Statement on Filipino American LGBT communities and Manny Pacquiao

Statement on Filipino American LGBT communities and Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao is the most famous Filipino living today.  He is a person who rose from humble beginnings to be the best in his field anywhere in the world.  He has transcended that field to become a household name not just for boxing enthusiasts but for us all- from Batangas to Belleville to Berlin.  He has become a fighter not only in the boxing arena, but in the political arena.  He has shaken hands with world leaders and serenaded global television audiences.

But on the issue of marriage equality, he is wrong.  To rely on religious scripture to justify ongoing discrimination against the LGBT community is wrong.  And with all due respect to a man who has done much to raise the profile of Filipinos and who cares deeply about our kababayan (fellow Filipinos) across the globe, we, as organizations serving Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, and Filipino American lesbian/ gay/ bisexual/ transgender (LGBT) communities in the United States, call on him to begin a dialogue with his LGBT kababayan about how we are unique, AND how we are the same.

In an interview with Granville Ampong published online: [http://www.examiner.com/article/pacquiao-rejects-counsels-obama-god-s-words-first], he expressed his opposition to President Obama’s recent statement in support of marriage equality.  News reports of that interview directly attributed quotes from the book of Leviticus in the Bible to him, but seem to be taken out of context.  He has since denied, as some news accounts have accused [http://www.gay.net/politics/2012/05/16/boxer-manny-pacquiao-says-gays-should-be-put-death”]him of, calling for “gays to be put to death,” and has apologized to the gay community in an interview with Mario Lopez on Extra TV [http://www.extratv.com/2012/05/16/manny-pacquiao-to-gay-community-i-apologize/

But whoever dealt the blows, they have landed.  As he himself can tell you, once a punch is thrown, it cannot be unthrown.

His decision to come out publicly on this issue and to dip his foot in the political waters surrounding it is wrong.  Not because, as some in the LGBT community in the United States would say, because of convenient geopolitical categories that place him outside of the United States’ political context.  As an elected official in the Philippine Congress, but one who lives in Los Angeles, CA, he embodies the term “citizen of the world” and reflects the globalized nature of Filipinos and the diasporic communities we build.

But the sloppy journalism and over-sensationalized pitting him against the LGBT community is also wrong.  Granville Ampong’s article supplied quotes from Leviticus and the Old Testament in a way that suggested that they came from Manny Pacquiao himself, but the internet bandwagon set up an “us v. them” dichotomy and took it to its “execute the gays” conclusion far too quickly as well.  Responding to violence with violence, even in parody [http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2012/05/ten_gays_who_co.php] is also wrong, especially when it deals in condescending language like “puny” and “pipsqueak.”   Jumping to the worst possible conclusions when some people make inflammatory statements, but leaving uncontested the institutional players like many in the conservative movement that keep open the political space that allows and justifies real violence against LGBT people is wrong.

We call for a more open and transparent dialogue with Manny Pacquiao, and all our Filipino and United States kababayan, about our lives as Filipinos AND as LGBT.  We call for more civil discourse about what makes us unique, but also, what makes us the same.   We call for moving beyond judgments about how we live our lives and whom we choose to love, and getting to the profound problems these tough times present to us all.

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