Gender bashing and homophobia

Before you read this blog post, I need to point out a few specific notes about myself:

  1. I’m a feminist.
  2. I am currently not in a relationship.
  3. I believe men and women have very fluid sexualities.
  4. I am a strong advocate of gender equality. That means, regardless if someone is gay, lesbian, transgendered, or straight, each person is deserving of respect and acceptance.

You may notice these points have been covered in my previous blog entry: 20 Facts About Me. Keep these points in mind when reading this article, because these are going to be very important references for what I’m going to share. Keep scrolling. The article I’m about to share is bound to be interesting.

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It all started with the generic “How are you?” message.

A friend of mine who has moved to another city quite far from here has just messaged me on Skype. Being an extrovert and all, social interactions fascinate me. I love interacting with people and they generally enjoy interacting with me too. It helps that I’m a very talkative person myself. Hence, it’s quite normal for me to get the impression that I could befriend (and act like old friends) anyone whom I only met for a short while.

Anyway, Skype friend – let’s call her Anna – is one of those friends. In all honesty, I don’t know Anna that well and she doesn’t know me that well, either. But we’ve hung out several times while we were still in the same city and we’ve come to consider our friendship close enough to expect each other at parties we go to together.

We were having a good laugh over Skype when she asked me this question:

Are you lesbian?

Naturally, that question wouldn’t have offended me. In fact, it would have been flattering had it not been for the fact that she asked it in an evidently condescending tone.

Before I continue, let me point out that homophobia – despite it being so evidently wrong and despite the fact that we’re already living in the 21st century – is still, unfortunately, very prevalent in Filipino society. Blame it on the Catholic church or on the uptight, self-righteous, narrow-minded pricks who insist that homosexuality is a sin, the fact remains that the Philippines is still a long way from taking homophobia out of its system. As such, condescending questions like these might be offensive (or specifically intended to offend), but these questions (or their variants) are fairly common.

I asked her why she asked. She replied with,

Well, you don’t have a boyfriend and you’ve been single for quite some time now. Also, you have a lot of girl crushes and you seem open to the idea of kissing girls.

Naturally, I was offended. This person obviously doesn’t know me and, tempted as I am to blow at her face and get all ultra-feminist on her, I kept my cool and responded with,

Funny, but it is fairly common to have girl crushes. I’m a fangirl so that happens quite naturally. I also have my fair share of guy crushes, but you probably don’t want to know that. Also, I don’t see anything wrong with having a bit of fun with friends. I don’t have a boyfriend out of personal choice. I’d rather be single than be in a relationship with a guy who would eventually disrespect me simply because I’m in desperate need of a boyfriend to appease my insecurities.

She didn’t respond after that. I have also lost what respect I have for her after that incident. Considering she brought up that question, it’s fair for her to assume I’m a lesbian and thinks it’s a bad thing. I’m fine with that because I don’t really give a fuck what she thinks. Also, you can stop thinking about the kissing other girls part now. That’s a story for another time.

This, however, brings about a very important point that I feel truly needs to be discussed.

When and how is it fair to consider gender as a basis for judging a person’s character or worthiness?

Let me emphasize that I don’t care about her opinions of me, but it is definitely a fair point to consider that there are several people who think like her. There are several people who judge and assess other people based on their opinions on gender and that’s not fair.

For one, what does gender have to do with a person’s character? What does sexual preference have to do with a person’s innate skills, abilities, or contribution to society?

Absolutely nothing.

A person could be gay and that fact would not affect his or her ability to excel in a field. In fact, a person excels regardless of gender if hard work and determination is present. A person could be as moral, as intelligent, as humane, or as trustworthy as the next person and this has nothing to do with gender. The same could be said of any negative traits. Essentially, if a person is an asshole, then that person is an asshole regardless of that person’s gender or social status.

So why do several people still use gender as a basis for judging another person?

We commonly hear phrases like, “Bakla kasi (It’s because s/he’s gay)” or “Stop whining like a bitch (bitch obviously doesn’t refer to the female dog but refers to the derogatory term for females)”, like being female or gay or transsexual, bisexual, etc is a bad thing. How is gender reflective of a person being an asshole or a jerk or an overall rude person? How and why is gender considered a rational basis for bullying someone or a certain community?

It doesn’t make sense to me. How could people tolerate having their genders assigned with negative connotations? Better yet,

How could people let this continue on until it has embedded into a culture of hate and antagonism?

In fact, just a few weeks ago, news came out of a transgendered Filipina was found murdered in a motel in Olongapo. Reports state that she was strangled, beaten up and drowned in the toilet bowl. Further reports state that the probable reason for her murder was that the man who was with her found out that she wasn’t “pure woman”.

As horrendous as this news report was, what’s more horrendous is the extremity of the negative comments on her sexuality by several “netizens”. Several people have labeled the murder victim as a whore and several more have said that she “deserved it” for “lying” about her sexuality and for “pretending to be a woman”. Some have even stated that “she’s just one transsexual, there are many still out there” and others who have stated that she brought this upon herself. Several people have bashed news articles and news reports for referring to the victim as a “she” instead of a “he” and for using the name “Jennifer” instead of “Jeffrey”.

What’s worse, even the Philippine media itself has anchored on the bandwagon (for ratings and viewership) by sensationalizing Jennifer’s gender, explicitly displaying Jennifer’s bikini photos next to the words “male”, “bakla (gay/transgender)” and “rape”. Some media outlets have decided to refer to the victim as “Jennifer ‘Jeffrey’ Laude” instead of just “Jennifer Laude” to avoid the negative rhetorics from critics on social media.

For this reason alone, it is unfortunate to state that the continued bashing and negative judgment of people when it comes to discussions of gender could not be stopped any time soon. There will always be people who will intentionally offend or bully another person because of gender, and there will be people like Anne who would continue to deprecate others by using gender to connote negativity.

However, all hope is not lost.

Several people have also demanded justice for Jennifer Laude’s death, and several more have defended her on social media and on the news. More people have also risen up to express their opinions on the homophobia that pervades the Filipino society and more people are fighting for the rights of the LGBT community in the Philippines. These people, young and old, straight or not, prove that while many will continue to judge others based on gender, many will also stand up to point out that it’s wrong.

Herbert Docena’s facebook post criticizing the homophobia in social media

In a very conservative, third-world country, that in itself is a big step.

On the question of my own sexuality? According to Kinsey, humans have very fluid sexualities. No one is purely straight or purely homosexual. For me, that mostly means I am mostly straight but I’m definitely not narrow.

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