Things gay people are still told

Shakira Sison

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As gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders, we also need to start treating ourselves with higher regard

It’s been 15 years since I came out as a gay woman in the Philippines, and even if Aiza Seguerra is now an out adult lesbian with a girlfriend, Rustom Padilla is now BB Gandanghari, Pinoy Big Brother always has gay characters, and Boy Abunda is now out and proud, an educated Pinay I met recently still asked me, “When did you decide to become a tomboy?” 

Is the Philippines regressing in terms of gender sensitivity? The LGBT movement seems to be more visible than ever with strong leaders, powerful party list campaigns, and support from both political and celebrity realms. Why does it seem like people’s notions about homosexuals have not changed?

For starters, what I’d like to know is why I’m still being told the same things I was told a decade and a half ago. “Sayang, ang ganda mo pa naman! (Too bad you’re gay when you’re so pretty!)” as if gay people should only be the ugly second choice. You’d have to be blind to think that only unattractive and unwanted girls are gay. Or do our qualities need to be validated by the opposite sex in order to be considered worthy?

Beyond convention

“Which one of you is the man?” they still ask, erasing decades of female empowerment, as if a relationship cannot exist without a male figure and that someone always has to “lead.” A popular online meme says, “Asking who’s the ‘man’ and who’s the ‘woman’ in a same-sex relationship is like asking which chopstick is the fork.” Is it really so difficult to imagine a relationship between equals? (READ: Being Gay. Really.)

In these modern times of single mother households, separation/divorce, absentee fathers and extramarital affairs, if your mind is still fixated on a heterosexual relationship construct as the only way to go, then you are approaching obsolescence, if not deeply lost in denial. You need to open your eyes beyond convention to see that alternatively structured families have existed since the beginning of time.

Is parenthood the only way to happiness?

Why am I still pitied because I (supposedly) will never have a family? I always wonder if people speak with this much insensitivity to infertile couples. Do they not know that same-sex couples have a multitude of options if they choose to have children? There are donors and surrogates and adoptions, to name a few. 

Also, are people’s lives automatically invalid and unhappy just because they don’t have children? I know many happy straight couples who enjoy their decision to be child-free, and they are far from lonely and loveless. And just because same-sex couples cannot accidentally get pregnant doesn’t mean they won’t purposely reproduce. Having to go through extra steps only means that every single child brought into a family with gay parents is wanted. How often can you truly say that about the offspring of heterosexual unions?

We spend so much time telling young women that their purpose does not have to revolve solely around marriage and motherhood, yet we make them feel abnormal if that’s not a solid part of their plan. We tell young men to enjoy their lives before having children, but begrudge them if they choose to never cross that path. It sounds to me like we need to make up our minds about how we raise our kids. Do we want them to explore their full potential and follow whatever their heart desires, but only on the condition that it eventually lands where we want?  

Homosexuality is a sin?

“I have nothing against gay people, but the Bible says it’s a sin,” someone always seems to remind me. These types often conveniently forget that pre-marital sex, contraception, and masturbation are also all sins that they don’t mind committing. In fact, biblical text and religious teachings are much clearer about the latter offenses than with the vague mention of gay sex. I would be so much more in awe of people who used their Holy Book and followed it completely without question. Oh wait, sorry, is the fact that you masturbate a personal issue that is none of my business? Funny how my bedroom practices are somehow your concern!

I always hear straight people defend their own biases by bragging about how many gay friends they have. Many claim to support gay rights, but when faced with the possibility of having a gay child or family member, they can’t be too quick to want to nip it in the bud like it’s their duty to rid them of this defect. It doesn’t take a genius to know that complete acceptance must first include the people you love. We need to ask — is homosexuality really okay with you, or only if it exists outside your home?

Maybe the root of unchanging (or regressing) views towards the gay and lesbian community lies in the treatment of homosexuality as “otherness,” something that’s only seen on television and in the movies, as something that is laughable or temporary, or in beauty parlors, parades, or in other people’s homes, instead of in our everyday lives. Who in this day and age doesn’t have a gay relative or coworker? Yet when confronted with one of our own, we treat gayness as a disease or a condition that should be tolerated like a disability or cured like an STD, instead of a reality that is as inconsequential as the color of a child’s hair or his preference for cookies over candy — qualities that are, in fact, unique and should be celebrated. 

Even if you’re like that

How many times have I been told, “You’re so lucky to have friends even if you’re like that” (suggesting I deserve less), or insulted with “Be grateful that we’ve accepted you for what you are” (like it’s a favor or a debt).  Wow, thank you! I’m so honored you accept me, dirty little immoral me, rug-munching sinful me, child-free unconventional embarrassing me. Screw that!

As gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders, we also need to start treating ourselves with higher regard. We need to stop accepting discrimination as a given, we need to stop apologizing for who we are and how we dress or act, and we need to stop acting like we’re begging to be accepted, because we’re not. (READ: Study: Gays who come out are less stressed)

MARCHING ON. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Manila Pride March, 2002. Have things changed for gays and lesbians since? Photo by Kia Sison

The way I’ve always seen it is that gay people will continue to live their fabulous lives with or without your approval. We will be good citizens, build our families, and surpass our challenges regardless of your input or the inequities you continue to impose on us. It is our intolerant family members, friends and acquaintances who will miss out. They will never know what’s closest to our hearts if they choose to not be a part of it. They will continue to raise children to be hateful and bigoted, or worse, they will teach their child that who they are will cause them loneliness, misery and eternal damnation. I’m not sure there is a greater sin than that. 

Here’s to hoping that in the next 15 years we’ll see the end to these misconceptions, because I’m sure I’m not alone in the exhaustion of correcting stagnant minds. –


Shakira Andrea Sison currently works in the financial industry while dabbling in several unrelated projects and interests. She is a veterinarian by education and was managing a retail corporation in Manila before relocating to New York in 2002. Follow her on Twitter: @shakirasison.

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