J. Laude and proud
LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph T. Gonzales (The Freeman) - October 19, 2014 - 12:00am

Look at how far the Philippines has come.  From a nation that laughs, sneers and derides beauty parlor gays, one that celebrates basketball and boxing bouts between transvestites and midgets, and howls at outright slurs on national television at the purported sexual inclinations of distinguished and respectable senators, congressmen, businessmen and educators, we suddenly have an outpouring of support for a transgender citizen.

For this, we have Jennifer Laude to thank, whose life had to tragically end at, allegedly, the hands of 19-year-old U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton.

Yes, Jennifer, who was found with neck at the rim of a toilet bowl and head submerged in its murky depths.  Jennifer, who it turns out had a German boyfriend, and who was waiting to be interviewed by the German embassy for his immigration papers.  The same Jennifer who still went willingly with a strapping stud of an American serviceman in some cheap motel, not knowing his life would end in a few short minutes.

But Jennifer's story does not end there.  His name is alive, published suddenly in all the national dailies, picked up by the international press, seized upon by nationalists or paid hacks who do not want the United States to set up permanent military bases in this country.  His name is on the lips of all the tv and radio newscasters, his life exposed in all its frilly details.  Justice for Jennifer!, placards cry.

What is the message being sent here?  What do the young populace see?  What do future transgendered persons now watching in the sidelines divine from the events unfolding before them?

Perhaps, that it is now "ok" to be transgender?  That regardless of sexual identity or preference, there will be those with heart and compassion enough to take up your cause, to seek justice for you, and to run after those who wrong you?  That there are those who can look beyond the short skirts, red lips and beehive 'dos, and see the one essential fact that Jennifer and everyone like her are still human beings with the right to a life.

Never mind that there are still newspapers with uninformed writers who still persist in using the pronoun 'he' to refer to Jennifer. (Do they even know the gender insensitivity that they are displaying?)  Or worse, the newspaper in Subic whose headlines screamed that a homosexual was murdered. (Yes, let's capitalize on the homosexual's sensational sexual preference, shall we).

At the end of the day, this wasn't a crime that's been brushed away, swept under the rug, or ignored. This isn't a case where powerful government officials with the interests of "strengthening" or "maintaining" relationships with the United States of America, whose support we so vitally need in order to balance China's threatening postures in the West Philippine Sea, have decided to bury this issue in denials or cover-ups.

Instead, miracle of miracles, we have government spokespersons coming forward and vowing to seek justice.  We have senators offering condolences to Jennifer's family and stressing the need for more LGBT protection.  Of course, the US Embassy is there likewise condoling with the bereaved.

It's a sea change in how LGBT's are now viewed. This might never have happened 20, even 10 years ago.  Would we have seen a German boyfriend like the one Jennifer has, come forward and proclaim his love for Jennifer for the whole world to see, hear and bear witness?  Would we have militant feminists, cause oriented groups like Gabriela, rally and demonstrate right in front of the US Embassy?  Would we have seen noted human rights lawyers in the caliber of Prof. Harry Roque come forward and offer his services to vindicate the Laude family?

It's sad that it took the death of Jennifer to send this signal to the world how advanced the Philippines has come.  But this should be an opportunity that should not be wasted.  The opportunity to further gender sensitivity, promote LGBT rights, and encourage tolerance and acceptance.  It's all here, coming right now, intertwined with national pride and sovereignty and identity.

Jennifer's death is a waste.  The future of the Marine involved is also in tatters.  So let's not let that happen to the opportunity now facing us.



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