GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 22, 2011) - Filipino gay and transgender rights activists cried foul at the remarks made by celebrity mom Dionisia Pacquiao in her spat with Senator Miriam Santiago over the controversial reproductive health bill.
Over the week, Pacquiao was quoted as saying "Tingnan mo, mga bakla, kaiinom ng pills, hindi na bagay inumin ng mga bakla kasi lalake sila. Ginagawa sila ng Diyos na lalake. Umiinom talaga sila ng pills para magsilaki ang dede. Bawal 'yan!" (Direct your attention to transgenders, God made transgenders to be males and they don't look good. They keep on taking contraceptive pills to enlarge their breasts and that is wrong and prohibited!)
Goya Candelario, spokesperson of the Progressive Organization of Gays (ProGay Philippines), said that she and her fellow Filipino transgenders are taking offense at the homophobia and transphobia that Pacquiao's remarks can help cultivate.
"With all due respect, we want Mommy Dionisia to know that we are deeply offended and scared that her words can again revive the disease model of homosexuality and transexuality in Philippine society," Candelario said.
The ProGay leader said that while it is true many low-income transgenders resort to taking over-the-counter female hormones in contraceptive pills in order to enhance their femininity, the practice should not be considered immoral, illegal or a state of mental disorder.
"Many of us have to take some form of female hormones because our livelihoods in the beauty and tourism industries depend on enhanced feminine features. However, because of expensive hormones that only high-income transgenders can afford, we urban and rural poor gays and transgenders can only access the cheaper birth control pills," Candelario added.
ProGay is also campaigning for the comprehensive reproductive health bill so that not only women of reproductive age can get access to health care but also the low-income Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) residents of the Philippines. Gay and transgender health advocates like Candelario are batting for the inclusion of health teachings among gay, transgender and lesbian working class populations so that we can better understand the effects of hormones and other reproductive health technologies.
"That is why we are pleading with Ms. Pacquiao to come out with a better view of transgenders and gays. She should understand our situation in order to see how much we can benefit from the approval of the RH Bill."
According to a survey made by ProGay among transgender groups in the slums of Manila, many gays take pills in their early teens on the advise of elder transgenders in order to get an early start at the job market of overseas entertainers. The group believes that harm-reduction education campaigns should be extended to this vulnerable group so that risks of contraceptive pill usage can be reduced.
The group has a health advisory service that counsels transgenders about the health risks of dosing on pills, and the risks include blood clots, obesity, liver disease and cardiovascular diseases.
"We should work to remove discrimination and homophobia in health care services for LGBTs, because the World Health Organization has already declared in 1990 that homosexuality is not a mental illness. Therefore, we ask people like Ms. Pacquiao to join us bakla, gays and transgenders in improving our health awareness, and not with hurtful words," Candelario said.