02136: It's Not Really About "Just" An Opinion

"Manny was only expressing his opinion."

"The LGBT community is overreacting."

"It's okay since he has LGBT friends - he didn't mean it that way."

Freedom of speech is a tricky concept since people generally assume that it means that we can say whatever we want without consequence. But the very fact that we have libel and slander laws remind us that not everything you say is protected under free speech. Your right to say whatever you want does not make you right nor does it mean that people aren't entitled to respond to what you had to say. Freedom is a right, but it also comes with its responsibilities and consequences.

Manny Pacquiao is not just any random person saying shit though. He's a congressman and an aspiring senator. His opinions on same-sex marriage and the LGBT community in general are clearly informed by how he interprets his religious beliefs, but should not come into play when discussing a political issue. He will get called out for things like that since he's talking about a subject of public interest, and one that will affect the rights of thousands of Filipino LGBT people. So it's not just a matter of casually throwing out an opinion on TV or whatever. This is pretty serious stuff. His attendance record at Congress is quite abysmal and coupled with his propensity for making such statements, it feels a lot like he doesn't exactly take his job all that seriously.

This is not about whether or not the Deadpool movie is any good or if you're more for ABS-CBN or GMA. Those opinions don't exactly have ramifications that can potentially disenfranchise a lot of people when it comes to their fight for equality. He doesn't get a free pass just because he's a famous celebrity or because he claimed religion was involved.

And many of the responses that come along in defense of Manny just further illustrate a lot of the casual hate and biases that color a lot of people's thinking in this country. You can't say that you're not against people but don't believe they should be granted equal rights. You can't say that your religion isn't against gay people but are just against the homosexual acts they commit. You can't say that you're just using common sense since the LGBT community are all "abnormal" since they're "going against nature." That sort of casual homophobia is deeply ingrained in the public discourse and it all really needs to stop.

Manny's irresponsible statements in the media have already cost him a major sponsorship contract with Nike and other international brands are starting to distance themselves from him because of the political firestorm that's raging. If anything, he's helped rally a lot of the LGBT community in the Philippines to stop being silent and to call out friends and family when they choose to agree with Pacquaio.

There's a lot of unfriending and muting going on across social media and I can totally understand why. It hurts on a deeply personal level with friends and family repeatedly put themselves out there to attack you and your community. You want to argue and you want to explain your side, but as is the nature of the internet, a lot of those counter-arguments and opinions are formed based on religion and unwaivering believe that something is wrong without needing reasons why. It's hard to remain in social contact with people like that, even if just online, since it's painful and a little traumatizing. So I totally get why people are disconnecting from others on social media - why put up with shit like that?

Being gay isn't easy. Being LGBT in the Philippines can be pretty tough at times. It's a daily fight to keep your cool when the average person on the street will use "bakla" as an insult or a metaphor for weakness or people laugh at LGBT entertainers and not their jokes. It's not easy to stay silent when those you love talk about other gay people with disgust or ridicule whether or not they know you're gay, too. It's a hard life and not everyone accepts the LGBT community for who they, no, who we are in this country. And we need to rally and fight back and cry havoc because enough is enough.

Enough is enough.