It’s about the ongoing struggle for the human rights of LGBTQIA people (no mater what sector they may be part of).

After almost 20 (THAT’S 20!) years, the anti-discrimination bill is still languishing in Congress.
Over 80% of the new HIV cases in the Philippines affect members of the LGBTQIA community (particularly gay, bi and trans people).

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Schools (including State-owned/run) still discriminate against LGBTQIA students; a handful of them barring LGBTQIA students from enroling/attending classes because of some bloody haircut or because of what they are wearing.

Because of their HIV status, people living with HIV (many of them LGBTQIA) are: still fired from work; kicked out of their homes; or not given access to life-saving HIV medicines.

LGBTQIA informal settlers – along with hetero-identifying informal settlers – are kicked out of their homes.

LGBTQIA contractual workers are still not regularized.

So – let’s state this – IF THERE IS A CALL TO RALLY FOR OUR RIGHTS, not just a call to parade and party, TAKE HEED. If 70,000+++ people can gather to parade and party, surely the same number (if not more) should also be able to gather when a call is made for us to rise again together to push for equality.

Yes, we have taken progressive steps (corporations are even considering how to profit off us now); but so much still needs to be done. And – to stress- we need to always show our force; to always take to the streets to highlight our issues.

So party on, yes; but never stop fighting as one. This is how we continue to truly #ResistTogether.

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From the Editor

6 Reasons why your ‘pride’ isn’t (necessarily) every LGBTQIA person’s Pride…

Michael David Tan: “We may need budget to pay for the expenses incurred to hold pride-related events; but if we need approximately P1 million to hold a half-day event, and then disappear the entire year (seemingly forgetting the struggles still experienced by members of the LGBTQIA community after claiming we ‘represent’ them), then that’s NOT what pride is supposed to be.”

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Photo by Jasmin Sessler from Unsplash.com

“Make pride happen. Give money.”

That – in not so many words – is what LGBTQIA “pride” has become. And here, we don’t have to look (only) at Western versions of what Pride has become; we just have to consider Metro Manila’s.

Now, now, now, before you hate-click; before you fume with anger for being “attacked”; before you start complaining that those who are complaining “just don’t get it; they’re just getting old”; before you start unfriending those who do not belong in your echo chamber/s, hear some of the counter-arguments why YOUR ‘pride’ (or your concept of it) is no longer every LGBTQIA person’s Pride…

1. When pride organizers party with non-supporters (or even abusers) of members of the LGBTQIA community, or those that are in it just to profit off us because… money and/or fame and/or convenience and/or they’re all in the same “in” group/social circle.

In the Philippines, that LGBTQIA national “conference” that was really just a political tool of a former presidentiable comes to mind. But so is that blind support of pride organizers of this venue in Cubao, where many members of the LGBTQIA community alleged that they were harassed and molested. And so are companies/people who only surface supposedly for us only once a year, but are nowhere to be seen the rest of the year…

This approach has turned this “pride” into a hobnobbing event, helmed by those who have access to powers-that-be (e.g. media, donors, advertisers, et cetera)…

2. When your pride “leaders” claim to represent you, but are not accountable to you.

If, in the past (such as in the case of Task Force Pride in the Philippines), it was the community that decided who would helm Pride, the model has now changed to NGOism with an eye on earning (seemingly without even intending to effect REAL changes anymore since – as noted already – those who turn up for pride do not turn up to push for the passage of the anti-discrimination bill anyway).

I challenge you to listen and hear speakers talk about Lumads/Indigenous Peoples, Muslims, PWDs, seniors, and so on… Great crowd-rousers and sources of newsbytes when delivering speeches, actually; but that’s all they have become. Aside from the so-called (once-a-year) visibility, what has this version of “pride” done (in practical sense) to these communities being mentioned?

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3. When it’s now all about merchs; all of them using nice-sounding hashtags claiming we’re supposedly all in this together.

Did you know that, for 2019, “the total we need to mount the March and Festival is PHP990,050”?

Not surprisingly, we have this in this year’s organizer’s fundraising site: “Donate ₱5000.00 Or More” and get “I Made Pride Happen Sticker, Resist Together Sticker, I Made Pride Happen Pin, I Made Pride Happen Tote Bag, Resist Together Cap and I Made Pride Happen Shirt.”

When you can’t even donate P50 to help the Home for the Golden Gays establish a REAL, physical space for senior members of the LGBTQIA community; or won’t even give P100 to help feed LGBTQIA workers who are holding rallies after they were dismissed from work; or can’t even give a peso even as your token help to Lumad LGBTQIA people who – like other Indigenous Peoples – are fighting to keep their ancestral domains. You have to ask if “pride” – for you – is really just an excuse to party, instead of fighting for the human rights of everyone under the rainbow…

4. When “pride” is a “by-invite” only gathering…

It’s a free event, you say. And in a way it is. But NOT EVERYONE has access to it, or is even made to access it.

In a past pride event in the City of Manila (years and years ago), the attendees were told to leave the venue (where the program was held), only to be allowed back in the same (now gated) venue, though this time with payment already…

Recently, there was an ad from a restaurant that said that it is hosting a “pride” party, so “buy tickets now”…

And don’t get me started with “after parade events” – e.g. in Western countries, accessible only after you pay moolah; and here, via by-invite only parties for the organizers who (apparently) still have spare money to spend to party, party, party…

Also, in modern “pride” events, note who gets to decide who helms “pride”. It’s people belonging to the same close-knit circle (i.e. the “echo chamber), easily disposing those who “don’t think like them”. In this sense, “pride” isn’t exactly inclusive…

At least according to some LGBTQIA people I spoke with, one of the biggest “fears” of some LGBTQIA people who (also) supported Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency if they choose to attend “pride” was their “othering” by the organizers who support the opposition. This is why they choose NOT to go to “pride” anymore; when they are not even given opportunity to air their side, while the “leaders” take every opportunity to tell them (self-righteously) that only they are always right and should be allowed to stay in power…

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In this sense, “pride” is also a “tool” to segregate “them” versus “us”, even if we supposedly belong to the same LGBTQIA community…

Similarly, check the data mining happening so that the organizers can use your info to: A) get money off you, or B) “sell” the same to get money off you…

5. When we are blindsided by the glam and forget we’re being used.

Bench has been criticized for not supporting Ang Ladlad in the past; and yet is (for lack of better word) milking the rainbow to sell goods now. But Bench isn’t alone here, there are so many companies that slap the rainbow on their goods to make LGBTQIA people buy their goods, but don’t do shit to help: their LGBTQIA people staff, and the LGBTQIA community as a whole.

Start asking: Where is the money you are spending (supposedly for “pride”) going?

Check, too, the number of brands suddenly using the rainbow to promote themselves. But just how many actually give money back to the LGBTQIA community particularly in the Philippines (and I’m not just talking sponsoring the one-day parade)?

Still on a related note, we also have supporters who – again, let’s be blunt here – should also be asked the hard question, e.g. Catriona Gray is definitely fabulous for supporting us (she deserves the love she’s getting), but premised on her push/support for @sanmiglight, and this alcoholic brand’s silence re alcoholism (that affects the LGBTQIA community), shouldn’t we also be asking the link between the two? No, you don’t have to not support one just because you oppose the other; you just have to START ASKING THE HARD QUESTIONS…

6. When the concept of “pride” is packed just in June, with the people behind it disappearing the entire year, as if the LGBTQIA community’s issues ceased to exist after the throwing of the glitter bombs via the parade and festivities.

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Jennifer Laude was murdered in October (2014). Not even two weeks later, Mary Joy Añonuevo was stabbed at least 33 times all over her body at her bar in Lucena City (also in October 2014). Bunny Cadag claimed Jollibee discriminated against them in August (2017). Claire Balabbo was dismissed – along with 96 contractual employees – by Tanduay Distillers Inc. in Cabuyao, Laguna in May (2015). And Dats Ventura has been fighting for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, including LGBTQIA Lumads, every day of the year…

The push – and even celebration of – Pride should be done EVERY DAY.

Because the issues involving members of our community still remain after we’re bombarded by glamorous – and well-funded – “pride” events/happenings. Worse, these issues seemingly remain untouched/unsolved EVEN WITH the “pride” events.

Let me say that every time someone says, “Make Pride happen. Give money.”, they’re really just asking you to fund them/their lifestyles.

Because Pride WILL happen with or without the cash (and the selling out because of it); that’s how the riot in Stonewall Inn started in 1969.

In 2014, during WorldPride in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Angie Umbac – former executive director of Rainbow Rights Project, Inc. – was asked about the “struggle” between “pride as a struggle” and “pride as a commercial celebration.”

She said that Pride is always a struggle between the political and the cultural. For many, when they start, it’s always just political; but then, eventually, sponsors come in and at times dictate Pride’s direction.

But “this is how I see it: Pride belongs to everyone… But if you have a cultural pride without the background of why we are having pride, then we would lose the message. Keep it balanced – stay corporate because you need the funds, but remember that in the beginning it was political, and it was political for a reason.”

Nowadays, we may need budget to pay for the expenses incurred to hold pride-related events; but if we need approximately P1 million to hold a half-day event, and then disappear the entire year (seemingly forgetting the struggles still experienced by members of the LGBTQIA community after claiming we “represent” them), then that’s NOT what pride is supposed to be…

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Op-Ed

Walang pinipiling oras o panahon ang opresyon at diskrimininasyon

Aaron Bonette writes about the discrimination still experienced by LGBTQIA Filipinos in these supposedly more aware times.

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Photo by Wesley Tingey from Unsplash.com

Kagabi, habang naglalakad sa Taft, para mag-abang ng jeep papunta sa terminal ng bus pauwi ng Lucena. May apat na lalaking nakasakay ng kotse na bumagal at nagsisigaw ng “Bakla! Bakla! Bakla” habang nakatingin sa akin at nagtatawanan.

Nakakagulat, pero kahit papano ay nagawa ko parin silang pakyuhan, dalawang kamay. Pero pagkatapos ng napakabilis na sandili ay saka ako nakaramdam ng takot at galit.

Hanggang ngayon pala ay mga ganun pa ring tao na naglilipana sa mundo, mga kaedad ko rin siguro o mga nag-aaral lang din sa mga unibersidad na malapit sa area.

Kagabi ko nalang ulit naranasan yun ganun at naalala ko yung pakiramdam ko nung bata palang ako na ganun din ang sinisigaw ng mga kaklase, mga tambay sa eskinita (may kasama pang pambibikil o panununtok kase hindi naman ako lumalaban) at maging ng mga kamag-anak ko. Masakit at nakakadurog ng pagkatao.

Hindi ko sila na mukhaan pero tanda ko yung laki ng mga bunganga nila habang tumatawa at talas ng mga matang mapanghusga na direktang tumatama sa akin.

Mababaw lamang ito kumpara sa iba kong naranasan at kumpara sa nararanasan ng iba pang LGBT na kinukutya at tinatanggalan ng dignidad araw-araw; yung sa iba, sinasaktan o pinapatay.

Pride month ngayon, panahon para labanan ang lahat ng kabastusan at pangungutya laban sa mga LGBT. Akala ko, mas mapapaigting yung awareness sa mga tao, sa tagal na ng pakikibaka ng mga LGBT, akala ko medyo mawawala na yung mga katulad nila.

Pero sabagay, wala namang pinipiling oras o panahon ang opresyon at diskrimininasyon. Nanjan lang sila, at mas patuloy pang dumadami. Normal parin pala ang pambabastos dito sa Pilipinas.

Patunay na napakalayo parin ng kailangang ipaglaban at napakarami pa ng kailangang singilin.

Nakakaiyak. Nakakagalit.

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