Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dear Blog: I think I just became a trans person who is gay

Dear Blog,

I am a bit confused about my sexuality these days. Fundamental changes have come so fast that I am feeling that I have lost control of my identity. My sexual orientation shifted 3 weeks ago and now my gender identity has changed also. Strangely enough, I am sure of my politics.

But let me recall events. We had a great forum last Tuesday, December 8. The University of the Philippines College of Law, the University of the Philippines Center for Women's Studies (UCWS), RainbowRights and Libertas held a forum entitled: "I am so gay for human rights: A forum on politics and identity". We had planned this forum in October to cap the meeting of all gender coordinators of the 9 UP campuses. The UCWS, of which I am Director, hosts this meeting yearly.

Last November 13, the second division of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) decided to deny the application for accreditation of the LGBT political party Ladlad. The COMELEC stated that LGBTs were immoral (they cited the Bible and the Quran)as the basis for the decision. I was so upset, I declared that day, "I am gay until Ladlad gets accredited."

The UCWS, on the prompting of College of Law Dean Leonen, revised the format of the forum to include a discussion of the issues raised by the Comelec decision.

We had a great forum. I introduced the concept of identity politics, its usefulness as well as pitfalls. Dean Leonen recapped his lecture to the Supreme Court on identity, indigenous peoples and the law. Prof. Ibarra Guitierez talked about mraginalization, identity and the law on political parties. Germaine Leonin Trittle discussed Ladlad's accreditation process and it's petition for reconsideration.

Perhaps our session was blessed because December 8 is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Perhaps it is also because December 8 is Philippine Lesbian Day. Maybe both.

The only sour note was that I realized that I had been guilty of not treating transgender people with equal attention. One of the audience pointed out during the open forum that the Comelec decision had ignored all the reports of documented abuse submitted with their petition. She mentioned that in truth, many of these abuses were committed against transgender persons. She mentioned that even in Philippine history, transgender people had been part of the resistance against invaders, if not the leaders, and had suffered at the hands of the colonizers.

Another member of the audience mentioned that we had to be clearer about the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.

All these comments hit me hard. I knew in my heart that I was as guilty as the COMELEC in my lack of understanding for transgender persons.

So I announced that I was withdrawing my identity as a gay person. From that moment on, I announced, "I am a transgender person until Ladlad gets accredited."

The kind members of the transgender community seemed to welcome me and forgive my previous insensitivity. I thought this resolved the matter.

Until I got home. I realized I still had not got it right. I did not need to dissociate myself from my gay identity completely. After all, I could be a gay trans person. This is precisely what my trans brothers and sisters were trying to tell me when they were insisting that we be clear about the distinction between gender identity and sexual orientation.

But, dear blog, this is not why I am confused about my sexuality. The confusion stems from the fact that despite repeated promises to put Ladlad's petition for accreditation on the agenda of the COMELEC's en banc sessions, this has not happened.

Each time they delay deliberation and their decision, my sexuality hangs in the balance. I hope they decide soon. Then I can declare, "I am a gay transperson until the Supreme Court rules favorably on the Ladlad petition" or even, " I am a gay transperson until the United Nations censures the Philippine Government for it's violation of the human rights of LGBTI." As Prof. Guitierez mentioned, "we will take this issue up to the United Nations because some official body has to say it is wrong."

I teach my students that sexuality is very fluid and that identity is socially constructed.

I had not realized my life would be a case study.


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