“I Am Gay!”
These were the words that reverberated throughout the residence of the US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas last night, June 14, 2011 at North Forbes Park in Makati during the reception tendered by the US Embassy in honor of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.
I was privileged to have been there along with nine other invited bloggers. I was the only one from outside of Metro Manila.
Under the administration of President Barack Obama, the United States of America has made significant progress in achieving equality for LGBT Americans and is continually doing measures to eliminate discrimination against them.
Last 31st of May 2011, perhaps for the first time in US history, an American President proclaimed June 2011 as Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month to “eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.”
The president has also pledged his support for the “IT GETS BETTER PROJECT“, meant to “show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach – if they can just get through their teen years. The It Gets Better Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone — and it WILL get better“.
Here is the link to the video of President Obama’s message of hope and support for LGBT youth who struggling with being bullied—> President Obama’s Message to LGBT youth.
For his part, Ambassador Harry K. Thomas gave a moving speech in front of about a hundred or so guests last night, mostly well-known members of the LGBT community in Metro Manila and his staff at the US Embassy here.
Below is the transcript of the speech. Please read it carefully in its entirety.
Magandang gabi sa inyong ang lahat!
I am gay.
I am gay.
I am gay.
Three little words.
It is not a phrase that trips the tongue. It is not a phrase that should take lifetimes to utter.
But my friends, these are some of the hardest words in the English language—in any language—for many of our friends, colleagues, and family members.
And this should not stand.
Our loved ones, our friends and our colleagues fear expressing their sexuality, condemned instead to a lifetime of anxiety and repression.
This should not be.
They are our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. Aunts and uncles.
[quote]These are not nameless, faceless members of a foreign or forgotten race. They are our families and our friends. And they are scared to be who they are. [/quote]
They fear expressing their sexuality. They cannot tell their own loved ones who they really are. And I regret that there are those even in our Embassy community who fear coming out and expressing their true selves.
Why? Because instead of expressing our love for all human beings, we choose instead to ostracize and exclude.
This will not continue.
Tonight, coming here together in this house for the first time, we are breaking new ground. It should give us pause to reflect how LGBT persons across the world, in every country, from every culture, are breaking new ground every day, and breaking courageously through the barriers that hold them back. As Saint Teresa of Avila once said, “To have courage for whatever comes in life — everything lies in that.”
Yet even with courage, many of us still struggle to overcome prejudices driven by factors no human can control: the color of our skin, the expression of our gender, and the nature of our sexuality. While these prejudices are very real to us, many in the world can never understand.
And the reaction by that world to those struggling with such prejudice is both disappointing and disheartening: “You are imagining things,” they say. “It’s not as bad as you say it is, and if it is, it’s not my fault.”
That one’s core being can be such an affront to others is one of the greatest tragedies of humankind.
It is a tragedy not only because of the pain and suffering it causes, but because it prevents people from doing, being, and becoming their best. Sa diskriminasyon, maraming likas na galing at talino ang nasasayang.
[quote]Discrimination based on difference, whether it’s age, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion, is wrong. It deprives society of some of its most creative and productive members; it demoralizes communities. It shatters families.[/quote]
The ambitious spirit of the Philippines’ LGBT community will no doubt carry it over these and other challenges. Americans know from centuries of experience that the march against discrimination and prejudice is long and difficult, and sometimes it feels never-ending.
But we also know that every step forward makes life a little better here and now — and most certainly for future generations who will look back and marvel at the sacrifices and advances you all made, wondering at how you managed to accomplish so much.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am not tonight asking you to leave shouting that you are gay; I am not asking you to endanger yourselves in the face of other peoples’ hatred and blindness. But I am asking you leave this place on this night with one thought and one goal: to protect and love someone. Love is what matters; gender is not important.
In his Gay Pride Month proclamation, President Obama called upon Americans to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate our great diversity. Those are goals worthy of all people, everywhere, and I hope all of you here tonight will join me in their pursuit.
We are all different, but we must embrace and respect our differences. We must come together through the very emotion that makes us human: love.
Pero lahat tayo ay tao.
Maraming salamat po.
And with that, dear readers, for all it’s worth, and for all the thousands out there who are still afraid to come out, I Bariles, author of GenSan News Online Mag declare proudly, that yes, totoo ang tsismis, I AM GAY