Picture a teenage couple holding each other’s hands, sitting on the same bench in the campus, digging deep into each other’s eyes. A cliché. You can simply pass by this pair of individuals and seem to notice nothing because of its usualness. But what if both of them are male? Or female? Can you still picture them doing the same intimate gestures? How would most of us react?
A long time ago, romantic love seemed to be exclusive only between a man and a woman. Today, however, society, especially of the West, has seemingly become more open to the idea that one can actually love who he loves regardless of their sex. It cannot be denied that same-sex relationship in our country is not only evident among famous personalities but it has also become apparent among young adults.
In Ateneo de Davao, there are numbers of students engaging in same-sex relationships. When it comes to this, how accepting are we, considering that we are in a Catholic school? Is the school itself receptive when it comes to homosexual relationships?
J.L., an AB Psychology student who is a lesbian, says that her friends in school were initially shocked after knowing that she has been into same-sex relationships, but they later on accepted her. However, she still gets negative comments and feedbacks from others, especially from those who do not know her well. According to her, some of her classmates even look at her with disdain and disgust, especially those who do not belong in her circle of friends.
For her, in Ateneo de Davao, same-sex relationships are tolerated but not accepted.
“Toleration is like saying ‘I don’t care, and I also have my rules in life to unfriend and avoid you.’ Acceptance is they embrace you, and they continue the relationship they have with you kahit ganoon ka, without fears and without the awkwardness,” she explains.
A transferee from U.P. Mindanao, J.L. says that there are considerable differences between U.P Mindanao and Ateneo de Davao when it comes to how people like her are treated.
“I think U.P. is more accepting,” she says. “In Ateneo, you can be who you are, but be careful. Here in Ateneo, I have seen and read negative comments from religious extremists targeting us [members of the LGBT community].”
She mentions that the administration and the rules imposed in the school have also affected the liberty of a person to really express himself/herself.
“I think the school is trying to suppress us,” she adds.
“Love is not just about a man and a woman. You don’t love someone because of their genitals, and you don’t love someone because of the way they dress. You love someone because there’s this attraction, and you should go for it. It’s your happiness, not theirs. If there are consequences, it’s yours to take and not theirs,” she says when asked to give her message to people who also engage to same-sex relationships.
“We’re still humans. We still deserve your respect. I think the discrimination comes from the idea that this [being lesbian] is a choice. But I tell you, it’s not,” she adds, addressing those people who look at them negatively. “I think that their words are very strong and can lead to someone’s death. Respect is all we need.”
Ram and Rey, not their real names, both male BS-Education students of Ateneo de Davao, have been in a relationship for almost three years. They say that most of their friends were shocked after knowing that they are in a relationship. Some of their classmates initially disagreed with the kind of relationship they are into.
Ram says their friends are now really supportive. According to them, some of their professors are also accepting.
When asked if the school is open at the idea that a student could have homosexual relationship, they are having second-thoughts. Rey says that when it comes to the students, most are really open-minded about it. However, Ram thinks that the administration is somehow intolerant to homosexual relationships.
“I think labag siya [same-sex relationship] sa pinapaglaban ng school which is Bible-base,” he says.
They think that it is not really safe for them to reveal their relationship, for they know that they will be criticized, especially by religious extremists. Ram mentions that he encountered a person in the university who labeled their relationship “bawal” or forbidden if we have Bible as the basis.
“We feel bad about it because we cannot really express ourselves,” Ram says when asked about how they react when others make them feel unaccepted.
They say there is indeed still a need for acceptance when it comes to same-sex relationships, especially from families and from the University—the institution where they spend most of their days.
Lyka, a second year student who has encountered people who are in same sex relationships, says that she finds homosexual relationship really strange and unusual. However, she also finds it sweet and romantic. She believes homosexual couples should not be judged.
“Ilaha man nang life (That’s their life,)” she says. “For me, brave kaayo sila para i-express ilang feelings (they are very brave that they could express their feelings) despite the discriminations they might get from other people.”
How people look at same-sex relationships might vary according to their beliefs in life. Perhaps this is the reason why most homosexual couples in the university believe that the school is not yet ready to accept them: the school’s principles are rooted from Catholic doctrines. However, the school imposes no rule forbidding a category of romantic relationship. It forces no control over who a person should love and have a relationship with.
Undeniably, it is important for students engaging in a same-sex relationship to enjoy the same luxury most heterosexual couples enjoy. After all, they are still human beings manifesting their love to each other. They should be treated fairly and with respect.
Fair treatment and acceptance are important factors in every Atenean’s life. Spending his time studying inside the university, an Atenean needs to feel emotionally secure. Families, friends, classmates, and, equally importantly, the school itself can greatly contribute to how students feel about themselves. This, perhaps, is what the school needs to assure: students are indeed wholeheartedly accepted no matter what gender they prefer to love. After all, as the saying goes, “Love is the union of two souls, and our souls are genderless.”