Statement of UPCWGS Director Dr. Nathalie Lourdes Africa-Verceles during the SOGIE Equality Bill Hearing on 4 September 2019

I was Catholic school-educated from pre-school to high school, and the God I came to know is compassionate, just, and intolerant of oppression. 

I am as heteronormative and cisnormative as it gets. Assigned sex, female. Sexual orientation, heterosexual. Gender identity, woman. Gender expression, feminine. All in perfect congruence. Everything in place according to what society dictates as appropriate for my sex. Privileged on the basis of my sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. Free from the daily oppression experienced by those who do not fit into the socially-constructed norms on human sexuality.

Oppression. The scholars Launius and Hassel define oppression as, and I quote, “prejudice and discrimination directed toward a group and perpetuated by the ideologies and practices of multiple social institutions,” end of quote. They draw attention to how privilege and oppression are fundamentally about unequal power relations. For those of us who are fortunate enough to be in a position of privilege, is it compassionate and just to exercise our power by demanding adherence to ideologies and practices that we know are oppressive? Is not the moral imperative to dismantle all structures of oppression, to end all forms of inequality?

Human sexuality is diverse.

Launius and Hassel also pointed out that, and I quote, “the scientific and historical evidence of the malleability of gender—the wide range of sexualities across cultures; the range of expectations for masculine and feminine behavior across culture, time, and even an individual’s life span suggests that gender is not quite as ‘natural’ as we suppose,” end of quote.

A statement by the Psychological Association of the Philippines asserts that, and I quote, “Decades of scientific research have led mental health professional organizations worldwide to conclude that lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations are normal variants of human sexuality,” end of quote.

Rigid beliefs on sex and gender place people in boxes, or entrap them in closets, and they do not represent realities on human sexuality. It is diversity that is a natural characteristic of human sexuality.

Sexuality is a development issue.

The Sexuality and Development Program of the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex in the UK, emphasizes that sexuality is a development issue. It asserts that, and I quote, “Development should be about increasing people’s well-being, particularly of those who are poor and marginalized. Social and legal norms and economic structures based on sexuality have a huge impact on people’s physical security, bodily integrity, health, education, mobility, and economic status,” end of quote. Nobel Prize Laureate Amartya Sen declared, and I quote, “Development is freedom…the freedom to do and to be, to live the life one values or has reason to value,” end of quote. Being a member of the LGBTQI sector can have deleterious effects on an individual’s welfare. Prejudice and discrimination towards LGBTQI individuals impinge on their human dignity, their freedoms, and their capacities for self-actualization. 

LGBTQI rights are human rights.

According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, and I quote, “Deeply-embedded homophobic and transphobic attitudes, often combined with a lack of adequate legal protection against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, expose many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of all ages and in all regions of the world to egregious violations of their human rights. They are discriminated against in the labour market, in schools and in hospitals, mistreated and disowned by their own families.

The legal obligations of States to safeguard the human rights of LGBT people are well established in international human rights law on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequently agreed international human rights treaties. All people, irrespective of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, are entitled to enjoy the protections provided for by international human rights law, including in respect of rights to life, security of person and privacy…the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of expression,” end of quote.

I am as heteronormative and as cisnormative as it gets, but I denounce a world that oppresses those who are not like me. The sufferings of members of the LGBTQI community cannot simply be negated, ignored, or dismissed. Their struggles are inextricable from all other struggles for social justice.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex individuals are not going to disappear despite the non-fulfillment of their rights and the absence of adequate legal protection for them. They will merely remain persistently vulnerable to discrimination, abuse, and violence. From our position of privilege, do we choose to turn a blind eye to this?  Or do we utilize our power to create and nurture an economic, social, political, and cultural order that embraces an inclusive view of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression?

Human sexuality is diverse. Sexuality is a vital development issue. LGBTQI rights are human rights.