Saying “I Have Gay Friends” Doesn’t Excuse You From That Homophobic Thing You Just Said

With the increasing visibility of the LGBT+ culture in the country, you’d think that people would be more sensitive when they talk about the community these days. However, the concept of acceptance of LGBT+ people in the Philippines is relatively new compared to other countries and ours still has a long way to go when it comes to differentiating between acceptance and tolerance.

In a local reality show recently, a contestant was called out for assuming the gender identity of her fellow contestant. She based all of her assumptions on trivial and stereotypical things such as the boy applying lip balm or moisturizing. To her, straight men didn’t do these things so it baffled her. She claimed she has an eye for these things because her own brother is gay but, to be honest, that’s not an excuse. One shouldn’t put a person on the spot because of assumptions based on stereotypes. It doesn’t matter if you have gay friends or gay relatives that you can compare it with. Each person is their own and, overall, it’s just not right.

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Last year, when the topic of Miss Spain being the first transgender woman to enter the Miss Universe pageant came up, a lot of people showed a bit of an ugly side to them as they started criticizing her, claiming that she wasn’t a woman when she, in fact, identified as such. Most of these people, some I personally know, claimed that it was okay for them to be against Miss Spain because they “didn’t hate gay people”. They had “gay friends of their own” and some of those gay friends agreed with them. They argued under the guise that it was unfair for the “real women” in the pageant for someone they deemed to be a man to be in it.

And that’s just hitting two backward-thinking stones with one bird, isn’t it? I remember having to explain to grown adults how transwomen weren’t gay men in drag.

In other countries, trans people are allowed to have their names and genders changed on their public records. In fact, according to National Geographic, over a third of the countries in the world allow for legal gender change. This, of course, doesn’t include the Philippines (yet).

There are so many instances when people around me have said something bad about an LGBT+ person’s character and justified it with “bakla kasi siya” (it’s because he’s gay) or “tomboy kasi siya” (it’s because she’s a lesbian). And when I’d retaliate, they’d be on defense mode and tell me they have gay friends so it was okay because “they weren’t being homophobic”. No, they were just pointing out that having a different sexuality from cishet people is the reason for one’s failure of character. That makes sense. I have to roll my eyes every time.

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A lot of people from outside of the LGBT+ community often justify their snide remarks and criticism on its members by saying that they have “gay friends anyway and they love them”. But isn’t them being against same-sex marriage and them being wary of every other gay person out there signs of them being critical of their gay friends’ lifestyles as well? People love their gay friends when they’re funny but suddenly, when it comes to their rights, they’re not their equals. Because why can’t gay people just be content with everyone else letting them exist, right?

Except, a whole chunk of society doesn’t let queer people exist. There are a lot of them still in the closet, some terrified for their lives, scared of being judged because they don’t feel safe being themselves with their own friends and family. While a lot of them are uncomfortable having to disclose their sexuality to anyone. We don’t ask straight people if they’re straight and question them about it after they say yes.

There is a difference between acceptance and tolerance. Acceptance is treating your gay friends like human beings and not basing your entire judgment of their character on their sexual and gender preferences. Acceptance is letting LGBT+ people make mistakes and not blaming those mistakes on their sexuality. Meanwhile, tolerance is when you say you’re not against gay people but hate to see them get married. Tolerance is laughing at their jokes on TV but not being supportive of their rights.

Tolerance is rolling your eyes when you see two men holding hands in public but you didn’t say anything so you’re not a homophobe, right? There’s a lot of tolerating that’s going on in this country. What the community needs is acceptance.

People often mistake Pride as just a celebration, a street party for the outcasts of society. But Pride, first and foremost, is a symbol of the fight to exist and the fight to be able to express. It’s a fight for equal rights, not special rights. It’s a fight for the right to simply live. While Pride is colorful and loud and boisterous and flamboyant, it is a movement for people hoping that one day it wouldn’t matter if they were gay, if they weren’t born in the body they were supposed to be. It’s a movement fighting for people’s rights to live their lives, to have the same rights as everyone else, to not be shunned by a community basing their judgments on backward-thinking. It’s a movement for love.

Love supposedly wins but it’s hard for people to see that sometimes especially when they’re surrounded by people with unintentional hate put there by society from the moment they were born.

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Happy Pride month! How are you celebrating Pride this year?