Many years ago, I asked one of my friends who happens to be gay if he felt that being gay had reached a point where it was so well accepted that it was no longer “a big deal.”
“No,” he told me. “We still have a long way to go.”
“But there are so many gay characters on mainstream TV and film,” I said, and proceeded to mention Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding and Eric McCormack in Will and Grace – the characters that personified what every girl already knew she needed in her life: a gay best friend.
I even threw in examples in local entertainment.
“Yes, but that is only one aspect of the LGBT experience. It is only one facet and in a way, because we are gay, we are boxed into being only entertainers, comedians, or parloristas,” my friend explained.
“There is nothing wrong with those jobs,” he went on to explain. “But once we are appreciated, respected, and can be anything we want to be without reference to our sexual orientation, then we can see some kind of equality. Right now, we are only being tolerated.”
Then he said something I will never forget: “Tolerance is not acceptance, Ana.”
Tolerance vs. acceptance
Over time and over the course of my work as a journalist, I heard many stories about the LGBT experience that made my friend’s words “tolerance is not acceptance” echo in my mind.
That conversation would play back in my head when gay friends told me about their parents’ reaction to them coming out: “Ok lang na maging bading ka, ‘wag ka lang magbo-boyfriend, ever (It’s okay to be gay, just don’t get a boyfriend, ever).” (READ: Is the Philippines really gay-friendly?)
It was a statement that I found odd since you would never tell your straight child not to find get into a relationship, ever. (READ: Dear parent whose child has just come out)
Other variations would be: “Okay lang na bading ka, ‘wag ka lang magbibihis babae or magma-make up (It’s okay to be gay. Just don’t dress up as a woman or start putting on make-up).”
It was conditional acceptance. It was tolerance.
When an LGBT person is told it’s okay to be gay and that “You’d make a great hairdresser or comedian,” the latent message is: Don’t aspire to be anything more. Your sexual orientation has decided your fate for you.
Spoken from a female perspective, it harks back to the days when women were told, “You’re a woman so your place is in the kitchen – preferably barefoot and pregnant.”
Which brings me to this whole Manny debacle and his “worse than animals” statement.
Many have said that Manny is entitled to his own opinion. We should not force our personal views on him. That remains absolutely true.
A few years ago, when Manny first made his view on homosexuality known, the LGBT community and their supporters did not rise with fists in the air. At that time, he was expressing an opinion that he is entitled to.
This time is different.
This time, his statement made with analogies to animals and loaded with repulsion (mas masahol pa) was an opinion of hate. It was loaded with condemnation.
Charity vs governance
I once interviewed Manny about an award that he received. Apart from his being a champion athlete, the award recognized his public service.
I was tempted to ask him about his many absences in congressional sessions, but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Instead, I asked him to tell me about his specific programs for the people of Sarangani.
He replied by saying that the right hand does not need to know what the left is doing (or something like that), that he has helped many people already and God knows that.
Not exactly a good soundbite.
Later, an award representative attempted to provide details by explaining that Manny had paid the tuition of many needy students, given homes to those who had no roof over their heads, and bought carabaos and boats badly needed by the farmers and the fishermen.
Manny gives handouts that people will be grateful for as long as they keep coming.
It is charity at its best, but far from the role of good governance to make productive and self-reliant citizens.
Governance involves long-term planning and strategies to meet the goals of social mobility and social justice.
Governance means empowering, educating, and training constituents and by doing so, bringing them to the point where they no longer need assistance.
By moving people up the social ladder, local governments can work on another set of people who can be trained, educated, and empowered to be productive and self-reliant citizens, and hopefully start a cycle of upward mobility.
Confusion and public office
That interview with Manny left me with the conclusion that he was confusing charity for governance, like he was confusing his tolerance for the LGBT community as acceptance.
Why does all this even matter?
Because Manny is a public official. He is in a position to draft laws and policies that will have the power to either oppress and limit constituents or empower and liberate them. Because he is running for higher office and may be put in a position with even more political latitude.
And when he compared the LGBT community to animals, he was openly discriminatory and hateful. There is no place in public office for such hatred and discrimination.
There are lessons to be learned here. Tolerance looks very different from acceptance. Charity is far from the ideals of good governance. And being a world champion athlete is worlds apart from being a competent and fair legislator.
Achievements and accolades in the ring are not transferable to the halls of congress – or the Senate. It simply does not work that way.
Manny just proved what we already knew from his Congress attendance record: he doesn’t deserve our vote. – Rappler.com