Do your children respect diversity?
In the Philippines, not everyone understands SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression). Hence, the discrimination faced by the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community.
One boy is trying to change this. He’s Khent, a 17-year-old gender equality advocate.
“We need to remove the stigma that if you’re part of the LGBT community, you’re different and you don’t belong to society,” Khent said in Filipino.
“I’m an advocate and I’m also part of the LGBT community,” he added. (WATCH: Don't be afraid to express yourself)
SOGIE-based discrimination affects the lives of young LGBT persons like Khent.
They may become the target of ridicule or bullying in school, both teachers and classmates may be guilty. This may ostracize the child, lowering their self-esteem.
What’s worse is that for some young LGBT persons, such maltreatment begins at home. They receive harsh words from their own parents or siblings, leaving them mentally and emotionally distressed.
In some cases, parents even beat up or disown their children.
What we need to understand is that there is nothing wrong with being LGBT. Just like everyone else, these children have the right to be loved, protected, and respected.
“Society, especially the youth, should really be aware of SOGIE,” said Khent. “So that we won’t hurt and misjudge others.”
What is SOGIE?
“Each term is different from the other,” Khent emphasized.
Sexual Orientation: Who you’re attracted to
“Take note that sexual orientation is different from sex,” stressed Khent. “Your biological sex is your assigned sex at birth.”
Gender Identity: How you see or identify yourself
“You may be born female, but you may identify as a man. This is what we call a transgender man,” Khent explained. “Or you may be born male, but you identify as a woman. You identify as a transgender woman.”
“You don’t necessarily have to undergo operations to be able to identify as a transgender person,” Khent clarified. “What’s more important is how you feel or identify yourself.”
Gender Expression: How you express yourself (i.e., through clothes, the way you walk, talk or present yourself)
One’s gender expression doesn’t have to match their biological sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
“We really cannot tell who a person is just by their physical appearance,” Khent said. “We can’t force someone to come out, it should come from them freely.” (WATCH: Can boys play with dolls?)
“We need to understand them first and respect who they are as a person,” he added. “We need to end stereotypes.”
Khent is among the teens Save the Children Philippines trains on Adolescent Health. Together with friends, he teaches the youth in his community about puberty, adolescence, reproductive health, and gender equality.
As advocates say, the key to respecting diversity is acceptance and not just tolerance.
“As a student, I can say that SOGIE isn’t so well-discussed in school,” Khent admitted. “And that’s problematic because that’s how we create stigma or the negative things we associate with being LGBT.”
Bullying can get so extreme among schools that children are actually getting physically hurt. In some cases, this could lead to victims taking their own lives.
Schools, according to Khent, should make an effort to educate both teachers and students about the importance of respect.
A teacher should never favor one student over another plainly because of their SOGIE, status, class, religion, or any other reason. (WATCH: Supporting the rights of LGBT children)
Students, said Khent, should learn about gender equality at an early age so that they won’t grow up to be misinformed and prejudiced adults.
End SOGIE-based discrimination. Respect diversity, empower through education!