It’s the most colorful time of the year again, and the Filipino Freethinkers will definitely be there! Join the FF contingent at the LGBT Pride March, held this year in Malate, Manila. FF will be marching for those who live in countries that openly oppress its LGBT communities.
Just look for the Filipino Freethinkers’ contingent in Remedios Circle, or contact 09273233532. You can’t miss our huge-ass tarp and placards! Forward, march!
Registration & Assembly: 1:00pm to 2:30pm (Remedios Circle)
Parade: 3:00pm to 5:00pm
Program: 5:30pm to 7:00pm (Orosa – Nakpil, Malate)
If you can, bring donations for the Yolanda relief operations, which may be in cash or in kind. Hygiene kits, in particular, are highly needed. Donations will be received during the event by Amnesty International representatives.
Yes, I chose to be gay. Now before you accuse me of ignorance or political incorrectness, and lecture me on how dangerous and irresponsible this statement is, please hear what I have to say. Consider this my second “coming out.”
An overwhelming majority of the literature I’ve come across with claim that I did not choose this life. Why would I, if all it brings is suffering? Lady Gaga has honored my tribe by singing to the world that I was “born this way.” But the people on the other side of the table claim that it is a political strategy. This is the minority who claim that no one is born gay, that being gay is an option.
I have read enough material, and have debated with enough people to say that both camps have valid and invalid arguments. However, I don’t like the idea of other people speaking on my behalf. So, like any freethinking individual driven by critical analysis and introspection, I had to evaluate my own personal experience in order to answer the question: “Was I born this way or did I choose to be gay?”
Obviously, it was not an easy question to answer as it required that I knew exactly what made me “gay.” Is it the fact that I am attracted to men? Is it that I act upon this attraction and have sex with men? If I am only attracted to men but do not act upon the attraction, does it make me “less gay?” The exercise raised more questions than answers. But the more questions I had to confront, the more I was convinced. I chose to be gay.
It was one summer night when I made the choice. I had just gone on a date as a “confused” teenager with another guy. I was 18. Lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, I thought of the possible consequences of my actions. I thought about what it would take for me to choose that path. I thought of what to say to my family. And after sorting out my thoughts and my feelings, I was no longer confused. At that precise moment in my life, I had made a choice. I thought to myself, “Yes, I am gay. And yes, I’m gonna do this!” He eventually became my first boyfriend. It was a result of my choice.
I could have chosen a different path. I could have chosen to dump him and raise a heteronormative family. He would have become part of a “phase” that I “experimented” with. Perhaps the world might have never known about that lovely skeleton in my closet. I would, most likely, still be attracted to men, because that is one part of me that I didn’t choose. But other than that, I could be showing all signs of being straight, in all its manly glory. Would my “straightness” then be questioned because of my remaining attraction to men? This raises the question, “What makes you straight?” Attraction alone is definitely not what makes me gay. The totality of my being gay today is a result of innate traits and conscious choices I made along the way.
This could easily turn into a debate over definitions. And this debate will surely continue even after both camps reach a conclusion. I doubt that bigots will cease to be bigots if we find conclusive proof that Lady Gaga is right. Sure, some of us did not choose this. But so what if some of us did? If I choose to love another man and not a woman, what logical, rational, scientific explanation do you have to say that it is the wrong choice for me?
Again, this is my personal experience. It may not apply to other gay people out there. But for people like me, the discussion will no longer be about whether it was a choice or not. It will be about why the choice should not even be a topic of discussion.
This week, we talk about Congressman Grex Lagman’s proposed bill that would recognize the property rights of same-sex couples. Then, we talk about superstitions and the consequences of teaching them to children.
Albay representative Edcel Lagman Jr. recently filed a bill providing for property rights to cohabiting same-sex couples, allowing them the option to co-own the properties they acquire while living together. Lagman said that the bill “would protect the couple’s partnerships and property not only from third persons but even from each other, similar to the protection given to heterosexual couples.”
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Even if the majority of Filipinos object to same-sex unions and to homosexuality itself, this bill ought to be passed because it has nothing to do with the legality or even the morality of such partnerships. Rather, its concern is solely on the property regime that would govern same-sex cohabitation.
As an analogy, our laws do not condone adulterous relationships, and yet the Family Code fixes a special kind co-ownership between adulterous partners. Article 148 provides that a man and a woman living together as husband and wife, without benefit of marriage – but are not capacitated to marry because they are in an adulterous relationship, in a bigamous or polygamous marriage, in an incestuous void marriage under Article 37, in a void marriage by reason of public policy under Article 38, or one or both parties is under 18 years of age – co-own properties in proportion to their respective contributions of money, property, or industry. They are given the presumption that their contributions and corresponding shares are equal as long as they can show proof of some actual contribution. However, if there is proof that the contributions are not equal, the presumption of equal sharing is defeated.
Since cohabiting same-sex partners are also living together as married couples but without benefit of marriage and are not capacitated to marry because they are not “a man and a woman” as required by the Family Code, if Congress will just amend Article 148 to include same-sex cohabitation in its application, this would be a huge step in gradually according equal rights to the our fellow citizens, because to deny such right to a person on the basis of his/her sexual orientation is to subscribe to a medieval mindset of ignorance, homophobia, bigotry, and barbarism, treating the person as something less than human.
Or perhaps Lagman’s bill has even something better to offer. But regardless of which law or amendment gets passed, what’s important is that we provide to same-sex couples at least some of the property rights already enjoyed (and taken for granted) by heterosexual couples. This may still not be enough as the LGBT community surely deserves nothing less than marriage equality, but such legislative milestone would mark the path towards progress of a modern society.
Margie, Red, and Pepe are back for episode 11 of the Filipino Freethinkers Podcast. This week, we talk about racism in Filipino culture. Then we take a closer look at the claim that LGBT rights “trample” on the rights of religious people.
As LGBT allies, we, the Filipino Freethinkers, strive to maintain an environment where no one will be discriminated for their gender or sexuality — a #safespace — in our meetups and other events, as well as online.
We acknowledge the equal rights of all human beings, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE). As such, our community welcomes and promotes the acceptance of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and persons of other non-heteronormative gender or sexual identities.
We denounce prejudice, intolerance, hate, and violence against these people, and condemn the use of religion to justify the denial of their rights. We stand against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia — attitudes based on ignorance, perpetuated by bigotry.
We shall continue our advocacy to raise awareness and understanding of gender and sexuality by facilitating and engaging in meaningful discussions using reason and science.
We also support the legislation and implementation of a nationwide anti-discrimination law and similar local government ordinances, as well as policies in schools, workplaces, commercial establishments, and other places.
We are one with LGBT rights activists and advocates in making our country a place where everyone is equal and free to live and be happy.
Let’s create a SAFE Philippines.
Check out the events lined up for UP Pride Week here.
The advocacy for secularism is an advocacy for rights. More specifically, it is the advocacy for certain privileges and claims that are being denied due to the lack of separation of Church and State in our country.
The Hoefeldian system classifies rights into privileges, claims, powers, and immunities. The dynamics of these four elements can be appreciated by observing how a religious country like the Philippines attempts to change its laws as it slowly breaks away from the authority of the Church.
Privileges and claims are called first-order rights: entitlements to perform/not perform certain actions, or that others perform/not perform certain actions. To have a privilege to do something means to have no duty not to do it, while to have a claim on something means that some other person or entity has a duty to satisfy that claim.
Powers and immunities, on the other hand, are second-order rights that have a bearing on first-order rights. To have power means to have the ability to alter one’s own or another’s privileges or claims, and to have immunity means that another person or entity lacks the ability to alter one’s privileges or claims.
To illustrate, take for example the right to drink alcohol. It is a privilege-right in the sense that people aged 18 and above have no duty not to drink, but it is not a claim-right because the government has no duty to provide alcohol, let alone for free. The government, however, has the power-right to suspend the right to drink (and the right to buy and sell liquor) as what the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to do four days before and during election day, although foreigners have a limited immunity from the Comelec ban since they can drink in certain hotels and establishments with special permits.
The rights commonly advocated by secularists today are reproductive health (RH), divorce, and marriage equality. The RH law grants certain claims to qualified citizens by imposing a duty on the government to provide free contraceptives. The divorce bill seeks to grant couples of failed marriages the privilege to start a new life with a new spouse by relieving them of the duty to remain married to their old partners. Advocates of marriage equality fight for equal rights – not “special” rights – of same sex couples so they can enjoy the same legal recognition, protection, and claims that heterosexual couples often take for granted.
Unfortunately, these rights have yet to see the light of day as the supreme court issued a status quo ante order on the recently-passed RH law, while divorce and marriage equality still have to hurdle a tedious legislative process which at any point could stop them in their tracks. While it is the State that holds the power to grant or deny these claims and privileges, those who represent the State are also human beings and may be influenced by their religious beliefs or dictated upon by their religious leaders, adversely affecting the citizens who don’t share their persuasions. In effect, religion – actually just one particular religion – still holds considerable power over all of us whether or not we subscribe to it, the constitutional inviolability of Church-State separation notwithstanding.
And so the advocacy for secularism is an advocacy against theocracy. It is a struggle against the undue influence of religion in public affairs, a drive to remind our public servants that they answer to the people and not to some church hierarchy. The call for secularism is a call to our fellow citizens to wield their power to choose the life they want to live, to think and act free from fear of excommunication and hell fire while remaining grounded on reason and evidence, and to strive to increase happiness and lessen needless suffering in this world. Ultimately, the advocacy for secularism is an advocacy for immunity from religion, and the advancement of the rights of the rational individual.
If you share this advocacy, please join Filipino Freethinkers as we fight for a true separation of Church and State in the Philippines.
I hate hearing people say that same-sex marriages will destroy the sanctity of that union. On the top of my head, here are 5 things that are currently destroying the sanctity of marriage:
Non-consensual non-monogamy (or infidelity with deliberate deceit).
Getting married because of economic reasons.
Getting married because someone got knocked up.
Getting married under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Nobody’s asking me but I don’t think marriages were ever sacred. Most marriages in the good old days were done to acquire land, to obtain financial security, to improve social status, to gain more political power… pretty much the same reasons why most people are getting married today. Romantic love is a fairly recent invention but as far as myths go, it’s also a fairly good thing to put your faith in. I get very giddy when I see couples holding hands while walking because even though it doesn’t seem to exist for me, it’s nice to see that it is real for some people. They’re not hurting me, unless I’m particularly hormonal that day and I start wondering why I’m still single.
I’m also perpetually perplexed by people who cry foul for their divine being of choice. Take the people who believe in Judeo-Christian god for example. You’ll occasionally find them protesting on the streets carrying “God hates fags” posters (even though their god allegedly created everything – hell included because, as you might know, Lucifer came from heaven too). I envy them because they have so much time in their hands, as I’m pretty sure it takes a while to organize a protest. It takes time and effort to create banners and posters but I suppose nothing bonds people closer than a common enemy. All that hate must have the kick of a million energy drinks.
Anyway, it perplexes me because if they hate “fags” so much… why not just let them burn in hell? What’s all the fuss trying to save damned souls? Don’t you people want more space in heaven? I’m pretty sure all your efforts have already been recognized by the bearded one upstairs. Do good and be good, that’s all you need to do right? I checked the Bible and from what I can tell, there are only two things that will guarantee safe passage to hell: suicide and doubt. So unless you killed yourself and/or you’re an atheist, all you need to do is to ask for forgiveness and you’re all set to go up.
Marriage isn’t as sacred as you want to think it is and the promise of hell for other people seems desirable if you hate them, which leaves us with… it’s unnatural?
Do you know what I think is unnatural? Wearing clothes. Animals don’t wear clothes. Why don’t we legislate a law against wearing clothes? Especially hideous ones like leopard prints. And glittery shoes. Why do people wear these things? Sometimes together. It’s just unnatural. Let’s ban it.
Oh, what’s that? I’m using my own subjective opinion of what is fashionable? You mean to say that I can continue to disapprove of them without depriving them the pleasure of being dressed horribly? And what’s that? They think my outfits are just as bad? Wait, wait, wait. Do you mean to tell me that we can coexist being poorly dressed and disapproving of each other without having to ban anything?
Alright, alright. I have to be honest. The reason why I’m this close-minded is because I like humans. Not women, not men: humans. Have I kissed a girl and liked it? Indeed I have. She was a very beautiful, very intelligent but also very silly adult female and we never had sex but I loved her for seven years and we didn’t hurt anyone but each other.
I know it’s hard to look at something you find unsightly. I really, really find leopard print and glittery shoes ugly but here’s a trick that addresses the problem: turn away. No one is asking me to approve, no one is asking me to change my opinion about it, but I’m very aware that I don’t have the right to tell them that they should stop wearing that abominable print simply because I find it weird. I don’t think anyone has the right to tell anyone that they are not allowed to love someone simply because they happen to be of the same sex.
On the top of my head, here are 3 pairings that need more negative attention than same-sex couples:
“Consensual” pedophilia. I’m pretty close-minded about this too. I don’t think it’s proper to sexualize children.
People afflicted with Stockholm Syndrome.
Rape victims who are forced to marry their rapists.
There’s just so much suffering in the world. I just don’t see the point of depriving anyone of some modest amount of joy, no matter how temporary it may be or even if I get nothing out of it. I don’t plan on ever getting married so this really doesn’t concern me. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t concern straight people either so I don’t see why they have so much say in it. Pardon my ignorance.
Brace yourselves. Marriage Equality is coming. It’s been happening all over the world recently, and it’s only a matter of time that it happens here.
But as with many developments in science and social justice, the conservative Catholic Church and its Pro Life cohorts will do everything to stop it. They’ll be particularly more antsy with the recent loss in the RH battle and a potential loss on divorce also looming.
They’ll explain how marriage equality — we don’t call it same-sex marriage anymore* — is an attack on the traditional marriage, the sanctity of the family, Filipino culture, and human existence itself. They’ll bring out their usual non-sequiturs and one-sided statistics.
And although this especially applies to their flock, the Church will fight so that it applies to everyone else. They have every right to do so, but it shouldn’t matter in a secular democracy. Yet just like “equality,” “secular” and “democracy” are words the Catholic Church has always been allergic to.
Although it was particularly aimed at secularism, it illuminated the Church’s stance on other issues, showing just why equality, secularism, and democracy are foreign ideas to this foreign institution:
The Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of per sons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful.
So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.
The encyclical goes on to explain why secularism has been, is, and always will be denounced by the Roman Catholic Church.** For now, understand that in the same way that the Church fought against secularism until it became the obvious choice to almost everyone, they will do the same against marriage equality. They’ll rehash the same tired arguments they’ve been using to block the measure here and all over the world.
But ultimately, behind the flawed arguments and supposed “science,” what it all boils down to is this: the Church does not think marriage equality is a good idea, so everyone else will just have to obey them. Because in their unequal society, our one duty is to allow ourselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.
* What LGBT couples are asking for is not a special kind of marriage that merits its own moniker (same-sex marriage). All they’re saying is that the right to marry should apply equally to everyone.
** Fans of Vatican II will undoubtedly bring up Dignitatis Humanae, which supposedly corrects the Church’s stand on religious freedom. But one of the last things Pope Benedict XVI did was explain how this wasn’t really the case. But that’s a story for another article.
With the Papal elections winding down in the Vatican, most pinoys are beginning to focus their attention on our very own parade of horribles: The May 2013 Elections.
The people will be voting for candidates who most closely adhere to their wants and needs, and they’ll be very interested in what the various candidates’ opinion on hot topics such as same-sex marriage.
It goes without saying that as a religiously conservative country, the Philippines has not been supportive of gay marriage, with an overwhelming amount of senatoriables voicing their opposition to the measure.
The question is, does their opposition to gay marriage hold any water? For the benefit of the people still undecided on this matter – and since I’m a mean-spirited blackheart with nothing better to do – I’ll be presenting some of the crazier reasons these people are against gay marriage…and why they’re bullshit.
“It’s against natural law. Ang lalaki, ang mapapangasawa niya ay babae, at sila’y mag-aanak at dadami ang sangkatauhan. ‘Yan ang naturang batas at hindi kailanman nagkaroon sa natural law na pwede ‘yung parehong babae, parehong lalaki… Walang pamilya! Hindi naman ‘yan magkakaanak.” – Lito David
Malayo ‘yan. Tayo’y ginawa ng Diyos na [ang] pag-aasawa [ay] para magkaroon ka ng anak, procreation, para magkaroon ka ng happiness. Kung para sa happiness lang, ‘wag na kayong magpakasal. Kung dalawa kayong lalaki, dalawa kayong babae, gusto n’yong magsama, puwede naman. So bakit kailangang magpakasal pa? – Dick Gordon
Marriage is for propagating family, but it is high time for registered partnerships. – Ricardo Penson
First off, there is nothing in our laws that makes having children a legal requirement for couples to marry. If this were the case, then marriage should be illegal for the sterile and the elderly. Strangely enough, lesbian couples can still skirt this requisite through the magic of science.
This argument was also used during the deliberations to repeal California’s Proposition 8. Prop 8 has since been repealed, with several states in the US beginning to legalize gay marriage, which goes to show you just how effective the argument was.
Furthermore, if David and Gordon are going to argue against gay marriage on the grounds that “It’s not natural,” they’re going to have to explain swans, seagulls, bonobos, dolphins, vultures, pigeons, ducks, sheep, and hyenas. All of the above have exhibited homosexual behavior in the wild.
Taking the naturalistic fallacy further, we shouldn’t be using “unnatural” things, such as modern medicine, cars, smartphones (of which David has taken to backfisting), and computers.
I’d include clothes, but do we really want to regularly see Mr. David’s junk, or Dick’s…well, you get the idea.
“I don’t think that’s a marriage. They can just live together if they want. No need to flaunt it.” – Jun Magsaysay
I think that is a joke of a proposal. I don’t know where that idea came from, but marriage is between a man and a woman so maybe the laws can be liberalized in such a way that the property relations of people of the same sex who decided to live together can be governed by law but let us not call that marriage. Madali naman yan sa partnership, we can let the government code govern that or the laws on partnership, not the family code. – Koko Pimentel
It’s more than just being able to live together and “flaunting it”. Marriage ensures that the partners involved receive the same legal protections as straight couples, such as the on the matter of hospital visitation rights. There’s also the myriad of laws under the family code that protect the right to property of both people entering a marriage, in the event of the death of the spouse.
This isn’t about granting “special” rights to the LGBT community, as Pimentel implies. This is about granting them EQUAL rights, under the same family code that protect all straight marriages in the Philippines. And on a more sentimental note, it is about two men or women who have entered a long-term relationship, being able to proudly say “We’re married!” instead a word salad like “We’re under a recognized civil union!”
Pimentel should brush up on history, so that he’ll understand why his plea for things to be “Separate but equal,” should be ignored, if not outright ridiculed. Just like his stance on reproductive rights.
“Ang paniniwala ko pa rin between man and woman yung marriage.” – Nancy Binay
Sa akin, parang ‘di maganda dahil man and woman ang marriage. – Samson Alcantara
I don’t have anything against gay people… they were probably born that way but this should not be sanctified by marriage. Some of my friends are gay but marriage to me is a sacred institution. – Bal Falcone
We are still a Catholic nation. If we look at the Bible, the marriage of two persons is always man and woman. It’s always been Adam and Eve. Wala namang Adan at Adan. Wala ring Eba at Eba – JV Ejercito Estrada
Marriage is not the exclusive property of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, it’s not as if legalizing same-sex marriage will require RCC churches to marry gay couples; The couples can always get married in churches that support gay marriage.
And really, the “some of my friends are X” defense is a crapshoot argument. Would it be any more sensible if Mr. Falcone said “Some of my friends are black, but I think segregation is a sacred institution”? Is it any surprise that most of the arguments against gays sound similar to the tired rhetoric of the proponents of the Jim Crow laws?
Furthermore, Mr. Estrada, the Philippines is not a “Catholic Nation.” While it is true that most of the people here are Catholic, that doesn’t give them the right to impose their religion on all other non-Catholics; Even constitutionalist Fr. Bernas considered this a very bad idea.
And assuming we limit our definition of marriage to consenting adults, the one-man, one-woman definition can also be disputed. Polygamy is also a widely accepted form of marriage among numerous cultures, such as Islam.
Lastly, it’s a PERSONAL belief – nobody is forcing you to have a gay marriage. However, it also follows that you don’t have a right to impose your personal belief of what marriage is on gays. It’s not your job to force your “paniniwala” on the people – it’s your job to defend their basic rights. And if you don’t understand that, you don’t have any business running for senate.
Totally against that. Equal rights are guaranteed by the United Nations Charter on Human Rights. There is really no need to expand the concept of human rights. I respect the human rights of gays and lesbians, but when you allow same sex marriage, there is no purpose whatsoever as to the objective of that. – JC Delos Reyes
JC failed to mention that as of 2011, the United Nations passed a resolution opposing discrimination or violence against the gay community.
That discrimination doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of laws that directly oppress the LGBT community. It can be as simple as denying them the right to marry the person they love, and wish to spend the rest of their life with. A right straight people like me can enjoy, and most often take for granted. JC has no business claiming to agree with the UN if he can’t even acknowledge that gays deserve to be protected by the same range of laws that protect everybody else in RP.
On a related note, he certainly has no right to be claiming to be in support for the UN charter on human rights, given his attempts to block every woman’s right to RH medicine and education, which are supported by the UN.
“I am for the protection and respect ng political rights ng lahat, regardless of gender. Pero pagdating sa marriage of same sex, sabi ng Good Book, huwag gayahin ‘yung nangyari sa Sodom and Gomorrah dahil darating ang paggunaw sa isang bansa pag ‘yun ay ginawa.” – Eddie Villanueva
We saved the best for last.
The gist of Bro. Eddie’s argument is that he’s for equal rights, unless it goes against the teachings of his good book. The problem is that even a cursory reading of the bible shows that it’s anything but a “good” book. From its endorsement of genocide and slavery to unleashing bears on kids who make fun of baldies, the bible’s text goes anywhere from morally questionable, to the sort of religiously-motivated actions that would make even Kratos take pause and say “Whoa there! Isn’t that getting a bit excessive? ”
As a parting note, I advise all voters reading this to go through their favorite candidate’s stances on various social concerns before voting. It’s your responsibility, and privilege.
Tintin, you’ve shown that there are parents who badly need gender and sexuality education (the right kind of education, mind you). Sorry, you can’t squeeze your way out of this. Whatever you do from this point forward, however many sorry’s you spew out, your ‘article’ has already proven that there are parents who have little to zero understanding of how to handle the gender and sexuality aspects of raising a child. That’s what you’ve done.
Camille, you’ve shown that there are people who blur the lines between what they learned in training and what is their personal opinion. It’s one thing to pepper your opinion with faith and traditional beliefs. But to use your credentials to mask your medieval musings is completely unacceptable. Starting today, we’re going to be a lot more careful of you and other ‘psychologists’ who have an opinion on anything. That’s what you’ve done.
You’ve proven that there are real experts out there who will expose your misguided truths. And you’ve also proven that we will no longer take this sitting down, that this ignorant and hateful attitude shall no longer go unnoticed with impunity. You made me feel good because after all these years of fighting for equality, there are still tireless LGBT activists and allies willing to stand up for what is right. You made me wonder what greater challenges we can overcome. You made me believe that my children (if I decide to have them) might actually be in good hands when they grow up. You made me believe that a future without people like you might be closer than I thought. You made me look forward to that. That’s what you’ve done.
And for that, from the bottom of my homosexual heart, thank you!
A gay son with a loving, informed, and educated mother,
Ron de Vera
“The mass of steel started to crawl away from the train station. The smell of rust was drowned out by a deafening noise that signaled our departure. I reached for the nearest handrail as the ground beneath me started to move. The whole cabin swayed to a rhythm that was random and measured at the same time. In between sobs, my heartbeat tried to catch up with this rhythm but it soon took its own cadence. I was three or four years old. It was a few years before the people power revolution. But all I cared about was where my mother was. And the man seated next to me, who claimed to be my grandfather, had promised that she would be waiting at the next stop.”
This is my earliest memory. I wrote it as part of a writing challenge I accepted for 2013. I have also secretly doubled up this challenge by seeing if I could consistently frame anything I wrote with an LGBT perspective. But my earliest memory does not have anything gay about it, unless I turn it into fiction and “gay it up.” I am, after all, a gay writer. I have also occasionally introduced myself as a gay activist. I am also a freethinker, a photographer, and a teacher. But I have never called myself a gay freethinker, a gay photographer, or a gay teacher.
So when is it appropriate to make something or someone ‘gay’ simply by adding the ‘G’ word? If you’re gay and you’re reading this, does it make you a gay reader? And as my partner (who happens to be gay, so perhaps I should say my gay partner) properly posited, should someone self-identify as a transgender in order to be a transactivist? And how about marriage? Why do some people reject the term gay marriage and prefer marriage equality?
Ascribing labels is a basic concept in identity politics and serves multiple functions. Minority groups use labels to claim an identity, or define an experience that would otherwise be assumed to belong to the majority. For example, we do not usually hear someone say “I am a straight statistician” as the heterosexual majority has made us assume that everyone is straight unless they say they are not. But one could be a gay statistician if one so chooses because it is his way of claiming an identity in a field dominated by straight men. Guy Branum, in his article “Yes, Nate Silver, You Are a Gay Statistician,” slams Silver for rejecting the word gay in his title. By dropping the word ‘gay’, Silver is attempting to detach his identity from his experience. It is as if calling himself a gay statistician would require him to use a pink computer and to “gay up” his calculations.
This same hesitation is shared by those who do not embrace the term gay marriage. According to detractors, if we follow this logic, we would have to append the word ‘gay’ to everything that is currently not accessible to gay people. We would have to fight for gay adoption, gay inheritance, gay visitation rights, gay immigration, and so on. It would seem too obvious to point out that the labels matter less than the actual benefits and improvements to our lives.
This is where identity politics comes in conflict with political correctness. Political correctness is a hungry monster that devours unsuspecting words to sustain its relevance. It then spits out neutral labels that have been stripped of their rich history, political conviction, socio-cultural value, and ultimately, their original identity. And that, to me, is a pity.
Don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge that political correctness has its place in social discourse. In fact, for the sake of interpersonal relationships and political harmony, I will continue to use marriage equality and whatever other permutations. However, I will keep calling myself a gay writer. If I wear a rainbow shirt and use a fluffy pen when writing about gay characters, it would be of little to no consequence. What matters is that I am a passionate writer who also happens to be proud of his sexual orientation. And if I become successful, I would prefer to be remembered as a successful gay writer and not simply a successful writer. Perhaps, when the time comes, I would figure out how I can be a gay freethinker, a gay photographer, or a gay teacher. For now, I am happy being a gay writer.
“The train behind me sped away taking with it all worries I had. In place of my mother, there he stood, the boy of my dreams.”
A few weeks ago, Taliban gunmen stopped a bus carrying students home from school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, singled out Malala Yousufzai, and shot her.
Her crime was advocating for women’s education – which the Taliban banned – and for openly speaking out against their atrocities through her blog.
The good news is that as you read this, Malala is on the road to recovery, while the Taliban are being rightfully condemned for their act of brutality and cowardice; it says a lot about how insane a group is, when they think a girl who just wants to go to school is a justification for them to shoot people in the face.
But as I look at the outrage, the sympathy, and at the end of it all, the hope getting mixed into Malala’s story, and I look at the reactions from the Philippines’ own community at the whole thing – which is thankfully supportive – I just have to ask…
Are we really any different?
Because in their own way, the women of the Philippines are under threat from bearded, out-of-touch, religious conservatives who abide by silly religious laws, and run around in sillier robes. These people are intent on stifling not only women’s access to quality education, but also their ability to simply speak up and criticize them.
And the magic is that unlike the Taliban, they don’t have to whip out a gun to get the job done. So how did they do it? Let’s look at some of their more recent examples:
1. Resorting to erudite rhetoric that celebrates the fact that their morally superior university doesn’t put up with liberal nonsense such as dissent, free thought, critical thinking, or scientific facts. God was apparently so touched by this show of devotion that he forgot to bless their last game.
5. Selflessly sacrificing whatever esteem and respect they had left to support the cybercrime law under the guise of defending people against bullying. After all, calling out an anti-gay/anti-woman bigot for being an intolerant asshole can be painful to their self-esteem.
Who needs bullets when you have a few well-chosen words and the support of powerful, religiously devout, but ultimately imbecilic leaders in politics and educational institutions to shape society according to your whims?
I’m not writing this to reduce any of the much-deserved attention that Malala is getting for herself and a woman’s right to education in Pakistan. What I am simply saying is that as we read about what happens to her, we shouldn’t dismiss it as just a story being told in a foreign land thousands of miles away.
It’s similar to the story of our women here, except that the attempt to murder them comes in inches. The perpetrators do this through through the denial of a woman’s right to proper academic and reproductive education, and through the poisoning of society’s opinion about providing better awareness regarding their rights.
And that is just as deadly – if not deadlier – than a few grams of copper-jacketed lead.
“In A Myriad Small Ways You Have Hastened The Deaths Of Many. You Do Not Know Them. You Did Not See Them Bleed. But You Snatched Bread From Their Mouths And Tore Clothes From Their Backs.” – Terry Pratchett, Going Postal