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Op-Ed

On democracy, citizenship, difference, and the advocacy of connivance

Sass Rogando Sasot responds to Atty. Bruce Rivera’s well-circulated contrarian take on the Valkyrie fracas. In an essay, Sasot presents four interrelated critiques of Rivera’s essay: 1) a critique on democracy, 2) on the question of whether transgender people are enjoying the benefits of full citi-zenship, 3) on Rivera’s rejection of an important aspect of acceptance: respect for difference, and 4) on the “advocacy of connivance that Rivera had fallen into by not challenging the frame in which Valkyrie’s no-crossdressing policy operate: the frame of cisgender norm”.

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In his well-circulated contrarian take on the Valkyrie fracas, Atty. Bruce Rivera rightfully said that cross-dressing and transgender people are entitled to all the rights and obligations granted by law because of their status as citizens. However, the problem lies not on their status as citizens but on “how we define the meaning of discrimination.” Thereafter, Rivera laid down the foundation of the rest of his contrarian view: “Is a democracy allowed to discriminate? The answer is YES. Provided there is a valid classification.“ Then he pointed out that the division of the almost 100 million population of the Republic of the Philippines into two sexes, though “a problem,” is still a “valid classification.” Therefore, the discrimination based on this division is allowed in a democratic society.

“This is the same law,” he said, “that forces a transgender to write M to the question of sex even if the heart wants to write F.” In this statement, he did not only reduce transgender people into transgender women only, he didn’t also point out why this is exactly a problem. Instead of offering this explanation, he just went on to say that Valkyrie pales in comparison to issues that he would have “taken the cudgels for,” namely: “denying a cross-dresser the right to vote; and denying a transgender the right to own property or denied the right to practice a profession.”

Unfortunately, he didn’t even include the cause of fighting for a gender recognition law, which is always implicated in almost every instance of discrimination transgender people face, including the Valkyrie issue, which Rivera reduced to an instance of “a bruised ego.” He concluded his essay by telling us that there is “only one way to be accepted” and that is “when people will see our similarities rather than our differences.”

In this essay, I will offer four interrelated critiques of Rivera’s essay. I’ve been academically trained in political philosophy; thus, I will interrogate his essay using the approach in this discipline. The first critique centers on democracy, the important actor in his statement, which Rivera didn’t define. The second on the question of whether transgender people are enjoying the benefits of full citizenship. The third one challenges Rivera’s rejection of an important aspect of acceptance: respect for difference. And finally, the fourth critique challenges the advocacy of connivance that Rivera had fallen into by not challenging the frame in which Valkyrie’s no-crossdressing policy operate: the frame of cisgender norm.

ON DEMOCRACY

Rivera didn’t give any definition and just assumed that “we all know what it means.” This taken-for-grantedness is unfortunate, specially that the central actor in his essay is a democratic society, who, as Rivera argued, is allowed to discriminate if there is a “valid classification.” So what is democracy? And how is the validity of a classification established in a democracy?

Democracy is not a legal term but a political one. Rivera lacked a political unpacking of the term that is crucial to his argument. Usually, we define democracy as the rule of the people, by the people, of the people. In On the Demos and its Kin: Nationalism, Democracy, and the Boundary Problem, Arash Abizadeh provides a more sophisticated understanding of democracy: democracy “demands that the human object of power, those persons over whom it is exercised, also be the subject of power, those who (in some sense) author its exercise.” In other words, the demos must be the author of the power they have to obey.

Classifying something, specially if it’s the State that is doing it, is an exercise of power. In a democracy, for a “classification system” to be valid, it must be authored by the demos itself. If the classification system is not authored by the demos, then the power this system holds over the demos is an arbitrary exercise of power, i.e. it doesn’t have any democratic legitimacy, thus unacceptable in a democratic society.

Gender is one of those classification systems. Gender has so much power over our lives. It shapes almost every aspect of our lives, and gender norms are enforced by the full might of the State. We are legally obliged by the State to write, recite, and perform the gender and the cultural norms associated with the state-sanctioned gender assignment we were classified into when we were born. If we disobey this gender assignment, we will be punished by the State in both direct and indirect ways.

For example, transgender people are required by the Department of Foreign Affairs to look like their gender assignment at birth in their passport photos. Maria, a Filipina trans woman in California, once shared: “When I was renewing my Philippine passport, I was asked to remove my make up and pull my hair in a pony tail because I am a “male.” This is no different from the experience of the trans woman referred to by the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) in its statement on the Valkyrie issue. “The Professional Regulation Commission or PRC’s Registry section,” STRAP narrated, “required a transwoman to tie her long hair and look less masculine before being issued a professional license.” Even in the workplace this is the case as what we can learn from the story of Claire, a labor rights leader and transgender woman, and “one of the 96 contractual employees of Tanduay Distillers Inc. in Cabuyao, Laguna who decided to launch a sudden strike after they were told on May 16 to stop reporting to work by May 18.” While working, Claire “was forced to be “mas mukhang lalaki (appear more manly)”, including getting a haircut, as well as wearing more masculine-looking clothes.”

Following Rivera’s logic, these instances can be allowed in a democracy because they are based on “valid classification.” But the question is: does the gender classification system, as it stands, have democratic legitimacy? Is the demos the author of the power of gender over our lives? If not, then how can it be valid in a democracy and be a legitimate reason for discrimination in a democratic society? And if we live in a democracy, why should Maria and the trans woman in the PRC Case be compelled by the government to obey something that has no democratic legitimacy? Isn’t that tyranny? Can Claire’s expression of her gender identity be protected by the State? Or will the State protect and enforce more the current legal gender system, just as much as it will protect and enforce more the interests of Lucio Tan?

ON CITIZENSHIP

Rivera said that transgender people are citizens. But while encouraging us to “let our advocacy have essence,” he failed to ask this substantive and essential question: Is the citizenship of transgender people in equal terms with cisgender people, i.e. those who have gender identity and/or gender expression that matches what is expected of their gender assignment at birth? The answer is No, and this is because citizenship has been based on the reality of cisgender people.

Citizenship is often understood as membership in a political community, which is currently embodied by the State. The State decides the boundaries of citizenship, i.e. who becomes a citizen, the terms of membership – the rights and obligations of being a citizen, and the level of membership – full or subordinate. Social groups that have been previously excluded from enjoying the rights of full citizenship – Greek warriors, peasants, plebeians, medieval artisans, proletariats, blacks, women, immigrants, gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender people, living with disability – have fought to make the boundaries of citizenship become more inclusive. However, these struggles are not easily won because as Engin Isin said in his essay City as a Difference: the “dominant groups…have never surrendered…without a struggle.”

In the context of this essay, the dominant group are cisgender people to which Rivera belongs.

Transgender people are seeking to redefine the social world because they cannot fully fulfil the obligations of being a citizen and exercise their rights as equal citizens if in the first place they have a subordinate form of citizenship and, most importantly, when citizenship is based on the reality of cisgender people.

The birth certificate is the legal document that establishes our existence. Through it we become legal persons, and this means that we will possess the capacity to have and to maintain certain rights, and to have duties enforceable by law. One of the important aspects of our legal personality is our sex.

Our sex is legally defined at birth. Let me digress for a moment. This article will not make any distinction between gender and sex as I don’t share the view that “sex” is a biological fact while “gender” is socially constructed. Hence, I use sex and gender interchangeably, as well as female with girl/women, and male with boy/men – but this is not to say that gender is a biological fact. Genitalia, body parts, are biological facts but the label we assign to them and the activity of assigning a particular sex/gender to these body parts are not. As what Anne Fausto-Sterling said in Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality, they are social decisions based on normative views about sex/gender. More importantly, the law does not make any distinction between sex and gender. Assigning a baby’s sex is also assigning the baby’s gender. They are not separate and independent legal processes.

Taking our external genitalia as the cue, the doctor (or whoever attended to our birth) proclaims, and hence assigns us, into either the category of “boy or girl.” This proclamation, however, is not a description of what is between our legs but an act of giving us the first aspect of our legal identity and therefore of our citizenship: sex. Along with other details such as name, date of birth, name of parents, the sex that was proclaimed by the doctor gets entered into our birth certificate. In turn, the sex on our birth certificates will be the sex that will be reflected on all our legal documents, such as our passports. It will be also be the sex that will be considered in the application of several laws, such as marriage laws.

Most people find no problem with the sex to which they were assigned during their birth. They are cisgender people whose sex assignment at birth matches their lived gender identity and/or their gender expression.

The reality of cisgender people is taken as the norm. And because cisgender people dominate every political community, the discourse of citizenship becomes entangled with the experience of cisgender people. Those who don’t share the way cisgender people experience gender are then treated as second class citizens. Thus, transgender people don’t experience citizenship in the same way as cisgender people. As what River said, transgender people are “forced” to kept on writing their gender assignment at birth despite the fact the gender that they live everyday is not that. Cisgender people, though required to also identify their birth gender, don’t experience this as “force” because the gender that they write is the gender they live everyday.

Cisgender citizens will never experience what Ria Rosales experienced when she saw her job offer evaporate after her employer saw that her documents reflect that she’s Male. Transgender people are socially marginalized and individually discriminated against because they are not living in accordance with the gender norms of their legal sex at birth, which in turn intersects with other system of oppression based on class, age, ability, ethnicity, religion etc.

What produces these patterns of discrimination based on gender identity and expression is the presence of a law that takes cisgender people’s experience of gender as the norm against which the legitimacy of our gendered experienced is judged. Cisgender citizens will never experience doors being shut to them because of their lived gender precisely because they are the ones who were closing these doors. And they don’t fear closing these doors because their exclusionary practices are backed by the full might of the State biased towards the cisgender experience of gender.

ON DIFFERENCE

“The only way to be accepted,” Rivera said, “is when people will see our similarities rather than our differences.” In one aspect I agree with Rivera. After all, the discourse of difference has legitimised the oppression of the other, which can even have a genocidal result. As what Narcisa Paredes-Canilao rhetorically asked in Decolonising the Subjects from the Discourse of Difference, “which one really led to colonialism or the Holocaust or which is a more potent antidote to (wo)man’s inhumanity to (wo)man, difference from or identification with the Other.”

However, it is not the recognition of difference per se that lead us to inflict indignity upon each other, but the way we value difference. If cisgender people, who dominate society, interpret their version of being human as exceptional, God’s chosen way of living, the only legitimate way of experiencing gender, they are not just recognizing difference but putting their difference on a pedestal, in the throne of power that can police others into becoming like them.

In Polity and Group Difference: A Critique of the Ideal of Universal Citizenship, Iris Marion Young discussed the failure of universal citizenship in treating each citizens as equals. Instead of delivering its promise of equality to all qua citizens, citizenship “operated in fact as demand for homogeneity.” The terms of similarity, Young argued, is set by the dominant group. Thus, seeing our similarities is not innocent activities but can be a way of imposing the way of living of the dominant group.

We must use both the lens of similarity and difference in order to see another human in her totality. More significantly, we must use both lenses in order to see how the lens of difference can make us see another person as inferior and how the lens of similarity lead us to reject the validity of another person’s version of humanity. The danger of a cisgender person seeing only a transgender person as similar to him/her is the inability to see how the State-sanctioned cisgender norm has rendered transgender people as not only different but inferior, illegitimate, and immoral. And a cisgender person who only sees a transgender person as different would be blind to the common humanity that binds them together.

ON THE ADVOCACY OF CONNIVANCE

Who has the right to decide our own gender, and therefore the way of expressing? This is at the heart of the Valkyrie issue and all instances of gender identity and expression based discrimination.

This is left unaddressed by Rivera who only assumed the validity of the current gender classification system, which lead him to conclude that discrimination based on it can be allowed. Earlier, I put into question the validity of the current gender classification system in our democracy because, in the first place, this was never democratically legitimated. Further, it’s a gender classification system that rendered the cisgender experience of gender as the only State-sanctioned experience of gender, and therefore the only gendered experience that have full access to the protection of the State. Consequently, transgender people, despite sharing the same formal citizenship as cisgender people, have to fight rather than simply request for this access.

By not challenging the very framework of cisgender norms, Rivera missed the opportunity of making the kind of advocacy he is forwarding fully relevant to the lives of transgender people. His advocacy is an advocacy of connivance. Borrowing the concept of trial of connivance that Jacques Vergés developed, an advocacy of connivance is an advocacy that seeks merely to evaluate the facts in relation to the existing framework. This is what Rivera did when he merely recited the law in relation to the facts of the Valkyrie issue and when he reduced the Valkyrie issue as merely an issue of a “bruised ego.” He accepted the cisgender framework and called it a day.

Rivera cannot see the issue beyond “a bruised ego” because it wasn’t his version of humanity that was put into question. He said that there are a lot of straight people who can’t enter the stores we’ve entered into because they don’t have money, a lot who can’t eat because they were poor. This is a valid point but the issue is not about class but the intersection of class AND gender. Not all impoverished people experience poverty in the same way. A poor cisgender man would have a higher chance of finding a job than a poor transgender woman. Claire’s cisgender co-workers don’t have to experience being forced to be masculine at the workplace in pain of losing their job. And even rich people don’t experience privilege equally. This was aptly demonstrated by the experience of Trixie and Veejay. Rivera can’t see this intersection because he has not problematized the cisgender framework of our everyday lives but simply considered it as “valid classification.”

He said that we must find an issue that can make “the common man… relate and symphatize.” When Laude was murdered, we have witnessed how vicious and transphobic the “common man” was. In order for the common man to relate and symphatize, Laude’s being transgender had to be swallowed by her identity as a Filipino. But when we highlight Laude’s transgender status, the common man, instead of relating and sympathizing, responded with a whole range of cruel, transphobic “blame-the-victim” tactics. Why? It’s because the common man is a cisgender person who has taken-for-granted the privileges he/she have by simply having a gender identity and/or gender expression aligned with his/her gender assignment at birth.

Trans advocates, including those Rivera condescendingly looked down upon, are revolting against the dictatorship of the State-sanctioned cisgender framework. They are engaging in an advocacy of rupture, an advocacy that seeks to challenge the very framework, in this case the cisgender framework, within which facts would be interpreted. Valkyrie didn’t simply make a business decision. Valkyrie is enforcing the State-sanctioned cisgender norm, which has been the source of oppression of a lot of people whose gendered lives don’t fit the cisgender experience of gender. Trans advocates are not just making noises, they are reclaiming the right to define our own gender from the state, the church, the medical profession, and even from private establishments like Valkyrie.

#BeyondValkyrie

Since 2001, as she was about to turn 19, Sass has dedicated herself to the LGBT Rights movement in the Philippines, most specifically to issues of gender identity and freedom of gender expression. James Green, an international transgender rights activist, served as her mentor via email. She started giving discussions on transgender rights and issues in Luneta Park in Manila. In December 2002, she co-founded the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP). In 2003 & 2004, together with Drs Sam Winter and Mark King of the University of Hong Kong, she did the first comprehensive study on transgender women in the Philippines. The study has been published in the International Journal of Transgenderism. In 2009, she was one of the LGBT activists invited to speak in a historic United Nations General Assembly side-event at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. In 2013, she received the ECHO Award, given annually to excellent and promising migrant students in the Netherlands. In 2014, she received the Harry Benjamin Distinguished Education and Advocacy Award from the World Profession Association for Transgender Health. A nomadic spirit, Sass loves to write, walk, read, cycle, and cook. Together with the love of her life, Sass is currently based in The Hague, The Netherlands. She graduated with a Combined major in World Politics & Global Justice, minor in International Development (Magna cum Laude) at Leiden University College, which bestowed her the 2014 Global Citizenship Award. She is a contributing writer on TG issues for the mag, through The Activist. Sass.Rogando.Sasot@outragemag.com

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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Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels.com

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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