I’m a man. I fear no SOGIESC Equality Bill.


I’m a man. I fear no SOGIESC Equality Bill.

By DAKILA Member-Contributor

23 years in limbo and your next step just has to be backwards. That sounds like some hugot too many of us ordinary folk might be led to quip, our scramble for ginhawa becoming more absurdly hopeless by the day. But I’m talking about something more specific. Last February, the Anti-Discrimination Bill (ADB, a.k.a the SOGIESC Equality Bill), the most basic of bills, was reverted to the committee level. The bill—drafted in 2004—needs further study, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva argued. 

While the ADB was approved again last May by the House Committee, it remains the longest-running bill in the Philippines. Which is to say: whether we should protect our fellow Filipinos from discrimination is still a matter of debate. Can we do better? 

I’m just a man. I pray the Rosary every other morning. My preoccupations include the cultivation of physical strength, the pursuit of adventure, and things that produce smoke, fire, and noise. I think that life without an enemy or opposing force to vanquish is meaningless. But who am I to tell those who bleed the same blood as I do that some rights belong to me and that others belong to them?

Last year, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla’s delegation rejected the United Nations Human Rights Council’s recommendation for the Philippines to adopt the ADB. We are “not ready” for it, he said, because ours is a predominantly Catholic nation. 

Speak for your kind, you who call yourself a man. We also happen to be a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, a pagan nation: one where—by law—no religion takes precedence over the other; one with a long history of innumerable denominations and spiritualities as much as gender orientations and expressions and identities. 

To me, then, the narrowmindedness that the likes of Villanueva, Remulla, and Congressman Benny Abante represent comes off as an emotional aversion to anything ‘Western’ and ‘progressive,’ an urge to take the easy way out by generalization: My opinion, because it’s shared by a majority, represents who we are and all we are. If it isn’t in the Book, I don’t want anything to do with it. I’ll just let someone else—or my feelings, my religion, my “culture”—do the thinking for me. 

Wala kayong bayag. Only a coward cannot think for himself. More despicably, the refusal to become acquainted with all facets of a given subject, to flinch from viewing it objectively and responding to it rationally, leads to an inane, childish understanding of, say, respect and equality across genders. These boys appear unable to comprehend that the ADB isn’t even a special bill for the LGBTQIA+, but one that seeks protection for us all. 

I cannot deny that this blind panic is shared by many other Filipinos. I’m sorry that I even had to write this column.
I also cannot deny that when we finally get the Anti-Discrimination Bill enacted into law—itself already an immense challenge—it will be but a small victory in the fight for equality. To win justice for our LGBTQIA+ kababayans—and therefore for all Filipinos—there are a thousand more giants to be slain.

There are challenges of policy and implementation, as in the need to push all parties to tackle the problem collectively: religious orders, civil service organizations, the family, the private sector, and the government. There are challenges unique to our geography and culture; challenges posed by our disparities in wealth, education, and perspective; the wounds from our nation’s troubled history; the rising specter of disinformation; and the greed of those who profit from injustice, so let it be. All of them are connected on a scale that would not fit this page. 

There is also the ordeal of facing our individual misgivings and insecurities: of working through the ways we were raised, the attitudes passed on to us by our dear ones, and the entire libraries we must burn. Do we choose the easy way or the honest way?

Until some of our duty-bearers can man the F up, we must take it upon ourselves to win our dignity as a people. Know your SOGIESC. Educate your family and friends, your taxi driver and suki sa palengke about why the ADB matters—so that they may in turn educate others, so that one day our Senate or delegations to the UN may have smarter—and braver—people in them. Sign the petition. Speak up for victims of SOGIE-based discrimination, and hold the perpetrators accountable. Fight until the ADB becomes law—and when it finally is, fight for the law to be upheld. 

In spite of our recent successes, such as the enactment of local anti-discrimination ordinances in Manila, Davao, Iloilo, and Cebu Cities, the battle for liberty will be long and painful. As a straight man—who doesn’t tend to be the victim of gender-based discrimination—and a cowboy who takes on life with an individualistic vigor, some might say I have little to gain from my stake. That’s not how it works. Not one of us is free until all of us are free.

And if some of our so-called envoys and leaders are not ready for the colossal task before us? Their defeat. The rest of us—be us men and women, straights, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, queers, asexuals, and all those in between—are prepared to do this the hard way.

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