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‘Let’s not lose sight of our common humanity’

12:59 AM August 24, 2015

DEAR ANGELA,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about same-sex marriage (“Divorcing history,” Young Blood, 8/20/15). I always find it admirable when young people have the courage to voice their opinions. Same-sex relationships remain controversial in the Philippines, and we expect that there’d always be differences on how we appreciate decisions by consenting same-sex adults to establish their own families.

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As a gay activist, I just wish to correct the factual errors and misconceptions in your article.

First, I think it is quite unfair and illogical to compare the desire of same-sex couples to get legal recognition for their relationships to allowing marriage with our beloved pets. It is fallacious, a non sequitur, and in fact the issue of marriage equality isn’t so much about asking the state to legitimize same-sex love as about the government not discriminating against consensual adult relationships.

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Second, you said that marriage is primarily about reproduction. That’s also untrue. Having children is still the decision of the couple, and in fact even among heterosexuals, reproduction is NOT a requirement to marry. As you have pointed out, same-sex couples, like any other couples, have different means to have children.

Third, it is incorrect to say that children growing up in same-sex households end up abnormal or immoral. They don’t become LGBT just because they’re reared by same-sex parents. One’s sexual orientation or gender identity (Sogi) is not determined by the Sogi of our parents. The LGBTs I know are children of heterosexual couples (can it be, then, based on your argument, that heterosexual marriage is the root of being LGBT?). There are in fact many studies in countries where same-sex relationships are recognized that prove that children in same-sex households are better than their counterparts in “hetero” households. You should ask your parents or teachers additional and evidence-based information about this subject because it will enrich your insights on the matter.

Finally, you argued that it is against the common good, and that it would lead to more sexually transmitted infections. The truth is that in the case of HIV, countries that patently discriminate against LGBTs (for example, those who criminalize same-sex behavior) have higher HIV prevalence. There are also studies that show that embracing LGBTs have a positive impact on our collective wellbeing. It does not only eliminate health-related risks caused by stigma and discrimination, it is also good for our economy. For instance, in the case of India, its economy would be 1 percent bigger had it been more inclusive of LGBTs. I’m sure that the same would be an effect of a more LGBT-inclusive Philippines.

Dear Angela, I hope what you have written about same-sex marriage is just the beginning of a thought process on this issue. Filipinos in general have exercised sham tolerance toward LGBTs, and I understand why it remains contentious for many of us. But we have reached a point where we can’t simply ignore the facts about same-sex relationships and about being LGBT and insist on surrounding ourselves with misconceptions and faith-based hatred.

There will always be those who will never be convinced of the plausibility of LGBTs as citizens who deserve equality or dignity. I hope you are not one of them. But in deciding where we stand on this issue, we should not lose sight of our common humanity. It is in this spirit that I encourage you to take your interest further and to meet LGBT parents and LGBT couples. You’d discover that at its core, our life journeys are no different from those you are more familiar with: We love our pets, but not enough to marry them; we fall in love, we fall out of love; we struggle to make our relationships work.

If we face the same struggles, why then should our relationships be treated differently?

Jonas Bagas is an “LGBT rights ninja, HIV activist, political geek, show biz idiot, and TLF Share executive director.”

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