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Op-Ed

Terrible excuses for Pacquiao’s common sense

Peter Jones Dela Cruz: “I’ve had my share of slurs sent in my direction as I tried to criticize Manny Pacquiao’s views. But I didn’t complain. You know why? I’m used to these abusive tactics. They bother me, but they don’t hurt me anymore. But it’s funny when you cry foul when you get a dose of your own medicine.”

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You may think you can excuse the boxing champ for his remarks about homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Let me tell you why I think you should reevaluate your excuses.

He was just stating his opinion.

Of course. But what if I told you you’re a disgusting critter, and then I said it was just an opinion? Does the excuse cut it? What if I told you you shouldn’t eat shrimp because I was allergic to it? Does saying it’s just my opinion excuse me from being a meddlesome despot?

People use this notorious excuse to block criticism. It’s not a good excuse. Put opinion out there, and it’s free for public consumption and criticism.

Everyone can make an opinion. But the question is, whose opinion makes sense? We can’t just sit down and accept any opinion thrown at us. We respect opinions that have basis. Manny’s opinion was neither factual nor reasonable. He got it wrong when he said there were no male to male or female to female animal partnerships in the first place.

He already apologized.

If I told you – as in anyone who’s reading this – your mother looked like a whore and said I was sorry, but maintained she looked like a whore, is that an apology?

Apologies constitute admitting one’s mistake and putting forth the right or better words to say. Manny did nothing of these to appease the aggrieved community. He maintained he was only invoking the Bible, including the verses that include killing gay people. These verses are the reason a lot of gay people in different parts of the world are persecuted. This fundamentalism spawns the worst cases of homophobia. No fundie has ever said sorry for all the victims of antigay oppression.

Is there a way we could shed reason to fundamentalism? Sometimes I wonder how we should deal with this issue. When you step back to see the bigger picture, you see Manny as the tiny dot among the swarm of people in a dogmatic culture. That’s scarier than his unscientific version of common sense, and that’s something an insincere apology cannot fix.

He brought honor to the country.

Of course, we know that. However, that’s not the point. His grand achievements in the world of boxing has nothing to do with the issue. The issue is the intolerance and gross ignorance of the marriage equality advocacy.

It’s also unfair when people think we’re being unfair to someone who has put the Philippines in the pedestal in the field of boxing. Suddenly, the issue turned into shaming the LGBT advocates for bullying him and his family online.

Just because he brought honor to the country doesn’t mean he can say anything stupid and get away with it. In addition, someone vying for a position in the senate should have been more responsible in his opinions.

He was only quoting the Bible.

When Manny asked for an apology, he quoted 1 Corinthians 6:9 and then included Leviticus 20:13 in his Instagram post, which he afterwards deleted.

Anyone can take refuge in the Bible because this old collection of stories and cryptic passages is interpreted in different ways. Liberal and conservative Christians take them differently. But as expected, the fundamentalists take the Leviticus 18:22 or Romans 1:26-27 as antigay passages.

It’s hard to challenge the Bible because challenging it means offending people who adhere to it and take it as the source of their moral code. But there’s something to say about literalists who take these unfriendly passages selectively and use them to debase a group of people.

Sometimes I wonder what the problem is. Is it the people who use the Bible to oppress and ridicule people? Or is it the Bible, which offers egomaniacs the tools to use for their bigotry.

The average Christian doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the historical and semantic context of everything that’s written in the Bible. Thus, many seemingly cruel and inhuman passages go ignored, but a few of these are used against a group of people, the LGBT people in this case.

In addition, a thorough examination reveals the cultural influence on the books of the Bible, depicting how the writers would have wanted people to live their lives then. That’s why I ask, what is the practical significance of Biblical dogma in today’s time? Should we treat the Bible as the source of our moral code today? Or should we just treat it as a literary reference whose moral correctness is arbitrary and therefore not absolute?

A public servant invoking the Bible does disservice to people who don’t adhere to it, which by the way include a lot of Christians. Besides, what is the practical value of quoting Leviticus passages? What message does that send to young LGBT people, that some Bible fanatic out there could be murdering gay people in the name of his faith?

He was right.

Before you can claim all he said was right, you have to ask the following questions:

Is his claim based on facts?

Is his claim reasonable?

Is his claim consistent with other claims?

Is he saying an absolute truth?

What are the practical implications of his claims?

Which part of his statements were right? First, his claim that homosexuality doesn’t exist in animals is wrong.

Second, does saying that same-sex marriage is wrong because the Bible says it’s wrong reasonable? Does the Bible say it’s wrong? He invoked Leviticus, for instance. To whom was the Book of Leviticus written? Does he know what the passages actually meant or he just interpreted it based on his bias?

Third, is there a consensus among scholars regarding the interpretation of these passages? If none, then whose “truth” do we go with? In addition, supposing for purposes of argument we say the Bible says it’s wrong, why then does it say it’s wrong?

Fourth, does the claim that same-sex relationship is wrong and immoral remain true in all situations? Suppose we discuss the topic outside the fringes of religion, does it remain wrong and immoral?

Then there’s the scary part, the practical implications of an opinion. Look at how LGBT people are treated in deeply religious countries and you see the implications of these deeply held religious teachings unchallenged by the scared and oppressed minority and encouraged by the status quo.

He was misquoted.

Does it matter?

Is there is any real difference between saying that gays are worse than animals and saying that people are worse than animals if they allowed gay marriage? The first one is blatantly homophobic. The second one remains homophobic but has added coercive undertones. It’s like saying we shouldn’t allow gay marriage because we’re better than animals. Besides, the vagueness of his opinion lends itself to either interpretations.

Either way we go, it doesn’t sound like a well thought out claim because it was anchored in his baseless “common sense” that animals do not practice homosexuality. Either way, it is offensive. Either has bad implications for gay and lesbian people.

He can’t be antigay because he has gay friends.

“I have a lot of gay friends…” is a common and tired rhetoric to rationalize antigay remarks. It’s also dishonest. How can you stay friends with gay people when deep inside you don’t hold them in the same regard as your straight friends? So you’re saying you like your gay friends, but you don’t like seeing them get married with their partners and you don’t like them to enjoy the same rights you do.

Claiming you have gay friends is different from actually supporting their struggle and regarding them to be your equal in terms of rights and social privileges. How can you stay friends with them if you think their plight is irrelevant and their “lifestyle,” base?

Okay, so you actually have friends who are alcoholics or drug addicts, but you hate alcoholism and drug addiction? Great! But that’s a bad analogy. Or you can show me how drug addiction, for instance, is equivalent to same-sex romance.

Vice Ganda is a hypocrite. Boy Abunda, too emotional.

I lament that the LGBT response to Rep. Pacquiao’s stance was reduced to Vice Ganda’s and Boy Abunda’s responses. You have leveraged the comedian’s crude retorts to fuel your subservience to dogma. You have disparaged our plight because you think the popular members of our community were unable to handle the issue with sophistication. But were your remarks sophisticated?

These people, though popular and respected in their fields, do not speak for the entire community. Their responses are their responses alone, and I am not going to say they’re wrong. I can’t take away their freedom to express their ire. The outrage was expected. What did you expect, all smiles after an inhuman remark? In an article entitled “World-Class Asshole,” Teddy Locsin, Jr. said, “I was not surprised when gays in showbiz gave it to him. I was surprised that some of them forgave him.”

I have to remind you that like any community, the LGBT community is filled with people of different personalities and intellectual capacities. I, for instance, have no control over what people in this community will say. But while many of us resort to acerbic rants – just like a lot of you on that side hurl your slurs in this direction – many of us, too, are trying our best to put the discourse on a rational level devoid of expletives and cuss words. So if you want this to be a rational battle and you’re looking at Vice Ganda’s quips, then you’re barking up the wrong tree.

However, the most important thing you have to remember in dealing with this issue is that Vice Ganda’s hypocrisy and Boy Abunda’s manner of expressing their indignation are not the issue. By resorting to this trick, you are trying to divert the issue from Manny’s lack of understanding of the LGBT rights and secularism to the responses of certain people, which are after all expected. This is a lame tactic to take naive people away from what should be discussed.

Moreover, these two celebrities are not after a seat in the senate, where people draft laws that affect your lives.

The LGBT people are bullying Manny.

Bullying actually went both ways. So what’s the point? Manny made a statement. The LGBT people and their allies got angry and reacted. Then the minions from the offending camp retaliated. Zoom out to get a God’s eye view of the scene and you’ll see how much the religious bullies vastly outnumber the pro-LGBT bullies.

I’ve seen some of the vilest retorts from the meanest of your camp. I’ve had my share of slurs sent in my direction as I tried to criticize Manny Pacquiao’s views. But I didn’t complain. You know why? I’m used to these abusive tactics. They bother me, but they don’t hurt me anymore. But it’s funny when you cry foul when you get a dose of your own medicine.

Also, let’s be realistic and look at the implications of both types of bullying. I have yet to hear anti-LGBT folks succumbing to depression and suicidal thoughts because of LGBT rights movement. However, I’ve read a lot of stories of people getting killed, committing suicide, or suffering from depression because of religious dogma, stuff that most anti-LGBT people live and swear by, albeit selectively.

Jose Rizal also compared people to animals.

“Ang taong di marunong magmahal sa sariling wika ay daig pa ang hayop at malansang isda.” – Jose P. Rizal (They who do not love their own language are worse than animals and putrid fish.)

I have to admit this was a clever quip, except that people ignored an important difference between Rizal’s famous line and Manny’s infamous remark. Whereas Manny was talking about same-sex relationships, Rizal was talking about lack of patriotism. If there is any equivalence between same-sex relationships and lack of patriotism, I’d like to know.

There are more important issues.

So your issues are irrelevant because the are people in worse situations? Maybe you shouldn’t complain about the mold in the kitchen because there are homeless kids, for example. Is that fair?

The “not as bad as” fallacy is the common rhetoric of the discrimination enablers (and climate change deniers). It’s true that poverty affects more people. It affects more people than antigay bigotry. But is it impossible to be indignant at poverty and anti-LGBT hate at the same time?

Waiting for poverty or territorial disputes to be resolved before attending to other problems solves nothing. If solutions are within reach for “smaller problems,” why not employ them? Moreover, poverty and gay rights are two separate issues that should be discussed independently.

Anyway, if there’s one thing I have to thank Manny Pacquiao for, it’s the chance he gave us to talk about same-sex marriage and to explain to people what it is and what it is not. The controversy gave us an opportunity to educate people.

Issues like this help us identify who our allies are and who among our friends secretly find our identities and romantic lives disgusting. It makes me realize where we are in terms of LGBT acceptance and how vastly uneducated and cruel a lot of people in this country are.

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.

Editor's Picks

Covid-19 and the freelancer’s dilemma

The Philippines is home to a “vibrant gig economy”, with an estimated 1.5 million freelancers in the country. But Covid-19 responses actually do not include them, so what happens to them now?

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Kate is a visual artist. She resigned from her day job to pursue her passion two years ago. Painting and creating origami, her income mainly came from the sales of her artworks; supplemented by home-based art classes to elementary and high school students.  

Nicole is a freelance makeup artist. Her clients varied from celebrities to socialites to brides and debutantes… and everything in between. Nicole used to earn a minimum of P3,000 per client, with the amount increasing depending on the type of service being offered.

Lumina is a drag artist, a common face in dance clubs and in events. Aside from her “talent fee”, she also used to get “tips” from customers.

But when the Covid-19 related Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) took effect in Luzon starting last March 17, their capacity to earn a living was also put on hold. And people like them – a.k.a. “freelancers” – are many.

In May 2019, PayPal (the payment system company) reported that the Philippines is home to a “vibrant gig economy”, with an estimated 1.5 million freelancers in the country. In fact, this is a segment that is fast becoming an influential part of the Filipino workforce and a key engine driving the growth of the country’s economy.

The terms used to refer to them may vary – e.g. In October 2019, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that of the 73,528,000 population in the Philippines, ages 15 years and over, 95.5% are employed. And 25% of them are “self-employed workers”. Freelancers also fall under PSA’s categorization.

And ECQ has been devastating to these Filipinos.

“The current lockdown left us, freelance workers, in a complete halt — events and shows were cancelled. It technically made us jobless since we do not have the option of working from home,” Lumina said.

Like Lumina, Kate said freelancer workers are “so tied to the situation.”

“Even if I want to sell my work or earn a living, I cannot do anything right now,” Kate added.

Painting and creating origami, Kate’s income mainly came from the sales of her artworks; supplemented by home-based art classes to elementary and high school students. Everything was affected by Covid-19.
Photo by Fallon Michael from Unsplash.com

What gov’t support?

There are supposed to be government support for workers affected by the ECQ.

In a statement released last March 17, for instance, the Department of Labor and Employment stated that they “may be able to address the pressing needs of the rest of the affected workers in the quarantined areas.” 

DOLE developed the following mitigating measures: “Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program” (CAMP), “Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers” (TUPAD), and “DOLE-AKAP for OFWs”.  

CAMP will serve “affected workers regardless of status (i.e. permanent, probationary, or contractual), those employed in private establishments whose operations are affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic.” TUPAD “aims to contribute to poverty reduction and inclusive growth.” The program is “a community based (municipality/barangay) package of assistance that provides temporary wage employment.” And the DOLE-AKAP specifically caters to overseas Filipino workers who have been displaced due to the imposition of lockdown or community quarantine, or have been infected with the disease.   

DOLE reiterated that the only qualified beneficiaries are the underemployed, self-employed and displaced marginalized workers. To help these people, “employment” is offered – i.e. the nature of work shall be the disinfection or sanitation of their houses and its immediate vicinity, and the duration will be limited to 10 days. The person will be receiving 100% of the prevailing highest minimum wage in the region.

Pre-Covid-19, Nicole could earn from P3,000 per client; nowadays, she relies solely on what her barangay provides: relief goods and minimal ayuda.

Another government body eyeing to supposedly help is the Social Security System (SSS), where employees of small businesses may apply to be considered for the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) Program. 

To add, the government agency is also geared up to pay some 30,000 to 60,000 workers projected to be unemployed due to possible layoffs or closures of Covid-19 affected private companies.

Some arts-focused institutions like the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) also developed their own “disaster-triggered funding mechanism” to help address the “lack of support from the government.” In FDCP’s case, the program aims to help displaced freelance audio-visual workers—from talents, to production staff and technical crew members.

But note how all efforts are mum on freelance workers.

For drag performer Lumina, Covid-19 “technically made us jobless since we do not have the option of working from home.”

Making ends meet

And so many are left to do something they never did – i.e. rely on others just to survice.

In the case of Nicole, she relies solely on what her barangay provides: relief goods and minimal ayuda

Sobrang hirap ng sitwasyon ngayon. Hindi ko alam kung saan ako kukuha ng panggastos. ‘Yung ipon ko paubos na, tapos kailangan ko pa magbayad ng renta sa bahay at ibang bills (The situation now is very hard. I don’t know where to get money to spend. My savings are almost gone, and yet I still have to pay for my rent and the bills),” she said.

Lumina, for her part, is “lucky” because she still lives with her family, and “they have been providing for my basic needs since the lockdown started.”

Her luck isn’t necessarily shared by many – e.g. Human Rights Watch earlier reported that “added family stresses related to the Covid-19 crisis – including job loss, isolation, excessive confinement, and anxieties over health and finances – heighten the risk of violence in the home… The United Nations secretary-general has reported a ‘horrifying‘ global surge in domestic-based violence linked to Covid-19, and calls to helplines in some countries have reportedly doubled.”

To add: “In a household of six members, I think the goods that we are receiving from the government is not enough,” Lumina said, hoping that “every freelance worker also receive benefits from the government that would in a way cover the earnings that we lost.”

Bleak future?

In 2017, when PayPal conducted a survey of over 500 freelancers in the Philippines, the results showed that the country had a “very optimistic freelancer market”, with 86% of freelancers claiming they anticipate future growth in their businesses. In fact, at that time, 23% of the respondents said their business is growing steadily, while 46% said their business is stable.

But Covid-19 turned everything upside-down for many.

There are rays of hope.

Toptal survey, for instance, pointed out that 90% of companies depend on freelancers to augment their professional workforce, and – get this – 76% of surveyed executives intend to increase use of independent professionals to provide expertise either to supplement full-time talent or to access skills and experiences they lack in their workforce. 

This may be particularly true to those whose works do not involve face-to-face engagement (e.g. graphics design, BPOs).

And so for the likes of Kate, Nicole and Lumina — and many other freelance workers for that matter, whose works rely on being with people — the way to get through now is to just to make do with what they can grasp on… while hoping for a better future, where reliance (including in a non-responsive government) is not in the picture… 

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Health & Wellness

The mental cost of Covid-19 lockdown

As the country copes with the “new normal”, the issue of mental health continues to be in the back burner. “Priorities” now continue to focus on: controlling the spread of Covid-19, and mitigating its impact on the economy. This is even if experts warn that the crisis could have a “profound” and “pervasive impact” on global mental health now and in the future.

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“Three of my closest friends committed suicide last week,” John Albert shared in a post. “I could not believe the news when I heard it. I saw them before the lockdown; everything seemed fine.”

I chatted with John Albert, and in a short online conversation, he said that one of these friends was a lesbian. Her body was reportedly found by a barangay tanod who was patrolling their area. When they checked the phone beside her, there were 30 missed calls and 57 unread notifications. According to John Albert, the last message his friend sent was to her brother: “Ang hirap pala ng ganito, nag-iisa ka lang at wala kang makausap. Nalulungkot ako pero wala akong choice. Sana matapos na itong lockdown.”

But John Albert’s lesbian friend isn’t the only such case – at least it seems – of members of the LGBTQIA community dealing with the mental strife brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tere, a transgender woman who started her transition this January, lives in a small apartment and is used to doing things on her own, in her own way. But it changed on March 17, when Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte enforced the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon, which halted just about everything.

Most people were forced to adjust to what is only available. And in Tere’s case, this meant “temporarily” moving back to her parents’ house. And there, she does not exactly feel fully welcomed.

“For some reason, my father always scolds me. He wants me to do this and that, always asking me questions about my decision to transition and what will happen to my future,” shared Tere, who lamented that all her movements are being monitored so she cannot do her usually routine. “It had already come to a point that I just stay in my room the whole day and cry. I started questioning myself, too.”    

It is worth stressing that for those dealing with mental health issues, know that there are ways to lessen the stress and burden on the mind.
Photo by Alan Cabello from Pexels.com

FOCUS ON MENTAL STATE

“The new normal” – as people are now referring to the time of Covid-19 – is also testing how strong one’s coping mechanism is, particularly with the need to socially isolate that could trigger loneliness, which the American Psychological Association says increases the risk of premature mortality

After all, two of the major factors that may contribute to a person’s mental health is the sudden change in physical and social environments. And so: What if you are someone who is struggling to manage how you think, feel and behave given the current controlled environment?

At this point, there’s the acknowledgement that the Covid-19 pandemic not only attacks the body’s immune system, but also wreaks havoc on the mental state of people. 

A recent chat with Filipino persons living with HIV (PLHIV), for instance, showed that aside from the paranoia about the disease (e.g. how it spreads, the constant danger of being in close contact with someone who has it), the battle with one’s self can just be as difficult.

Sadly, there are no available outlets to release these anxieties, just the confines of your home/room/house. And for many, this is proving to be very difficult.

Perhaps even more so for LGBTQIA people going through additional difficulties because of their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression.

LOOKING FOR A WAY OUT

John Albert’s lesbian friend’s demise highlights how bad things can turn out.

And suicide isn’t “rare” in the Philippines – even if still not as widely discussed. In 2016, the World Bank reported that the Philippines’ suicide rate was 3.20 per 100,000 inhabitants. The rate has actually been growing since 2000.  

And as the country slowly copes with the “new normal”, the issue of mental health continues to be in the back burner. “Priorities” now continue to focus on: controlling the spread of Covid-19, and mitigating its impact on the economy. 

In a paper published in Lancet Psychiatry, scientists already stressed the need to also prioritize mental health, since a crisis could have “profound” and “pervasive impact” on global mental health now and in the future.

The World Health Organization (WHO), itself, acknowledged that “as the coronavirus pandemic rapidly sweeps across the world, it is inducing a considerable degree of fear, worry and concern in the population at large and among certain groups in particular…”

WHO stressed that: “In public mental health terms, the main psychological impact to date is elevated rates of stress or anxiety. But as new measures and impacts are introduced – especially quarantine and its effects on many people’s usual activities, routines or livelihoods – levels of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol and drug use, and self-harm or suicidal behavior are also expected to rise.”

But there are steps that can be taken.

US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added practical ways to cope with stress:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body.
    • Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
    • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
    • Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep.
    • Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

It is worth stressing that for those dealing with mental health issues, know that there are ways to lessen the stress and burden on the mind. And perhaps apt to stress is the need to help each other. Just as Cebu City-based transgender woman Magdalena Robinson, CEO of the Cebu United Rainbow LGBTIQ+ Sector Inc., said, this is the right time to “fix each other’s crown.”

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Op-Ed

Covid-19 for people living with HIV

With persons living with HIV voicing their concerns regarding COVID-19, especially if their immunocompromised status makes them more vulnerable to the coronavirus, the AIDS Society of the Philippines provides the following advice for prevention.

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By AIDS Society of the Philippines

How can Persons Living with HIV protect themselves from COVID-19?

Recently, persons living with HIV have been voicing their concerns regarding COVID-19, especially if their immunocompromised status makes them more vulnerable to the coronavirus. The AIDS Society of the Philippines acknowledges and empathizes with the key affected population, and provides the following advice for prevention.

Adhere to ARV regimen

Continue to faithfully take your anti-retrovirals (ARVs) and ensure you have enough supply of ARVs. Reach out to your treatment hub, primary care facility, or community-based organization so they can help expedite your ARV refill despite the community quarantine in NCR. Call them to set an appointment before you visit.

Maintain a strong immune system

Continue to maintain a strong immune system with proper diet and enough sleep. Currently, there is no COVID-19 data specifically about persons who are immunocompromised. However, Dr. John Brooks from the HIV/AIDS Division of the CDC said publicly that, most likely, the risk for severe illness will be greater for persons at lower CD4 cell counts and those who aren’t virally suppressed.

Follow general precautions vs. COVID-19

Continue to follow DOH and WHO advice in COVID-19 prevention. This includes frequent handwashing, practicing cough hygiene, avoid touching the mouth, eyes, and nose, social distancing (maintain 3 feet distance), working from home, going out as little as possible, and seeking medical care when you have fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.

If you have been exposed to a Person Under Investigation or Person Under Monitoring (PUI and PUM) for COVID-19, contact your treatment hub or primary care facility to request for advice. Home quarantine will likely be required, even without symptoms. If symptoms appear, visit your nearest government hospital for triaging and indicate the presence of co-morbidities.

Keep in touch with friends and family

Continue to take care of your mental health by reaching out and staying in touch with friends, family members, and support groups remotely or through the Internet. Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. But advise family and friends that due to your status, you have to limit your exposure to others. Finally, encourage other PLHIV and fellow Filipinos.

We stand with you in this difficult time. Stay strong—we will get through this together.

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Lifestyle & Culture

It’s 2020, time to teach teens ‘safe’ sexting

This is not about encouraging sexting behaviors, any more than sex education is about encouraging teens to have sex. It simply recognizes the reality that young people are sexually curious, and some will experiment with various behaviors with or without informed guidance, and sexting is no exception.

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Photo by Cristofer Jeschke from Unsplash.com

Preaching sexual abstinence to youth was popular for a number of decades, but research repeatedly found that such educational messages fell short in their intended goals. Simply telling youth not to have sex failed to delay the initiation of sex, prevent pregnancies, or stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. Since the advent of photo- and video-sharing via phones, children have received similar fear-based messages to discourage sexting – the sending or receiving of sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images (photos or video) usually via mobile devices. Unfortunately, messages of sexting abstinence don’t seem to be reducing the prevalence of adolescents sharing nudes.

Consequently, in a new paper published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers from Florida Atlantic University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, say that it is time to teach youth “safe” sexting.

“The truth is that adolescents have always experimented with their sexuality, and some are now doing so via sexting,” said Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., co-author and a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry, and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. “We need to move beyond abstinence-only, fear-based sexting education or, worse yet, no education at all. Instead, we should give students the knowledge they need to make informed decisions when being intimate with others, something even they acknowledge is needed.”

Hinduja and co-author Justin Patchin, Ph.D., a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center, acknowledge that although participating in sexting is never 100 percent “safe” (just like engaging in sex), empowering youth with strategies to reduce possible resultant harm seems prudent.

Hinduja and Patchin collected (unpublished) data in April 2019 from a national sample of nearly 5,000 youth between the ages of 12 and 17, and found that 14 percent had sent and 23 percent had received sexually explicit images. These figures represent an increase of 13 percent for sending and 22 percent for receiving from what they previously found in 2016.

The authors do want youth to understand that those who sext open themselves up to possible significant and long-term consequences, such as humiliation, extortion, victimization, school sanction, reputational damage, and even criminal charges. But they also want youth who are going to do it anyway to exercise wisdom and discretion to prevent avoidable fallout.

“This is not about encouraging sexting behaviors, any more than sex education is about encouraging teens to have sex,” said Hinduja. “It simply recognizes the reality that young people are sexually curious, and some will experiment with various behaviors with or without informed guidance, and sexting is no exception.”

Simply telling youth not to have sex failed to delay the initiation of sex, prevent pregnancies, or stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.
Photo by Jack Sharp from Unsplash.com

Hinduja and Patchin provide suggested themes encapsulated in 10 specific, actionable messages that adults can share with adolescents in certain formal or informal contexts after weighing their developmental and sexual maturity.

  1. If someone sends you a sext, do not send it to — or show — anyone else. This could be considered nonconsensual sharing of pornography, and there are laws prohibiting it and which outline serious penalties (especially if the image portrays a minor).
  2. If you send someone a sext, make sure you know and fully trust them. “Catfishing”– where someone sets up a fictitious profile or pretends to be someone else to lure you into a fraudulent romantic relationship (and, often, to send sexts) — happens more often than you think. You can, of course, never really know if they will share it with others or post it online, but do not send photos or video to people you do not know well.
  3. Do not send images to someone who you are not certain would like to see it (make sure you receive textual consent that they are interested). Sending unsolicited explicit images to others could also lead to criminal charges.
  4. Consider boudoir pictures. Boudoir is a genre of photography that involves suggestion rather than explicitness. Instead of nudes, send photos that strategically cover the most private of private parts. They can still be intimate and flirty but lack the obvious nudity that could get you in trouble.
  5. Never include your face. Of course, this is so that images are not immediately identifiable as yours but also because certain social media sites have sophisticated facial recognition algorithms that automatically tag you in any pictures you would want to stay private.
  6. Make sure the images do not include tattoos, birthmarks, scars, or other features that could connect them to you. In addition, remove all jewelry before sharing. Also, consider your surroundings. Bedroom pictures could, for example, include wall art or furniture that others recognize.
  7. Turn your device’s location services off for all of your social media apps, make sure your photos are not automatically tagged with your location or username, and delete any meta-data digitally attached to the image.
  8. If you are being pressured or threatened to send nude photos, collect evidence when possible. Having digital evidence (such as screenshots of text messages) of any maliciousness or threats of sextortion will help law enforcement in their investigation and prosecution (if necessary) and social media sites in their flagging and deletion of accounts.
  9. Use apps that provide the capability for sent images to be automatically and securely deleted after a certain amount of time. You can never guarantee that a screenshot was not taken, nor that another device was not used to capture the image without you being notified, but using specialized apps can decrease the chance of distribution.
  10. Be sure to promptly delete any explicit photos or videos from your device. This applies to images you take of yourself and images received from someone else. Having images stored on your device increases the likelihood that someone — a parent, the police, a hacker — will find them. Possessing nude images of minors may have criminal implications. In 2015, for example, a North Carolina teen was charged with possessing child pornography, although the image on his phone was of himself.

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Literary Pieces

Posteng Bato

Elmo Ellezo writes about the apathy of those who have more in life, even if – by choosing to lend a hand – they can help effect changes in other people’s lives.

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Ni Elmo Ellezo

May mga taong umangat lang sa buhay,
parang naging katulad ng bahay na bato ang puso.
Kasing tigas at wala ng pakiramdam sa iba.

Parang bato,
posteng bato na naghihiwalay sa kanilang sa sarili
sa reyalidad ng malawak na mundo.
Bingi sa mga ingay sa labas.
Binulag ng mga bakod at posteng bato,
ayaw tumanaw sa kabilang bahagi ng mundo.

Gwardyado, akala moy kaaway ang mundo,
Ayaw makibahagi oh umambag sa mga walang laman ang kaldero
Ayaw makipagkapwa tao.
Naka-kandado pati ang kanilang mga puso.

Tanging paraan na silay mamulat ay delubyo.
Kapag tinumbahan na ng mga posteng bato.
Kapag binaha na katulad ng mga nakatira sa estero.
Kapag nagutom, namatayan na katulad ng mga ordinaryong tao.

Anong klaseng mundo ang nililikha nitong mga posteng bato.
Mga kaaway ang mahihirap at walang tiwala sa kapwa tao.
Makasariling pag uugali at walang pakialam sa mundo.

Sana maibalik ang aking pagkabata.
Walang mga poste at bakod na naghihiwalay sa sinasabi kong kapwa.
Kung saan ang daigdig ay pinagsasaluhan ng lahat.
May pagkakaugnay ugnay, tiwala at pakikipag kapwa.

Munti kong panalangin ay mawasak ang mga posteng bato.
Mga posteng batong isinasara ng bakal at mga kandado.
Mga posteng batong nagpapamanhid sa kalagayan ng dumadaing na mundo.
Ang posteng batong naglilikha ng taong bato ang puso.

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Op-Ed

Being LGBTQ+ means nothing

Being unaware of and deviant from what that community is intentionally fighting for clearly does not make us a part of it. We have to realize that our identity does not really matter as much as what we actually say, do or stand for.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash.com

We’ve heard it all before — a woman who still espouses misogyny, Filipinos who can be insulting towards their own skin color, a devout Christian who has little knowledge about the Bible and the history of Christianity, a gay person who is against the rights of other LGBTQ+ folks. These seemingly self-contradictories show that our identity is nothing but superficiality.

Our identity does not hold the substance of what we’re all about.

Having a certain identity does not follow that we know all there is to understand about it.

More importantly, it does not immediately give us the authority or credibility to speak on behalf of a larger group we supposedly belong to. Otherwise, we only cause much harm and misinformation.

What does a community mean? Fumbling through the dictionary, we would find similar definitions that basically sum up as “a group of people sharing a commonality of interests, attitudes, characteristics, values, goals – even history – and living in a particular location or within a greater area”. Applying this to the so-called LGBTQ+ community, since LGBTQ+ persons obviously do not live in the same quarters or have exactly the same lived experiences (hence the need for the acronym with a plus sign), we need to take only the spirit of the word — that is, a community is a social state of more than skin-deep commonality.

People who label themselves as LGBTQ’s do not see the whole picture if they go against equality and the principle that human rights must be bestowed to all regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, physical appearance and so forth. Such people who proclaim they are “part of the LGBTQ+ community but…” are merely disruptive tumors. They are not part of the community but only a part of the problem, which is compounded by ignorance, indifference, hate and discrimination.

So before we open our mouths and ascribe to some sort of community or identity, let’s be truly certain first that we know what it’s all about. Being unaware of and deviant from what that community is intentionally fighting for clearly does not make us a part of it. We have to realize that our identity does not really matter as much as what we actually say, do or stand for.

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