The LGBT as moral panic
How sad that while many in the US were celebrating the legal acceptance of same-sex marriage, many of us in the Philippines were furious.
But I thought it was strange for a variety of reasons.
For one, the Philippines is thousands of miles away from Uncle Sam. If people here were to be angry about anything, I would have thought it would be corruption, underemployment, or the lamentable quality of urban life, issues so close, urgent, and inherent to our national story.
Second, it was strange because it seemed that all of a sudden, people started reading the Scriptures, even quoting verses from Leviticus to Corinthians. For many of these people, rainbow photos had to be exorcised. Third, it was strange because if there was anyone who needed to defend themselves, it was the LGBT community, so small and so vulnerable.
Data from the International Social Survey Programme in 2008 show that 92.3% of Filipinos think that sexual relations between two adults of the same sex is "always wrong" or "almost always wrong." For those who assume that social attitudes amongst Filipinos have been changing, I am sorry to dispel the myth. In 1991, the figure was 93.4%.
And so I wonder why the conservative majority have become too noisy.
In sociology, the answer is pretty clear. We have before us moral panic, collectively shared anxieties over an issue or group perceived to challenge social order. In other words, moral panics happen when the values cherished by the majority are threatened by social issues or a minority group. In history, these issues have been framed as unacceptable social problems like drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, and, yes, witches too.
Whether the threat is real or not is irrelevant. The point is that a compelling story is weaved for us by society's moral entrepreneurs, authorities tasked to uphold timeless virtues. Indeed, religion, media, school, family, and friendships have all played a role in reinforcing the moral panic. Enhanced by social media, moral panic over same-sex marriage has spread like wild fire.
Moral panic also blames the victim. Some have argued that if it were not for the noisy and flamboyant LGBT community, there would be no issue at all.
Perhaps they are correct.
Temper religious fervor
But it is in the midst of a moral panic that a society can aspire to maturity.
A mature society is one that can accept its diversities within by transcending religious and ideological biases. The defining quality of a mature society is that it can encourage rational dialogue amongst people who profess different faiths, speak different dialects, and identify with fluid genders.
The aspiration therefore is not to readily drop our cherished convictions, but to gradually drop our guards. More so is this aspiration necessary for us, a nation that remains enslaved in more ways than one.
The sad reality is that the quality of discourse concerning the LGBT community has remained dismal. They are dimissed as abominations, sinners, and worse, harbingers of divine curse. The well-endowed among them are characterized as sayang. Their only redeeming moment is when they bring entertainment to the public.
My invitation to the moral entrepreneurs in the community is first to be at peace. Stand down, temper your religious fervor, and recognize the value of composure and silence. You already represent the majority, even if you may feel threatened. Assume too the position of the weak. Minority groups – whether in terms of gender or ethnicity – resist (and celebrate with one another) because they feel left out.
So what role then is left for religion? I believe the Bible has already given the answer: Perfect love casts out all fear. – Rappler.com
Dr Jayeel Serrano Cornelio (link: https://ateneo.academia.edu/JayeelCornelio) is a sociologist of religion at the Ateneo de Manila University and a member of the Board of the Philippine Sociological Society. He was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, Germany. For his scholarship on popular religion, he received the 2015 Virginia A. Miralao Excellence in Research Award from the Philippine Social Science Council.