While the LGBTQ+ community is slowly being welcomed by Christians, because of the deeply-rooted stigma and discrimination in the society, some queer people struggle with coming out to their friends and family.
Such was the case for 34-year-old Chingy Guese, whose parents actively participated in activities organized by a renowned Catholic organization. Due to her religious upbringing, Chingy stayed closeted even after she found out she was bisexual around 14 years ago.
Thankfully, her mother and siblings were very accepting when she got married to 36-year-old Ann Mendoza—the first partner she introduced to them—in an intimate beach wedding at Masbate back in May 2021.
Most churches in the Philippines are not yet open to the idea of conducting same-sex holy unions, claiming that marriage should be strictly between a man and a woman. However, a few Christian churches have taken the initiative to hold symbolic wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples.
Religion and pride
Their marriage isn’t recognized by Philippine law. However, Chingy and Ann still chose to have a holy union so that they could set their relationship in stone and affirm their commitment to God.
“Sinabi ko ‘to sa asawa ko na ‘yung marriage is like a license, so tali na kami sa bawat isa. No more side job na,” Chingy said.
[I told my spouse that marriage is like a license, so we are now tied to each other. There should be no more ‘side job’]
Chingy and Ann were wed by Rev. Cresencio Agbayani, a gay pastor who leads the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Straight (LGBTS) Christian Church in Quezon City. Ann found out about Cresencio while doing some research on same-sex holy unions in the country, after being inspired by the wedding of actors Ice Seguerra and Liza Diño.
Cresencio was glad to witness how every guest, regardless of sexual orientation, were supportive of bisexuals Chingy and Ann. The pastor explained that this was unlike his experiences before when curious onlookers would flock to same-sex wedding ceremonies.
After they were wed, Ann said that she felt her faith in God strengthen—even if she has not been to church in a long time.
“I get to pray, I get to give thanks…My faith in the Lord is stronger because he gave me a different change in my life when Chingy came into my life,” Ann said in a mix of Filipino and English.
But after posting their wedding on social media, Chingy and Ann received hate from religious folks online. The couple didn’t let this get into their heads and simply ignored the haters.
“As long as they aren’t the ones feeding us, we don’t care. What matters more to me is my family right now,” Chingy said.
They plan to use their wedding certificate in applying for a family visa in Europe, where same-sex marriages are honored.
Battle for equality
Chingy and Ann admit that they are lucky to have families who, despite being devout Christians, are welcoming of their sexual orientation.
This is not the case for many queer people in the country. According to Nathalie Africa-Verceles, director of the University of the Philippines Center for Women and Gender Studies, many members of the LGBTQIA+ community choose to repress parts of their identity in order to avoid discrimination.
However, hiding one’s true colors also comes with a price. Verceles said that staying closeted could also lead to humiliation, social rejection, high anxiety which can lead to depression, mental health issues, loss of creativity, loss of self-esteem, and internalized sexual stigma.
Journey towards acceptance
Some religious sectors have taken proactive steps in fighting against gender-based discrimination and in building safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community. However, a lot still has to be done to totally eradicate homophobia.
According to Cresencio, the religious can start by affirming the queer community rather than merely tolerating them.
Verceles echoed the same sentiments, saying that more than acceptance, the religious should learn to respect people without conditions regardless of their sexuality or gender.
“We need to root our acceptance of the community [in] respect. We accept them because we respect that they have a right to be who they are and what they want to be,” she said.
Cresencio also called on lawmakers to legally recognize same-sex families and to pass the SOGIE bill. But while several anti-discrimination bills have been filed in the upper and lower chambers of the Congress, Senate President Tito Sotto said in 2019 that these proposed measures have “no chance” of being passed in the Senate if it “transgresses on academic freedom, religious freedom, and women’s rights.”
“We’re not a bad person anyway. If they cannot make [SOGIE bill and same-sex marriage] a law, or to give us rights, lawmakers should at least give us respect,” Ann said.
Cresencio also hopes that the religious would revisit their doctrine on the LGBTQ+ community and on same-sex relationships.
The pastor cited the pontiff’s stand on same-sex union. In October 2020, Pope Francis expressed his support for same-sex couples, advocating for their right to have legally-recognized civil unions.
About the Author
Patricia Kahanap is a fourth-year journalism student from the University of Santo Tomas.