Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ricky Reyes: Great with Hair, Really Bad with Advice

Sorry Ricky, but equality is always the right thing to fight for
Anyone who lives in the Philippines -- or has ever visited one of the scores of malls throughout the country -- has undoubtedly seen the very popular salons of the very well-known Ricky Reyes, usually complete with life-size cutouts of the hairstyle guru standing in the entryway.

Reyes seems like a nice person.  There's no doubt that he's good with hair.  He's become a millionaire precisely because he is so good at it, and kudos to him for that.  But one thing he's not so good at is giving advice.

Reyes, who is affectionately called Mother Ricky, recently gave his two cent's worth on the hoopla over gays and lesbians wanting to marry.  I wish he would have kept his two cents to himself.  He said that gays should give up on the idea of marrying; it should be for straight folks only.  "I get mad at gays pursuing things that are impossible," Reyes said.  "My God, give it to the men and women.  If you love somebody, live with them.  Living with and understanding someone is better than marriage."

What an arrogant thing to say.  He's mad at gay people for fighting for their rights?  Really, Ricky?  Way to turn against your own minority group.  Not only is it arrogant, but it's also an insult to the thousands of same-sex couples in the Philippines who do want to marry.

Of course it's easy for Ricky to say such things, because he's rich... fabulously, ridiculously rich.  The scores of benefits and tax breaks that come with a marriage certificate really wouldn't make a difference in his life because, as a millionaire, he doesn't have to struggle.  He doesn't have to live paycheck to paycheck.  He doesn't have to worry about healthcare insurance, inheritance rights, veteran's benefits, worker's compensation, consumer discounts and incentives for spouses, or SSS pension benefits.  But the nearly 94 million other Filipinos who aren't millionaires unfortunately do have to worry about those things.

The rights and benefits that come with marriage -- or legal partnerships for that matter -- do make a very big difference and do matter to most common folks who struggle to make ends meet.  Yes it's nice to live with somebody and understand somebody, but it's also nice when your government recognizes you and treats you like a full citizen; like a person worthy of dignity and respect.  Living with someone doesn't do that, Ricky.  Marriage does.

If his statements came from some neoconservative politician, it would be par for the course.  In fact it sounds disappointingly similar to what Rep. Joseph Abaya says about same-sex unions.  But the fact that it came from Ricky Reyes, a pillar of the Philippine gay community who is himself gay, makes it all the more arrogant and ugly.  The Filipino LGBT community should never cower and should never let up in their fight for equal rights in every area, including partnership rights.  And it's not 'impossible' either, far from it.  Don't ever fall into that type of defeatist mindset, or you've lost before you've even begun.  The only way it becomes an impossibility is if you don't fight for it; that will guarantee its failure.

Boy Abunda
I truly admire the approach of another gay icon of the Philippines:  Boy Abunda.  A hugely popular and influential talkshow host (and also hugely wealthy), Boy Abunda takes a far more mature approach to the matter of same-sex marriage than Ricky Reyes does.

Boy and his partner have been together for over twenty years now, and he says that they don't want to get married at this point, even though they can afford to fly anywhere in the world to do so.  But, while he says marriage isn't the course of action for him and his partner, he says he will stand and fight to see same-sex marriage become a reality in the Philippines.  He says his hope is that future generations of Filipino LGBTs will have the rights and opportunities that he hasn't had in his life.

If you ask me, that's maturity and that's nobility.  He and his partner may not personally want marriage at this time in their relationship, but he will nevertheless fight for it for the benefit of everyone, because it's the right thing to do.

Certain people (both gay and straight) may have no interest in getting married, and that's perfectly all right.  But that doesn't mean nobody else wants the chance to get married.  This is an issue that should be supported and fought for regardless of one's own personal wishes for their life, because it's the right thing to do for everyone, for all couples.  It's far better to have the opportunity to choose, rather than have no choice at all.

Equality and civil rights are always the right thing to fight for.  Maybe Mother Ricky should take a few notes from Boy Abunda.

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