Coming out: Parents, children, and everything else
MANILA, Philippines – My child came out of the closet. What next?
Some may react negatively, either questioning their child’s “decision” or their own “failures” as parents. Others, fortunately, know better – they are supportive and understanding.
In this week’s Sex and Sensibilities podcast, we talked about “coming out” from the perspective of both the child and the parent.
We highlighted the 3 Es essential for both parties: education, empowerment, empathy. All these, however, are not confined within homes but must also be observed in schools, the media, workplace, legislation, and the pubic in general.
There are many ways to say “I love you” to your child. Having these 3 Es is one of them:
Ignorance breeds discrimination, hence the need to educate both children and parents on matters of human diversity, love, and respect. It is so easy to discriminate against others if you don’t know anything; it is also difficult to stand up for yourself if you don’t know your rights.
A good first step is to educate yourself about the basics: (READ: LGBT rights are human rights)
- Sex: This refers to the biological sex; either female or male.
- Sexual orientation: Who are you attracted to?
- Gender identity: How do you identify yourself?
- Gender: A social construct; how women and men should act according to societal norms.
Many Filipinos still mix these up; interchanging sex and sexual orientation, and dismissing gender identity all together. Although humans do not need to be labeled, it is helpful to understand these and to recognize and respect the fact that not everyone is like you.
Your child may be a girl who also happens to like girls, and that’s okay. Why shouldn't it be?
In a predominantly Catholic country like the Philippines, it is common to hear homophobic arguments supposedly made in the name of god. As parents, it's important for you to understand that religion shouldn’t have anything to do with your child’s sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI).
Homosexuality is not a sin or an abnormality. Saying otherwise reflects your own lack of understanding of sexuality, as well as your selectivity in respecting human rights. You respect heterosexual people, but not homosexuals. Is that fair?
The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders only in 1973, with the World Health Organization following suit in 1990. Isn’t it sad how long it took the world to realize how much it wronged the LGBT community throughout history?
The Philippine Psychological Association also stands against gender-based discrimination, stressing the need to defeat misinformation. Any ethical health professional would argue against reparative therapy or the “conversion” of homosexuals into heterosexuals.
In the Philippines, however, discrimination continues. Why? Because many people remain clueless or misinformed. The bible is not a good reference material for this matter, try looking up other books.
The more you know, the better you can empower yourself and others. This goes for both parent and child.
As parents, you are there to help empower your child. If you don’t fully understand gender equality, how can you protect your child from discrimination? In some cases, sadly, it’s the parents themselves who discriminate.
There are parents who are ashamed of their LGBT children; others set conditions: You can be lesbian, but you can’t have a girlfriend. Imagine saying the same to your adult daughter: You can be heterosexual, but you can’t have a husband.
Love is unconditional, remember? Why are you treating your child like a criminal?
Schools should be obligated to teach all these to children, however, everything should begin at home. As Rappler columnist Ana Santos observed, parents also have a lot to learn from their kids.
Another problem is that most students don’t learn any of this until college. At worse, many universities still don’t touch this topic. The media can also do more harm than good by reinforcing stereotypes. (READ: PH education, religion)
Given the reality that discrimination does exist, why are many Filipinos against having an anti-discrimination law? In almost all articles discussing LGBT rights, there are hateful statements that pepper the comments section.
Although the Philippines doesn’t have a national policy on gender-based discrimination, there are still cities and provinces with local ordinances empowering LGBTs: Quezon City, Angeles City of Pampanga, Antipolo City, Bacolod City of Negros Occidental, Candon City of Ilocos Sur, Cebu City, Dagupan City of Pangasinan, Davao City, Vigan City of Ilocos Sur, Agusan del Norte, and Cavite.
If these local governments can do it, why can’t the rest of the country?
Only 10.4% of Filipinos live in areas with anti-discrimination policies as of 2014, the Philippine Statistical Authority reported. This means over 82 million Filipinos live without the same protection.
The fight for LGBT rights is a fight for human rights.
Why deprive someone of their rights – to marry, adopt and have families, access social services and opportunities – just because they are not heterosexual?
Picture if the world were upside down: Heterosexuals are discriminated for loving the opposite sex. They are forced to be in same-sex relationships because that’s just how it’s supposed to be. Does that sound crazy? Yes, it does.
The way we mistreat LGBT individuals is nothing short of crazy.
Remember that words can be very harmful. What message do you want to impart to your children? There is a difference between acceptance and tolerance. Good parents would know which of the two exhibits genuine love.
As for children, you are not obliged to come out. Coming out is a personal decision, and it should not happen out of pressure. Do it when you are ready and when you have tried to learn as much as you can. And of course, the person you come out to should be someone you trust.
Parents, it took a lot of courage for your child to come out to you. Why would you reciprocate their honesty with disbelief, anger, or disgust? Don’t make a big drama out of it.
The very least you can do is try to understand them. You probably already have some preconceived notions about homosexuality; leave those behind and do your own research. Do this for your child.
Arguing with close-minded people feels like you're talking to a wall. Your child will face several of these walls throughout her or his life. What are you going to do about it? – Rappler.com
Got stories to tell? Share your ideas, questions, and articles with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also suggest topics for future podcast episodes. Speak up on #GenderIssues!