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President Duterte’s Homophobia is a Wake-Up Call

Last updated on August 17, 2019

Ina remark unbefitting of pride month, Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte has claimed that he ‘used to be gay’ before encounters with women “cured” him.

Immediately after claiming that political rival Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV was gay at a Tokyo conference this Thursday, Duterte then stated that he himself was “a bit gay” during his failed marriage with ex-wife Elizabeth Zimmerman. In court proceedings, Zimmerman testified that Duterte was a womanizer. Their marriage was officially annulled in 2000 after 25 years of marriage.

Duterte went on to say that he had found his “cure” in his current partner, Honeylet Avanceña.

I became a man again! So beautiful women cured me. I hated handsome men afterwards. I now prefer beautiful women.

The president has had a long history of controversial remarks in regards to LGBTQ+ individuals, showing his disregard for the community despite stating two years ago that his term would see queer people “protected and nurtured” as human beings. Only a few months earlier in 2017 would he tell Filipinos in Myanmar that he would not accept or recognize same-sex marriage — especially as the president of a predominantly Catholic country.

Later on, in that same year, he would also accuse chairman Chito Gascon of the Philippines Human Rights Commission of being a pedophile, even going so far as to equivocate pedophilia with homosexuality.

“Why is this guy so . . . suffocated with the issue of young people, especially boys? . . . Why are you smitten with teenagers? Are you? I’m having my doubts. Are you gay or a pedophile?”

Even further into his political past, he would call Phillip Goldberg, the then US Ambassador to the Philippines, gay — stating that he had many problems with him.

This is the same president that pushed to pass the SOGIE Equality Bill, as well as the same person to reassure members of the community that they are loved by God and would not be shunned.

There are many ways to interpret this. For one, the whole ordeal is reminiscent of a typical case of internalized homophobia. Duterte’s distasteful comments in regards to the LGBTQ+ community are made more sensical given the context of his own homosexual past. On the other hand, given that Duterte has repeatedly used “gay” as a slur in the past, it may very well have been a jab at his ex-wife, not to be taken seriously.

It is simply unsettling to see that “gay” is still being used to degrade others during a time when movements for societal progression and tolerance are supposedly thriving. It is even more unsettling to see that the man in charge of a nation of over a hundred million people still prescribes that homosexuality is a disease one could be “cured” of.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has found much proof that same-sex attraction is highly prevalent and a normative variation of human sexuality. Homosexuality was removed from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) in 1992.

Overall, the president’s mixed views in regards to LGBTQ+ rights warrant further discussion regarding the continued mistreatment of queer people in the Philippines.

Any opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not reflect the stance TheWorker Tribune takes on this issue. TheWorker Tribune seeks to include as many perspectives possible regarding even the most controversial subject matters.

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