The recent legalization of same-sex marriages across the United States was cheered by various LGBT rights organizations and supporters of the cause in the Philippines, with a lot of them expressing willingness to use the momentum to advance their advocacies.
At the moment, a petition has already been filed before the Supreme Court asking for the invalidation of a portion of the Family Code that restricts marriage to between a man and a woman. Meanwhile, one congressman recently vowed to introduce a bill next year seeking the legalization of same-sex marriages.
However, before we get too far ahead in the discussion – one basic question must be asked: How accepting are Filipinos of homosexuality in the first place? According to a study released by the US-based Pew Research Center in 2014, 65% of Filipinos regard homosexuality as “morally unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, a survey by the Social Weather Stations released early this year showed lingering negative stereotypes of Filipinos toward the LGBT community – 38% of respondents agreed that being gay and lesbian is contagious while 25% said homosexuality is a mental illness. More worrisome, 45% said HIV/AIDS can be considered as a sickness of gays and lesbians.
But before worrying about whatever negative perceptions the society holds about them, countless of gays and lesbians – particularly those in their teenage years, have to deal with the problem of non-acceptance at home. A lot of parents meet revelations about their child being not straight with disappointment. Statements like “What will our relatives and neighbors say?” and “So, no more grandchildren for me?” can be heard from them.
We even hear stories where gays are beaten by their own fathers and older brothers or sent packing if and when their true sexual orientation is discovered. Being accepted by one’s family is very essential. After all, getting accepted by your community won’t mean much if your family is merely “tolerating” your sexuality. Fighting discrimination from others is tough, but to be rejected by your own family because of who you love is hard to live with.
This situation may even go as far as pushing gay and lesbian teens who feel rejected to commit suicide. A growing body of scientific research conducted overseas by respected institutions such as the US-based Suicide Prevention Resource Center and Safe Schools Coalition as well as ILGA-Europe (European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) have consistently showed that LGBT youth are at a higher risk of attempting suicide compared to their heterosexual peers.
A similar study has not been conducted here in the Philippines though the World Health Organization last year noted that suicide among Filipinos aged 15 to 24 have jumped significantly the past two decades. According to one psychiatrist, factors such as rigid cultural expectations, personal losses, peer rejection, trouble at school, experience of or perceived shame, bullying, social exclusion, and failure may trigger suicidal tendencies among the youth. Needless to say, most of these are typically experienced by LGBT youth.
Sooner than later, our nation has to have more thorough discussions on how to improve the relationship between Filipino parents and their LGBT kids. It is hoped that the recently-expressed views by public figures such as Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte (“It’s more of the human dignity than anything else. He is also a creation of God“) and TV host Drew Arellano (“Ang importante is may anak kaming mamahalin“) will serve as an inspiration to current and prospective parents to be more accepting.
To sum it all up, not everyone who appears bubbly in his or her daily interactions are living problem-free lives. Some people can keep on smiling despite having unresolved emotional troubles. I believe a lot of suicides could have been stopped if only those who committed it had the help, support, and acceptance they need in dealing with their difficult circumstances.