Who are Pinoy LGBTs?
My friend asked me how the LGBT people spend (observe, celebrate) Christmas in the Philippines.
I felt it was like asking what the weather is like in the world. The weather varies here there and elsewhere. What LGBT do varies here, there, and elsewhere.
Who are LGBT people in the Philippines? Do I know? Does anybody know? There are probably ten million of us. Are we all alike? The only thing for sure is we are everywhere, but we are not all the same.
We see a few of us quite visible in bars. We see a fewer number of us in concerned activist LGBT organizations, fighting for our rights. Even fewer are seen in six or seven LGBT friendly Christian churches.
How does “church” play a part in LGBT Christmas?
Church or religious activities with family is standard for many Filipinos including some LGBT Filipinos. Church with other LGBT people in MCC or Ecumenical Church of God (ECOG) satisfies the religious inclinations of some LGBT Christians.
That brings us to Christmas as a Christian religious holiday. And that brings us to a closer look at Pinoy LGBT people and religion.
We have all heard repeated condemnations attributed to the very Truth of God coming from Christian pulpits. Even as I write, I hear a sizzling TV sermon on how LGBT so-called marriage is destroying the only real family of one man, one woman, and their children. And blaming it all on the terrible same-sex activities taking place at Sodom. I wanted to scream. There is no evidence that any same-sex behaviour was going on at Sodom!
Some LGBT Christians react with withdrawal
Some LGBT people heard so many of these near violent condemnations that they simply ran away from it all and decided that if “Christian” and the “Christian God” rejected them, why hang around?
Some churches offer “conversion” (from LGBT to non LGBT)
One gay professional man told me that he is extremely stressed. He lives with his mother. He supports his mother. He goes to church with his mother. In fact he likes to go to church with his mother, but he cringes at the frequent sermon references to the sin and sinners of Sodom. He wants to get out of there, but mother would not only be “hurt,” but would be very angry. He told the pastor. The pastor said, “Ok, no problem. We have a counsellor and counselling program and we can change you. We have a program, and we can change you out of all those sinful lustful desires for a man.”
Will the new pope make a difference?
Some LGBT people took heart (too late) when the Christian pope (Francis) came along and said, “Why should I judge gay people?” He became the first pope ever to audibly utter the word “gay.” Of course it will take a long time for that little breakthrough attitude to trickle down to the neighbourhood or even television pulpit.
Troy Perry made a difference 45 years ago
Just before Christmas more than 40 years ago Rev. Troy Perry said there is a spiritual yearning in the heart of every gay (LGBT) person. He made it easier for those who choose to be gay (LGBT) and Christian by setting up a church (MCC) which affirmed that gay (LGBT) people can indeed be Christian and enjoy their God-given same-sex orientation. Now there are at least 6 parishes in the Philippines which have sprung from that initiative of Rev. Perry.
Some decided enough is enough
But for some it was too late. They had decided to be secular humanists or atheists or none of the above. Some of my friends fall into that category — and they simply have no need for a Christmas with religious significance. It can be for them a cultural holiday.
Some Christians add “action” to “church”
One of my Christian friends wanted to do more than “pray.” He and his lover bought a supply of Spanish bread and went to a business district where there were numerous homeless and hungry street people and handed Spanish bread to as many of them as they could. For them it added an “action” dimension to their “church going.”
Another friend was going home from shopping and saw a homeless man, lying, trembling on the sidewalk. He tried to talk with the sick man, but the trembling man could no longer talk. He called the barangay. They helped my friend get a tricycle and accompany the sick man to a hospital for x-rays, blood tests, and doctors care.
All that took hours and that put him in a dilemma. His mother and lover and siblings were waiting for a family Christmas get-together. He had to make a decision. He knew that “the duties of one’s state of life” are also a part of keeping our life in balance. He had family obligations, but he also heard Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan ringing in his ears.
Did Jesus want him to be a “Good Bakla” or a good family person? He knew there was no “always” answer. He had to decide for now. He decided this Christmas to help the “dying” man – and eventually he caught up with the family.
Is “don’t love the one you love” a fixed-forever law of God?
What are “religious absolutes?” Is religious rejection of same-sex love a religious absolute? Is “Thou shalt not kill” a religious absolute? Yes, of course, you say. But I say, what about self-defence? What about defending an innocent person?
How did Rizal deal with religion?
We can take a quick look at Jose Rizal. As we write, we are remembering a few days after Christmas the 117th anniversary of Rizal’s martyrdom. What significance does Rizal, our national hero, have for Pinoy LGBT people at Christmastime? Of course his significance rightfully requires far more than a few passing paragraphs.
Rizal was gay – in spirit only, in spite of Nick Joachim’s questions. But he is our hero too. He knew how to see the essential things and to condemn the unjust things. He celebrated Christmas in Dapitan and throughout his life according to cultural norms – with church and food.
But what has the nation learned from Rizal? Yes, indeed, a lot. But one of his most significant statements has been ignored. “The friars are the root of all the problems of the Filipino people,” he wrote to Blumentritt.
Furthermore, with special significance for LGBT choices about religion and Christmas, he wrote quite pointedly: “Consider well what kind of religion they teach us. Look closely whether that is God’s will or the teachings of Christ to save the poor from poverty, to ease the suffering of those who suffer.” Compare that with the work of The Well to lessen the pain and suffering and burdens of LBGT people with serious life difficulties. Compare that with “You are an abomination; You are living in sin. We will save you from loving the one you love.” Rizal, as if in answer to their homophobia, writes, “Compare their teachings with the clean religion of Christ.”
What did he do that will help us get some clues regarding how to sort out the “rice from the chaff”? He went to Mass with the Jesuits in Dapitan every Sunday of his last four years. It was not the religion of his mother that he condemned. It was injustice and hypocrisy that he condemned. His novels personified the iconic statement he made to Blumentritt. Yet, to this day Filipino people are subject to the tyranny of oppression from the modern day “friars.” This nation is the only nation in the world whose government says “Opo” to the bishops who forbid people in an unworkable, unliveable marriage to have a liberating divorce.
The no-divorce oppression is symbolic and indicative of all the prejudice, homophobia and stigma the modern day friars are unjustly heaping as a heavy burden upon the lives of LGBT people in the Philippines – and affecting in many instances their observance of Christmas.
Rizal: Opo to God and truth and justice;
no Opo to violations of common sense and justice
Yes, Jose Rizal is our hero too. We can celebrate Christmas as he did, if we choose, but we can learn from him not to say “Opo” (“Yes, Sir”) to oppression.
In his fearless logic he could be a Freemason (forbidden by the friars) and go to Mass too. For him religion included common sense and logic, not blind obedience to oppression and injustice. It seems to me that Filipino LGBTs practice this in regard to Christmas and year round more than many of their 90 million fellow citizens.
Just maybe the new pope is more like Rizal than his predecessors. Yes or no, times are “changing,” and Pinoy LGBT people are not the last to change their “Opo” from injustice to common sense and logic. They can and will celebrate or not celebrate Christmas according to what is right for them.
Dr. Richard Mickley is co-coordinator with Argel Tuason of The Well wellness program.
Photo from the Pinoy LGBT photo bucket. Some rights reserved.