By Bejay Absin
IF the adage rolling stones gathers no moss is true, the Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and Expression (Sogie) bill certainly is rolling and gathering all sorts of scum along the way.
This is one bill that has managed to arouse our primal instinct to overpower others by this crude tool of discrimination. There are many counterpoints hurled along the way and two things I find most stupefying. 1. That Sogie is a universal access to the right to pee in a women’s latrine; 2. Passage of this law will be the eternal damnation of our soul.
These two, including the countless tongue-in-cheek remarks are not simply aimed at a bill that guarantees the LGBTQ+ Community’s right against discrimination. These are aimed at directly keeping us under a choke-hold. Yes, we have not yet reached a stage in society where we don’t navigate life via the routes of oppression.
It was common to see post on social media equating Gretchen Diez as the embodiment of Sogie or worse, equating the proposed bill as a gate pass to use the women’s loo unimpeded.
Here we see redactiveness at its worse. It was so bad we ought to give it a name. Not everyone in the LGBTQ community wants to go to the women’s loo. Yet a lot of people are making the loo the epicenter of our being. We need guarantees that our rights to a dignified kind of life is upheld. We have a poverty level threshold, is there also a dignity level threshold?
In this country and in these times sometimes they are one and the same. Not to mock the poor but to state a fact.
In an interaction workshop with abused worker from a condiment company, I found that they, poor, oppressed and taken advantage of, could not find in their vocabulary that one singular word or any other acceptable equivalent. Dignity.
When someone tells you a law being filed in Congress can be abused, ask them how. They might just be stuck on an arthritic knee jerk reaction.
As far as our experience is concerned, all laws are subject to abuse. GCTA is a clear example. How many heinous crime convicts were released that way? Thousands and counting, there are even unverified information that Janet Napoles, who was part to the rape of the national coffers has already been living out of jail.
Should that fact stop us on our tracks from pursuing laws that can dignify people? Hell, no po. Laws can become diluted because the lawmakers are aiming their sight someplace else. Take for example the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the ancestral domain law. Both guarantees were envisioned to uplift the lives of the National Minorities. Both were watered down. Ancestral domain remains an ideal when the land is just there.
Laws can be immoral because they can plunge one or more sectors into disparity and probably obsolescence. Take the current scenario faced by our rice farmers and millers. Their livelihood is anything but lively, living or loving thanks to the rice tarification law which was touted as a safety measure for the ill-effects of the Train law.
Laws can also be inspiring like the violence against women and children law. It has been the go-to law of women and children who are in an abusive relationship. Although there are a few takers of the full extent of protection offered by this law.
Those who have less in life should have more in law. The Sogie law as I understand is one that will accompany us in our fight vs. many forms of discrimination. But I am supposing that this will not supersede or subvert any social values except those that place the LGBTQ+ community on a precarious perch.
Sadly, there are still people, some our own friends and families who would rather have us suffer in silence because they did. We have suffered in silence for ages. After all, we are the ones who endured pesky name callings while walking our streets.
So, just because someone else was hurt and living below dignity line doesn’t mean we should not allow others (us) to live their (our) lives fully within the extent of the law and within the sensible parameters set by a community. In fact anyone found living without dignity should fuel us to fight for their human dignity to be guaranteed.
Footnotes though, since the Palace has jumped in on the Sogie craze, I’ll have to ask everyone to exercise caution while we proceed. There are other issues where the LGBTQ community are affected, we hope not to become a smokescreen. We need a guarantee to our own rights as well as the rights of others.
What we do not need right now is to be the big tent showing the trapeze, the elephants and the clown.
(Bejay Absin is a very seasonal theatre director from Davao city. His last work on stage was Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” faithfully translated into Cebuano.)