Questions for the heterosexual

Danton Remoto: Questions for the heterosexual
20-Jul-11, 5:42 PM
www.interaksyon.com
Online news portal of TV5

Years ago I attended a seminar on gender issues organized by an international NGO. Some young journalists comprised the core of the participants. Well and good, I told myself, because the cliché holds true that, perhaps, hope lies among them.

I still remember my legendary debates with the macho editors who used to splash photos of near-naked “prostitutes” (call them sex workers) and of raped housemaids on the front pages of the newspaper I used to work for. During one of the editorial meetings held every day, the fiercest among them, who looked like a bulldog, barked at me: “What are you complaining about? Their faces are shown on the evening news. Why can’t we show those pages on our front pages?”

Since Bulldog must have forgotten his class on Ethics in Journalism, I reminded him that a newspaper is a public record. Surely, nobody tapes the evening news and runs them again for his delectation, right? But the newspaper is there for posterity, bound in volumes and collected in archives in the form of microfilms. Now they are scanned or converted into pdfs and collected in CD format. The split-second image on TV fades easily. The one in print stays there, and can be passed on from one person to another.

That’s the problem, I told myself, leaning back on my fake-leather office chair, when you have editors – the gatekeepers of the news—who only put stories of women above the fold when they have been raped, their places of work raided, or they wrestle gleefully in the mud, for work. The object of the male gaze has not changed.

During the same meeting, the director Nick Deocampo showed his film The Sex Warriors, a brave and beautiful film about a transgender who works in Japan. Now that I am reminded of it, I remember Noel Cabangon asking me last Sunday, during the break for the PETA play Caregivers that the Ladlad Party List sponsored, “What is the difference between a transgender and transsexual?”

“Well,” I began, “a transsexual is somebody who wears the customary attire of the opposite sex (female), but that’s just that. He does not identify with the opposite sex; his sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) is still male. On the other hand, a transgender feels that he is born in the wrong gender; thus, this mistake has to be corrected. He feels female in mind, heart, and body; thus, the need, nay, the ache, to have a sexual-reassignment surgery to finally come into full being as a member of the right sex. In the Philippines, the pioneering group is Society of Transsexual Women in the Philippines (STRAP), and they call themselves, with their breasts thrust up proudly, if I may say so, “transPinay.” Bemz Benedito, the present chairperson of Ladlad Party List, and the one to whom all media queries on Ladlad should be directed, is an out and proud “transPinay.” Last month, Bemz had chest pains and was rushed to the emergency room of St. Lukes’ Hospital where a female doctor said, “Sir, just relax and deep breathily, Sir.” The effervescent Bemz could not help it and said,” Doktora, please grant me this and call me Miss, especially now that I might be on the brink of death.” Yes, even near the cliff-edge, our transPinay activists are still daring and do everything with dash and √©lan.

But back to the brave and beautiful film of Nick. It deals with transgender Filipinas doing sex work in Japan to keep their families alive in the Philippines. The things we do for our families, Nick seems to imply, who can only accept us – gays and bisexuals and trans – only if we are their piggy banks, their central banks, their ATM machines that don’t go blink any time of day or night.

Nick’s films also deals with the slippages of language. “There are many names for us here,” Nick said in his usual flamboyant manner, then he ticked them off: “agi, bayot, bakla, badaf, bading, baklesha, sirena, verde ang dugo...“ and we’ve only just begun. Nick said his list contained at least 100 names for gays, with each word and every nuance carrying the complexity of Philippine gay life.

Before I left the meeting, I photocopied a query called "Do You Need Treatment?" that one of my female friends in the meeting got from an old copy of the New Internationalist. Since it might help our straight friends see us in another light, I’m reprinting it in full. Listen.

“Gay people get asked some pretty strange questions. Often, this is because their interrogators have a narrow, strictly heterosexual view of what is ‘normal.’ The New Internationalist turns the tables and asks heterosexual people some strange questions, too.

“1. What do you think is the cause of your heterosexuality?

2. When did you first realize you might be heterosexual?

3. Have you told your parents? What do they think of it?

4. Are there others like you in your family?

5. Would you say you had an inadequate mother or father figure?

6. Don’t you think your heterosexuality might be a phase you are going through?

7. Are you afraid of members of your own sex?

8. Isn’t it possible that what you need is a good gay lover?

9. What do you actually do in bed?

10. You put what where?

11. But how can people of the opposite sex really please each other when there are such vast emotional and biological differences among them?

12. Although society gives considerable support to the institution of marriage, the divorce rate is spiraling. Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?

13. Is it because heterosexuals are promiscuous?

14. There seem to be very few happy heterosexuals. Have you considered aversion therapy?

15. Why do you feel compelled to seduce others into your sexual activities?

16. Why do you insist on making such a public spectacle of your heterosexuality?

17. More than 90 percent of child molesters are thought to be heterosexuals. Would you feel comfortable entrusting your children‘s education to heterosexual teachers?

18. Why do people like you emphasize the heterosexual qualities of famous people such as film stars? Is it because you need to validate your own condition?

19. Penetrative sex is most common among heterosexual couples. Aren’t you worried about the risk of getting the HIV virus that leads to AIDS?

20. If everybody were heterosexual like you, what would happen to the world’s population? Don’t you think it is unreasonable and irresponsible of you to insist on sleeping with people of the opposite sex?”

If you’re asked questions like these – and I’m often asked, as I’m sure many lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Filipinas are asked—how would you feel? Ano ang mase-say mo, manash?

(Comments can be sent to danton_ph@yahoo.com)

US military ready to repeal ban on gays

US military ready to repeal ban on gays
www.gmanews.tv
07/22/2011 | 08:58 AM


WASHINGTON - The Pentagon will announce on Friday that the U.S. military is ready to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces, the last major hurdle to formally ending the policy, U.S. officials said on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

President Barack Obama last year signed a landmark law to allow for the repeal of the nearly 18-year-old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that forced gays to keep their sexual orientation secret in order to serve in the military.

But Pentagon leaders first needed to certify that military readiness would not suffer as a result -- something that will now be done by new U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Admiral Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officer, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Once the Pentagon has signed off, Obama can certify the repeal -- fulfilling a 2008 campaign promise to end a policy that saw more than 13,000 men and women expelled from the military because of their sexual orientation.

There is then a 60-day waiting period before the law is finally scrapped.

Ending the policy, enacted under then-President Bill Clinton in 1993, has been a top priority of gay rights activists, along with advancing same-sex marriage rights.

Critics of repeal within the Pentagon had long argued it was too risky to pursue the change at a time when the military was stretched by the wars in Iraq in Afghanistan.

But a Pentagon study unveiled last year predicted that scrapping the policy would have little impact, and repeal won support from Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, and then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

U.S. courts also intervened, with a California district court judge last year finding that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy violated the U.S. constitution.

The Obama administration managed to keep the policy partly in effect through court appeals in order to give the Defense Department time to prepare for repeal. Last week, a federal appeals court blocked the Pentagon from investigating or discharging anyone under the policy. — Reuters

Reflections of a gay seminarian


COMMENTARY: Reflections of a gay seminarian
09-Jul-11, 2:15 PM | Danton Remoto
www.interaksyon.com
Online news portal of TV 5
Photo from www.priscasvoice.com

The vilification of same-sex couples who had gone through commitment ceremonies a week ago led some bishops to make callous statements like “kadiri” and such. This is what we get for falling in love with whom we choose to love? This led me to dig into my email files. I found a letter sent to me by a seminarian a few years ago. He is gay and has found peace with his sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). Let me quote excerpts from his email.

"Let me commend you for being a sober voice in the discourse on gay rights in the country," he starts. [Thank you, ahem]. "However, let me chastise you also for your statement on national TV that some priests know nothing about love. Well, let me tell you that priests also know and have experienced loving and being loved. There are honest and sensible priests around, unlike the ones that you see parroting things they know nothing about.”

I was talking about non-platonic love, the kind that goes beyond sisterhood and brotherhood. Yes, the one that involves the body electric. So our seminarian is implying that some priests have also gone beyond platonic love? Hmmm, we enter deeper and more interesting waters here.

He also sums up the stand of the Catholic Church: “Homosexuality is a sin contra naturam, a sin against nature. The classic reference is Genesis 19:1-19, the story of Sodom which, according to classical interpretation, shows an exclusive concern for the sin of homosexuality. However, I find the interpretation too narrow. It seems to compartmentalize and even manipulate the Holy Scripture.”

I begin to cheer for this young man who has made peace with himself, with the fact that he is gay but would still like to continue with his vocation as a priest. How many priests are as brave and honest as him? How many go on and become priests, and when they’re already there, throw mud at gay men who openly live the lives they want to lead? These are closeted priests who see mirrors around them, so they throw rocks to shatter the mirrors, not knowing that the shards still reflect their true selves.

Our gay seminarian has visited gay bars and interviewed male sex workers, but he has never touched them. If Earl K. Wilkinson’s controversial book published ten years ago is correct, there are even pedophiles in the priesthood. But when caught, en flagrante delicto, the higher orders just transfer them to other parishes, as if stink can be hidden if the garbage bin is thrown in another corner of the country.

Our gay seminarian is railing against the hypocrisy that is regnant in the priesthood. “Some priests have allowed themselves to become part of the system, while others break the cycle, and in the process, become more real themselves. Perhaps, if they are able to face the problems of sexuality in our time, all of us must move away from a procreational view of sexuality to a more personal and relational one. I feel it’s the trivialization of the personal encounter that’s the central problem for gays and straights alike. Many have adopted a consumerist attitude to sex – the encouragement of cheap and disposable sex, to the detriment of a deep personal encounter that leads to growth. This is the heart of the problem.”

Is our gay seminarian pushing for celibacy? I will not go there. But our astute seminarian does train his guns elsewhere. “And the Church seems to miss the point. Christians and other people have fallen into the sexist mistake of reducing a person to the sexual act alone. Contrary to the existing myths about homosexuality, gays are not 'sexaholics!' Gays are not phallus-centered. It’s about time that the Church take a look at the truth that gays are discovering in themselves and help it to emerge and flourish. Besides, the Church does not have a monopoly of the truth. And finally, as you said when you sued the Commission on Elections in the Supreme Court for calling Ladlad ‘immoral’ and ‘abnormal,’ refusing its accreditation – the Church and the State are separate entities, and there is no State religion in the Philippines.”

Please allow me to reprint the statement of Ladlad, the party list I founded on September 1, 2003, which is now being run by a new breed of leaders. I am now just a member of this lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization, which CNN has called “the only LGBT political party in the world”—again, another first for this country. The statement against the bigotry in the Catholic Church follows.

“Freedom of expression and freedom of religion are not manifestations of mental illness or criminality. These are basic human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that not even the Roman Catholic Church can deny.

“The celebration of same-sex weddings speaks of the love of two persons, and this is not an issue for the Roman Catholic Church to interfere in. It is also not a Roman Catholic Church issue to criticize or question the authority of religious leaders of the Metropolitan Community Church, which do not belong to its denomination.

“While Ladlad is nonsectarian, we are calling for respect, respect that Jesus Christ advocated and which is the basis of Christianity, respect for different forms of expression and diverse views. Let us not resort to name-calling, when the issue is simple: Do LGBTs in the Philippines have human rights? If the answer is “yes,” then there should be no attacks on them based on their expressions of love and exercise of freedom of religion, especially since they are not violating any law or impinging on the rights of others.

“We condemn in the strongest sense the unfair, discriminatory, arrogant and condescending statements of Bishop Teodoro Bacani and others in the Roman Catholic church. The bishops have propagated once again hatred, bias, prejudice and fear toward LGBT Filipinos. We urge them to step back, as we draw the line between their hypocrisy and our rights. We also urge the Roman Catholic Church to clear their names from various scandals before training their guns at us. [The statement refers to the Pajeros that seven bishops allegedly received from the past regime].

We only ask for equal rights and nothing more. But we will accept nothing less.”

(Comments can be emailed to danton_ph@yahoo.com)

LGBT hate crimes on the rise

By Yvonne Chua, VERA Files

Television director Ricky Rivero thought he was having a nightmare. He woke up morning of June 13 and Ivan Ruiz was on top of him, stabbing him continuously.

They struggled with each other, and when Rivero got the chance to grab Ruiz's wrist, he pinned him down the bed. The rage coming from Ruiz slowly subsided.

Rivero got the chance to overpower Ruiz and drove himself to the hospital. He survived despite the 17 stab wounds he sustained.

In an interview with TV host Boy Abunda two weeks after the incident, Rivero recalled that Ruiz, an acquaintance with whom he had casual sex relations, was full of rage and his eyes were full of anger when he was stabbing him.

Asked if he considers it a "hate crime", Rivero said he can't be sure but considering what transpired, it seems it's "leaning towards... yes, it's a hate crime."

Hate crimes generally refer to criminal acts that are seen to have been motivated by bias against persons belonging to a certain social group, usually defined by race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, social status or political affiliation.

Rivero is not the only one among those labelled as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) who experienced this kind of brutal crime;others were not as lucky.

Days before Rivero's stabbing incident, the Metropolitan Community Church sponsored LGBT Flores de Mayo parade in Quezon City just ended, it was attended by members of different LGBT organizations including VJ Montefalco. It was the last time Montefalco was seen.

Last June 29, the Quezon City police found his body along EDSA, Kamuning MRT station with two stab wounds on his heart.

A study made by Marlon Lacsamana and Reighben Labilles of Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch showed the alarming rise of LGBT deaths from suspected hate crimes, which totalled 160 from 1996 to June 30, 2011. A total of 38 cases were recorded in the first six months of 2011 alone. Last year, there were 29 reported cases. The study was based on online data, e-mails sent to Lacsamana and Labilles by friends of the slain victims, and news reports.

Lacsamana, a Library Science graduate, began his study on LGBT-related killings after two of his close friends (Winton Lou Ynion and Vincent Jan Rubio) were brutally killed. For this study, he teamed up with Labilles, a graduate of Political Science.

Lacsamana and Labilles then started a group in Facebook called Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch, now with more than 350 members. The online group aims to monitor all LGBT-related crimes and post the information in the group's wall. (Those who have any information on LGBT hate crimes may send the details to: philippinelgbthatecrimewatch@gmail.com.)

In an event sponsored by the UP Pride team last July 1, Labilles cited the following examples of hate crimes:

• A gay was suffocated using a plastic bag, strangled with an iron wire and was poked in the eye by an ice pick.

• A gay's body was left in a cemetery, and the dogs fed on it.

• A transgender's body was left on a bridge. Her head was smashed and her brains splattered everywhere.

• A lesbian in Davao was shot on the face as she walked out of a grocery store. • A gay was wrapped in a packaging tape then shot several times.

• A gay was found in his condominium, burned while his hands and feet were tied in nylon cords.

• The most number of stab wounds found on a slain victim's body was 79. "We're not making up these stories; these were what really happened to some of the victims.", Labilles said.

Labilles laments the absence of an anti-Hate Crime law in the cPhilippines."Prejudice, bias, or hate towards any minority group such as LGBT Filipinos is not at all considered when investigating crimes," he observed.

Rep. Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna, author of House Bill 1483, or the Anti-Discrimination Bill on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Providing Penalties, announced last June 26 that he would pioneer a House probe on the growing numbers of hate crimes in the country.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")

Ladlad condemns the bigotry of the Catholic Church

Ladlad Party List Statement:

Freedom of expression and freedom of religion are not manifestations of mental illness nor criminality. These are basic human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that not even the Roman Catholic Church can deny.

The celebration of same-sex weddings speaks of the love of two persons, and this is not an issue for the Roman Catholic Church to interfere in. It is also not a Roman Catholic Church issue to criticize or question the authority of religious leaders of the Metropolitan Community Church, which do not belong to its denomination.

While Ladlad is nonsectarian, we are calling for respect; respect that Christ advocated and which is the basis of Christianity, respect for different forms of expression and diverse views. Let us not resort to name-calling, when the issue is simple: Do LGBTs in the Philippines have human rights? If the answer is yes, then there should be no attacks on them based on their expressions of love and exercise of freedom of religion, especially since they are not violating any law or impinging on the rights of others.

We condemn in the strongest sense the unfair, discriminatory, arrogant and condescending statements of Bishop Teodoro Bacani and others in the Roman Catholic church. The bishops have propagated once again–hatred, bias, prejudice and fear toward LGBT Filipinos. We urge them to step back, as we draw the line between their hypocrisy and our rights. We also urge the Roman Catholic Church to clear their names from various scandals before training their guns at us.

We only ask for equal rights and nothing more. But we will accept nothing less.