Suspension of Disbelief

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Familial support

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Outrage Magazine | 23 June 2012

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They are the parents, family and friends of people who identify themselves as gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender. They are considered as the strongest support group of the members of the LGBTs.

Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays or PFLAG is a non-profit, all volunteer organization that functions through the support of parents, family and friends of LGBTs. Members include parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, members of the LGBT community and their friends who have the same standpoint that everyone regardless of their gender should be able to enjoy justice and equal rights.

The Philadelphia chapter of PFLAG is one the largest and oldest chapters, its main headquarters in Washington, D.C.

PFLAG’s foundation as an organization for the LGBTs is to offer support, education and advocacy. Members believe that every parent, friends and family members and LGBTs who wishes to, or just recently came out to their parents, is on a journey to acceptance and beyond as far as the LGBT community and related issues are concerned. For them, it’s a continuing learning and growing process about the realities and the norms of living in a community where LGBTs are stereotyped.

The story of Frances

Frances, a mother, and the president of PFLAG in 2002, recalls a life changing incident when her daughter came out to her. It happened on a February during the 1990s, when Frances received a letter from her daughter, Kerry.

She was very reluctant to open the letter, even if it was already two weeks since she got it. Frances already had a clue what’s written on the letter, but she was afraid to read and face it.

Kerry, who was in college at that time, was in the middle of her degree. The easiest way she knew, then to let her mother know about her sexuality was through a letter. And the emotional drawback of her actions had not been that easy.

Frances’ husband insisted that they open the letter together, and discuss what’s written. True to Frances’ instinct, their daughter came out, telling them that she’s a lesbian.

It was an emotional situation for the entire family. They lost contact of Kerry, who started to fail in her studies, and was dropping out of college because she was breaking down after she came to terms with her sexuality.

“It was a very hard time for me when Kerry came out. I cried for several days, not because my daughter is gay or because I feel bad because she’s gay, but because she was leaving, she was going away,” Frances said.

Frances, went to PFLAG for support and enlightenment to what happened to her daughter. After talking to other members of the organization, it became easier for her to accept and slowly started communicating with her daughter again.

Now, they are on very good terms. Kerry married her girlfriend and they have twin little girls. Their relationship, as family, has been stronger than years ago. Frances and Kerry understood and now feel that family ties is stronger than whatever obstacles that may come along their way.

The story of John

John is a father of an 18-year old gay boy. His son came out to him five years ago, almost the same time when older students started to bully him in school.

It was a hard time for the whole family; they didn’t know what to do with the older students in school. John tried to talk to the school authorities to discuss the bullying, but they refused to acknowledge it. He then went to PFLAG to ask for support. The organization together with John found a way to set up several meetings with the school authorities and explained to them about the bullying.

“The school environment is very dangerous for the kids, especially the ones who are just coming out and dealing with their sexuality. We, parents, should spend more time with our kids and talk to them, and know how they are doing outside our home,” John explained.

PFLAG provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. Thus, parents, family members and friends who are in a difficult situation with a family member who is an LGBT, can easily contact PFLAG, and they will set a meeting and counseling with other members of the organization. They have small group discussions between members, where they share their stories about their struggle in accepting their LGBT family members and friends.

The center is open for any new members who are experiencing problems in coming to terms in accepting and understanding what their LGBT family members are going through or for anyone who needs support. And through understanding, they can create a support system which serve as stronghold for a good family relationship.

In the Philippines, there is still no well-built organization that supports LGBTs who experience indifference from their parents and family members. The existing organizations only function as: research and gathering of data about anything and everything LGBT related in the Philippines, a political party, and other LGBT related matters.

LGBTs don’t get enough emotional support from their parents and family members after they come out. The only way they can communicate with their family members is through their friends; worse, they don’t have any way to do so, and for this reason, they tend to just grow apart from their families.

 

Patrick King Pascual filed this report while on a reporting tour in the United States, sponsored by the State Department Foreign Press Center, entitled “A Developing Narrative: LGBT Rights and Issues in the United States.”

(Outrage Magazine remains the only publication for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines.)

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LGB acceptance in US military: a war worth fighting for

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VERA Files and Yahoo Philippines | 08 June 2012

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WASHINGTON D.C.-Maria (not her real name) is an officer in the United States Navy.  She has been serving her country for more than 20 years. She comes from a family who has served the government for a number of generations. She’s a lesbian.

She has been in a different kind of conflict the past years. Should she “come out” and risk dismissal from a career she values?

She chose to remain in the service and broke off with her long time female partner.

To Maria, there was a higher consideration than her personal relationship. She was afraid that if the government found out that she’s a lesbian, she would be asked to leave the service. She would lose  her benefits and other opportunities in the military would be all taken away.

Joe (not his real name) is an Army officer in the United States Armed Forces. He has been in the service for almost 20 years. He is gay.He has a long time male partner.

He recalls that whenever he reported every morning to his commander, he imagined he would be asked to leave the service because they discovered his real sexual orientation. He felt like there was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode anytime. He considered each day on duty as his last. It was a fear he was afraid to conquer.

Everything changed on September 20, 2011, when the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy in the US military was repealed.

DADT became official policy on December 21, 1993. The policy prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service.

The restrictions were mandated by United States federal law, which barred people who “demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” from serving in the armed forces of the United States, because their presence “would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”

There were at least 14,000 military personnel fired under the law.

Sen. John McCain and other Republicans used homophobia as part of their argument in support of DADT.

Removing gay members of the service became rampant as heterosexual members generally did not approve homosexuality. Openly LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) soldiers were greatly disadvantaged by the practice.

With DADT running it’s full force, it significantly undermined the US military force. A report from Pentagon showed that 75 percent of young Americans were unqualified to serve in the military because of poor education, criminal records and weight problems.

But there were a great number of candidates who were smart, law-abiding and physically- fit but were refused and excluded because of their sexual orientation.

President Barrack Obama promised during his 2008 election campaign that he would work for the repeal of the laws that prohibit members of the LGB community from serving in the military.

In Obama’s first State of the Union Address in 2010, he said that his administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and the laws were strengthened to safeguard its citizens against crimes driven by hate.

McCain opposed Obama’s plan to repeal DADT, saying that the policy has been successful  for over 15 years and it is mostly supported by the military in all levels.

On May 27, 2010, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would lead to the repeal of DADT.

The Congress passed a stand-alone DADT bill on December 10, 2010. And the Senate passed the Congress’ bill on December 18, 2010, by 65-31.

Obama signed the bill allowing for repeal of DADT on December 22, 2010.

December 15, the House passed a stand-alone DADT bill. And on September 20, 2011 DADT was finally certified to have been repealed.

“As of today, patriotic Americans in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are in order to serve the country they love. Our armed forces will no longer lose the extraordinary skills and combat experience of so many gay and lesbian services members,” Obama said in a written statement.

It was a historic event not only for the Americans but for other countries that follow the same pattern of policy making.

Now, Maria and Joe are living their lives like any other heterosexual member of the military in the United States.

“Most people don’t hold your sexual orientation against you. DADT is an option, not a mandatory thing, so if you don’t want to out yourself, it’s up to you,” Maria said.

After DAD was repealed, some members of the military who were discharged have reapplied again and were reinstated.

“The feeling of putting your life at stake whenever you’re in a war protecting the country you are most proud of is unexplainable and very fulfilling,” Joe said.

In the Philippines, it’s still very much a macho world.

There are at least 14 gays and eight lesbians in the Philippine Armed Forces, according to a Philippine non-government organization. As long as their real identities are concealed, they are “one of the boys.” There’s no saying what will happen if they reveal the truth about themselves.

 

(Pascual was on a reporting tour in the United States sponsored by the State Department Foreign Press Cenyer entitled “A Developing Narrative:LGBT Rights and Issues in the United States.” VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)

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