Discrimination knows no excuse
Recently, the news of celebrity Awra Briguela being arrested for being involved in a fight blew up on social media. It garnered mixed reactions from netizens, with everyone stating their own opinions on the incident. The issue also prompted LGBTQIA+ rights groups to stand up and defend Awra.
Despite the presence of different evidence online, the case still needs more context. Since the investigation is still in the works, there is yet to be enough proof to make a conclusion on what really happened, especially since both parties present different stories on the situation. Even though public attention has slowly waned, no proper explanation has been provided as to what really transpired. As stated in Rappler journalist Rambo Talabong’s explainer, the case is still developing, and there are still questions that could be raised regarding the issue. Therefore, I cannot pick a side on the said matter.
However, what I find alarming is the blatant discrimination against Awra’s gender orientation. You can see people blaming Awra’s identity for what has happened. Some people concluded that what Awra did was expected of them since “gay people really have those tendencies.” It is baffling to see such words online, especially since Pride Month has just concluded.
Regardless of the situation, this should not have been an excuse for people to justify homophobia and discrimination.
In any situation wherein an LGBTQIA+ individual is involved, it becomes easy for people to blame their actions on their identity. In Raffy Tulfo’s interview with a police officer, the policeman told Tulfo that “Eh alam mo naman, si Awra is gay. Gusto niyang makita ‘yung magandang katawan,” which was a statement that Tulfo disliked. Statements like this are harmful as it creates stereotypes and stigma to the LGBTQIA+ community. The police officer’s conclusion was solely based on Awra’s identity alone, which sets a precedent for other future cases that may involve gay people. Once a cisgender heterosexual person does something wrong, people seem to justify their wrongdoings or blame their actions on everything but their identity. However, this is not the case for LGBTQIA+ members because people are so easy to blame their wrongdoings on their sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE), even if it was never connected to their actions.
The fight for equality in the country has never been an easy fight. Queer individuals struggle to fight for the bare minimum treatment every single day. In history, the progress of LGBTQIA+ acceptance is so slow that it has always affected our justice system, just like in the case of Jennifer Laude, which led to the suspect being granted an “absolute pardon.” The Filipinos’ perception of the LGBTQIA+ community has also affected the progress of the passing of the SOGIESC Equality Bill, which has been in Congress for more than a decade already.
The case of Awra has even reached the Filipino meme culture, as different memes are already being made regarding what happened. While meme culture can be a great way for people to connect online and have fun, it has also become a platform for cyberbullying multiple times in different scenarios. While some memes may seem harmless, it has already paved the way for homophobic people to discriminate against Awra, especially since a lot of these online memes are lacking context and are not based on facts.
As stated earlier, the investigation of the case is still ongoing, so there is no proper conclusion to this case yet. However, even if no official statement has been made, homophobic and transphobic remarks against Awra are rampant. When you check every news or post about her, a lot of comments pertain to Awra’s identity as a queer individual, and you can read a lot of slurs being thrown around. It seems like homophobic people used the case as a free pass to say those kinds of things. But regardless of who is right or wrong, no one should be discriminated against or bullied because of their identity. One should be called out for their wrong actions, but never for how they choose to express and identify themselves.
The call against discrimination is not just for the case of Awra but for every case wherein an LGBTQIA+ individual is involved. To emphasize, we recognize the need for a trial regarding the case, but the trial must be fair and just and must not use someone’s orientation and identity as a basis in making judgments. With this, it is important that the authorities set an example of how we should treat queer individuals, as they are the ones who are in a position to make an impact. Additionally, it is heavily crucial for the government to create methods to protect the rights of our queer citizens.
Ultimately, the LGBTQIA+ community is no exception when it comes to morality. Hence, they should still be accountable if they have ever done something wrong. However, their wrongdoings are never a justification for someone to discriminate against their SOGIE and the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole.
Whatever happens, there is no valid reason to make homophobic and transphobic remarks. Gender sensitivity is always important in upholding a society grounded on mutual respect. May we remember this whenever we encounter such situations personally or on social media.