September 14, 2019
ON Tuesday, President Duterte declared that he would certify the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (Sogie) Equality bill as urgent. But in less than 12 hours, the euphoria felt by supporters of the bill turned into another big disappointment when Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto 3rd came out early Wednesday to announce that it was not the Sogie bill approved in the 17th Congress by the House of Representatives and now being pushed in the Senate by Sen. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros, but the anti-discrimination bill that was being promoted by Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara that the President intends to certify as urgent. This was later confirmed by Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo.
Sotto was quoted as saying that the “President is not certifying the Sogie bill. He is willing to certify an anti-discrimination bill sans LGBT issues. A general antidiscrimination bill like the Davao ordinance.” Obviously, Sotto is not for a broader anti-discrimination law. He just doesn’t want a law that will address the discrimination against the LGBTQIA+.
In any case, had Sotto just examined the Davao City anti-discrimination ordinance, or Ordinance 0417-12, he would not have missed that Sogie equality is a major part of it. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is very much part of what the ordinance addressed and penalized, in addition to discrimination based on race, color, descent, national or ethnic origin, and religious affiliation and belief. In fact, Section 3 of the ordinance limited to only three the terms it defined, where in addition to discrimination, it also defined gender identity and sexual orientation.
When Panelo confirmed that the President would not endorse the Sogie Equality bill, people who are opposed to it erupted in celebration. But that may be a bit premature, if not unfounded, considering that the Davao ordinance is actually the Sogie Equality bill expanded to include other areas or aspects of identity for which people are discriminated. Certainly, while the move to have an anti-discrimination law with an expanded coverage quiets down the arguments against the Sogie Equality bill of giving special treatment to members of the LGBTQIA+, it doesn’t erase the fact that such expanded law will still address discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. Thus, while an expanded law will now include the concern of Sen. Maria Lourdes Nancy Binay about the Davao City ordinance specifically penalizing discrimination based on color, it will still include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
There are those who argue that there are enough laws that protect people from being discriminated against. It is one common theme that opponents of the Sogie Equality bill raise when confronted with the demands of the LGBTQIA+ to have a law to address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. Yet, many of these people are also supporting the move to have an omnibus antidiscrimination law, as if there are no existing laws penalizing discrimination against women, the elderly, those with special needs and those with different religious beliefs.
And then you have people like Senator Binay who raises the issue of discrimination against the dark-skinned, and now Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde trivializing the issue further by calling out discrimination against the hairless. Their arguments become templates for many people to fall into the trap of contradicting themselves when they say there are enough laws, yet also fastidiously raise the need for laws to protect their own personal sufferings, whether real, imagined or contrived. Nancy Binay forgot that she turned around her bad experience over her skin color by transforming it into her brand that greatly helped her campaign for senator; and Oscar Albayalde needs to be reminded that his baldness did not prevent him from rising up the ranks to become what he is now.
But what is most painful for the LGBTQIA+ is when one of their own, Ricky Reyes, admonished them to know their place because our society already tolerates them. What Reyes said is most cruel since he dismissed the real suffering that people like him had to endure. It is almost like telling servants to know their place in the hacienda as a form of gratitude for being treated right by their master. Reyes had the audacity to remind gays that they will always be gays, and thus they should be contented and not ask for more, simply because he was lucky enough to climb up the social ladder, far above the rest of the thousands of gays laboring in beauty salons all over the country.
Many people deny that there is discrimination against the LGBTQIA+. There are many people like Reyes who celebrate what they claim to be a society that has already accepted and tolerated the LGBTQIA+. But if there is one thing that the Sogie Equality bill has done, it has demolished these lies. One just needs to read the bigotry of the anti-Sogie crowd in social media for us to see the homophobia.
What is ironic, however, is that many people fail to understand that being straight is a sexual orientation, being male is a gender identity and being masculine is a gender expression. Men like Sotto fail to realize that the Sogie Equality bill will protect them too in case they are discriminated against because they are straight, male and masculine. Their hatred and bigotry toward the LGBTQIA+ appear to have clouded their reason.
Sotto has fashioned himself as the chief executioner of the Sogie Equality bill, apparently ignoring the fact that “Eat Bulaga,” the show that propelled him into the Senate, has gay co-hosts and has even hosted gay contests
In the end, Ricky Reyes may have unwittingly laid out for us the bitter reality. Different shades of homophobia exist among us. Gay people are fine to many, as long as they know their place, in salons, as comedians, as objects of our laughter. And they should just behave and stay there, and never dare to ask for more.
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