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11:04 PM June 29th, 2013

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I have to admit I used to be semihomophobic. I say “semi” because though I did not run away at the sight of gay people, I would silently condemn them and pray they would become straight. I studied in a Catholic school and I guess this is primarily why I used to wish people would stop being gay. I thought heaven was not for gays and that straight was less complicated.

I can’t say when I managed to shake it out of my system, but one thing’s for sure: I’m semihomophobic no more. It does help when one puts a face or a name to the label, and I thank my talented and really good-looking gay friends for my change of heart. They made me realize that one’s heart and passions transcend sexual preference and appearance.

I am no diehard fan of the recently out-of-the-closet Charice Pempengco, but yes, she manages to give me goose bumps every time she takes the stage. At a very young age she won the hearts of many, transcending geographical and cultural boundaries through pure talent. She has received countless standing ovations, whether in her own concerts or those of other international stars. She has made the Philippines proud and has made its presence felt in the international entertainment scene. Still, and as though she owes anyone anything, Charice has been bashed in the media countless times—all because she was suspected to be, and has eventually admitted to being, a lesbian.

As a psychology major, I cringed at the nasty comments such as “abnormal” and “may sapi  (possessed).” It made me uncomfortable to see nonpsychology majors attaching the “A” word to someone so easily when in fact that someone has to be meticulously checked against the 3Ds (dysfunctional, distressed, deviant), and subjected to psychological tests, etc. before such a diagnosis can be made.

Of course, there are those who support the former “Glee” star, but sadly they are few. Conclusion? The number of narrow-minded beings is still greater than those who treat people with unconditional positive regard. Carl Rogers would certainly be upset.

In times like this, we tell ourselves: If they can do it to someone like Charice and Rosie O’Donnell and Clay Aiken and Lance Bass and Ricky Martin, all the more can they do it to ordinary people, like you and me. In times like this, we ask: What if it happens to my kid or to a brother, or another loved one? That’s going to be perfectly hard, and emotionally taxing. And in times like this, we reflect: We have become so bound by labels (black, poor, disabled, old, etc.) that we forget the significant things of humanity. As a gay friend put it, there are many things we don’t understand, and most of the time the things we don’t understand cause us to be repulsive. Do we blame the homophobic for who they are? No, we blame them for what they do.

The Charice issue resurrected, and magnified, the great disconnect between how we say we view homosexuals and how we actually treat them. We say we tolerate, if not accept, gays and lesbians, but there is still pervasive discrimination. But why, when we see them literally everywhere?

We get our daily dose of Vice Ganda and his flamboyant costumes on TV. We adore Pepsi Herrera’s designs and we frequent Reyes Haircutters for the latest hairstyles. We are filled with pride and joy every time Ellen Degeneres invites young Filipino talents to sing in her show. And what about that gay office colleague of yours who never fails to entertain everyone as though no deadlines are coming up? Oh, and remember the ever-approachable female guard they call “Lesbo”? Or the gay professor who made you comprehend (finally!) the formulas in calculus?

And still we laugh each time someone is taunted “bakla”?

Being gay or lesbian, regardless of stature, is and should never be an issue. Everyone has the freedom of choice to live life the way he or she wants it to be. Homosexuals should be praised for inspiring others to never be ashamed of themselves.

Charice, sans the international career, powerful voice, and boyish do, is a human being worthy of our respect. For her courage to come out despite the odds and for choosing not to hide her real self because of the ignorance of other people, she has won the world again. With her bravery, she will soar to greater heights. It is but right to give her another standing ovation.

The same goes to all the homosexuals out there. Be proud.

Felisse Marianne Z. San Juan, 21, works at the Lyceum of the Philippines University-Laguna.

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