Say no gay

LOOKING ASKANCE - Atty. Joseph Gonzales - The Freeman

One development worth tracking is that piece of legislation snaking its way through the Florida legislature, the Parents Education Rights Bill. Purportedly giving parents the right to dictate what’s spoon-fed their kids, the bill has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponent activists, because it prohibits teachers in Florida from discussing sexual orientation or gender expression in their classrooms.

That restriction is fine if we’re talking about infants kindergarten, because parents can argue that sexual behavior and identity is something within their remit, but this bill does more than that. In the proposed law, soon to be signed by that right-wing Florida governor who doesn’t believe in face masks, Ron de Santis, teachers are also prohibited from speaking about LGBTQ topics “in a manner that is not age appropriate of developmentally appropriate for students.”

That poses a problem, especially if students want to discuss books or movies about sexual identity. What about literature such as that examination of the class divide among lovers, Maurice by EM Forster? Or even that film “Call Me by Your Name”, which even I felt uncomfortable with and had to hash out the theme of exploration of sexuality among my peers. (Shameless plug --I just finished the novel House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, and the story is magical, and the protagonist divinely queer.)

All of those gems would be off-limits in classrooms, if the Florida elders have their say. But it’s at the expense of the LGBTQ community, who cannot have any say. And that’s what’s alarming, because to silence discussion of LGBTQ issues is to make the community invisible. And if they’re invisible, then they can just easily disappear.

This was exactly the point in the AIDS movement in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s. The slogan imprinted on my generation’s mind was Silence = Death. And death, it truly was. No drama by a queen involved. Because the gay community was being decimated by a mysterious disease, and since no one except marginalized folks were falling like flies, those in power couldn’t care less.

The solution then, and the solution still is, to talk about it. To make the human beings visible. Each precious life, individuals who should be celebrated instead of forgotten, should be held up to be viewed, remembered, and cherished.

Same banana here. Silencing the LGBTQ presence in the lives of the local community will lead to deaths --and the statistics of teen suicides and anti-gay hate crimes will just prove this grim fact out.

Locally, the LGBTQ community made itself visible with very small gains eked out by the arts community, actors, fashion and design gurus, and now, social media celebrities. Some individuals even managed to grab positions of power, but more because of familial connections than public empathy. Which are promising signs, if only they could lead to more solid gains. Meanwhile, these baby steps should be supported and continued, much like to my surprise, the Zonta Club of Cebu II.

Led by the indefatigable Petite Garcia, the Zonta Club has expressed support of the SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression) bill, which has been rasping death breaths in Congress for the past 20 years. (For those really interested, there’s an e-forum on the SOGIE bill scheduled by the club on March 12, with guests like Senator Rosa Hontiveros and the hilarious Atty. Jazz Tamayo, titled “Si Juan, Si Juana, Ug Kitang Tanan”.)

Blocked by bigots like presidential candidate Manny Pacquiao (another reason not to vote for him), this bill should be uttered, muttered, and voiced, constantly, for it to pass a machismo-governed legislature. Otherwise, we will face the specter of exactly the opposite, another Don’t Say Gay Bill, being aped by our local legislators.

Kudos then to Zonta II, for this effort. I know these women are special, but never did I think they were this extraordinary.


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