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How young is too young?

When do we start educating people about the errors of hatred, or the discrimination against people unlike our concepts of ‘normal’, or – more specifically – the animosity towards LGBT people? For Michael David C. Tan, “the soonest, the best. Meaning, one is never too young to be educated.”

“They’re too young to be exposed to such things.”

That, in not so many words, was the position of this mother of four. I was in Toronto’s Chinatown, buying rainbow flags in the only store selling them. And – in between haggling for her to lower the price, which she said she’d be okay with, as long as I buy wholesale – we got to talking about the recently held WorldPride 2014. As a resident of Toronto, she has – she stressed – no issues with LGBT people. But when her children are involved, that is “a completely different ballgame”.

“There is no need for them to know of these things. Yet. Maybe when they’re older; much, much older…”

“How old is ‘older’?”

“Just older,” she said with a shrug.

I have issues with this, actually…

Looking back when I was much, much younger, I could still recall the discrimination I experienced when I was young, also at the hands of other young people.

When I was five or so, in group games, I was not chosen to be part of various groups not because I couldn’t play well in these games, but because – as was openly and repeatedly stated – I am bakla (gay), and having a bakla in any group is supposedly bad.

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When I was 10 or 11, our school’s Guidance Counselor sided with a homophobic classmate who repeatedly taunted me as “walang silbi (useless)” solely because “bakla ka kasi (you’re gay)”.

When I was 13, I was – with an effeminate friend – repeatedly harassed (at times physically) by a group of strapping schoolmates in an all-boys Catholic school in Kidapawan City. Their only excuse, as they told us at times when they shoved us, was “bakla kasi kayo (you’re gay)”.

When I was 15, I confronted a young boy of six or seven, after he threw pebbles at me as I walked past their house, while repeatedly shouting “bakla, bakla”. I was surprised when an elderly woman went to my house, and demanded that my mom present me to her. She then loudly reprimanded me after her son told her what I told him: That he needed to be respectful of people, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that his parents should have taught him this. For this woman, I should apologize for insinuating that she did not teach her child right.

When I was 17 or 18, I remember being taunted by boys, again solely because “bakla, bakla ka kasi (you’re gay)”. The taunting worsened when, while with friends in one of the suburbs of Cotabato City, we were showered with rocks, with the young boys (and young men) throwing the stones at us while yelling “bakla, bakla!”

And now as a much older gay man, I still encounter boys (and girls) in various parts of the Philippines who – for no apparent reason – would start taunting me (or people like me) with “bakla, bakla” as I walk past them. The adults with them – presumably including relatives, if not their parents – would not even stop them; I see some, in fact, openly laughing as the taunting happens.

I see, too, some kids belittling some of their playmates with “bakla, bakla (gay, gay)”, using the word to insult.

Which begs the question: When do we start educating people about the errors of hatred, or the discrimination against people unlike our concepts of “normal”, or – more specifically – the animosity towards LGBT people?

I’d say the soonest, the best.
Meaning, one is never too young to be educated.

It may be that some parents (or elder people) are uncomfortable explaining concepts to their children.
But – heck! – your discomfort is your issue.
For that matter, your discomfort does not supersede my human rights.

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So start educating.

The educating may be done through (tedious) lecturing.

Or the educating may be done through examples.

It doesn’t matter, really…

As long as the educating is done.

Because hateful adults were once hateful kids.

And there’s no one else to blame for their hatred but the elders in their lives.

And here, it’s their delaying of the educating that is to blame…

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The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan completed BA Communication Studies from University of Newcastle in NSW, Australia; and Master of Development Communication from the University of the Philippines-Open University. He grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City), but he "really came out in Sydney" so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing, and a developed world". Conversant in Filipino Sign Language, Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, and research (with pioneering studies under his belt). He authored "Being LGBT in Asia: Philippines Country Report", and "Red Lives" that creatively retells stories from the local HIV community. Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism, and Art that Matters - Literature from Amnesty Int'l Philippines in 2020. Cross his path is the dare (guarantee: It won't be boring).


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