Up close and personal with Rep. Geraldine B. Roman
Outrage Magazine’s exclusive interview with Rep. Geraldine B. Roman of the 1st District of Bataan. As the first trans Filipino to win a seat in the House of Representatives, she had been glorified and bullied – at many times at the same time. “(People) have to deal with us politicians on an issue to issue basis,” Roman said. “I tell people that no hero is 100% right, and no villain is 100% wrong.”
“I never asked to be placed on a pedestal.”
So said Hon. Geraldine B. Roman, the representative in the Lower House/House of Representatives of the 1st District of Bataan; though she is more often just summed up as “the first transgender person to win a seat in Congress in the Philippines”.
For Roman, this is important to stress particularly considering the flak she received after she voted to re-impose the death penalty in the Philippines (Roman was one of the 217 lawmakers who voted for the final approval of House Bill 4727); and after her detractors erroneously claimed that she also voted to defund the Commission on Human Rights (she didn’t; Roman was actually not in Congress during the voting).
“(People) have to deal with us politicians on an issue to issue basis,” Roman said. “I tell people that no hero is 100% right, and no villain is 100% wrong.”
SPEAKING FROM THE HEART
Born in 1967, Roman was the second of four children born into a political family, to Herminia Roman and Antonino Roman Jr. Spending her early childhood in Orani, Bataan, she eventually completed her primary and secondary education in Ateneo de Manila University. She attended the University of the Philippines for college; and then – after securing a scholarship – she pursued journalism at the University of the Basque Country in Spain, attaining two master’s degrees.
Though she worked in Spain as a senior editor for the Spanish News Agency, Roman returned to the Philippines in 2012 to take care of her then ailing father.
In 2016, Roman ran for the position of 1st District Representative for Bataan in the House of Representatives under the former ruling party, Liberal Party. She aimed to replace the then congresswoman Herminia Roman, her mother. Roman handily won with more than 62% of votes, thereby becoming the first ever transgender congresswoman in Philippine Congress.
Even while running for office, “I never looked at myself as a trans candidate; just an ordinary candidate, the daughter of a former congressman and former congresswoman from my district,” Roman said, adding that “that was basically how I looked at my victory.”
But later on, Roman noted that people were focusing on her being trans, and “to see me as the first transgender person to win a seat in Congress.” With people claiming her as “theirs”, it proved to be a challenge.
“That’s why from the very start, even in my first interviews, I always made it a point to stress the fact that I am first and foremost a representative of the first district of Bataan because the people (there) were the ones who placed me where I am (now),” Roman said.
However, “by extension, of course, I can’t deny the fact that I am a member of the LGBT community.” So Roman decided to “take it upon myself to fight for the rights of the LGBT community.”
As soon as she assumed her post, Roman filed her version of the anti-discrimination bill (ADB).
Roman also gave an impassioned speech in Congress, where she stressed that LGBT people are not asking for special rights, but are only asking for equal rights, since, “with inclusiveness and diversity, our nation has so much to gain.” She stressed then that she “can’t turn my back at the group of people who have long suffered discrimination, and have long been denied adequate legal protection. How can I turn a blind eye to the suffering that I myself experienced in my own life?”
PUSHING FOR LGBTQ EQUALITY
The first ADB was filed in the 11th Congress by Akbayan Party-List Representative Etta Rosales (this is now the 17th Congress); and almost 20 years have passed since that first bill was passed. The ADB only gained traction in the 12th Congress, when it was approved on third and final reading (though no version was made in the Senate); and in 2006, during the 13th Congress, when the ADB reached second reading.
In the current Congress, there are actually two “versions” of the ADB – one is a “comprehensive” ADB, which lumps LGBT people with other minority sectors (e.g. persons with disability, seniors, persons living with HIV, indigenous people, et cetera) and the SOGIE-specific ADB, which focuses on penalizing discrimination against people based on their SOGIE. The latter version is the bill that was passed.
For Roman, there really is “no difference in terms of the essence, the wisdom behind the bill”, even if some tweaking was done – e.g. addition of Q for queer people.
The focus on SOGIE equality was “to send a message to society that it is time to recognize the fact that there are Filipinos who just happen to be members of the LGBT community.”
Roman recalled how – up to the last minute – she had to lobby for support for the bill. For instance, she personally wrote to her peers to tell them that if they can hold her in esteem as their equal, surely they can extend the same courtesy to other LGBT people; and if they could, “would you be a co-author of the bill?”
The SOGIE Equality Bill got the nod of 197 Representatives, with none opposing it.
The Senate version continues to be challenged, so Roman said that “I plan to lobby (for the same) there.”
ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM
Though she used to be from LP, Roman eventually moved to PDP-Laban, the party of Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte. This – on top of her vote on death penalty – ruffled many feathers.
But Roman said that “first and foremost, my decisions will be conditioned by the fact that I am the representative of the first district of Bataan. And the interest and welfare of my constituents will always be prioritized.” Particularly on her decision to vote on the death penalty, “it was based on my belief that as a representative of the first district of Bataan, I have to give them voice in Congress. And 85% of my constituents wanted the death penalty. So much against my personal beliefs, I voted in favor (of it). I view my position as a representative as something that is not about me. It’s about the people I represent.”
With Roman bashed and called – among others – a “disappointment”, just another “trapo (traditional politician)”, and so on, she said that “it isn’t fair because you can’t just judge a person based on a single issue. All of us, we are multi-issue people. You could not find a perfect person. We have to manage our expectations. We work in an imperfect system, and we have to deal with certain realities. We just try to navigate (our way) in trying to do some good.”
Roman added: “The treatment I got is a form of bullying. But you know what? I’m used to being bullied. And I usually survive. Because I know deep inside, I am not an evil person. I have my limitations, but all in all, I am not an evil person.”
UNIFYING THE LGBT COMMUNITY
In many ways, Roman is new to the LGBT advocacy in the Philippines, perhaps magnified when she was “claimed” as a “representative” of the LGBT community after she won a seat in Congress. But her stint already showed her how divided the LGBT community, which “saddens me.”
“The LGBT community is just a sector within Philippine society. If you study the Philippine society as a whole, you’d find that we are diverse, we have different opinions, we have different beliefs, we have certain ways of doing things… But if you start thinking of yourself as the exclusive holder of absolute truth, then I think you’re headed in the wrong direction. Because with that kind of pride and hubris, you won’t be able to listen to the opinions of others,” Roman said. “Maybe other people have something to contribute to your own idea. Maybe in the first place you weren’t that correct, that right to begin with. Maybe if you have a little bit of humility, you will understand why people think differently.”
For Roman, it is important for the LGBT community, which calls for the need to respect diversity, to respect differences.
“Aren’t we – as members of the LGBT community – also victims of people who see themselves as holders of the absolute truth? Haven’t we been judged by the same kind of people, and by the same kind of thinking? So I ask: If you have this holier-than-thou attitude, what makes you different from the people who condemn and judge those from the LGBT community?”
And so for Roman, for the LGBT community to survive and even thrive, “we should be humble enough to listen to others and respect diversity of opinion. It doesn’t mean that because a person doesn’t agree with you, he/she is the son/daughter of the devil,” Roman said. “And I say no one – not a political party, not a militant group and not any organization – can claim that it is the sole and exclusive holder of the absolute truth.”
Conversion ‘therapy’ begins at home
Study shows pivotal role of parents in “conversion” efforts to change LGBT adolescents’ sexual orientation.
LGBT hate – like love – begins at home.
Parents – not just therapists and religious leaders – play a big role in attempts to change the sexual orientation (often called “conversion therapy”) of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people who experience sexual orientation change efforts during adolescence.
This is according to a study from the Family Acceptance Project (FAP), dubbed “Parent-Initiated Sexual Orientation Change Efforts with LGBT Adolescents: Implications for Young Adult Mental Health and Adjustment“, which examined the sexual orientation change experiences for LGBT youth across several domains and asked about conversion experiences with both parents/caregivers and with practitioners and religious leaders. This study builds on an earlier FAP project study on family rejection and health risks that identified and measured more than 50 specific family rejecting behaviors that include parental and caregiver efforts and external interventions to change their LGBT child’s sexual orientation.
In the study published online in the Journal of Homosexuality, more than half (53%) of LGBT non-Latino white and Latino young adults, ages 21-25, reported experiencing sexual orientation change efforts during adolescence. Of these, 21% reported specific experiences by parents and caregivers to change their sexual orientation at home; and 32% reported sexual orientation change efforts by both parents and by therapists and religious leaders.
Notably, according to the researchers, “any sexual orientation change efforts – whether by parents alone or by parents, therapists and religious leaders contribute to higher risk for LGBT young people. However, those who experience both parental and external conversion efforts by therapists or religious leaders had the highest levels of risk.”
The role of parental support is worth highlighting, because – whether change efforts are carried out at home by parents and caregivers or by practitioners and religious leaders – parents serve as gatekeepers to both engage in and take their LGBT children for external conversion interventions. Both home-based parent and external sexual orientation conversion interventions by therapists and religious leaders, coupled with parent conversion efforts, contribute to multiple health and adjustment problems in young adulthood. These include higher levels of depression and suicidal behavior, as well as lower levels of self-esteem, social support and life satisfaction, and lower levels of education and income in young adulthood, compared with LGBT young people who did not experience conversion efforts.
Other study findings include:
- Rates of attempted suicide by LGBT young people whose parents tried to change their sexual orientation were more than double (48%) the rate of LGBT young adults who reported no conversion experiences (22%). Suicide attempts nearly tripled for LGBT young people who reported both home-based efforts to change their sexual orientation by parents and intervention efforts by therapists and religious leaders (63%).
- High levels of depression more than doubled (33%) for LGBT young people whose parents tried to change their sexual orientation compared with those who reported no conversion experiences (16%) and more than tripled (52%) for LGBT young people who reported both home-based efforts to change their sexual orientation by parents and external sexual orientation change efforts by therapists and religious leaders.
- Sexual orientation change experiences during adolescence by both parents / caregivers and externally by therapists and religious leaders were associated with lower young adult socioeconomic status: less educational attainment and lower weekly income.
- LGBT adolescents from highly religious families and those from families with lower socioeconomic status were most likely to experience both home-based and external conversion efforts, while those who were gender nonconforming and who were from immigrant families were more likely to experience external conversion efforts initiated by parents and caregivers.
“Although parents and religious leaders who try to change a child’s LGBT identity may be motivated by attempts to ‘protect’ their children, these rejecting behaviors instead undermine an LGBT child’s sense of self-worth, contribute to self-destructive behaviors that significantly increase risk and inhibit self-care which includes constricting their ability to make a living,” said Dr. Caitlin Ryan, director of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University and lead author noted.
“We now have even more dramatic evidence of the lasting personal and social cost of subjecting young people to so-called ‘change’ or ‘conversion’ therapies. Prior studies with adults have shown how harmful these practices are. Our study shows the role central role that parents play. It is clear that there are public health costs of ‘change’ efforts for LGBT adolescents over the long-term. The kind of change we really need is family education and intervention” added study co-author, Stephen T. Russell, Ph.D., Regents Professor, University of Texas at Austin.
Although responses to prevent conversion efforts particularly overseas have focused on adopting laws to curtail licensed practitioners from engaging in sexual orientation change interventions (deemed unethical and harmful by mainstream professional associations), this study nonetheless underscores “the urgent need for culturally appropriate education and guidance for families and religious leaders to provide accurate information on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, on the harmful effects of family rejecting behaviors which include sexual orientation conversion efforts, and on the need for supporting LGBT young people to reduce risk and increase well-being.”
3rd Iloilo LGBTQI gathering stresses that #PRIDEisProtest
Iloilo hosted its 3rd LGBTQI Pride parade, with the core message highlighting that Pride remains an act of protest.
The city of Iloilo hosted the third iteration of its Pride parade, with the core message highlighting that Pride remains an act of protest. In a way, this is contrary to the current direction many Pride-related parades are taking – including in Metro Manila – where advocacy is getting trumped by commercialization/partying.
In a statement provided to Outrage Magazine, Carlo Gabriel Evidente of the Iloilo Pride Team said that the move to focus on #PRIDEisProtest is “in recognition of the legacy of the Stonewall Riots, and the continuing gender-based violence and discrimination experienced by persons of various SOGIEs all over the world.”
Irish Granada Inoceto, vice chairperson of Iloilo Pride Team, added: “Through this (gathering we hoped to) make all colors of gender visible and celebrated. This is our way of saying we are here and we are not going anywhere.”
Over 2,000 people joined this year’s gathering, the biggest for the three-year-old annual gathering.
Iloilo has actually been making rainbow waves lately.
In June, the city of Iloilo joined the ranks of local government units (LGUs) with LGBTQI anti-discrimination ordinances (ADOs), with the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) unanimously approving its ADO mandating non-discrimination of members of minority sectors including the LGBTQI community.
Following this, in August, Iloilo Mayor Jose S. Espinosa III declared the city as “LGBT-friendly”, with plan to establish an office that will develop programs and activities for the LGBT community.
For Inoceto, “as long as Pride remains inclusive of the issues of the most marginalized, when it continues to be a platform for the courage of those who stand for LGBT rights and human rights, Pride will never grow passé.”
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY ‘HUMANS OF ILOILO’; CHANNEL BIBANCO; ALJHUR ALQUIZAR III
Malabon passes anti-discrimination ordinance on the basis of SOGIE
Malabon City now has an anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO) that prohibits: discrimination in schools and the workplace, delivery of goods or services, accommodation, restaurants, movie houses and malls. It also prohibits ridiculing a person based on gender and/or sexual orientation. Penalties for discriminatory act/s include imprisonment for one month to one year, a fine of P1,000 to P5,000, or both.
Still slow national move; better local endeavors.
In the absence of a national law that will protect the human rights of LGBTQI Filipinos, a growing number of local government units are taking the lead in ensuring that LGBTQI-related discrimination is checked. And now the city of Malabon has joined the list of LGUs with an anti-discrimination ordinance (ADO).
City Ordinance 16-2018, signed on September 10 by Mayor Antolin Oreta III, declares “as a policy of Malabon City to actively work for the elimination of all forms of discrimination that offend the equal protection clause of the Bill of Rights.”
Among the prohibited acts in the ADO are: discrimination in schools and the workplace, delivery of goods or services, accommodation, restaurants, movie houses and malls. It also prohibits ridiculing a person based on gender and/or sexual orientation.
Penalties for discriminatory act/s include imprisonment for one month to one year, a fine of P1,000 to P5,000, or both.
As with other ADOs, the Malabon ordinance similarly mandates the creation of the Malabon City Pride Council, tasked to monitor complaints, assist victims of stigma and discrimination, as well as recommend to the city council additional anti-discrimination policies and review all existing resolutions, ordinances and codes if these have discriminatory policies.
The same Pride council will oversee the implementation of an anti-discrimination campaign and the organization of LGBTQI groups in the barangays of the city.
The Malabon ADO also aims to include anti-discrimination programs (including psychological counseling, legal assistance, and forming of barangay-level LGBTQI organizations), with the budged to be sourced from the gender and development (GAD) plans, projects and programs (uo to 5%).
The ADO also tasks the Malabon police station to investigate cases involving violence based on SOGIE.
Also with the ADO, Malabon will now commemorate LGBTQI-related events, including the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17; Pride parade in December; World AIDS Day on December 1; and Human Rights Day on December 10.
Majority of Catholics call for church to change its damaging approach to LGBT people
Fifty-six percent of baptized Catholics believed that the current teachings of the church could cause a child/young person to feel that being LGBT was a misfortune or disappointment. Meanwhile, 65% of baptized Catholics believe that the church should reconsider its teaching re LGBT people.
Majority of practicing Catholics in the world’s eight biggest Catholic countries want the Roman Catholic Church to adopt a more positive approach towards young people and to change their teaching on LGBT.
This is according to a poll carried out by YouGov for the Equal Future 2018 Campaign; the poll was conducted in Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, Philippines, US, France, Spain and Italy. Collectively these countries comprise half of the world’s total population of baptized Catholics.
“These poll findings are a clarion call to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church from its members that it is time to change their approach to LGBT people. The people of the Catholic Church are leading the way on LGBT issues and it is time the upper management caught up with their flock,” said Tiernan Brady, campaign director of Equal Future 2018.
Asked whether they believed “It could be damaging to a child/young person’s mental health and well-being if they felt that being LGBT was a misfortune or disappointment, 51% of baptized Catholics agreed with the statement. Only 25% disagreed with this.
Fifty-six percent of baptized Catholics believed that the current teachings of the church could cause a child/young person to feel that being LGBT was a misfortune or disappointment.
Meanwhile, 65% of baptized Catholics believe that the church should reconsider its teaching re LGBT people.
“The figures clearly show that Catholic people across the globe believe that the current teaching and approach of the hierarchy towards LGBT people is now damaging to children and young people and the clear majority wants the Church to change its approach,” Brady ended.
6 Ways Filipino Protestants are breaking the taboo on sexuality
Religious taboo on sex, gender and sexuality remains prevalent in the Philippines, representing a major challenge in HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health services for children and young people. But here are six ways Filipino Protestants are breaking this taboo.
In the Philippines, the religious taboo on sex, gender and sexuality remains prevalent. This taboo represents a major challenge in HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health services for children and young people.
As a response, there are select efforts that help advance talks on sex, gender, and sexuality in faith-based contexts – e.g. in the case of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), there is now work on sex, gender and sexuality modules.
Here are six ways Filipino Protestants are breaking the taboo on sexuality.
1. Understanding how faith influences knowledge
Research demonstrates that faith-based organizations influence HIV knowledge in the youth.
In 2014, after engaging 213 teenage Pentecostal Botswana church members, Mpofu et al. found that the church youth “conceptually frame their HIV prevention from both faith-oriented and secular-oriented perspectives. They prioritize the faith-oriented concepts based on biblical teachings and future focus.”
The NCCP notes the effects on the youth of the church’s silence on sexuality.
“Sometimes young people feel the need to talk about sexuality. But because the church as a whole is not talking about it; they feel that it is not worth talking about inside the church,” said Ms. Arceli Bile, acting program secretary of the Program Unit on Ecumenical Education and Nurture of the NCCP.
2. Breaking the silence
“We find it unfortunate that issues on sexuality are not discussed in the open due to a wrong perception that sex talk is indecent talk,” said Bile.
Thus, in 2015, the NCCP General Convention approved a statement on creating safe spaces for discussing human sexuality. “We offered this to member churches and associate members. We need to provide material that would help the discussions,” Bile added.
Giving sex education is mandated by the Reproductive Health Law signed in 2010 by then-President Benigno Aquino III. Specifically, comprehensive sexual education is to be incorporated into science, health, English, and physical education courses. This education begins in grade 5 and extends through grade 12. However, opposition by the Roman Catholic Church continues. They believe that sex education encourages the young to engage in sex outside marriage earlier.
As of July 2016, the Department of Education has yet to develop the minimum standards of sex education. Once developed, schools and other learning facilities should comply with the standards.
3. Knowing that the youth are most harmed
The low level of knowledge and awareness in the youth on sex-related matters – including on HIV – has increased vulnerability. Risks are higher among key affected populations, particularly in young women, gay, bisexual, other males who have sex with males, and transgender people.
A 2013 survey by the University of the Philippines Population Institute showed that one out of 3 Filipino youths (aged 15–24) has had pre-marital sex. More alarming than this is the fact that 78% of those who had pre-marital sex for the first time in this age bracket did not use any protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.
Not surprising then is the significant rise in the incidence of HIV among the same age group as well as a rise in teenage pregnancy noted from 2014 to 2018. In 2016, 14% of all the AIDS-related deaths reported in the country were in youth aged 15–24 years old.
4. Making churches come together
In 2015, NCCP conducted a study on HIV-related efforts among its member churches. It revealed that member churches strongly support comprehensive sex and sexuality education. The study also described existing efforts by the churches on sex and sexuality education to children and youth. These efforts are often integrated in existing church initiatives. These efforts included discussions of human sexuality in Christian education in schools, youth gatherings (usually for those aged 12 and up), sex education classes, and youth camps.
However, not specified in the study were the age brackets of the young people reached and the types of sex and sexuality education offered. In addition, none of the education efforts included sex and sexuality issues of LGBT youth.
As a response, the NCCP, in partnership with the Church of Sweden, gathered theologians and academics in 2016. They worked on a framework that comprised objectives and key concepts in providing discussions on sex, gender, and sexuality.
“We had our study sessions and reflections on how this can be embraced by the churches or not. Especially on issues on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression,” said Bile. “We discussed this thoroughly because the writers still have a lot of confusion. Especially on how we can use more inclusive terms in dealing with younger children. Sometimes we consider whether they really need to know these concepts at such an early age.”
5. Valuing the local context
“In localizing this educational material in the Philippines, we need to understand these concepts in our context. This understanding would result in experiential activities. We should provide something that they can relate to, instead of getting some ideas from elsewhere,” said Bile.
The material will cater to nursery and kindergarten students, up to senior high school.
“We hope this material could be of help in providing safe spaces for discussion, then, we will conduct pilot tests to check if this is appropriate. We are thinking of holding training on how to facilitate this as well as check for revisions and modifications,” added Bile.
6. Transforming theologies
Bile anticipates some resistance from the churches but remains hopeful.
“The theological understanding of the body may be one of the controversies in accepting this kind of material. What we hope is that we are also producing a theology that is more inclusive and non-discriminatory,” she said. “This material would promote a theology that challenges the churches to be more compassionate and open, as well as, one that reaches out especially those who are discriminated.”
Metro Manila’s LGBT gathering breaks attendance records, highlights ubiquity of LGBT people if not causes
Showing growing widespread popularity of everything LGBT-related in the Philippines, Metro Manila’s annual LGBT gathering was attended by an estimated 25,000 people. Moving forward, the challenge is how to leverage this growing number of parade participants to actually push for policies promoting their human rights.
There but not there.
Perhaps showing growing widespread popularity of everything LGBT-related in the Philippines, Metro Manila’s annual LGBT gathering patterned after Western Pride celebration/s was attended by an estimated 25,000 people. Even if figures are wrong, this still easily topped last year’s 8,000 participants in the event that was held in Marikina City for two years now.
While the number is impressive as a show of force and as advertising magnet for those targeting the pink market, it – nonetheless – does not necessarily equate to promotion of LGBT causes in the Philippines.
Addressing the crowd, Nicky Castillo – again co-head of the organizing team – stressed the much-repeated call to see Pride not just as a one-day/month-long event, particularly since many members of the LGBT community continue to face hardships. This is particularly true to those whose SOGIE is interconnected with their being also members of other minority sectors, including Indigenous Peoples, persons with disability, religious minorities, et cetera.
Speaking to Outrage Magazine, Det Neri – chairperson of Bahaghari-Metro Manila – a multisectoral militant and nationalist LGBT organization based in Metro Manila – said that LGBT people encounter discrimination not only because of their SOGIE but also because they belong to “kinabibilangang uri”.
“Lupa para sa mga magsasaka, pagwawakas ng contractualization, regularisasyon ng mga manggagawa kabilang na ang mga LGBT na manggagawa, edukasyon para sa kabataan kabilang ang LGBT na kabataan, self-determination para sa mga katutubo at mga Moro (Land for LGBT people who are also farmers, ending contractualization, regularization of workers including LGBT workers, education for the youth including LGBT youth, self determination of Indigenous Peoples and Muslims),” Neri said. “Ang punto: Ang laban ng LGBT ay laban ng mamamayan; ang laban ng mamamayan ay laban ng LGBT (The gist: The fight of LGBT people is the fight for people’s rights; and the fight for people’s rights is also the fight of LGBT people).”
In a statement, Deaf transpinay Disney Aguila – president of Pinoy Deaf Rainbow and founder of TransDeaf Philippines – added that “joining a parade, hosting LGBT-related events, or even passing an anti-discrimination bill are good. But those are not enough. Real Pride happens when we’ve changed mindsets so that people of different SOGIE can take pride in their identity… including in their different abilities/disabilities.”
Moving forward, the challenge not just for Pride’s organizers but the Filipino LGBTQI community as a whole is how to leverage this growing number of parade participants to actually push for policies promoting their human rights. – WITH INTERVIEWS BY MICHAEL DAVID C. TAN
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