Respecting LGBTQIA, celebrating pride
Note: Last June 24, 2016, I received the Bahaghari Media Awards given by Rainbow Rights, Philippine, Outrage Magazines and the US Embassy for mainly for my Rappler columns supporting LGBT persons. This is a slightly revised version of my acceptance speech.
Thank you for agreeing to introduce me as I suggested: “an ordinary human being who is trying to be decent.” There is Google after all, for those who might want to know a bit more about me.
I felt such an introduction would be a great segue for the main theme of my acceptance speech, something I will return to shortly.
In preparation for this, I looked at other lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual awarding ceremonies and noted that a common theme would be to celebrate how wonderful LGBTQIA persons are. To celebrate, as the community says, PRIDE.
I agree that this is an important message. Whether one is a seasoned activist or an isolated transman or transwoman in a small and remote community, an LGBTQIA person has to deal with the daily oppression of stigma that ranges from the slights that begin with, “a lot of my friends are LGBT but…” to the fear of becoming a victim or actually being a victim of a hate crime whether one is in a bar in Olongapo or Orlando. So there is sense in saying that LGBTQIA people are wonderful and that one can take pride in being part of this community.
Just like everyone
But I thought about going in a reverse direction and emphasizing merely the ordinary. Certainly the child bullied because of gender expressions that run afoul of community norms wishes only to be ordinary, not to stand out.
Certainly every LGBTQIA person is tired of having to decide to come out even when they are already out, to the next person they meet, the next class they attend, the next place of employment, etc. It is tiring to have to make sexual orientation or gender identity an outstanding feature of one’s face to the world. Even if one chooses not to, there is always the gossip and then someone who will ask.
And are we not all tired of having to lead such exemplary lives so that we can prove to ourselves, our families, our communities and the world that we are not abnormal or criminal or deranged? Aren’t we so tired of living exemplary lives because we are afraid we will disgrace the movement and the community if we do anything wrong?
Are we not sick of the people so ready to condemn our movement and the activists because we have disagreements and sometimes those disagreements become really emotional and end up being hurtful and divisive? Critics and policy-makers always ask us for example, how can they grant us respect or protections or freedoms if we ourselves cannot get our act together?
So I instead want to make the point that LGBTQIA people are ordinary people like everyone else. In short, like everyone else LGBTQIA persons and groups are as diverse as any other group. Some of us are psychopaths and some are real heroes. Some of are smart and good looking and cultured. And some of are..er..not so much! Some are religious, some are not. Some like politics and some do not. And so and so forth ad infinitum.
And LGBTQIA movements and leaders are just as virtuous and as flawed as all others.
We need to remind ourselves of what human rights mean. No one needs to prove or do anything to receive the full range of guaranteed freedoms and protections. Even the worst person carries these freedoms and protections by merely being a person.
In a just world no one needs to be or prove anything to have the simple respect and equality the LGBTQIA movement seeks. Critics of all movements always ask why groups, women, LGBTQIAs, indigenous peoples, etc, wish to be treated specially. But we want no special treatment, we just want to be treated like everyone else. And that includes being allowed to be as different from another person of the same sexual orientation and gender identity as one is to another heterosexual person.
I am proud to receive this award and at the same time feel undeserving. It should not be unusual for a person to respect another person’s inherent rights. It should not be unusual for someone who declares themselves an activist to move towards compassion and solidarity with other movements and with every person who suffers from stigma, oppression and exploitation. That should be the norm.
Self-centered is abnormal
Frankly, what I find abnormal are the people who insist that who they are, what they are like, what they were born to, what they are comfortable with, should define normality. It should be abnormal for people to insist on homogenizing human differences and that homogeneous ideal should be what they find comfortable. Abnormal to be so lacking in basic human decency and compassion that they would call LGBTQIA people immoral or sinners or criminals. Abnormal that because they are the majority, therefore it is OK to stigmatize LGBTQIA people.
In short I am someone who believes that LGBTQIA people are ordinary folk who possess human rights and therefore must be given all the freedoms and protections. I am an ordinary person who strives to be decent. And in so doing finds it astounding that anyone should discriminate against LGBTQIA persons.
I accept this award in the name of all the truly ordinary persons who, because they have not been socialized in the games of privilege, are behaving like normal human beings. Ordinary, normal people like myself are not homophobes and we are not bigots. – Rappler.com