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Nothing ‘gay’ about hate crimes

I have an older cousin who in our younger years took up smoking. This was no big deal—if my cousin had been a boy. But she was a girl—a young woman by that time, a professional at that—but still the older generation frowned on her smoking, as did her boyfriend then.

This was apart from all the health issues involved, I suspect. I think the basis for all the oldsters’ objections was that it was “unseemly” for a woman to be smoking, a sign of degeneration, if not decadence. So my cousin would attend family parties and at some point after dinner sneak away to a bathroom for a smoke, after which she desperately tried to waft away the smell of cigarette smoke by opening a window, and clear her breath of the smell of cigarettes by brushing her teeth and chewing a fistful of gum. She fooled nobody.

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At the time, I thought it was impossibly sophisticated of her to have taken up the habit, and incredibly brave to persist and defy the social stigma. But after a few years passed, enough women had started smoking and gradually the stigma began to lift. Without our noticing it, a woman hooked on nicotine was no longer such a novelty or scandal. In our later years, smoking would once more turn into a social evil, but not because it spoke about the smoker’s morals. Rather, it would be about the smoker’s health and of those around him/her, second-hand smoke being a far greater health threat than primary smoke.

Anyway, I don’t think any woman was ever targeted for violence because she smoked. Unless, judging from those funny silent movies that used to air for Virginia Slims cigarettes, you counted getting doused with a bucket of water as you enjoyed your cigarette, as violence.

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But the story of women and smoking is bound to be repeated as with many other social phenomena, from tattoos to breast implants, from gayness to same-sex marriage.

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Yup, all of the above was simply by way of easing into a discussion of same-sex marriage, a topic that has become hot and “trending,” thanks to two men: US President Barack Obama and “national fist” and newly minted Bible-thumping preacher Manny Pacquiao.

Same-sex marriage hit world headlines and became a factor in this year’s American presidential election after Obama, who had been struggling with what the New York Times described as “one of the most contentious and politically charged social issues of the day,” made a surprise announcement on TV that he thought “same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

It would have been far safer—and more in tune with the politics of caution and accommodation—for Obama to simply keep quiet about the issue. But he said that his stand had been “evolving” for years and influenced by, among others, conversations he had with friends who are gay and with his wife and daughters.

Perhaps one other deciding factor is that, as the NYT report put it: “Public support for same-sex marriage is growing at a pace that surprises even pollsters as older generations of voters who tend to be strongly opposed are supplanted by younger ones who are just as strongly in favor.”

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Asked his opinion on Obama’s announcement, Pacquiao said he was against same-sex marriage; somewhere in the interview, a biblical passage about homosexuality being an abomination whose practitioners should be put to death, made an appearance.

The reactions have understandably been stormy, with an online campaign launched to convince Nike, a major sports shoes and apparel company, to drop Pacquiao as an endorser. Even a Beverly Hills mall entered the picture, banning the boxer from its premises.

The PacMan has since apologized, and clarified that the biblical passage did not come from him. He also declared that while he was against marriage for gays, he had nothing against them, personally.

To come back to my analogy about women and smoking, it’s like declaring you have nothing against women, only that you think that a woman who smokes is a slut.

Fortunately, in a political sense, the entire controversy erupted around the time that the world observed the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, also known by the rather clever acronym IDAHO.

Locally, gay groups led by the Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch and Ladlad Partylist marked the day with a march to the Commission on Human Rights with the aim of “bringing into focus the incidence of hate crimes against LGBTs in the country.”

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The Filipino public seems to take a rather benign view of the gay community, at least judging from popular media and the widespread use of gayspeak. But a spokesperson of Ladlad points out that LGBTs “are becoming increasingly vulnerable to crimes because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.” The group has tracked the number of LGBTs killed since 1996 at 156, with 16 of these killings occurring just this year. “Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are the major motivations for hate crimes… Fear and hatred kill,” says Santy Layno of Ladlad.

“Since there is no mechanism that helps identify hate crime victims, we don’t know how many more have been killed over the years,” says Marlon Lacsamana of the Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch. “The government needs to recognize, investigate, document and prosecute hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. For that we need to get the active support of CHR (Commission on Human Rights).”

The groups are asking three things of the CHR: acknowledge that hate crimes are serious problems that must be given due attention, facilitate dialogues with the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Philippine National Police to address the growing number of hate crimes, and commit to provide support for legislation addressing the problem.

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TAGS: At Large, gay, gays, Gender issues, Hate Crimes, LGBT, Lifestyle, opinion, Rina Jimenez-David
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