Gay and proud in June and all year round

Fritzie Rodriguez
We get tired, too, of trying to explain our advocacy, but it’s during these times that we become more determined in winning the battle against discrimination

In the Philippines, June marks the death of summer.

Jeepney floors are slippery with mud and drippy umbrellas. Kids are back at school, hence the crowded National Bookstores.

June 12th is the day Aguinaldo declared our “independence” from Spain, but only to be ruled yet again by the Americans, the Japanese, and later on, the Filipino elites – but let’s not go there. Save the story for another day.

Weddings are also popular this month because of Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage.

What else happens in June?

Ah, yes, rainbow flags are erected here and there.

A bit of history

STONEWALL RIOTS. The historic Stonewall Riots in New York inspired LGBTs and gender rights advocates around the world to finally stand up for what is right. Graphic by Mara Mercado/Rappler.com

It was June 28, 1969. A rumble between the police and LGBTs (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) broke out in Stonewall Inn, a secret gay bar in New York.

A secret – because the 1960s was a difficult time for LGBTs in the US and elsewhere. Suspected “homosexual spaces” were often raided.

Back then, homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder under the American Psychiatric Association.  It was only in 1973 when homosexuality was taken out of the list. And it was only in 1990 when the World Health Organization followed suit.

Imagine that.

New York prohibited the sale of alcohol to homosexuals in bars because they were deemed “disorderly.” Many gay bars, however, still operated without a liquor license. Police raids were common, but so were bribes.

Over 200 people were present when the police – working undercover – announced the raid. They were shutting down Stonewall.

Many were scared of being arrested or publicly humiliated – such were the conditions at that time.

But the Stonewall patrons stood against the police. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Hate

HOMOPHOBIA. Bashers seeking to convert marchers show up every year during the pride parade. File photo by Karen Cruz

The Stonewall riots inspired LGBT movements across the world. The Philippines, however, took its time in translating this inspiration into action.

Until today, I say it’s still a work in progress.

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the Philippines organized its first ever Pride March in 1994 at the Quezon City Memorial Circle led by Pro-Gay (Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines).

It was also the first in Asia.

In the same year, the Catholic Church stabbed a cross down the “sinful” hearts of Pinoy homosexuals. I was only two years old at that time, but now at 21, I feel the wound deep in my chest.

The Philippines participated in the 1994 International Conference on Population Development (ICPD) held in Egypt, in which issues on reproductive health and rights were discussed for the first time.

The Philippines was to file the Reproductive Health Bill in 1999 and was to wait for more than a decade before it finally became a law.

The Catholic Church burnt files from the ICPD and called it “an agreement with the devil.” Then President Fidel Ramos supported family planning, but the Catholic Church was and still is against the use of artificial contraception. This created a rift between the State and the Church.

Cardinal Jaime Sin accused the Philippine government of promoting “abortion, homosexuality, lesbianism, sexual perversion, condoms, and artificial contraception.”

He was also quoted as saying that a “world of perversity” is created when “two homosexuals or lesbians living together will be recognized as a family,” according to an article published in 1994 by the Union of Catholic Asian News.

With this, “some” leaders (and their followers) proved their twisted [mis]understanding and disrespect for gender rights. I say “some” because there are Catholics who take a different – more logical – stand on the issue.

Filipinos recently won the long battle for the Reproductive Health Law. Pinoy LGBTs, however, are still fighting for the Anti-Discrimination Bill which has been pending in Congress for years.

Both policies have been challenged on the grounds of “morality,” mainly stemming from religion-based arguments. Our Constitution clearly states the separation of State and Church, but Philippine reality says otherwise.

In 1993, a homophobic ministry called “Bagong Pag-asa” (New Hope) was established. It helps people “step out of homosexuality” in the name of god. They try to convert homosexuals “back” to normal, which to them, is heterosexuality.

The ministry says that gays are unhappy people in need of guidance.

Unsurprisingly, the ministry is lauded by the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines.

Bagong Pag-asa is not alone in this pursuit of “defeating” and defining homosexuality; in fact, there’s a whole global alliance doing that.

On the other hand, the American Psychological Association condemns “conversion or reparative therapy” since such irrational and unscientific practices assume that there’s something wrong with homosexuals.

The Psychological Association of the Philippines also stresses that homosexuality is normal, just like heterosexuality.

Homophobia goes beyond the infamous conflict between science and religion. It’s really simple – it’s about human rights.

Let’s not ask what the cure to homosexuality is, instead let’s work on the cure for homophobia – education and compassion.

Why pride?

WHAT TO DO. It might take a long time before more inclusive Philippine policies are made. A good first step we can do today is to end the hate. Photo taken during the 2013 UP Pride March. Photo from Buena Bernal/Rappler.com

It has been said over and over, and I’ll say it again, there’s nothing wrong with us just because society labels us “differently” from heterosexuals.

Some people might never understand the need for gender equality – and when I say gender equality, it’s not just about females and males.

Misinformation breeds hate.

There are two biological sexes: female, male. But sexual orientation is different; this depends on whom you’re attracted to – some people are attracted to the opposite sex, some to the same sex, and some to both.

This is not an abnormality.

Gender identity is, again, different from biological sex. It’s how one identifies oneself. A transwoman is someone born biologically male, but identifies as a woman; while a transman is born biologically female, but identifies as a man.

Whenever articles like this are published, hateful comments always seem to follow.

I feel sad whenever people say that LGBT advocates are forcing homosexuality down everybody’s throats. Given this flawed logic, I return the question to those who are against homosexuals – aren’t you shoving heterosexuality up everyone’s ass?

Pardon my language.

I’ve already lost respect for people who say that they support gender equality, and yet, they go on talking about how bad same-sex relationships are, how unnatural homosexuality is, how people’s taxes shouldn’t go to policies or programs supporting LGBTs.

As if we’re incapable or unworthy of love. As if we’re not humans. As if we’re not paying taxes.

Do you know why we need the Anti-Discrimination Law in the first place? Because we don’t have the same rights as everybody else.

We can’t have the legal benefits of marriage; we can’t jointly adopt children; we don’t have the same social protection benefits (i.e., different PhilHealth and SSS arrangements); we are either taunted or made invisible by the media; some of us are discriminated at school as children, at work as adults, in society as a whole; some of us are bullied, raped, fired, and killed.

Don’t blame the gay kid who fell into depression and eventually committed suicide, blame the people who treated him with disrespect.

The whole point of the LGBT movement is acceptance, not tolerance.

It’s not a competition. It’s not homosexuality versus heterosexuality. You don’t have to pick sides. Again, it’s about equal human rights.

Sometimes I just feel too tired to even try to explain our advocacy; too powerless to reach out to more Filipinos.

But it’s during these times that we should feel even more determined to win this battle against ignorance and discrimination.

This is why we need to be proud of who we are because the rest of the country seems to be ashamed of us.

There’s no Heterosexual Pride Month because the world already celebrates their heterosexuality in all aspects of life – in laws, in the media, in work, in schools. They are already embraced as the norm.

Meanwhile, LGBTs are still frowned upon.

It’s 2014, you’d think that things have already improved so much since the Stonewall Riots, since the first Asian Pride March in the Philippines, since more LGBTs started coming out, since the academe started paying more attention.

But the Philippines is still confused.

It wants to change, but it’s stuck in the past – in its patriarchal and heteronormative state of mind.

Why pride? Because of all of these contradictions.

The contrast between logic and myth; acceptance and tolerance; love and hate; equality and injustice.

Lastly, don’t forget to be proud that you’re enlightened and empowered enough to choose to never give up. – Rappler.com

Fritzie Rodriguez is a writer at Rappler. Yes, she is a lesbian.

This article is republished from FEIST, an online magazine for women who love women, with permission.

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