The debate on the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (Sogie) Equality Bill, formerly the Anti-Discrimination Bill, has been around for two decades. But for the past month until now, this dispute has garnered nationwide attention online—thanks to the online hearing held by the House of Representatives committee on women and gender equality last Nov. 4.
In that hearing, House Deputy Speaker Eddie Villanueva, founder of the Jesus Is Lord Church, implied that the LGBTQ+ community should undergo "emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual rehabilitation." Lawyer Lyndon Caña of the Coalition of Concerned Families of the Philippines also claimed that the community wants to become a "super special elite class." They claimed that we are emotionally, psychosocially, and spiritually hindered, and we want to become more special than the heterosexuals.
These are dangerous and terrible misconceptions.
The Sogie Equality Bill, first and foremost, is an act that seeks to penalize any form of discrimination based on Sogie, which everyone has. (Newsflash: Everyone has Sogie!) Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman said, "the right to study and the right to work are basic rights." With the bill, everyone is safe; it just so happens that the LGBTQ+ community needs the most protection against discrimination based on Sogie.
Second, Caña suggested that necrophilia and pedophilia are sexual orientations endorsed by the community. This is a dangerous misconception. These are not part of the community—these are crimes. Lumping these crimes with a community with real orientations, identities, and expressions diminish our truth, our experiences, and our reality.
Third and last, the bill does not put the LGBTQ+ community above straight people. It seeks equality—to fulfill the equal protection clause in the 1987 Constitution, recognizing that the community's rights are protected as much as everyone else's. It is not a luxury; we're talking of basic human rights. The members of the community have been suffering for far too long for just being part of the community.
In a 2017 report by Human Rights Watch, students across the country said they experienced bullying and discrimination in school just because of their Sogie. In the workplace, the Philippine Corporate Sogie Diversity and Inclusiveness Index (CSDI) 2018 reported that out of 100 companies surveyed, zero had policies protecting their employees from Sogie-based discrimination. Early in September, President Duterte pardoned Joseph Pemberton, a US Marine who killed transgender Jennifer Laude. Before September ended, news of trans sister Madonna Nierra's dead body on a riverside in Caloocan was all over social media. These are only a few of the issues and problems that members face for being part of the LGBTQ+ community.
The Sogie Equality Bill protects us from the discrimination that heterosexuals rarely experience—but while also protecting them. It is not meant to put us on a pedestal; basic human rights are not special rights or a luxury. They are not a privilege that should be given only to those who have earned themselves a spot to be safe in the world; they are rights that we all deserve. Nobody should live in fear of being their authentic self. Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, non-binary, and more in the spectrum is not a crime.
It's high time the country protected ALL of its citizens, and that includes the LGBTQ+ community, too.
Justine Rhys Martirez,
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