Coming out is difficult, especially in a predominantly Catholic country like the Philippines. It’s a genuine struggle to deal with the conflicts between your religious beliefs and your sexual orientation. Even if you don’t identify as LGBTQ+ yourself, your Catholic upbringing may hinder you from being an ally and supporting the community.
In particular, one highly debated LGBTQ+ issue right now is same-sex marriage. Just recently, the Vatican released a controversial statement explaning that while the Catholic Church can bless gay people, the same cannot be done for same-sex unions. In the Philippines specifically, talk of legalizing same-sex marriage and civil unions has already polarized the country’s largely Catholic population.
University of the Philippines Babaylan—the Philippines' oldest LGBTQ+ student organization—shares that being gay in a Christian country is a unique experience filled with contradictions. “On one hand, you see that this religion is partly to blame for your oppression as a queer individual. But on the other hand, the Christian teachings of love, acceptance, empowerment, hope, solidarity—these are being used by Christians themselves and subverted even by progressives to serve [their] agenda,” Punong Babaylan Venus Aves says.
But religion aside, the fact still stands that the Filipino LGBTQ+ community frequently experiences harassment, discrimination, and violence amidst their fight for gender rights and marriage equality. “Because unequal yung laws natin [and] unequal yung system natin, magpapatuloy yung stigma and prejudice. And that stigma and prejudice will translate to more discrimination, more harassment, and more violence,” Venus says, stressing the importance of the SOGIE Equality Bill.
With this, we want to stress one thing: Practicing your faith should never entail hiding your true identity or pushing others to do so. It may be hard to accept at first, but it’s okay to support marriage equality and other LGBTQ+ rights even when you’re a practicing Catholic. After all, it’s our duty as Catholics to be good neighbors.
Another responsibility Catholics have is to carefully study God’s teachings and reflect on their real-world application. And to Venus, part of this is knowing that some biblical teachings are no longer applicable in today’s context. Thus, they encourage fellow Filipinos to carefully study Christ’s teachings and discern which beliefs are still aligned with “the essence of Christianity.”
“It's really a matter of looking at what's outdated and what's not. Christ's teachings on love, peace, and social justice—I think those are universal themes and lessons that we should still continue to embody,” Venus says.
Many Catholics may also believe that same-sex couples are not equipped to raise their own children, but there’s no evidence that one’s sexual orientation and gender identity affect parenting skills. Simply put, it’s unfair to judge LGBTQ+ parents merely because they don’t conventionally fit society’s heteronormative definition of a family.
“There are actually many same-sex couples who are great parents. [...] They have raised their children well; they have a happy and healthy family. So, I think the easiest way to refute that argument is to look at what's really happening, not just talk about hypotheticals,” Venus mentions.
But the most fundamental reason to support the LGBTQ+ community: Regardless of what your religious beliefs may be, LGBTQ+ individuals deserve rights simply because they are human beings. We Catholics always say that love is a basic human right, so the LGBTQ+ community must consequently be given the freedom to express and experience love through marriage as well. “The fact remains that we are human beings, and just on the basis of being human just like you, we deserve rights,” Venus adds.
They further explain that if basic human rights like this are not legally protected by the government, discrimination and harassment against the LGBTQ+ community will continue on an even wider scale. Given this, Venus shares that we must always be unapologetic in supporting LGBTQ+ rights—regardless of how we choose to show that support.
“Love is such a basic human right, and to take away that right from our community is such a violation of our very dignity as human beings. Marriage equality should be legalized because love is a right. [...] We are fighting for that belief that there is a future for us where everyone is equal, safe, loved, and accepted, regardless of who we are. Kapit lang tayo until we reach that eventual future,” Venus concludes.