History, culture, education, religion, and the media all definitely influence our attitudes, perceptions, and conversations about SOGIE, the LGBTQIA+ community, and how we recognize and understand identity. This ultimately ties to how we see ourselves and others, and how we connect and relate with them.
If we look at our history, gender non-conformity was recognized and has been a prominent part of our culture, with the presence of the babaylan in pre-colonial Philippine society. This acceptance and even reverence to gender non-conformity, however, has been practically erased when Christianity and colonization came along.
Here’s a TED talk by France Villarta, talking about the gender-fluid history of the Philippines:
According to the Pew Research Center, the Philippines is considered as one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in Asia, with 73% of Filipinos seen as accepting of homosexuality; however, the prevailing dominance of Christianity in the Philippines, with beliefs that view homosexuality and gender non-conformity as a sin, continues to oppress those whose SOGIE does not conform to the traditional binary view of man and woman, male and female. Although the Catholic church is starting to respond to the more progressive cultural changes happening worldwide, there is still substantial difficulty in reconciling traditional beliefs and practicing inclusivity especially in the Philippines.
Mass media also plays a part in shaping our perceptions about SOGIE and the LGBTQIA+ community. It was responsible for spreading particular ideas of different gender roles and expressions, usually ending up as stereotypes to be used for plot or entertainment. The tolerance and acceptance for the LGBTQIA+ community was conditional, based on whether they fulfilled those certain stereotypes (“the sassy parlor gay”, “the tomboy mechanic”, etc.) that were spread through the media. Recently, however, more positive and diverse representation is happening in media, which is helping advance more progressive discourse in society.
Here’s a 4-minute video by Blued giving a short history lesson on the LGBTQIA+ community and their representation in the Philippines:
Despite the progress with understanding SOGIE and the apparent tolerance of the LGBTQIA+ community, discrimination, prejudice, and even violence still persists, and shows how far we are from achieving equality. In the Philippines, further education and understanding of SOGIE, highlighting the struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community, progressive media representation, inclusive policies and legislation, and the work of advocates and activists across all sectors of society continues to contribute to some progress in this regard, but there is still plenty of work to be done in dismantling long-held beliefs, oppressive attitudes and biases.
In the next module, we’ll take a closer look at some of the key issues in the Philippines, as well as some key policies and practices that are in place.