Pride in Full Bloom

by Paul Jhon Diezon (Phagemids)

For the sixth time, Los Baños waved its rainbow flag in celebration of pride. Spearheaded by UPLB Babaylan, an organization established in 2009 that forefronts gender equality, the event was in full color as participants from different sectors gathered in a march themed “Pride March Natin ‘to.” 
Setting the Context of a Continuous Struggle

Believing that the struggle of the LGBT is not far from the struggles of the Filipino masses, the march’s main campaign is the passing of the Anti-Discrimination Bill. This bill aims to end all forms of discrimination for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) community in the country, after House Bill 5687 – its latest version failed to pass in the 16th Congress. It also seeks to prohibit discriminatory practices on the basis of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, specifically in hiring, firing and demotions; rejection or expulsion from any educational or training institution; giving harsher penalties, punishments, and requirements; refusal and revocation of honors, achievements and licenses; prevention of use of public facilities; mandatory psychological tests; and harassment or refused protection by law enforcers.

The bill also aims to provide law enforcers a series of gender awareness training, which will help them address certain hate crimes. The country has had around 200 documented cases since the 90’s, while several others remain unreported. One of such crimes is the murder of Jennifer Laude in October 2014. Until today, justice has yet to be served. 

Many other Filipinos, mostly unknown to mainstream media, have suffered the same fate as Laude despite the fact that the country has been named as one of the most gay-friendly nations in the world, and the most LGBT-friendly in Asia in a study conducted by the Pew Research Center.

The long road for the passing of this bill could be traced back in the ‘90s where it marks the first demonstration of attendance by an organized sector of the country’s LGBT community in the participation of a lesbian group called Lesbian Collective, joining the International Women’s Day march of 1992. Various groups including the UP Babaylan in 1992, were established. In 1999, Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network, otherwise known as LAGABLAB was formed and proposed the Anti-Discriminations Bill (ADB) of 2000. Six years later, another House Bill was filed in the lower house, but only reached the second reading.

Going Deep into the Genome

Aside from the debates regarding discrimination and attempts to break the stereotype, huge efforts on explaining sexual orientation has been coming in the field of science. However, generating a more reliable data on frequencies has been hindered by the fact that homosexuals tend to have, on average, five times fewer children than heterosexual males. According to Nature, the biology of sexual orientation has been one of the most vexing — and politically charged — questions in human genetics. And surprisingly, one study recognized the possible link between homosexuality and genetic tags that are affected by the environment.

In one study, DNA samples were gathered from 37 pairs of identical twins in which only one twin was gay, and 10 pairs in which both were gay. By scanning the twins’ epigenomes, the researchers found five epigenetic marks that were deemed common among the gay men than in their identical straight brothers. An algorithm was also developed based on the five marks which could possibly predict the sexual orientation of men in the study 67% of the time.

A number of twin studies and family trees also provide strong evidence that sexual orientation is at least partly genetic. According to another study, when one identical twin is gay, there is about a 20% chance that the other will be as well. But since this incidence isn’t observed in all subjects, it is believed that environmental factors play a huge role, too. The controversial locus, Xq28 was also a favorite subject in linkage studies where results have shown that polymorphisms in this location coincide with greater concordance rates than that of the Mendelian segregation. But despite the continuous efforts to find the link of genetics and homosexuality, some scientists still refuse to believe that there exists a gene for homosexuality.

Living in Full Color

Genetically-based or not, diversity in sexuality should never be a reason for someone to be discriminated and oppressed by the society. It should never be a reason why someone would be rejected in the workplace, deprived of education and healthcare or denied of the right to live. We should not wait for another Jennifer Laude before we realize that we need to pass a law that protects the rights of our LGBTQ.

But our plight doesn’t end on the LGBTQ community alone. Discrimination still thrives in various sectors of the society and it is our duty to truly address these issues—via education. After all, LGBTQ rights and all other rights are still human rights and no one is entitled to deprive anyone of their right to live in full bloom, in waves of different colors.#

(Sources: Rappler, Inquirer & Nature)