“It’s always easier to organize around intolerance, narrow-mindedness, and false nostalgia” – Barack Obama
I was surprised by the silence of the LGBT community over the statement of Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (CBCP-ECFL), regarding singer Charice Pempengco’s admission that she is a lesbian.
Fr. Castro said, “In this time of her life that she is experiencing an identity crisis regarding her sexual orientation, we would rather not pre-judge her…. Let’s hope that there will be people out there that will help guide her with her sexual orientation called same-sex attraction…We should help her journey with this same-sex attraction situation so that she will know that having a same-sex attraction does not mean that she has to engage in a [homosexual] relationship…. This, I think, is where her family and friends should come in and intervene to help her.”
That is prejudice dressed in pseudo-clinical jargon. Fr. Castro’s remarks can be excused if he had clarified that his comment on Charice’s sexuality was based on the teachings of his church. But he did not. Instead he diagnosed her clinically, as someone suffering from an identity crisis because of her sexual orientation and prescribed intervention as the cure for a malady that makes her want to engage in female to female sex.
Can Fr. Castro prove that sexuality is a choice rather than in-born? Besides, why does it matter if sexuality is in-born or a matter of choice? Outside of religious beliefs and ignorance, can one say that one form of sexuality is superior to another and that one is wrong and the other right? Why is sexuality even an issue in a pluralistic democracy? I’m at a loss as to why Fr. Castro felt impelled to comment negatively on Charice’s sexuality. Was he afraid that an epidemic of lesbianism will follow in the wake of Charice’s admission?
My online encyclopedia says “Heterosexism is a system of attitudes, bias, and discrimination in favor of opposite-sex sexuality and relationships. It can include the presumption that opposite-sex attractions and relationships are the only norm and therefore superior.”
Heterosexism leads to non-heterosexuals being regarded as second class citizens who deserve to be deprived of “various legal and civil rights, economic opportunities, and social equality.”
Fellow columnist Marie Yuviengco pointed that out in her essay, Marriage Pinoy-style. She cited legislated discrimination against non-heterosexuals. What kind of society would enact laws that legalize and legitimize discrimination? Ms. Yuviengco urged Charice to “campaign for the changes that have been so long overdue.” Rightly so.
In this country, the wall separating Church and State is porous, laws that are based on religion-specific values are enforced on both believers and non-believers alike. We are not the only democracy struggling with this problem. US president Barack Obama’s speech explaining his personal position on abortion and the role of the religiously motivated in a pluralistic democracy showed that America is also in the same bind.
“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible,” he said. Obama’s insight also applies to the religion-specific opposition to same-sex marriage, divorce, and the RH Law.
Charice knew her sexuality at age five but she was forced to hide it until she was 21. She was locked up in a closet for 16 years! There are many Charices out there who are also locked up, unable to live and love freely, because of the intolerance and narrow-mindedness of our society. Fr. Castro encourages that mentality and in so doing fuels and perpetuates the prejudice and discrimination – the injustice – that non-heterosexuals have to suffer. Where is the outrage?