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LGBT Panel: Rethink Our Lives

By Christian Renz M. Torres

“LIVING THE PINK life is just like living life,” J Marie Maxino said during the Pride Month Panel last June 29 at the American Studies Resource Center in the Main Library.

Maxino, an instructor from the English Department, was accompanied by Asst. Prof Ian Rosales Casocot, Dr. Michele Joan Valbuena, and Asst. Prof. Karl James Villarmea to talk about several topics related to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

Casocot, Valbuena, Villarmea, and Maxino respectively covered gay culture,
gender identity, queer spirituality, and being young and gay in the present last June 29 at 2:30pm. June is internationally celebrated as LGBT Pride Month.

Casocot said that historically the portrayals of gay people in media were overwhelmingly negative. “Only lately have we seen movies that are depicting gayness in a positive light or at least a little bit more complex than the usual villain-ish picture of us.“ The assistant professor from the English department said the audience can read gayness in the text as well as the creators who make them. “How gay can the text be?”

According to Valbuena, sex, gender, and gender identity are different from each other. The chairperson of the psychology department said that sex regards physical attributes, gender regards attitudes and values assigned to a person by their society, and gender identity is how one identifies with their gender. She asked how a child would grow up if they grew up with traits different from the normative sex, gender, or gender identity.” How will they raise them? How will they treat them as they are growing up?”

Villarmea said that being queer and being spiritual is not a perverse way of living but a defiant way of life, the way Jesus lived. The assistant professor from the religion and peace studies department said that true Christianity does not condone violence. “Let one be queer and spiritual at the same time,” he said.

Maxino said that being young and gay in the present is just as dangerous as it was back then. She said that the LGBT community has to face challenges such as coming out, safe sex, and local support. “There’s so much hate in the world—I swear to God—so please don’t spread that hate too,” she said.

When asked about how safe the Philippines is for LGBT people during the open panel, Casocot said that people will disappoint, but they will also surprise with their acceptance.
“One way to deal with this will be to talk about this issue—really see it, what does it mean for us to say [something,] to acknowledge our differences and to embrace and affirm our giftedness,” said Villarmea. Maxino said that it’s sad how people resort to violence to prove their points to others. “It’s a lie to say that the Philippines is the friendliest country [to the LGBT community] ‘cause even my students—when I come out to them—they’re like a bit uncomfortable.”

“We cannot give that burden to people who are struggling to come out. We ourselves need to be able to give that support to everybody and not to give them more difficulty and more struggle about coming out or about being accepted and we all have that responsibility,” Valbuena said. Villarmea said that a person’s sex life is not another person’s business, but the church tries to intervene when it shouldn’t. “The church has to come out,” he said.

Valbuena said that although the Philippines—and Silliman—are gay-tolerable, the administration does not reflect that in its policies. “Hopefully [Silliman] will become a true genuine and real model of what true Christianity really is,” Valbuena said. “The first step is to change our procedures, policies and walls.”

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