It would be appropriate to start this missive by noting the year of our recorded civilization: 2013; and by including a recent headline reflecting our current state of affairs: "Obama urges U.S. high court to allow gay marriage in California." In other parts of the world, at least the more progressive parts, the public discourse has since advanced from individual gay rights to gay marriage. However, after reading the following widely-circulated articles online about you, my dear Philippines, I realized that you are still stuck in the dark ages.
"... 82 percent of respondents across the Philippines said sexual relations between two adults of the same sex was "always wrong" in a separate 1991 survey ... In the same survey 16 years later, the number had hardly changed, with 79 percent agreeing that same-sex acts were wrong all the time. . ."
Second, parenting gay children:
"Explain that he is a boy and therefore, as boys, they grow up as men and their partners are women."
"Most families still cannot accept the fact that something went wrong with their parenting. They feel that something is not right -- moral issues are always part of the issues, especially to the Christian..."
It is difficult not to take the bigotry behind these articles personally, because I grew up in Manila and I had seen this culture of condemnation around me. By the time a gay child in the Philippines reaches adulthood, he has already survived an enormous amount of bullying, family rejection, public humiliation, catholic moral judgment, and other kinds of abuses that we all know nobody deserves.
Cultures mature like children. Minds expand. Insights deepen. Understanding human differences eventually becomes the norm. In some parts of the world, like Uganda (i.e. kill the gays bill) or in my dear Philippines, time warp seems to be the name of the day. That 79 percent responded to a survey that "same-sex acts are wrong" is very alarming especially for a country that I always thought was gay. Two decades ago, I started a Filipino gay and lesbian organization in New York City. The disproportionate number of gay siblings in the group didn't surprise me at all. Growing up in Manila, I was surrounded by gays and lesbians, many related to each other; some were my relatives. Your gay and lesbian families are huge and visible. While we are not without our flaws, we certainly contribute to your dynamic cultural fabric. Lest we forgot, you are the first country to have an LGBT group for a national political party.
Uganda and the Philippines have a common source when it comes to what influences public attitude towards homosexuality: Christianity. I would hope that in 2013, Filipinos had already unshackled themselves from the oppressive nature of organized religion, or at the very least, questioned its overarching purpose in contemporary life and national progress. But who am I kidding? Filipinos dream of a Filipino Pope despite how that might curtail the burgeoning women's rights movement. Have we already forgotten that Jose Rizal's fictional heroine Maria Clara was fathered by a powerful parish priest, an all too familiar reality from our raucous colonial history under Spain? In fact, my late godfather, another parish priest, had children. We are used to controversy, but when it comes to anything remotely biblical or anyone who propagates the "word of god," Filipinos are mum.
Sometimes I wonder if we are a damaged people. Colonized twice, occupied once. Christianized forever. Catastrophes, natural and human, alight with the closing and opening of our eyes. My late father and his friends who survived the Japanese concentration camps during the second World War used to tell me that along the route of the Death March, many Filipinos just watched and did nothing and how very few risked their lives to give the marching soldiers food and water. It is very disturbing to me how fear takes root in the heart of the Filipino people, and how it lingers and becomes the language of hate and indifference. But I also know this is not always the case. In New York City, I am surrounded by very intelligent, open-minded and outspoken Filipinos who contribute to America's intellectual and cultural mosaic. They are critical thinkers, not prone to group-think and submission. Some of them continue to practice Catholicism, notwithstanding obvious polemics.
I spent five years of my young life as an altar boy. I still attend mass, although for different reasons now. What I personally enjoy are the stories in the gospels above love and forgiveness, the prospect of redemptive embrace despite our differences, and the endless spiritual resurrections. Flip the pages of the New Testament and you will not find a line where Jesus condemns homosexuals. Jesus only spoke of love, and we know this, although you allow these sinister leaders to leverage Christian writings against the very oppressed people Jesus was crucified for.
It's 2013, look around you: more and more countries are moving beyond the basic acceptance of homosexuality. Governments are marrying their lesbian and gay couples. In fact, last year, I attended my first Filipino gay wedding in New York City. The legal ceremony was teeming with Filipinos, celebrating, dancing, breaking bread. I thought it was just another Filipino wedding, but soon realized what it deeply meant to me as a gay Filipino. Amid the expressions of love, I imagined a better Philippines: finally out of darkness, showering her gay and lesbian children the freedoms to live our full potential, letting us be what we are and who we are, and accepting what we have to do in order to fulfill all the wonderful reasons why we exist.
Your proud son,
Bino A. Realuyo