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Op-Ed

Synod on the Family – Should we care?

Rev. Fr. JP Heath notes that many in the Roman Catholic Church now support more open positions, even if many remain strongly conservative and fearful. It is with this background that a group of 80 Catholics from 30 different countries gathered together in Rome to establish a Global Network of Rainbow Catholics to “continue to be crucial in helping to broaden perspectives on human dignity and human sexuality.”

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In a day an age when there are conflicting views on what human rights is, the way in which the faith community responds to these issues is critical. The reality of course is that the faith community is just that, a wide community of different faiths and within each of those faiths different expressions and understandings.

For those not intimately involved it can seem a dangerous marsh of hidden quicksand, easily trapping you and drawing you under! What is however not disputable is that the vast majority of people around the world chose to identify themselves with one faith community or another.

The big daddy of them all still remains the Roman Catholic Church. With roughly 1.25 Billion members it on its own accounts for 56% of all Christians in the world. So what the Roman Catholic Church says about issues of family and sexuality has a major impact on a very large proportion of the world’s population, and that influence reaches well beyond the membership of the Catholic Church.

Following on the back of two very conservative popes a new breeze seems to be blowing through the ancient corridors of the Vatican. Pope Francis has showed an openness to dialogue, and seems to more commonly apply the “law of love” rather than “love of the law”. About a year into his papacy he called the first Synod on the family. Taking place in Rome, for the first time topics which were considered closed we openly discussed. One was “how do you define a family?”, and another was “what would a more pastoral approach to dealing with issues like divorce and homosexuality be?”

Of course, one of the questions on the outside of the Synod remained: “how appropriate is it for a group of elderly men sworn to celibacy to not only discuss but make decisions in this regard?”

GNRCWhile significant support for more open positions have been witnessed by bishops from some regions of the Roman Catholic Church, there have also been many strongly conservative and fearful voices. It is with this background that a group of 80 Catholics from 30 different countries gathered together in Rome to establish a Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.

In January 2014 there was a launch of GIN-SSOGIE (The Global Interfaith Network for people of all Sexes, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression). During that meeting we had a very clear policy of anonymity for those who needed it; we acknowledged that in various places, if a person’s sexuality was identified their life and or livelihood would be in danger, so quite correctly we gave people the option to not have photos taken, not be quoted, not be mentioned etc.

Now in October of 2015, we launched GNRC (The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics). Yet again we needed to apply the options of anonymity. We had to acknowledge that in certain countries, in certain diocese, in certain places, if the church was to find out that a person (lay or clergy or religious) identifies as LGBT there job would be in danger, they could be excommunicated, their ministry to certain people would be TERMINATED. These realities were further borne out in the statement made from GNRC to the Synod on the Family: “Many in our Church, thought that they were serving God by hating us, and some still do, especially among the hierarchy…….. We want to set up our network in such a way that we can even be useful to you, though we know from long experience how frightened many of you are of communicating with us discreetly, even less talking to us on the record!”

SO, to ask the question again, should we care?

The reality is that sentiments shared by various bishops within the Catholic church fairly reflect sentiments in many of the countries in which Church of Sweden supports development work, and more particularly in which we support work related to Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), gender as well as work relating to HIV. All of this work faces the significant challenges posed by some faith leaders and faith adherents of towing a very narrow line as to what can or cannot be discussed. This significantly impacts the vulnerabilities of people who are pushed to the margins when the services they need are provided in the center.

Working with networks like GNRC and GIN-SSOGIE will continue to be crucial in helping to broaden perspectives on human dignity and human sexuality. We will continue to find ways of supporting and uplifting their voice, and as and where possible assist in brining dialogue between people of differing opinions to impact the common good of all people.

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

Op-Ed

Simple but effective tips on how you can better protect trans women

Given that our lives are considered less than a lot of people, it’s easy for trans women to become victims of violence and for the perpetrator to get away with it. So our best defense against any untoward incident is to always think of our security and the security of our friends.

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These are simple but effective tips on how you can better protect the trans women in your lives in the context of a night that could go wrong. Given that our lives are considered less than a lot of people, it’s easy for trans women to become victims of violence and for the perpetrator to get away with it.

So our best defense against any untoward incident is to always think of our security and the security of our friends.

1. PICTURE.

If you are hooking up with someone, ALWAYS send a picture of the person you are hooking up with to people you trust with your life. If you are hooking up with someone from a club, bar, or any public place, ask your friend to take your picture with the person you’d be with. This can be de done discreetly or with the permission of the other person. When asking permission, tell the person that you’re taking his/her picture for security purposes.

2. ADDRESS.

If you are going to someone else’s house for a booty call, send your GPS location via Whatsapp OR text the address of your location to people you trust.

3. WAIT.

If you are walking someone home or dropping them off, do not leave until the person is already inside his/her house. Do not let your drunk or high friend go home alone, either invite your friend to your house or accompany them home.

4. “I’M SAFE” CALL/TEXT.

Always demand an “I’m safe” call/text from your friend as soon as they’re home.

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Literary Pieces

Para kay Jennifer

For Neal Roxas, may people remember the case of Jennifer Laude as a symbol of injustice; and of a world that continues to hate the beauty of LGBTQIA people.

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By Neal Roxas
Queer Quezon

maalala mo sana siya
hindi sa bakas ng mahigpit
na sakal sa kanyang leeg
o sa natapyas nyang tenga,
hindi sa pagkalublob sa inodoro
o sa puting kumot na huling
yumakap sa kanya bago—

maalala mo sana siya
sa malago niyang buhok,
mapungay na mga mata,
hatid ang init nang sya ay makilala,
sa ingay ng kalsada,
at sa sigaw ng masa,
bilang simbolo
ng pumikit-dumilat na hustisya
sa isang lipunang hindi yumayakap
kundi nananakal ng magaganda

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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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Photo by @cottonbro from Pexels.com

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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