SOGIE 101: Why You Should Care Even If You Aren’t Part Of The LGBTQ+ Community
On June 10, a week before my first day on the job here at Metro.Style, my would-be coworkers went through a SOGIE Workshop given by Babaylanes, Inc., the alumni organization of UP Babaylan. I was delighted to hear this, because as a young bisexual woman of the millennial generation—a generation notoriously known for online activism and varying stages of “wokeness”—I immediately felt more welcomed and more accepted at my new workplace.
The term “SOGIE” has been thrown around quite frequently, reaching an all-time high in the Philippines in 2017 when the SOGIE Equality Bill (also known as the Anti-Discrimination Bill) was finally passed by the House of Representatives after 17 years. Unfortunately, the bill has been languishing in the interpellation stage of the Senate for over two years now. SOGIE is an acronym for Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression.
It may be easy to now wonder: is this bill or concept purely for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) community? The answer, quite simply, is no. While the bill aims to protect Filipino members of LGBTQ+ community against sex- and gender-based discrimination, Perci Cendaña, President of Babaylanes, points out that everyone has a SOGIE.
“Then-Senate President Koko Pimentel asked the author of the bill, Senator Risa Hontiveros, ‘Ako po ay tatay, may asawa, may anak,’” Cendaña recalled. “‘May SOGIE po ba ako?’” (I am a father, I have a spouse, I have children. Do I have a SOGIE?)
Yes, he does—and yes, the moment you identify as heterosexual and cisgender (meaning, your gender identity corresponds with the sex assigned to you at birth), you give life to your SOGIE. “These are layers of who we are,” Cendaña said. “Lahat tayo ay may sexual orientation, may direksyon kung saan papunta ang ating pagmamahal.” (We all have a sexual orientation, a direction where our love is channeled.)
The catch, Cendaña said, can be perfectly wrapped up in another acronym: SAD—Stigma And Discrimination. Just moments earlier, he had regaled my heterosexual and cisgender coworkers with thought-provoking and eye-opening exercises and questions, including an exercise in which they had to put themselves in the shoes of a member of the LGBTIQ+ community and react to simple yes-or-no statements about fundamental human rights:
- Madali akong matatanggap ng pamilya ko (I can be easily accepted by my family)
- Malaya kong maisusuot ang gusto kong damit sa eskwela (I am free to wear what I want at school)
- Makakapag-CR ako ng kumportable (I can comfortably use the restroom)
- Kumportable kami ng karelasyon kong makipagholding-hands while walking sa mall (I am comfortable holding hands with my significant other while walking around the mall)
- Madali akong matatanggap sa trabaho (I can be easily accepted at work)
- Tanggap na tanggap ako ng relihiyon ko (I am very much accepted by my religion)
- Ginagalang ako ng lipunan (I am respected by society)
“Just because you’re LGBTIQ+ and because you’re not LGBTIQ+, nag-iba ‘yung sagot niyo sa fundamental, very basic rights questions na iyon.” (Just because you’re LGBTIQ+ and because you’re not LGBTIQ+, your answers to those fundamental, very basic rights questions changed.)
“That difference is why we need to celebrate Pride,” Cendaña said. “Because we need to assert space and equality.”
The Metro.Style Team with Jap Paul Jann Ignacio, Deputy Executive Director, Perci Villar Cendaña, President of Babaylanes, Inc., and Claire de Leon, Executive Director of Babaylanes, Inc.
Asserting space is something I’m still not used to doing—I take up very little, I curl in on myself, and talk very quietly—but, as I’ve come to figure out my identity over the past few years (figuring out I love ladies too made so much sense), and after attending my first Pride march last year, I’ve learned to be louder and unapologetically myself. So, yes: you should care about the SOGIE Equality Bill because everyone has a SOGIE; but most importantly, because to someone, somewhere, whether you’ve known them a day or all your life, it would mean so much.