Archive | December, 2011

To the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Re: Article on Gay Rights

Dear Editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer,

 

Having relied on The Philippine Daily Inquirer as an essential source of information on Philippine politics, lifestyle, and business, I would like to commend the newspaper for continuing to cover stories that matter to Filipinos both in the Philippines and abroad, often with exceptional depth and quality.

Thus, given my past admiration, it is with utter disappointment that I write to strongly critique a recent article, entitled “CBCP Wants Anti-Discrimination Bill Cleansed of Provisions on Gay Rights”, published on December 7th, 2011. In this article, Nina Calleja discusses the CBCP’s opposition to the current Senate Bill 2814 (Anti-Ethnic, Racial or Religious Discrimination and Profiling Act of 2011). Although the bill has passed the third reading in the Senate, it still has to go through harmonizing through bicameral discussions. The CBCP thus wants the phrase “sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity” removed from inclusion as the bill goes through this harmonizing process.

 

My opposition to the article stems from the following reasons:

1) Given the article’s public nature, and its ability to influence debate regarding an issue with such high stakes, I found it offensive that Calleja chooses to ignore one side of the conversation. Thus, she does not interview anyone—political activists, legislators, and academics to name a few—that could possibly provide feedback regarding the reason for the bill’s inclusion of this phrase in the first place. Off the top of my head, I could already recount many people who could have discussed the issue with similar depth and complexity. If Calleja can claim that no other sources of this information were available at the time of the article’s writing, then that should have been stated in the article, to at least give the impression of balanced coverage. Yet this article, as seemingly straightforward as it is, nonetheless provides a biased reading of the bill, and the CBCP’s stance as a whole.

2) Related to this bias, I was a bit offended by the tone of the article, especially the use of the word “cleanse” in the title. This word presupposes that the bill was polluted, tainted, and made “dirty” (the oppositional word to cleanse by the way) with the inclusion of a non-discrimination phrase that includes women and LGBT identified individuals. How come Calleja did not use “remove”, “stripped”, “taken out” or any possible terms that could convey a similar message, without the overtly political tone? Rather than having myself be accused of being defensive, I’d like to return to the article, and point to the copious amounts of quotations, perspectives, and frameworks coming from the CBCP, without ANY other possible viewpoints being included from the other side. This to me is explicit proof of the article’s point, which is to sway a particular set of legislators and the population, towards its bias around the topic. Granted that anyone should be able to write an opinion in a newspaper, then I suggest that as the Editor, you should have included this article in the Opinion section, NOT the News section as it still currently sits in.

3) Finally, as an out Filipino gay man, as an Assistant Professor of Women and Gender Studies, as a Filipino living in the Philippines and abroad, and as someone who feels invested in the equal rights of women and LGBT Filipinos, I would like to provide a counter-discourse to what Calleja wrote.

A) I find it offensive that Calleja can include passages about our “choice”, about our “third sex”, and about how the threat of the bill’s rightfully “changing society” for the better, without a single gesture or awareness of the violence that these harmful statements enact on our community. During the recently concluded Philippine Gay Pride (December 1), I saw the commitment of our community in fighting the continued spread of discrimination for everyone, not just LGBT identified folks, and to fighting the continued lack of awareness about HIV/AIDS (which is why the parade was timed to coincide with World Aids Day). Thus, as a community, we also desire the non-discrimination of everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, class, and religion (which the bill would have still preserved). This is the ethical thrust of the current bill, which is why sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity” were included in the last version.

B) As you can see in the bill’s phrasing, the removal of non-discrimination based on sex and gender would then also exclude not only “sexual orientation” but also sex and gender discrimination itself. Does the CBCP want the continue disenfranchisement of women and men based on their gender and sex (and not just sexual orientation)? I highly doubt the CBCP can claim that they believe women should still be discriminated, and survive politically (even though it is a religious group primarily).

C) The role of a newspaper, aside from providing information, is to educate the population. Thus, balanced reporting, which we had so forcefully fought for amidst multiple regimes and dictatorship, need to be preserved at all costs. This article, and its clearly skewed perspectives, fails to do so. Thus, it needs to be retracted immediately.

Thanks for your time. And regardless of the outcome of this letter, I do hope it gets noted. I’d still like to read the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and teach it to my students. Some of that faith needs to be restored.

 

Sincerely,

 

Dr. Robert Diaz

Assistant Professor

Women and Gender Studies Program

Wilfrid Laurier University

Image from euronest

Posted in Personal, Politics, Religion, Society25 Comments

LGBT Pride March 2011: Putting the ‘Fun’ back in ‘Fundie’ (Again!)

The LGBT Pride March is one of the happiest days of the year for me.

Last year’s march, when my boyfriend and I suited up as Buttman and his Ladyboy Wonder, was great. It was one of my first major events with the Filipino Freethinkers, and the first time I ever photobombed a fundie and made out in public. FF even won Best Theme that night, although what our theme actually was still remains a mystery, even to us. Whatever it was, it was rewarding enough to be part of the celebration and show our love for the LGBT community. And make out in public.

A year later and FF is still putting the ‘fun’ in ‘fundie.’ We had a solid theme this time around: No Bigots, No Closets. We wanted to express our support for the newly established yet increasingly influential Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch, as well as the passage of the anti-discrimination bill. (As of this writing, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines wants the bill stripped of its gay rights provisions, which is downright stupid and incredibly infuriating.)

The team put together three closet costumes and named them Dogma, Authority, and Tradition, then had one FF-er march in each, acting out their discomfort and despair (which wasn’t that hard, since they were, you know, in a box). We also had our usual Bigot Bishops, and was also blessed with the presence of none other than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Once fundies were spotted on the route, these characters came a-runnin’ and made fresh batches of epic photobomb goodness. Good times all around.

 

The other groups had great gimmicks, too. A personal favorite were the brawny blushing brides of the Metropolitan Community Church of Quezon City (MCCQC). It was also the first time for our friends from Deaf Rainbow Philippines to participate, and even though they were few, I was happy to see them there.  I actually saw a lot of familiar faces from the 29 Steps event from a few months ago; it really goes to show that the LGBT community here is very tightly-knit and highly supportive of one another.

Rarely do I get to walk the streets of Manila surrounded by hordes of happy, fearless people. The march is really a party of the purest kind, where individuals, no matter how they define themselves, just come to have fun. Hopefully, in the near future, more and more folks — LGBTs and straight allies both — join in and allow this event to evolve into a far greater celebration of humanity than it already is.


Oh, and “Kiddie Kollege?” Seriously, people.

Photos c/o Michelle Keng, Garrick Bercero, and Troy Espiritu

Posted in Personal, Politics, Society2 Comments

Why LGBT People Must Get Personal with the Catholic Church

When Pope John Paul II formally apologized for the persecution of Galileo, it was an apology that took the Catholic Church more than 300 years to make.

If it also needs 300 years for the Catholic Church to apologize for the persecution of LGBT people, then there is no better time for LGBT activists to start working on this but today. And there is a great opportunity today to open minds and provide accurate information to refute the statements of Dr. Ligaya Anacta Acosta, regional director of Human Life International (HLI) Asia and Oceania, that appeared on two different articles.

In the article “Being portrayed as oppressed is best way to public sympathy, homosexual activists told,” Acosta asked the following questions:

“Are they really oppressed? We see many gays in the media… in fact, they lord it over [in the industry] so how can they say that they are being oppressed?”

I must say that this is perhaps the weakest, most misinformed reasoning that I have ever heard. The media is the last place Acosta should look at if she wants to have a glimpse of reality. This kind of reasoning is an insult to the couples who were almost declared persona non grata for committing their lives to each other. This reasoning is an insult to Hender Gercio who was denied the simple right to be addressed with the right pronoun in class. It is an insult to the gays and transgenders in Cebu who were attacked with pellet guns. It is a grave insult to the more than 141 LGBT Filipinos who were not only oppressed but killed because of hatred. Acosta must rethink her conclusions because they are based on a distorted version of reality. Otherwise, it would do her well to actually talk to the gay media personalities she is referring to and ask them what kind of oppression they had to go through (and are still going through) before reaching their current status.

Acosta has also claimed that the “homosexual revolution” is political as it is based on a “Marxist mold.” In the article “‘Homosexuals are born that way’ theory long debunked,” the article supports her claim with the following statement:

“Another significant incident in the history of the homosexual agenda was the removal of homosexuality from the list of mental disorders by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which turned out to be a political move rather than one based on findings of scientists.”

Acosta is then quoted as saying:

“Is homosexuality really normal? This all started in 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association, under intense pressure from gay groups, removed homosexuality from the list of mental disorders. But we have to take note that [the organization] never did say that [homosexuality] was normal,”

This is another case of picking out facts that conveniently support one’s argument while leaving out the rest of the evidence, thereby suggesting an imbalanced perspective.

According to Eric Manalastas of the Psychological Association of the Philippines, ”there are lots of studies that show being lesbian/gay is not a disorder.” Manalastas adds that this is “why the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) was revised — in response to better knowledge and growing understanding that the problem was not being gay/lesbian. Rather the problem was the stigma and discrimination faced by gay and lesbian people”

This also begs the question of how homosexuality was even included in that list to begin with. Acosta must present compelling scientific evidence to support the inclusion of homosexuality in that list. If she cannot, then it is irrelevant if the move to take homosexuality off the list is political in nature or not.

The truth is, the “Marxist mold” and the politics behind the LGBT movement are irrelevant to me when I can’t hold hands with my partner in public. To me, it is hardly political, it is personal. When children are bullied because of how they express their sexuality, it doesn’t matter to them what disorders are on the list of the American Psychiatric Association. To these children, it is hardly political, it is personal. When lesbians are raped to cure them of their “disease,” they don’t care much about how homosexual activists gain public sympathy. To these lesbians, it is hardly political, it is personal.

So stop referring to our activism as the “homosexual agenda” and start acknowledging our human rights. Don’t wait another 300 years before admitting you have been as wrong about us as you were about the universe 300 years ago. All it takes is a little love and compassion and you will see that our oppression is very real. Our oppression is very personal.

 

Read original article here | Read more from the same writer here

 

 

Posted in Politics, Religion, Society82 Comments

Shedding Light on “Dr.” Acosta’s Gay Discrimination Lecture

It’s been a while since we’ve last heard from Dr. Ligaya Acosta, who drew acclaim for her sold-out performance at last January’s RH Bill forum at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health. Everybody still remembers how her crazy antics had the audience rolling in the aisles…

Wait, what do you mean that was serious? Oh my.

In any case, Dr. Acosta’s at it again, but instead of more aneurysm-inducing presentations on the Reproductive Health Bill, she’s set her sights on the gay community. Ligaya goes through great lengths in her rhetoric to discuss the rising trend for gay rights, before attempting to dismiss its legitimacy.

I’ve taken the liberty of correcting her more salient points where necessary. After all, much like her, I would prefer to hear the truth of the matter ;)

Curing the “Disease”

Dr. Ligaya Anacta Acosta, regional director of Human Life International (HLI) Asia and Oceania told delegates to the “Philippines for Life” Congress that there is a need to alert the public about the campaign to promote homosexual practice, and to call people in all sectors— especially us in the Catholic Church — to make a firm and appropriate response and address different approaches available to men and women of homosexual inclination who wish to leave… the life of active homosexuality.”

Said “appropriate response” includes the use of conversion therapy from groups such as the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), which claims that it has means of curing homosexuality, as if it were a mental disorder.

The problem is, gay conversion therapy has long been debunked by the greater medical community. The British Medical Association (BMA) has declared conversion therapy to be harmful to patients, while the American Psychological Association (APA) has removed homosexuality from their list of mental disorders all the way back in 1975.

You’re probably wondering why a good doctor like Acosta would be advocating gays to undergo quack treatment to “cure” their condition. *Hint hint*: She’s not a medical doctor. Acosta’s HLI profile indicates that she has a Doctorate in Management, and Bachelor Degrees in Law and Social Work. Note the lack of certification in psychiatry, or even a graduate degree in psychology.

Discrimination? What Discrimination?

Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, she reminded everyone that healing can be and has been found after living a homosexual lifestyle, and that “every sign of discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Acosta noted that there is an agenda to advance homosexual rights by presenting gays as a discriminated minority.

Are homosexuals really discriminated against? Whether or not the answer is yes, presenting themselves as victims of oppression is one of the steps in advancing homosexual rights, ultimately to include the recognition of such rights by the law, she said.

Let’s humor Ligaya’s question, and see what a few minutes of Googling turns up:

  • The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) actively supported the passing of Proposition 8, which criminalized gay marriages in the State of California.
  • The Roman Catholic Church opposed the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which adds sexual orientation to existing anti-discrimination laws in the United States.
  • Catholic charities refused to allow gay couples to adopt children, and while receiving state money at that.
  • The CBCP threatened legal action for a gay wedding in Baguio…against a denomination that’s not even Catholic.

And these are just the Catholic cases. I have yet to cite the more recent examples from around the globe, such as Nigeria’s recent gay marriage ban, or Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill (which was in turn linked to anti-gay Christian fundamentalism.

So despite Ligaya’s baseless posturing, we have plenty of evidence to indicate that not only are gays being discriminated against, but that one of the groups responsible for this discrimination is the RCC itself. At least we now know why she’s being so evasive.

Starstruck

“Are they really oppressed? We see many gays in the media… in fact, they lord it over [in the industry] so how can they say that they are being oppressed?” Acosta asked a group of over 200 pro-life delegates.

While it is true that the appearance of gays like Vice Ganda in Philippine cinema can be seen as progress, it is also equally true that gays are still a discriminated minority that are the target of hate crimes. These two facts do not cancel each other out. As per the Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch, At least 32 were killed in 2011, and another 34 in 2010, with the victims being targeted because of their sexual orientation.

Following Ligaya’s logic, it’d be like saying it’s alright not to give a damn about the chronic problem of domestic violence our women face, or that 11 of them die each day because of birth complications, because we have Sarah Geronimo, KC Concepcion, Kim Chiu, and Shamcey Supsup in the spotlight.

Her reasoning is flawless!

Illegitimate

 Being true to the pro-abortion, pro-gay rights monicker given to him, the president has established an LGBT Month (LGBT stands for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders), appointed homosexuals as key officials in government, and carried out other measures that have ended up bestowing illegitimate rights on homosexual members of society.

What Acosta calls “illegitimate,” most people see as progress to a more tolerant society that grants gays the same rights as any other person. They’re in the same vein as the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the legalization of same-sex marriage in states such as New York, and the enactment of more comprehensive anti-discrimination and anti-bullying laws.

None of these measures grant any “special” or “illegitimate” privileges to the LGBT community. At the very least, they provide them with same rights as everybody else, and ensure that they don’t have to live in fear of being discriminated against.

Ligaya’s attempt to make the matter of gay equality an issue is tantamount to her crying over the fact that blacks can finally sit anywhere they damn want on a bus.

Gay Recruitment

“Hindi lang po ‘yan sa US because the policies of the United States of America affect the whole world… It’s actually also part of population control. If they cannot force us to legalize abortion or massively use contraception, then [they] promote homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle. Start at kindergarten… and therefore we have to know what is the agenda.”

Yes. Because as everybody knows, going gay is the perfect alternative if your girlfriend refuses to let you do it because you’re not wearing rubber.

For the readers who’ve seen the Harvey Milk film, Ligaya’s “Gays recruiting your children in schools” argument should be familiar. It was the same mantra chanted by the Save our Children coalition founded by singer and notorious anti-gay bigot Anita Bryant.

The coalition was established to help repeal a Florida ordinance that made it illegal to discriminate based on an individual’s sexual orientation. And much like Bryant, Ligaya has yet to present any evidence that gays are indeed turning our schools into recruitment centers for their cause.

New World Order

“I have to tell you that there is a huge homosexual network all over the world, and although constituting a minority only of less than 3% of the population, we have to know that the homosexual movement is highly organized and very well-financed,” Acosta pointed out.

For once, Ligaya is right. Sort of.

There are a growing number of movements around the world that are advocating the eradication of discrimination against the LGBT community. One of the biggest being the United Nations, which passed a resolution this year declaring equal rights for all people, regardless of their gender identity.

There’s also the It Gets Better Project, established to provide moral support for LGBT teens who are being bullied and discriminated against in school because of their sexual orientation.

By contrast, Catholic-affiliated anti-gay groups such as the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has been losing legal ground over its accusations of experiencing harassment while advocating gay discrimination; One incident involved one of its members being given mean looks as he handed out anti-gay pamphlets.

And if Ligaya really wants to push the matter of highly organized and well-funded groups with an agenda, she doesn’t have to look further than her own Human Life International. Over its history, HLI has been knee-deep in scandals regarding the accuracy of its research and its blatant…well…insanity.

Here’s a few choice words from Father Thomas Euteneuer, HLI’s president from 2000 to 2010:

Fundamentally, Harry Potter indoctrinates young souls in the language and mechanics of the occult. The fact that the fake curses and hexes are not able to be reproduced because the “ingredients” are pure fantasy is beside the point. Curses are not pure fantasy. The fact that “curse” as such, and other elements of witchcraft, are presented in a glorified state throughout the Harry Potter series means that our kids’ minds are being introduced to and imbued with occult imagery.

Euteneuer subsequently left HLI, under a cloud of suspicion that he had sexually abused a woman he was performing exorcism duties for.

If there is anything we can take away from people like Ligaya, it is that they are running scared. They are terrified of the fact that in the past few years, several landmark decisions have been made that are slowly eroding the layer upon layer of lies that the Catholic Church sits upon.

Posted in Personal, Religion, Society7 Comments

The Catholic Church Doesn’t Get ‘Occupy’

 

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines recently announced that it will have its own movement, purposefully echoing the Occupy Wall Street Movement in the United States. The movement, dubbed “Kilusang 99%,” was described by Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo as a “social reform movement” about “making the poor the center of development and making the government accountable for the welfare of the majority.”

As if to preemptively deflect accusations of being against the Aquino administration due to their historic chumminess with the former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (who is now facing accusations of electoral sabotage), Pabillo said that Kilusang 99% was not directed at President Noynoy Aquino or any particular leader. The movement has several demands outlined in a letter by Pabillo: agrarian reform, urban land reform and housing, ancestral domain reform, and fisheries reform.

To be sure, a campaign advocating these demands is laudable (though it is definitely not encouraging that Pabillo himself calls the movement a “crusade”). Certainly, capitalism in this nation and in the world has been enjoyed on the backs of the working class who are coerced into unfair labor by the rich and powerful, comprised of less than 1% of the human population. And, in fairness to Pabillo, he seems particularly serious about pursuing economic reforms, especially with Hacienda Luisita. He even supported the Senate hearings investigating the corrupt “Pajero bishops” of his Church. However, what the Church itself doesn’t seem to get is why the Occupy Movement began in the first place. And, in branding its own movement with allusions to Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, it presents in Kilusang 99% a farce almost too comical to believe.

What the Occupy Movement is

The Occupy Movement is not just a list of demands. In fact, one of the most common criticisms of the Occupy Wall Street Movement is that its demands are not clear or concrete. At its core, the Occupy Movement aims to shine a light on society and criticize what it has become. It aims to redraw the social contract and end the abuses of the wealthy upper class. The Church’s Kilusang 99% resembles this only superficially and misses the point of the Movement entirely.

The Church is not powerless; it is not poor or even for the interests of the poor—relief of earthly suffering (the only kind of suffering that is provably worthy of attention). That it seeks to be identified with the common man only emphasizes how out of touch the Church is as it grasps at any form of relevance in a world growing increasingly skeptical of its authority and its aims.

The Church is with the 1%

The richest 1% of the world have failed to understand that, in their pursuit of wealth and power, they have only done so at the expense of the working class who buy their products, who toil in their factories, who invest in their banks, who rent their land, who make loans they bet against, who purchase their medical insurance only to be denied treatment, who periodically bail them out when their system inevitably collapses. In their refusal to give back to the society from which they have enjoyed a disproportionate amount of spoils, they promote the fantasy that all that they reap is the result of the sweat of their brow. They blame their victims for their suffering while expecting them to continue on playing their rigged games.

In this way, the Church takes after the 1% more than it does the 99%. Like the 1% who perceive themselves as victims, the Church also lacks the self-awareness that would have deterred them from even attempting to represent the 99%. Like the wealthy bankers who gave themselves bonuses after the crash of the markets, the Church refuses to believe that it is they who are deserving of criticism and blame. Like the 1% who pervert democracy and buy their way into government, the unelected Church bullies our elected officials into legislating its dogma and forcing Filipinos to bend to their worldview. Like the 1% who hawk the delusion that hard work will always bring about wealth, the Church scams people into believing that suffering in this life is acceptable, even desirable, as a means to the afterlife. And, like the 1% who enjoy exemption from criminal prosecution, the Church is able to pursue an extrajudicial system to shuffle around its rapist employees and hide them away from the law.

The Roman Catholic Church is exactly the worst kind of organization to associate themselves with a movement dedicated to distributing power more equally. The Church fashions itself as the sole arbiter of morality and refuses to acknowledge even the remote possibility that it might be wrong in the things that it chooses to value. It focuses power into the hands of a few elderly men and peddles their opinions as those of God. It seeks to suppress dissent and criticism by vilifying their opposition as evil and not even human. It strives to deny rights to human beings by calling them unnatural and disordered.

Kilusang 99%: Anti-Authority Authoritarians?

The Occupy Movement is the cry of the common man against a system broken beyond repair. What the Church demands is that we all go back to listening to them, like we used to. The Occupy Movement is everything that the Church would like to be perceived as, but is not and can never be—a movement that calls for liberty and justice for all of humanity.

This is not to say that the Church’s motivations are malicious or purely self-serving. Far from it. I earnestly believe that, with Kilusang 99%, the Church aims only to help those truly in need. But, as even in its most well-intentioned of teachings, it is woefully misguided and fundamentally disconnected from reality. The Church doesn’t realize that it itself is part of the culture of the so-called 1%. It is exactly the kind of institution that requires demolition from the edifice of a truly free society.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement is an expression of anger and exasperation with the status quo. It decries the impunity enjoyed by those in power. It condemns the gaming of the system by the rich and their exploitation of the majority in order to fuel their narcissistic power plays. It laments the curtailment of liberty of the people in the name of economic progress for the few. The Occupy Movement is anti-authority—an ideology that can never be credibly advocated by any revealed religion, which are all based on arguments from authority. The Occupy Movement seeks to maximize liberty by providing for all the same opportunities to flourish and to determine their own direction in life, without interference from those in power. It takes an imbecilic lack of introspection to ever confuse the ideals of Occupy Movement, either in the United States, in the Philippines, or anywhere in the hundreds of cities currently in outrage against the powers that be, with that of the oppressive, conservative, and intolerant Roman Catholic Church.

Image Credit: Associated Press

Posted in Politics, Religion2 Comments

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