Let me ride the wave of current events in this post. Does the name ‘Jennifer Laude’ seem familiar to you? That name has been hitting the local news frequently as of late, and the case associated with the person named so had sparked several issues. For those not familiar with the case, please read about it in the following links.
To be honest, it was not until today that I thoroughly read the news online for this topic. I first heard about it when I groggily ambled into our house one evening after a tedious day at school. As I was taking off my shoes, my father pointed at the TV rather enthusiastically for a 58-year-old man. “Ayan! Yan yung news kaninang tanghali.“ He explained, being an avid watcher of news whatever time of day it is. It got my attention, and my mother’s too, as the news anchor introduced the report. With LGBTQ rights as one of the advocacies that interest me most, I paid great attention to the report and so did my parents. Knowing my parents are conservative individuals who come from a generation wherein gender was not as widely-discussed as it is today, I steeled myself up so as not to be offended by the comments my parents might make by the end of the report. I got what I expected when the program moved on to another topic– my mother heaved a sigh and lowered her gaze and my father gave more than his three usual ‘tsk’s. “She’s another victim!” my father exclaimed. I was surprised. “‘She’?” I asked, “diba transgender siya? Jeffrey pa nga yung pangalan niya e.” My father looked at me sternly and said, “Oo, ‘she’. Kasi babae siya, anak. Siya si Jennifer.” I suppressed a tear at that moment as I resumed taking off my shoes, not because I felt defeated but because I felt proud that my father understood poor Jennifer’s predicament. My father continued to lash out regarding the Visiting Forces Agreement, how Americans treat Filipinos and how twisted the American mentality seemed to him. My mother chimed in from time to time to my father’s rambling that evening. I merely listened to them so I could assess their views in my mind. They never attacked the victim for not being ‘straight’ or for being a slut as they did Nicole, the victim of the Subic rape case. They discussed the case, the situation, the motives and such. I was waiting for the spite towards the victim, but it never came. I felt proud, perhaps because I felt responsible for their current views– telling myself that my lectures on gender during dinner has finally gotten into their minds. That night, I slept with a silent congratulation to myself. “Today, my family. Tomorrow, society.” I remember telling myself.
I told that story just so you can have a clue on my reaction when I turned to the internet earlier today. A friend of mine shared this link: https://anc.yahoo.com/news/jennifer-laude-s-fiance-vows-to-ensure-her-killer-will-be-punished-002535941.html telling his Facebook friends to read the letter and the comments then react on the state of Philippine society. It got my attention and I followed his words. I shed tears while reading the letter of Jennifer’s fiance, but I was astonished as I read the comments. All I was able to say as I read the comments was ‘why’, ‘how could you’ and ‘what the f*ck’. I heard that crisp, thin sheet of metaphorical paper on which I wrote the congratulatory note to myself being torn with zest. I wanted to show those spiteful comments to Marc Suselbeck himself and say “you’re right”. To me, those comments were personal blows to which I felt defeated.
As any other person would, I sought someone or something to blame for the mentality of those people. The media sprang to my mind. The media that shows gay people cannot be taken seriously, that they are meant for comedy shows and mock-pageants, that only the ‘straight’ people can live happily ever after, that the LGBTQ are afflicted by some kind of perversion. It would give me a bit of joy when documentaries, shows and films would feature the lives of LGBTQ people nowadays. However, I think that narrating and delving into the lives of gay people is not enough to raise awareness.
Funny how the media would frequently define what a man is and what makes one manly, and what a woman is and what makes her womanly, how the media explains chivalry and modesty, the strong and the delicate, masculinity and femininity, and segregates them into two boxes to establish that it is what is proper– in other words, how the media draws one single line to separate the sexes in a binary way. Clearly, though, everything– especially gender– is not binary. For sure the media knows it and has acted on it, but merely showcasing is not enough, it has to be explained. I have not seen a single local show or program that has tried to explain the different genders and sexuality– heterosexual, homosexual, transsexual, transgender, transvestite and so on. The people needs to be educated, showing and protesting is not enough if we don’t make the subject clear to them.
This brings me to the issue of marketing and how sexist most ads are. In advertisements and commercials, it is always the woman who cooks, does the laundry, washes the dishes and does all the housework, and it is always the man who drives, drinks alcohol and energy drinks, and does all the heavy work, and it’s always “sa mga nanay na nanonood”. As a child, I would glance at my father whenever the host or whoever was speaking would directly address the mother. When I was little, my father decided that he would focus on nurturing me even if that meant he becomes unemployed and does the things only the Nanay would do. I think my father made the right choice because I would not be the person who stands where I am now if he was not able to always stay close to me as I grew up. So what about the fathers who decided to fill in the society-dictated role of the mother? Back when I was a child and even now, I would take offense when that generalization, “sa mga nanay”, is mentioned.
Perhaps, though, now that the media has decided to take an active role on gender education, the mindset of our society regarding gender issues could be shaped, especially through marketing. If we pay more attention to gender sensitivity, perhaps we can reach out and relate to more people. Say, if we minimize gendered marketing, maybe the society would be more welcoming to everyone no matter what their gender or sexuality is.