Wednesday, July 11, 2012

PMA: "We Won't Discriminate... Buuuut..."

In somewhat of a mixed-message, the PMA (Philippine Military Academy) has stated that there is no ban on gays and lesbians from applying for entry.  They insist they do not and will not discriminate against or turn away cadets if they happen to be gay or lesbian.

This should be applauded.  It's a great thing for the premier military academy of the Philippines to publicly commit to such a policy, and they honestly and sincerely deserve a pat on the back for it.

And then come the "buts"...

PMA spokesperson, Capt. Agnes Flores, says that cross-dressing is a total no-no.  Okay.  But that's not a gay issue, that's a cross-dressing issue.  The vast majority of cross-dressers are either transvestites or transgenders, not gay men and lesbians (see Definitions page).  Captain Flores is a little confused and prone to stereotyping, it seems.  Bless her heart though, she's trying.

Flores admitted that there were "some gays" among PMA graduates, but she said these officers did not show gay behavior while in the academy.

Gay behavior?  Uh-oh.  Like waking up in the morning, brushing their teeth, putting their uniform on, eating breakfast?  Again there is an evident stereotypical perception of "the gays" and "their behavior."

Listen now my friends, gay men do not dress like women, act like women, identify as women, or want to be women.  Gay men are men who are simply attracted to other men.  The same holds true for lesbians, only in the opposite direction of course.

There appears to be some PMA confusion between sexual orientation and gender identity.

In the fashion of conservative macho cultures, Flores simply presumes that all gay men are cross-dressing girly girls who run around screaming and flirting with all the other boys.  Of course, in fairness, this can't be seen as too big of a surprise; after all, this is the only way that gay men are portrayed (and accepted) on Philippine TV and in most Filipino movies.  It's easy to fall into stereotyping when the stereotype is the only thing that's constantly been shoved at you since childhood.

Continuing, Flores reminds everyone that “If they [gay cadets] display gay antics, they are going to be scolded because that’s not what’s expected of them.”

Then it got me wondering.  Straight PMA cadets are allowed to bring along dates and sweethearts to the PMA balls (such as the Ring Hop and Graduation Hop), recreation, and other academy-sponsored events.  Will the academy allow this for its gay and lesbian cadets, too?  Or would this fall under the classification of "gay antics"?

And then there's the picture to the right, from the 100th Nite Show 2011: Cadets on Display.  Is this scantily clad dance ensemble considered "gay antics"?  Will it be from now on?  Perhaps the academy will only classify it as "gay antics" if the cadets doing the dancing happen to be gay... or if a few of the cadets in the audience happen to be gay.

Then again, maybe to prevent an escalation of "gay antics" the academy could simply prohibit gay cadets from watching this portion of the "talent" display.  Oh dear.  This could get complicated, PMA.

PMA Superintendent Maj. Gen. Nonato Peralta said, “We cannot say that it's [being gay and lesbian] prohibited. That’s not the case. We are not prohibiting it."

Awesome.  Again, to be applauded.  It's pretty much a good policy anyway since it's impossible to prohibit sexual orientation.  You could prohibit same-sex acts on campus (and indeed I believe PMA policy is that all sex acts of any nature are prohibited on PMA grounds, and rightly so), but sexual orientation is obviously different from sexual acts.

I applaud the Superintendent's statement.  But when there's clear confusion among PMA officers and staff about the very clear differences between cross-dressing, transgenderism, and sexual orientation, how can you be sure what (or who) is actually prohibited or not?

While this is all a very good first step for the PMA, it seems they may need to hold some seminars on sexuality.  Then, after everyone is on the same page of understanding what is what and who is who, they could sit down and write up some clearly defined policies that truly reflect a climate of inclusiveness.

Quote sources:  Philippine Star; ABS-CBN; Daily Inquirer.


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