One night, Paula surreptitiously entered her room. In her right hand was her public administration books while on her left hand was her crown from winning a fiesta-wide beauty competition. She thought that 2:00 A.M. was already safe to hide her true color but her father caught him. She was placed inside an empty sack of rice, she was humiliated, and she was bitten until she fell unconscious. Paula was his screen name; his real name is Ronelo Jr. According to him, he was a girl trapped inside a man’s body. This is a real story. And Ronelo Jr. (Paula) is only one of possibly millions of gays who are still inside their closets – afraid.
The Global Divide on Homosexuality
Based from a study conducted by Pew Research Center in the United States, it revealed that acceptance of homosexuality is particularly widespread in countries where religion is less central in people’s lives. These are also among the richest countries in the world. These countries include United States of America, Canada, Spain, Germany, France, Britain, Australia and Argentina.
Meanwhile, publics in Africa and in predominantly Muslim countries remain among the least accepting of homosexuality. In sub-Saharan Africa, at least nine-in-ten in Nigeria (98%), Senegal (96%), Ghana (96%), Uganda (96%) and Kenya (90%) believe homosexuality should not be accepted by society.
Status of gays in PH
In a report released by the Inquirer.net, it was revealed that the Philippines is the most gay-friendly in the world. It is on top of the high religiosity index the Philippines got in a different survey. However, despite of these statistics, it is still saddening to note that many of gays in the Philippines are still closeted, unable to actualize their true potentials.
“LGBT students in the Philippines are often the targets of ridicule and even violence,” said Ryan Thoreson, a fellow in the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch. “And in many instances, teachers and administrators are participating in this mistreatment instead of speaking out against discrimination and creating classrooms where everybody can learn.” – https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/06/21/philippines-lgbt-students-face-bullying-abuse
Why it is so hard to come out?
The Philippines proudly boasts to be the only Christian nation in Asia. More than 86 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. (asiasociety.org/education/religion-philippines) This number exerts a heavy pressure to members of the third sex wherein, gays are perceived as immoral and sinners. More often than not, being gay, are synonymous linked with lewdness, contagious diseases and insanity.
This is expected from the church. Their dogmas are painful to take. See for example: If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13).
Here’s an argument I want to place forward. Homosexuality is not a choice, it is a gift, a predisposition from the same God these judgmental religions are kneeling to. We cannot rely on the book of Leviticus, with due all respect, to generalize that gays are lower class citizens. Leviticus cannot decide the fate of homosexuals. The book of Leviticus and other historical records were made before we clearly understood the science of homosexuality.
What our religious institution failed to consider is the fact that the spirit of the Bible for example, is to love one another, give each other respect and accept one another. In my humble point of view, our biblical doctrines must be interpreted to give effect to the universal theme of our religion, which is love and inclusion. We cannot cherry-pick biblical lines to inflict intimidation or to effect discrimination. It is a sin to judge a person based on his or her gender-preference.
Filipinos highly value the presence of their families more than anything. Regardless of the liberal influence they have gotten from the west, the family remained the basic unit of their society. In a traditional Filipino family, the father is considered the head and the provider of the family while the mother takes responsibility of the domestic needs and in charge of the emotional growth and values formation of the children.
It is reasonable to know that gays who were brought up by traditional Filipino families value the traditional thinking of their parents. What is unreasonable is that our parents are controlling our identity. For me, this is not family-rearing or values formation but blatant undue influence worst, slavery.
The Filipino family now must understand that being gay does not offend the traditional machismo concept especially of the head of the family. Being gay is not a sign of weakness or a sign of failure. See for example, a political family suppressed the real identity of a member of their family because of fear that people will not vote them. This mindset must be overthrown because it has no basis both in law and in life.
A family as defined in our family code is the fundamental unit of the society. One of the functions of a family is to rear socially aware, educated and effective members of the society. There is no express prohibition or duty imposed in our families to rear a STRAIGHT MAN. This interpretation is bereft of merit and does not hold water. It must be dismissed outright for lack of compassion. The foundation of Filipino family is love and understanding, regardless of gender preference, family members should accept gay members and help them grow.
Coming out in the Philippines is very difficult. Every time, I hear confessions from friends, I can’t help myself but to weep. But weeping is the least thing we can do. They are humans too. They also have human rights. As what Hilary Clinton said “Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
We must constantly speak that homosexuality does not translate to immorality. Immorality is not based on gender; immorality is defined through acts not by gender preference.
Religion has no say to dictate our happiness and fate. Religious dogmas are mere guides to inform us that there is a higher being capable of loving us. If a specific religion campaigns against gays, one has no choice but to dismiss their claims. We believe in God, and our God is loving; discriminating is not a form of love.
We have a great work to do if we want to build a true gender-inclusive society. We must be courageous enough like a lion to advance what we think is right and just. The best thing we can do is to listen, to support and to accept them as who they are. It is incumbent upon us to uphold and protect their rights.
There is no other option than to helping these gays gain enough conviction to stand and say, I am who I am.
We should tell the likes of Paula that he is not alone.