Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Solidarity: a moral lesson for my sons and my niece

My gay hairdresser and I were in deep discussion about the LGBT rally, when the call from the television station came.

Dear Boys and Diana,

A long time ago, when I used to join the drivers of faculty members of the UP College of Medicine for lunch, I noticed that they behaved very differently towards faculty members who drove their own cars.

Dr. Marita Reyes, beloved of her students and beloved of her ex-students such as myself, never needed to find an empty parking space in the perpetually crowded parking lot. The minute she drove up, several of the drivers would volunteer to park her car for her. Instant and free valet service.

On the other hand, another doctor professor whom we shall not name, was left to fend for herself.

Your grandmother was the same way. She would enter the phone company, the bank or the electrical company to pay her bills, and would have at least one teller waving at her so that she could be attended to quickly.

I knew your grandmother's secret because I asked her about it. She said that if you really wanted your life to be easy, befriend the little people who actually did the work. For example, the bank teller who had a flower in her cubicle, received an orchid from your grandmother's garden on the next visit.

Yesterday, still in the advocacy t-shirt I wore for the rally to protest the non-accreditation of our LGBT political party, I requested our office driver to leave me at the beauty parlor. I needed a haircut and decided that walking home would be good exercise.

My gay hairdresser and I were in deep discussion about the LGBT rally, when the call from the television station came, requesting an interview. I agreed on condition that the TV crew pick me up from the parlor to take me home. My hairdresser would not have me go on TV to fight for his rights sans make up! He and his assistant gave up their tip (I had brought just enough to pay for the haircut and tip)so I could pay for the make up.

Those friends who saw me last night, and who are used to seeing me with an unmade face with its full complement of spots and wrinkles, have been teasing me about this. I do hope they liked the make-over.

In the interview I spoke of the psychological studies, decades old and never falsified by succeeding studies, that gay people are normal human beings. Except, that like many other groups, society discriminates against them. Many of them are part of that group your grandmother called "the little people" and what activists call "the marginalized". As your grandmother said, it is the little people who we must treat with respect. They are the ones whose rights we must guard as jealously as we guard are own. The ones to whom we must show compassion, or as the activist say, whose struggles we must join.

Forgive your corny mother (aunt), because I have seen this in you and know that you continue the family tradition without the drama. But I do want to play the role of the repetitive older one--you will appreciate the values drill someday

I add to your grandmother's wisdom--sometimes there is such a thing as John Lennon's Instant Karma--do a good deed and end up looking good (looking better?) on TV.

Or maybe, we might channel the philosopher Spinoza: altruism and compassion are a really good idea even for your own bottom line.

All my love,

Mother (and Tita Guy)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Only the religious are free

Yet another bone-headed. white, liberal,sexist report from the know-it-alls in the US State Department.

The 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom, released in Washington, DC, in late October, said the Philippine government generally respected religious freedom in practice and that there was no change in the status of this respect during the period of the study, from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009.

The report lauds the fact that there are no forced religious conversions and no religious prisoners.

In the Philippines, we are free to believe--NOT!

The Philippines remains one of only two countries which does not allow divorce. The Philippines is also a country where abortion is illegal under all conditions . A reproductive health bill that merely protects accepted international standards of health cannot be passed despite nine years of advocacy because politicians who are Catholic insist on obeying the prescriptions of the Church and other Church-mandated bodies.1 What is pertinent here is that those against the bill state their religious beliefs as the basis for their objection without any attempt to reconcile their actions with provisions in the Philippine Constitution on secularism, non-establishment of religions and non-discrimination.

Last January 21, 2008 a case was filed in the Philippine Court of Appeals to invalidate Executive Order No. 003, a policy banning "artificial contraceptives" in all of Manila's public health facilities. This order was promulgated in February 2000 by then-mayor Jose "Lito" Atienza, Jr. The case was filed by 20 women directly affected by the Executive Order. Atienza repeatedly justifies this action as a way of advancing “morals” and as a result of his being “pro-life” and a member of the organization Couple's for Christ.

Because of the contraception ban, public health centers in Manila City are prohibited from providing condoms, birth control pills, or other forms of "artificial" contraceptives and related information. The dire effects have been profound. Despite Atienza's having been voted out of office in 2007, the Executive Order remains.

The case has followed a difficult course in the Philippine courts and as finally dismissed by the Supreme Court on a technicality causing the Center for Reproductive Policy to comment, “the Philippine Supreme Court rules in favor of ideology”. At the moment there is a petition for urgent action on the matter to the CEDAW Committee.

About a week ago our Commission on Elections has refused to accredit a political party representing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. The petition for accreditation was denied on the grounds of religion. The decision of the Commissioners quotes the interpreters of the Koran and the Bible wit regards to homosexuality.

These violations of sexual and reproductive rights of Philippine women en masse is a result of an religious/ideological hegemony. This hegemony is established not so much by extremist politics but by the willing acquiescence of allegedly grown men and women for someone else, often the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, determine their morality for them.

The fault here is not in the inability to express faith. These definitions of religious freedom may be coming from populations unlike the Philippines, where religion and colonial subservience have had a long and incestuous relationship. The Spanish friars who governed and abused the Philippines during the centuries of colonial occupation kept their power over Filipinos because they did not allow the native population to engage in a direct appreciation of the Bible. Philippine Catholicism is burdened by this colonial legacy. Up to the present spirituality is mediated for the masses by powerful and power-hungry men who have valorized obedience to their teachings as part of Catholic morality.

Maybe they should do a study to see whether we are also free not to believe. In the meantime, we can test the waters by not believing in the BS indicators of yet another BS report from the US State Department.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Psychiatric Association of the Taliban

Dear Editor

Is there anyway to impeach the following Comelec Comisssioners: Nicodemo T. Ferrer, Lucinito N. Tagle and Elias R. Yusoph?

They must be impeached because they have openly decided to turn the country into a religious state instead of a secular one. I am referring of course to their decision to outlaw Ladlad on the basis of upholding religious beliefs. They quote the Bible and the Koran forgetting that they should consult the Philippine Constitution instead. Only in the Philippines would we have high government officials who state that obedience to religious beliefs trumps other more cogent legal provisions as a basis for policy.

If stupidity were a basis for impeachment, the proceedings would be quite short. Their display of ignorance of current scientific knowledge on sexuality is quite appalling. They should have taken the simple expedient of asking any psychiatrist or psychologist who upholds the standards of organizations like the World Health Organization or the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations. They would have been told that homosexuality was delisted as a psychological pathology more than 30 years ago. They either did not bother to read for themselves or consulted the psychiatric association of the Taliban when they decided that homosexuality is an abnormality.

As a Filipino citizen who is neither Christian nor Muslim; as a practitioner and teacher in psychology and sexuality; as someone who cares that we do not look like backward bigots to the world community; I urge the impeachment of these men who have violated morals, scientific truths and our laws against discrimination.

I am so upset. I'm gay starting today and until Ladlad gets accredited.

Sylvia  Estrada Claudio, M.D. PhD.
Director, University Center for Women’s Studies
Professor of Women and Development Studies
University of the Philippines