LGBTQ+ and Filipino biocitizenship
The separation of public toilets has nothing to do with bodily functions. Both female and male body parts are well suited to the porcelain bowl. Rather, the separate-but-equal practice is the instrumentalization of dogmatic body politics.
The body has rights, but whose body may count as a citizen provides the conditions to exercise those responsibilities and claim those privileges, most especially the freedom from harm and exclusion. Biocitizenship is rooted in our assumptions about sexual norms and in our judgments about the capacity to perform bodily acts—all underpinned by our vision of what precisely constitutes the Filipino body.
So, what is the Filipino body? And with the recent demonization of Gretchen Diez, do LGBTQ+ bodies hold Filipino citizenship?
Senate President Vicente Sotto gives us the answer. The variety show host-turned-political spectacle has aired well-known doubts with the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (Sogie) Equality Bill. “Women cannot be compared to a group like that [trans women] because, I hate to say this but I have to—if you are a man, you will never be a woman, no matter what you do, because you cannot reproduce. You cannot give birth, you do not have ovaries,” he said.
The senator is forgetting that women do not give birth. Females do. But we can unpack this for another day.
The Filipino body is male with natural and functional male body parts. It is insulated with a manhood package of masculinity and virility with which it rehearses and performs the able-bodied male virtue.
Filipino biocitizenship is not by osmosis. It is an exclusive, and exclusionary, club ordained—its members would argue—by some higher being, and managed by medico-moral civil servants with the enthusiastic succor of people in robes. LGBTQ+ Filipinos are antithetical and a direct threat to this biological chauvinism.
Women fare no better. They do not have equal standing. Sotto sees women by their bodily functions and therefore bodies that can be regulated and controlled. It shows indifference to women as individuals with depth and humanity.
Filipino biocitizenship is inherently discriminatory against the Filipino woman’s body. That abortion is illegal regulates female bodies, but favors male ones. It controls what may or may not be done with the female body—and, per the senator’s comment, what it can and should do. The pregnant female is punished if she does not want to be a mother, but the would-be father is unleashed from any responsibility. Opposition to abortion—dogmatic conservatism especially—is not so much pro-life as it is pro-male body.
The senator and his ilk are hardly alone in this pulpit. The Filipino body has long been an object of governance. We can locate their prejudice—and it is prejudice—in a long line of manifest destiny actions.
In the early 1900s, Victor Heiser eagerly led the burden of civilizing and cleansing the Filipino, or what Rudyard Kipling’s racist eloquence referred to as the “half-devil and half-child.” As the first director of health in America’s new Pearl of the Orient, Heiser understood that “to transform them [Filipinos] from the weak and feeble race we have found them into the strong, healthy and enduring people that they may yet become is to lay the foundations for the successful future of the country.”
This “white man’s burden” made permissible strategic appropriations. It conferred the legitimacy of state-sponsored discrimination and perversions—social, economic, political and scientific. A hundred-year hop, skip and jump later, and we find ourselves in the chambers of Congress.
To be triaged from a public toilet is to be excluded from the banalities of civic life and thus to relive empire. Gretchen Diez is the infantile property or chattel the colonizers want to refashion into the white corporeal image. Resistance to the Sogie Equality Bill is a salvage operation of this colonial enterprise—the moral and delusional obligation to keep in line those deemed nonconforming.
LGBTQ+ Filipinos violate authorized responsibilities. They are degenerates who cross the symbolic demarcation and hierarchy between “good” and “bad” sexuality. Government must step in with conditional policies and projects. Sexual-minority Filipinos have to be denied basic human rights until they are cleansed of their moral bankruptcy.
Victor Heiser would be so proud.
Dr. Ronald Del Castillo is professor of psychology, public health and public policy at the University of the Philippines Manila. The views here are his own.
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