January 21, 2003
Keeping faith (He loves us, too)
by Inday Espina-Varona
Why don’t you leave the Church then? The question came from a male friend, during a discussion of the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality. The friend is, in his own words, "a raving heterosexual," but a "lapsed" Catholic, having chafed all his life against what he considers institutionalized bigotry. It’s a long list for him – the inquisition, collaboration with the Nazis, oppression of women, and hypocrisy (covering up priestly hijinks while sermonizing on our sins) being favorite topics for rants. So he doesn’t get it.
Why should any kick-ass feminist stick with "the Neanderthals," much less sing with gusto in Mass? Especially a member of the lesbian organization Indigo, and Task Force Pride volunteer. Especially now, with the Vatican fighting a rearguard battle against what it describes as the evils of modernism and secularism – homosexuality being on top of that list. (Some folk will point out: we love homosexuals, too; love the sinner, but condemn the sin.
Yeah, and exorcise the devil with a burning at the stake.) The Manila Times has given very ample play to TFP’s stance on this week’s Fourth World Meeting of Families. Aside from saying, thank you, I shall not belabor the organization’s statements – nor speak on anyone’s behalf, except lil ‘ol me. Why should I leave a Church I love? Why should I abandon a faith that reflects best my personal relationship with God? Just because some wizened old men insist on sticking their necks in the sand doesn’t mean I’m bailing out. I owe my faith to love and guidance from wonderful parents. (Just to set the record straight, all "theological lapses" are my own.)
They often disagreed with the choices their kids and kin made, including some admittedly horrendous ones on my part. But raising 11 children, amid the arguments and debates, they taught and lived what to them was the core of their faith, as preached by Jesus: Love God above all things and love your neighbor as I have loved you. Admittedly, they had their lapses and I’ve certainly had mine–big time. Yet that never diluted the basic faith. Jesus included the hated Gentiles in the category of "neighbor" and stressed the point with another tale, that of the Good Samaritan. A hundred encyclicals calling us sinners and threatening damnation won’t move me.
Nor will all the repeated lectures on the teachings of Paul. The Ten Commandments doesn’t say, thou shall not love another person of your gender; it only says, among other things, thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. I don’t, not even my neighbor’s girlfriend. The argument about loving the sinner but not the sin doesn’t wash with me because, while I’ve sinned plenty, homosexuality or homosexual relations don’t enter that realm. Does that make me a heretic? No, I am a Catholic because I believe in One God in Three Persons, in the Immaculate Conception, in Christ’s Death and Resurrection. Billions of people don’t believe in these things but I’m sure our loving Father in the infinity of heaven doesn’t think they’re lesser beings. So prelates can rant and rave but I know He loves me, too.
As Pope John Paul II reminded us recently, "the Lord is not an impassive emperor, relegated to his luminous heavens, indifferent to our affairs." The Vatican may act like that emperor but God doesn’t. Vatican affairs are run by men; their pratfalls, even if these continue for centuries and do immeasurable harm, do not dilute my faith. Faith, however, shouldn’t make us blind or numb, or dumb. Faith has its mysteries but God doesn’t expect us to act like robots. Faith is a two-way street, as the prophets and Christ showed. Many friends, straights and gays, have left because the Church hurt them too much. Perhaps I’m just thick-skinned but the Pope himself called on Catholics to trust "in the healing power of divine grace." A wound needs to breathe to heal, needs the salve of love and honesty to cool the sting of sin or "evil" – as His Holiness calls it.
And so I shall continue to challenge the man-made edicts handed down by men of the cloth when these obviously go against the most basic tenets that unite all major faiths – especially when these lead to evil, as in rape and battery and victimizing the innocents. What to do in this hour of darkness, when even those who profess to hold the keys to the Kingdom seem to huddle behind that fortress and leave us to deal with scarred lives and shattered dreams? The Holy Father, who’s probably praying for my soul, pointed out: "The bitter present is illuminated by the past salvific experience, which is a seed planted in history: It is not dead, but only buried, and will sprout later." So, struggle to be heard. Keep the faith if you can. Hold on to His love. This, too, shall pass.
23 January 2003
Church clashes with gays in Philippines
Gay rights activists in the Philippines have accused the Catholic Church of fanning "anti-gay hatred", following comments made at the World Meeting of Families conference in Manila. Addressing the conference, Church leader Cardinal Jaime Sin said that Christian family values were being "put into question by proponents of same-sex marriages".
But Oscar Atadero, spokesman for gay rights group Progay Philippines, said that the attack by Cardinal Sin was unwarranted. He told the BBC that family life was central to most Asians, gay or not. He also said that if same-sex marriages were legalised, it would "be a great help in achieving the same aims that the Catholic Church were so keen on pushing: stable monogamous families". He also emphasised the key role that gays and lesbians played in the economy, by supporting their families financially.
Gay activists said that they were not allowed to attend the conference. But organisers said that gays and lesbians were welcome as long as they did not attend as couples. Philippine laws do not prohibit ceremonial unions of same-sex couples, but they are not legally recognised either. Catholicism is practised by 83% of Filipinos and the Church has a paramount role in most people’s daily lives. Although gays and lesbians are generally tolerated within Philippine society, there are still widespread cases of discimination.
5 May 2003
Gay robbers steal from and kiss male victims
Police in the Phillippines are warning of a band of gay men who rob their male victims at knifepoint before stealing a kiss. Taxi driver Roland Estacio from Manila told police the men had hailed his taxi outside a shopping mall and had asked to be taken to the port area. Estacio said: "I had no reason to suspect them, they were all very sweet and effeminate." But as the car entered a dimly lit area of the port the trio pulled out knives. After taking the driver’s money, the robbers then took turns to kiss their victim before fleeing.
by Aries C. Rufo Newsbreak Staff writer
Philip Castro, 27, thought he had bagged the job. Witty and confident, he engaged the woman interviewer in an animated discussion. He was applying as a medical representative for a big pharmaceutical firm and thought his warm personality would please the interviewer. He had another reason to be confident. He had topped the aptitude and psychological tests earlier that day, besting some 30 other applicants. He was being presumptuous.
The interviewer began asking him what he thought of gays entering the military. Dumbfounded, he replied that it was unfair to ban homosexuals from the Armed Forces. "Then she asked if I’m going to have a girlfriend, if I’m planning to have a family in the future, if I am willing to act like a man, questions which I thought were out of bounds. Those questions did not have anything to do with the job I was applying for." He knew he had lost the job. The company later sent its regrets. Castro knew he was rejected because he is openly gay, although the company did not say so. He also knew that had he been a closet gay, he would have been a welcome addition to the company.
Stay in the closet
Castro’s case is not an isolated one. Hundreds of jobless gays have been rejected outright or silently turned down, and given vague excuses why they are not fit for the job. Newsbreak talked with three other homosexuals who were not accepted or were bypassed in promotion because they are gay. Earl, 24, quit his job at a retail store chain after the owners refused to promote him to brand manager. He said he was hired as a creative manager, but the tasks he was assigned to were akin to those of a brand manager. "I was a one-man team for more than a year and I thought I deserved that promotion." He quit when he realized that male members of the family that owned the firm "did not trust [me] enough to become a brand manager." He is now with a sports brand company.
The case of Michael David Tan, 28, is slightly different. An advertising company was ready to hire him on one condition: he should change his fashion sense, hairstyle, and mannerism "to be able to fit in." In short, he had to act "straight." "I felt insulted," he says, and rejected its job offer. He now works for a magazine. These stories mean, says Tan, that "if you want a job, you must hide in the closet, you must act straight. Sadly, discrimination happens even in supposedly gay-friendly occupations."
Because of gender expectations, no thanks to the mass media that poke fun at overt gays, job opportunities for them are constricted, says Romeo Lee, professor in behavioral science at De La Salle University. "You’re stereotyped when you are an identifiable gay. When one is an obvious gay, we think of typical professions like the beauty parlor business, to some extent the mass media, advertising, and other professions that involve creativity. We don’t think of them as capable in blue-collar jobs."
Discrimination persists because no gay would dare challenge the system, notes Jessie Dimaisip, a member of the Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network (Lagablab). There is no law categorically prohibiting discrimination of gays in the workplace, he says. While the Labor Code is explicit against discrimination in the employment of women, it is silent when it comes to homosexuals, says Forter Puguon, director of the Bureau of Labor Conditions: "There is no provision prohibiting discrimination based on sexual preference."
Puguon says the labor department has had no case involving gay discrimination but stresses that its absence does not necessarily mean it is not happening. "It is possible the employer cited other reasons for not employing the gay applicant." Officials of the Civil Service Commission and the Commission on Human Rights tell Newsbreak that they haven’t received any complaint about gay discrimination, either.
A check with the Supreme Court showed no jurisprudence tackling job discrimination against gays. "The issue remains uncharted territory," says Lagablab’s Dimaisip. He admits that many gays, including the learned, are not aware of their rights. Some who do are too timid to fight for their cause. "They don’t want to be laughed at." Citing a congressional hearing on the proposed anti-discrimination bill, he says: "We could not find or convince a discriminated gay to testify in the hearing." If coming out of the closet is being brave, how come no openly gay person has been brave enough to publicly say that he was discriminated against? Dimaisip says the answer may lie in a weak support system, if there’s any.
"In the case of rape cases, there exists a support system to help women cope with the trauma. The gay movement here is still in its infancy and the support system is weak." Too, gay concerns remain concentrated on health matters like AIDS. "We are not yet that structured when it comes to pushing human rights, employment and policy issues."
Fighting the right battle
Given such constraints, how can advocates of gay rights make the best of their limited resources? Lee says it is important that they select the right battle to fight.
For instance, pushing for equal rights in highly masculine institutions like the police and the military establishments is bound to fail. Such institutions are time tested and are no place for "experimentation." "One cannot change the system overnight. It will take time," says Lee. In the meantime, one can push for change in one’s own little way.
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6 June 2003
Gays tapped for Bulacan’s tourism, antidrug drive
by R. Lazaro
Calumpit, Bulacan – To promote tourism and fight the menace of illegal drugs, local officials enjoined the gay community in this town to use their talents to help promote the province’s oldest town, Calumpit. Town officials, led by Mayor Ramon Pagdanganan, together with gay representatives from the different barangays of this town, had a dialogue recently at the session hall of the Sangguniang Bayan to find ways to tap the talents of the gay community.
Most gays are known for their creativity, making them excel as beauticians, clothes designer and fashion models, among others. "This is why we have to tap their skills to the advantage of our community," the mayor said. Pagdanganan said, "We want you to be organized so that we can provide you with opportunities to show your skills and talents by participating in local government programs."
Members of the Sangguniang Bayan of Calumpit noted that the gay community is considered as one of the "forgotten sectors" in Philippine society, although many of them have been successful in their fields of expertise. The mayor said that the Calumpit’s gay community will be tapped for the tourism program and will be given livelihood programs. Municipal councilor Nixon Madla said, "They [gays] have been part of our society, but they have not been accorded proper recognition for their contributions. Instead, there is discrimination against them." Amado Patag, another councilor, added that the gay community may also be tapped by the local government in its antidrug and other projects.
November 24, 2003
At Manila conference, gays decry discrimination in Asia
Manila – After suffering in silence in largely conservative societies, homosexuals in Asia are beginning to speak up. But unlike homosexuals in Western countries who are empowered enough to lobby for same-sex marriages, most Asian gays are still fighting for acceptance as ordinary human beings.
Gays and lesbians in much of the region live in an atmosphere of homophobia where they are harassed, humiliated, shunned or even beaten up in societies that cannot accept them for what they are, rights activists say. "What we are asking for is nondiscrimination," said Anna Leah Sarabia, a senior Asian official of the International Lesbian and Gay Association. "That’s all we can afford to ask for now." The Brussels-based group held a landmark meeting in Manila last week where 400 delegates from 30 countries tackled discrimination against homosexuals, particularly in Asia.
The meeting was the association’s first in Asia, where the majority of gays and lesbians are afraid to live openly because homosexuality is culturally and religiously shunned. Hong Kong is the only place in Asia that has legalized homosexual acts – in private – between consenting adults. Sarabia, executive director of the association’s women’s secretariat, said the Manila meeting had given top priority to counseling for homosexuals facing psychological pressure and stress arising from discrimination. "It is depressing to note that it is right here in Asia, the cradle of all major religions which preach love and kindness to each other, that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals are being condemned as evil, abnormal and unhealthy," Sarabia said.
Asian societies in ancient times were very open to diverse sexuality until colonial powers institutionalized homophobia in the region, she said. For example, same-sex eroticism was prevalent throughout early Chinese history, long before the authorities began to consider homosexuality a mental illness, delegates said. Only recently has opinion in China begun to shift toward greater tolerance, they added. In India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore, homosexuality is outlawed by laws inherited from British rule, suggesting that homophobia is a by-product of Western cultural expansion, delegates say.
The notion of gay and lesbian rights being imported to Asia from Europe is also wrong, said Claudia Roth, the German human rights commissioner and a keynote speaker at the association’s meeting. Roth, who has campaigned for many of Europe’s antidiscrimination laws, said the ongoing debate in Asia on civil rights for homosexuals would set the pace for nondiscrimination legislation in the region. "It is extremely important that this meeting took place in Asia for the first time," she said. "This shows that human rights is indivisible and must be guaranteed, irrespective of cultures and regions."
She vowed to lobby harder for a resolution on the rights of homosexuals at the United Nations Human Rights Commission next year, despite stiff opposition from the Vatican and Muslim countries. In an indication that Asian governments may be changing their perception of homosexuality, Singapore recently began allowing gays to work in the civil service, even though it still disallows homosexual acts.
The Manila meeting also hailed a controversial proposal in Taiwan to legalize gay marriages and recognize the right of homosexual couples to adopt children. The final draft of the bill is expected to be ready for parliamentary review in December. If it is approved by the legislature, Taiwan would become the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. "This is going to be a remarkable development and hopefully, it will set the ball rolling in Asia," Sarabia said.
03 Dec 2003
Church Unduly harsh on gays
The Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay) questions the double standard adopted by the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the proposed guidelines on sexual misconduct among priests. While the Catholic Bishops of the Conference of the Philippines agreed to wait for priests to sire two children before being automatically defrocking them, those found committing homosexual acts are to be sent to a rehabilitation center, harping on the church’s old dogma that gays need to be cured of a disease.
It is laudable for the Catholic Church to publicly apologize for sexual abuses committed by priests, mostly against powerless women and children. But the proposed "Pastoral Guidelines on Sexual Abuses and Misconduct by the Clergy" released last week seems to be soft on heterosexual priests who wish to fool around with women in the future and while being unduly harsh on gay ones. In the spirit of fairness, church officials must treat both straight and gay clergy equally with no regard to their sexual orientation. Still better yet, the church has to respond to calls for reforms such as optional celibacy for clergy and the religious.
It will help priests who have homosexual feelings to avoid resorting to predatory behavior on unwilling victims if entire Catholic hierarchies and lay bodies boldly reexamine their unscientific, stuffy moralistic views of alternate sexualities. So-called rehabilitation efforts based on the church’s antiquated gay disease models cannot overcome developed tastes for powerless victims. There are priests who have non-predatory, egalitarian homosexual relationships with their consenting partners who are neither victimized nor temporary lust objects. Stable monogamous gay Christian couples such as Saints Serge and Bacchus are even part of the folklore of the early European churches.
They are role models and should be encouraged to open themselves as living proofs that homosexual affairs in the priesthood can be valid part of Christian community building. To separate them, drive them underground and threaten them with expulsion as the CBCP suggests can only breed closeted psychos who prey on boys when no one is looking, or explode in costly scandals and lawsuits. – MICHAEL URBANO, Secretary-General, ProGay-Philippines
18 December 2003
Hate is not a family value, ProGay Baguio tells Catholic bishops
The Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay) came to the defense of the Christian minister whom the Roman Catholic church is targetting for investigation. Mykel Urbano, secretary general of the activist gay group, said that the Catholic bishops should respect the sanctity and confidentiality of the gay couple who were recently wed by Fr. Richard Mickley, head of the Order of St. Aelred. David (not his real name), one of the gay partners involved and member of ProGay Baguio City, was furious that the Roman Catholic leadership chose to announce "investigating" the wedding that officialized their six-year partnership. "Priests should be preaching love and family, not hate and persecution," David protested.
"The bishops have no business being alarmed and threatening to use their proposed pastoral guidelines on heterosexual and homosexual misconduct in the clergy on Fr. Mickley, because he is not in the fold of the Roman Catholic church," Urbano agreed. Urbano also challenged the views of Baguio-Benguet Bishop Carlito Cenzon on marriage "being fundamentally between a man and a woman." "Marriage is all about love, nurturing and raising a family regardless of the gender of the people involved," Urbano countered.
Cenzon said the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), in their plenary assembly next month will slam same-sex marriages like the one held in Baguio City. CBCP officials summoned Cenzon to Manila after news about the gay wedding came out. During the wedding last month in the summer capital, David recited to his partner Alex a statement that conveyed the pains of being homosexuals who are persecuted by homophobes.
"Same-sex couples like us continue to struggle for equal rights and recognition of gay and lesbian marriage in a society pretending to be democratic and free," he said. "Majority of governments around the world have refused to address this issue of equal marriages for same sex couples. Some even criminalize homosexuality by either imprisonment, torture and even death. "The vows I made and the covenant I just signed in your presence formally seals our love. It is permanent and binding in the eyes of God. Man-made laws of our land may be re-written to finally recognize gay and lesbian rights as human rights.
"It is only fair that all our children and grandchildren share the same rights to love and marry regardless of sexual orientation. Thus, the struggle to end homophobia isn’t just for the homosexual community alone, but for all men and women, gay or straight. The gay couple had the support of many broad organizations in the mountainous region such as the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), the Dap-ayan ti Kultura iti Kordilyera, Tongtongan ti Umili, Inabuyog-Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Confederation for Unity Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (SELDA), partylists Bayan Muna and Gabriela Women’s Party.
The Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay) is a national organization of Filipino gay men advocating equality, end to discrimination and economic emancipation of sexual minorities, by linking with other gay-friendly heterosexual groups within as well as outside the Philippines. Contact: Tel. 3673109 or 3712309 Email address: firstname.lastname@example.orgWebsite: http://www.geocities.com/progayphilippines
January 27, 2004
Gays push senators to pass anti-discrimination bill
by Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, INQ7.net
Some 30 gays trooped to the Senate Tuesday to push for a bill that would criminalize discrimination against "gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders." Percival Cendaña, spokesperson of Akbayan Gay and Lesbian Collective, lamented that the anti-discrimination bill, which was approved at the House of Representatives and was transmitted to the Senate committee on youth and family relations early this year, remained unacted by the senators.
The measure is not among the urgent legislations that the Senate intends to pass before taking a recess on February 6. "We urge the senators, especially those who will be running in the May 2004 elections, to do and finish their jobs first before campaigning," Cendaña said. "The lesbian and gay vote in the elections will largely be shaped by the fate of the anti-discrimination bill."
The bill, authored by Akbayan partylist Representative Loretta Ann Rosales, is the first lesbian and gay-related legislation approved at the House. It prohibits discrimination against lesbians and gays in employment, education, public service, and commercial establishments, among others. It also criminalizes police and military that harass homosexuals and enforces a ban against forced psychiatric tests to determine or change one’s sexual orientation. The bill also allows the entry of gays in the military.
February 8, 2004
Filipino gay men in New York–‘Global Divas’ by Martin F. Manalansan IV; Duke University Press
A study of homosexual Filipinos in New York City was the basis of Martin Manalansan’s Ph.D. thesis and is now a book By Bradley Winterton, Contributing Reporter .
Global Divas, By Martin F. Manalansan IV; 222 Pages; Duke University Press
Taiwan’s gays have had some bad press in recent weeks, with an over-publicized raid, a club closure and a deportation. So it’s perhaps appropriate to look at a book that surveys a community of gay men who exhibit the qualities of resilience, determination and even panache. Global Divas, a study of Filipino gay men in New York City, is just such a book.
Filipinos are among the world’s most energetic and high-profile emigrants and migrant workers. In the US they form the second biggest Asian-American group after the Chinese, with 1.9 million residents. They are the most numerous employees of the UN after American citizens and career diplomats. Moreover, they’re seen as good-humored and possessing a fun-loving exuberance, at least in the popular imagination.
These qualities, together with other attributes, are considered and assessed with admirable caution and wit in this accessible, though formally academic, book. Martin Manalansan undertook his survey for a Ph.D. thesis at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in the 1990s. Now it’s published, appropriately updated to 2001, in book form. Manalansan states his general position early on.
These men, he believes, are neither heroes of a struggle for liberation nor victims of oppression. Instead, they are people formed through a struggle to adapt, and who "oscillate between exuberance and pathos, and between survival and loss." He begins by looking at the characteristic argot of urban gay Filipinos known as "swardspeak," a "vagabond tongue," he says, that’s characterized by a desire to simultaneously hold on to a foreign identity and adapt to a cosmopolitan modernity.
It contains words such as "bakla," Tagalog for gay, and "drama," as in the phrase "What is your drama?" This could equally well mean "What is your job?" or "What is your situation?" or "What are your problems?" Then there is "biyuti," meaning anything from actual beauty to one’s physical self or state of mind. "My biyuti was ruined!" for example, might mean in the appropriate context "He spoilt my day!"
One interesting aspect of the use of swardspeak is that it flourishes both in situations where a gay identity can’t easily be displayed, such as back in the Philippines, and in situations, such as in the US, where some migrants live without the appropriate immigration papers. Both situations, in other words, have something in common and both lead to a speech style that has in it elements of dissimulation, albeit elements of wit and humor as well.
The author points out that Filipinos in general have been subjected to a range of patronizing descriptions and he’s not averse to parading these, even though he clearly doesn’t approve of them, let alone agree with them. One of the best known of his sources here is Pico Iyer’s 1988 travel book Video Nights in Kathmandu and Other Reports from the Not So Far East. There the Filipinos are characterized as prime victims of a pseudo-Americanization. Virtuoso performers in American musical and performance styles, they have been culturally colonized so that they’re left with the dubious heritage of disco, rock and roll, and the beauty pageant.
As a result, Manalansan writes, the gay Filipino migrant arriving in New York embarks not so much on a beginner’s course in Americanization as on the continuation of an already ongoing engagement with the world’s most powerful state. He then progresses to the perception of Asians in general, and Filipinos in particular, in a specifically gay sexual context. This is treacherous territory indeed.
It contains many racist suppositions, manifestly untrue of the vast majority of individuals, but nonetheless widespread among the many Westerners who believe that masculinity consists of being a metaphorical killer in bed, and as often as not an actual one elsewhere.
The Catholic undertow to much Filipino gay life is also discussed. One important example the author gives is that of the traditional Santacruzan pageant. He witnessed a gay version of this normally religious event – which celebrates the discovery of the True Cross by the Roman Emperor Constantine’s mother Helena – staged in New York in 1992. Everything was transposed from the sacred to the sexualized, he relates, until the very last stage of the ceremony when suddenly the ritual figures of Helena (Reyna Elena) and the Empress (Emperatriz) appeared exactly as they would have in the Philippines, complete with garlands of flowers and an antique crucifix.
The gay world was suddenly replaced by Catholicism and laughter at a profane parody by a wave of religious nostalgia. New York is typically seen by these Filipinos as being "American" both in the sense that everything is bigger, more plentiful and wider ranging, and also in the sense of being defined by products that can be bought and consumed.
"Gay life in New York was like a big vending machine," as one of the interviewees put it. While he was conducting these interviews the author was also working for two agencies helping AIDS patients. It wasn’t easy to keep emotion out of either work, he says. He was so moved by one man, soon to die, that he didn’t feel he could include his case in this book. The patient insisted that he did. At least that way he could finally become a celebrity, he said.
Humor is pervasive, though not entirely confined to Filipinos. "We’ve had 300 years in the convent and 30 years of Hollywood," one laconic observer says of his country’s history. And the author tells the story of being accosted with a friend, who was in fact Latino, outside a gay bar by a drunk with the words "I have never seen two Oriental homos before." The Latino friend preserved his cool and, quick as a flash, replied politely, "Excuse me, but we prefer the word ‘ornamental.’"
There’s a lot of academic material in Global Divas – cross-references, engagement with post-colonial theory and the like. But more than half the book consists of discussion of the experience of Manalansan’s 58 interviewees, and there’s plenty there to interest the general reader, especially one alert to the style of one of Asia’s most flamboyant peoples.
Alarm over high rate of suicide cases among Filipino homosexuals
ProGay and community-based organizations of underprivileged lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens are alarmed over the recent findings that suicide is prevalent among gay youth in the Philippines. ProGay commends the Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Studies for exposing the ugly secret kept by Filipino culture – that homophobia and anti-gay discrimination are not imagined non-issues but they real, widespread, deep-seated and causes actual harm not to our LGBT people but to the society as whole.
Debunking the mistaken belief that homosexuality is already accepted by Filipinos, the YAFSS data scratches the surface – and we are sure there are more horrible tales of abuse against young LGBT people who are taunted, bullied, denied a dignified life and ignored by insensitive government agencies and policies and school environments. We take to task the hateful language and murderous moralizing of established churches and religions such as the male chauvinist Roman Catholic bureaucracy.
It is hard for many LGBT to resist anti-social life choices such as substance abuse, dysfunction in school and workplace and sexual immorality if there are no concrete steps taken to combat homophobia and discrimination. The YAFFS study should spur government and other institutions to put into place programs and policies that would ensure all citizens regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity all political, cultural and economic rights that would prevent the needless waste of lives and opportunities many LGBT Filipinos experience.
We strongly recommend that schools, care centers and other youth facilities start reviewing their anti-gay structures and start instituting pro-gay learning opportunities. Investing in gay-friendly initiatives will ensure that LGBT Filipinos of all ages will be functional and contributing to nation-building, instead of producing suicidal, anti-social misfits.
Mykel Urbano, secretary general Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines 35 Scout Santiago, Barangay Laging Handa, Quezon City
December 6, 2004
Filipino city bans feminine men
by Rex Wockner members.aol.com/wockner
The Philippines’ most Islamic city, Marawi City, has banned gays from going out in public wearing female attire, makeup, earrings "or other ornaments to express their inclinations for femininity," the Philippine Star reported Dec. 4. The city council also banned skintight blue jeans, tube tops and other skimpy attire. Women must not "induce impure thoughts or lustful desires."
Mayor Omar Solitario Ali said the moves are part of a "cleaning and cleansing" drive to improve the city’s image. "Since Marawi City is the only Islamic city in the country and a part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, we have to comply with the culture, religion and tradition of the Muslims but without going against the country’s Constitution," he told the paper. People who violate the rules will have paint dumped on their heads by the muttawa, the religious police. Officials also banned video games and prohibited karaoke bars from being located near mosques or schools. Located in the southern Philippines, Marawi City has a population of 123,295, according to its official Web site.
Feb 7, 2005
Gay rebels marry in Philippines
Manila – Two communist rebels in the Philippines truly became brothers in arms when the men were married in a jungle camp, a newspaper has reported. Draped in a red flag with hammer and sickle in gold sequins, they exchanged vows, walked under an archway of assault rifles and were serenaded with revolutionary love songs by a choir of New People’s Army comrades.
Ka Andres and Ka Jose, who both use the word for "brother" before their names, each held a bullet during the ceremony on the southern island of Mindanao to show their "commitment to the armed struggle", the Philippine Daily Inquirer said. " What we have to do now — with the help of the party — is to work on our marriage and to be strong while serving the people," said Jose, who at 21 is 33 years younger than Andres. Homosexuality is a largely taboo topic in the Philippines, with stereotypes of flamboyantly effeminate men reinforced in the media. The communist movement — waging a violent insurgency in poor, rural areas since the late 1960s — has been more progressive, adding same-sex relationships and marriage to its guiding policy in 1998.
Still, Jose and Andres said they ran into the "patriarchal" culture of the Philippines when they decided to marry. " We conducted painstaking discussions to make comrades understand gay relations and gay rights," Andres said.
April 22, 2005
Filipino gays fear ‘repression’ under Pope Benedict XVI
AFP with Manny B. Marinay
Catholic homosexuals on Thursday welcomed Pope Benedict XVI but said they expect continued “repression” under his pontificate. The Progressive Organization of Gays, the Philippines’ most vocal gay-rights group, charged that the Vatican has a “long history of repressing gays in the Church.” The group nonetheless said it welcomed Pope Benedict XVI, the doctrinal enforcer of John Paul II, as his successor. “ Our greetings of peace and best wishes to the new Pope are, however, tempered by an expected continuation of the consistent pronouncements from the Vatican condemning lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders worldwide,” Pro-gay spokesman Mykhel Falguera said in a statement.
Pro-gay stressed it supported the Vatican’s opposition to the US-led war in Iraq, corruption and poverty, among other issues.
However, it said it has often locked horns with the Roman Catholic Church on issues such as the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS. Pro-gay remains open to dialogue with Church officials “despite the intimidating hateful language” used against homosexuals, Falguera said.
He said gays and lesbians were hoping divine intervention would soften the new Pope’s stand on homosexuality.
“ Pope Benedict is, after all, human and can change his mind,” he said. “If miracles still happen, we ask that the Spirit inspire him and his fellow cardinals to extend the unconditional, nonjudgmental love of Jesus to all sexual minorities.” The Philippines is Asia’s bastion of Catholicism, where more than 80 percent of the 84 million population belong to the faith. While a huge section of the society remains conservative, open homosexual behavior is increasingly tolerated by the younger Western-oriented generation.
Rainbow Rights Project–New Legal Advocacy Group
The Rainbow Rights Project (R-Rights), Inc. is an innovation to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) advocacy in Manila, Philippines. R-Rights seeks to be a legal and policy "think tank" and resource center dedicated to LGBT issues. We aim to contribute in the effort to eliminate discrimination and violence against LGBTs by producing strategic policy research papers and proposed legal reform measures, and by fostering an informed, rational and objective discourse on LGBT issues.
We would like to take this opportunity to formally introduce R-Rights to the Philippine LGBT Community by inviting you and your organization to our soft launching on June 24, 2005, Friday at the Center for Women’s Studies, UP Diliman. This event will also be highlighted by a Round-Table Discussion on gay rights and Philippine law entitled "OUR RIGHTS: Law 101 for LGBTs" which will be held from 1:00 to 6:00 PM at the same venue.
We hope that you will be able to grace the occasion with your presence. Thank you.
GERMAINE TRITTLE P. LEONIN
President, The Rainbow Rights Project
If you have any queries, feel free to also contact Annemarie Lim at email@example.com.
25 July 2006
Inday Garutay Cries Fowl, Files Complaint against Aruba Restaurant
Quezon City – In the past few weeks, people must have read and heard of the 4 July 2006 incident at Aruba Restaurant in Metrowalk Pasig City where Inday Garutay was reportedly approached by the restaurant supervisor, a certain “Tintin” Aguilar, and was told that Aruba had a dress code, and that cross-dressers like him are prohibited from entering the establishment. (“Mayroon po kaming dress code dito. Bawal po ang cross-dresser. Bawal po ang ganyang katulad mo.”) Out of indignation, Inday Garutay left Aruba, not realizing until hours later that he finally understood what discrimination really meant.
“ENOUGH. It is simply no longer acceptable for people to get away with discriminating against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBTs) on the basis of our sexual orientation. We do not want special rights – only EQUAL rights,” said Atty. Gari Bernal of the Rainbow Rights Project (R-Rights), Inc. Inday Garutay has since filed a civil case for damages against Aruba Restaurant. As stated in his complaint, “while private establishments do have the right to impose a dress code, it may not (sic) – in the guise of implementing such a dress code – discriminate against individuals on the basis of his or her personal condition, i.e., sexual orientation.”
The Philippines is a signatory to several international agreements that uphold the human rights of and equal protection for all persons, including sexual minorities. Equal protection for all persons is likewise constitutionally enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The State is further given the duty to ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men. "We admire Inday Garutay’s bravery in fighting for equality. Discrimination exists yet only a few ever come out to complain, making it appear that it is not happening. There are many reports of similar incidents in other private establishments, but the victims often choose not to come out publicly for fear of reprisal or further abuse. We hope that Inday Garutay’s act of bravery will embolden other gays and lesbians to report cases of discrimination,” said Germaine Leonin, President of R-Rights.
Inday Garutay’s experience makes it clear that we need to pass the Anti-Discrimination Bill, which is presently pending in Congress as H.B. No. 634 of Rep. Etta Rosales, and S.B. Nos. 1641 of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago and 1738 of Sen. Ramon Bong Revilla, Jr. The passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill is crucial in defining and penalizing practices that unjustly discriminate against the LGBT community.
“Businesses, big and small, should not be allowed to benefit from the power of the pink peso if they are not ready to treat their LGBT patrons with respect, and to accord them equal service,” said Anne Marie Lim of R-Rights. Of course, there are at least two sides to a story. "Either way, the LGBT Community stands to benefit because these issues have been brought to light and more people may now come to know and understand the LGBT community’s struggles and plight," said Angie Umbac of R-Rights.
WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Paki sulat po ang pangalan ninyo sa ibaba ng sulat kay Sen. Bong. Malaking tulong din po kung ifoforward ninyo ang email na ito sa inyong mga network. Hihintayin pa po ba ninyong makaranas kayo o ang mahal ninyo sa buhay ng pambabastos, diskriminasyon, o karahasan bago kayo sumuporta? Kilos na! Ilang minuto lang po ng pagfoforward ng email na ito ang hinihingi namin.
Nagpapasalamat po ang LGBT community sa tulong at suporta ninyo!
EMAIL SEN BONG – firstname.lastname@example.org
SBN 1738 HON. RAMON BONG REVILLA
Dear Sen. Revilla,
Discrimination is still the most debilitating issue for Filipino lesbians and gays. Despite prevailing notions that homosexuals are accepted in the Philippines, stigma and homophobia impede the exercise of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms. Gay men and lesbians are only as good as their stereotypes – as beauticians, ticket collectors, or entertainers. In the eyes of the general public, lesbians and gays are essentially immoral, but can be accepted as long as they remain inside the confines of these stereotypes.
Discrimination has many forms. Flawed perceptions on homosexuality limit opportunities that should otherwise be available to all, such as education and decent jobs. Access to healthcare is also affected by erroneous beliefs that automatically link homosexuality to HIV/AIDS. Religious intolerance, in itself a difficulty among religious Filipino LGBTs, has misguided parents into employing corporeal punishment in the belief that homosexuality is a sin, and should not be tolerated.
In our laws, the anti-vagrancy provision of the Revised Penal Code is used by law enforcers to harass homosexuals and to extort money. The anti-kidnapping law is used by the police and ‘concerned’ parents to break apart lesbian relationships on the assumption that the partnership is founded on coercion and abuse.
The first step to end all forms of abuses and discrimination against Filipino LGBTs is the enactment of a new law that criminalizes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The equal protection clause of the 1987 Constitution needs to be affirmed by such legislation – not only to stop discriminatory practices and policies, but to challenge deeply embedded social norms and attitudes that directly or indirectly contribute to equal rights violations of Filipino lesbians and gays.
This law would gives flesh to the commitment made by the Philippines to eliminate all forms of discrimination when it signed into various international agreements on human rights, such as (1) the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, (2) the International Convention on Civil, Political, and Human Rights, and (3) the International Convention on Economic and Social Rights, among others.
As a concerned citizen, I commend your support for the struggle for equal human rights through the filing of SB 1738, or the Anti-Gender Discrimination Bill. A similar bill by AKBAYAN Rep. Loretta Ann Rosales is now pending in the House of Representatives. It received the support of different civil society groups, governmental institutions, and religious organizations, such as the Amnesty International, UP College of Law
Human Rights Institute, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Iglesia ni Kristo, UCCP/NCCP, the Philippine National Police and the Civil Service Commission. With your support, I hope that the Anti-Discrimination Bill will be passed by Congress this term.
I hope that your good office will work with urgency and closely with the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development so that a public hearing on the bill could be held immediately. Again, thank you for your efforts to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and concern ultimately for the human rights of all persons in the Philippines.
July 29, 2006
by Gabby Libarios
One can say that in this day and age of equal opportunities and empowerment to everyone, especially members of the LGBT (lesbians, gay, bisexual, and transgendered) community, we don’t need shows like Queer Eye or Will and Grace or the more controversial Queer as Folk.
What we don’t realize is that these shows are exactly what the world needs. For the past years, gay-themed shows and movies have been the pink community’s best cure against a moralistic and less-tolerant conservative society. Although a big percentage of the pink population are still hiding inside the closet, the condition has somehow improved over time. So it is but natural for the gay community—whether closeted or not—to find the Fab 5, whose members Carson Kressley, Kyan Douglas, Thom Filicia, Jai Rodriguez and Ted Allen, all out and proud, their modern-day heroes. The gay community has long been in search of personalities who can best carry their sentiments, or at the very least, represent them.
It’s been quite a long while, since we last heard of Queer Eye. Last year, grooming guru Kyan Douglas and design doctor Thom Filicia was in Manila to share a couple of their “queer” thoughts to Filipinos on how to improve their looks and ultimately, their lives. But the reception the Fab 5 got from the media at a conference at Makati Shangri-la and shows at Ayala Malls recently, was proof that they haven’t lost their touch. People still came in droves, girls still shrieked with excitement.
Queer Eye, indeed, is more than just a makeover show. Beyond the friendly banter and campy humor, it’s a piece of gem that touches the heart and soul. During a one-on-one interview with the Standard Today, wine and food connoisseur Ted Allen said the best thing that’s ever happened in his life since joining the phenomenal Bravo TV show was how the Fab 5 affected and improved the lives of others.
“I am proud to say that we get thousands and thousands of letters and e-mailed from gay people and teenagers from all over the world saying the show has made them feel better about themselves,” he narrated. “I get goosebumps just thinking about it. Not that we deserve credit for that, not that we’ve done something important. We know there are activists out there who work much harder than we do, for much less money than we make, trying to make the world better for gay people or people with disabilities or whatever.” Allen added that a show like Queer Eye is a big help for gay people, especially the young who have yet to discover their true selves. “The show means a lot to me, because nobody was doing it when I was 16 or 18 or 24 years old. And that’s the best thing by far,” Allen shared.
According to Kenjie Nuñez, editor in chief of Generation Pink, a lifestyle magazine for the LGBT community, Queer Eye got the ball rolling for all other gay-oriented shows, whose aim is to place the community in a better, much clearer light. “In a way the show broadened people’s perspective about the pink community and somehow removed the barricade between the straight people and the gays. Some of the straight people used to be judgmental, unable to understand and appreciate our contribution to society,” Nuñez said. “I think Queer Eye changed all that. It paved the way for more opportunities for us to voice out our opinions and our feelings, and I think it’s doing our world good.”
Although the Philippines is not ready to have a local show catering to the gay community just yet (a fact loosely based on the failure of GMA-7’s Out! to draw advertisers and viewers), Queer Eye has served as one big shining beacon of hope for a crowd that has always essayed wobbly steps toward acceptance and belonging.
“The show actually created a wonderful platform for gay men all over the world for their opinions to be heard. I think the Fab Five has revolutionized the modern straight men and in the process empowered and brought out the creative capabilities of the pink community,” Nuñez added.
The Fab Five also expressed their gratitude for all the wonderful opportunities that the fans let them experience. If anything, Queer Eye opened their eyes and made them realize how one show can be a powerful tool in affecting the lives of many and getting their message across.
“We’re very grateful for the success the show has had. So many different people have embraced us. Not just the gay people, not just young urban people, but people all over the world,” Allen said. “The show may look superficial—with all our talk about clothes, food, wine, etc. I think if there’s something important that Queer Eye has been very lucky enough to do, it’s that we’re five out gay people on TV, being ourselves.”
Allen was also thrilled of the fact that not many people can do what they’ve been doing. “A lot of famous Hollywood actors are gay who won’t admit it or acknowledge it or be proud of it. That I think sends a negative message to young gay people. It tells them they should hide and think it’s a shameful secret, which is not at all,” he stressed. “We’re privileged enough to have had the opportunity to be honest and be ourselves. Now my conservative relatives in the south of the US never ask my mom when I’m getting married anymore. It really makes things easier.” Now that the message is out, maybe it’s time we listened.
September 14, 2006
Gay community to enter politics
by Jerome Aning
Members of the country’s gay community will make their formal bid to enter politics on Friday as a national organization of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) registers for the party-list system to join next year’s mid-term elections. The group Ang Ladlad (The Outing) joins about 50 party-list groups that have registered with the Commission on Elections ahead of the Saturday deadline.
Ang Ladlad chair Danton Remoto, noted gay rights crusader and English professor at Ateneo de Manila University, will lead in the filing of the petition for inclusion in the party-list system at the Comelec central office in Manila around noon. " This is the first time that a national organization of LGBT Filipinos will file its intention to participate in the political exercise. We will show them the strength of the LGBT vote," Remoto said.
He estimated that of the 43.5-million registered voters nationwide, about 10 percent were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Ang Ladlad has set up chapters and alliances all over the country and firmed up its demographics and database, Remoto said.
September 17, 2006
Policy Peek: end legal discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity
by Ernesto F. Herrera
In a modern democratic society, I think we should all be involved in campaigns meant to end legal discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Seeking to represent the gay community through the party-list system in Congress is the group called "Ang Ladlad" (The Coming Out). Its chairman, Danton Remoto, an English professor in the Ateneo, said there would have been no need for gay Filipinos to organize their own political party had the gay members of the Senate and the House of Representatives fought for the rights of the gay community in Congress. The gay legislators, he said, did not come out in the open to represent the gay community. Hence, "Ang Ladlad," a national organization of gay Filipinos, is filing for accreditation as a party-list group. They would be taking their chances along with other party-list groups in next year’s elections.
According to Remoto, "Ang Ladlad" is not fighting for special rights but equal rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT). I’m all for that. In a modern democratic society, I think we should all be involved in campaigns meant to end legal discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. Great strides have been made toward having equal rights for women at the workplace (although still not enough). There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be equal rights for the LGBT in Philippine society as well.
But going back to what Remoto said, I do find it to be true. I was a member of Congress for three terms, twice as a senator and once as a congressman, and during those tenures I can’t recall an openly gay-elected official in either the Senate or the House. Sure, there were gays in Congress and we knew who they were, but they remained in the closet, perhaps to fit neatly into the political profiles of socially conservative, not to mention predominantly Catholic, Philippine society.
In the past elections, I know of political candidates whose electoral campaigns strategically, even stealthily, targeted the gay vote. However, not all of them publicly promoted gay rights, and only a few when elected would later go on record to author and support bills legislating these rights.
I wonder why that is the case when, as Remoto said, the gay vote is considerably strong. "Ang Ladlad" estimates that around 4 million, or 10 percent of the registered voters in this country are gay. Why would it be political suicide then to run as an openly gay candidate for a national office or promote gay rights in public policy if the gay vote is that strong?
Could it be because the antigay vote is stronger? Is it because majority in Philippine society can’t reconcile their notions of moral values and integrity in public office with homosexuality? Are gay candidates afraid of the potential backlash from the Catholic Church should they push for the legal recognition of gay relationships, which is the gut issue in the battle for gay rights? (By the way, the members of Parliament of fiercely Catholic Spain clashed headon with the Catholic hierarchy on the issue of legalizing gay marriage and they won. And to think that the overwhelming majority of the Spanish MPs who pushed for the legalization of gay marriage were not even gay, but were just equal rights advocates.)
Just like any job, a person’s qualifications should be the determining factor in winning a public post, not his or her sexual orientation. And one can do a good job, one can bring back integrity and professionalism in public service, regardless of gender identity.
Perhaps right now, there are still significant parts of the country where gay candidates would find it difficult to get votes, but who knows what can happen in a few years?
Someday, gay legislators might turn out to be a nonissue, in the same manner that it is now commonplace for women to hold public office and occupy positions of power in both government and business. Fifty years ago who would have thought our country could have not just one but two women presidents?
I hope "Ang Ladlad" gets the seats it needs in the next Congress, granting that the 2007 election will push through, or granting that the new Constitution this administration wants to ram down the people’s throats would still provide for a party-list system. While it is still too soon to predict their victory at the polls, Remoto and company, just by joining the political exercise as openly gay candidates, may already be spearheading a fundamental political change that would have positive repercussions in Philippine society.
If they win, they will have demonstrated that a significant number of Filipinos are not homophobic after all. Maybe they just thought they were, or maybe they just thought they should be.