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Expert Says 'Dapat Hindi Tayo Nakikialam' When It Comes To Children's Gender Identities
PHOTO BY Facebook/Kris Aquino
  • Comparing himself to an inanimate object, Bimby Aquino, 14, told his mother Kris Aquino in a recent vlog that he was "as straight as one of [their] iPads", hoping to put an end to the public's assumptions that he was gay. He has dealt with them  since he was 10.

    Bimby towers at six feet, talks like his mother and has her mannerisms. Bimby said he likes girls and those who doubt him just because he didn't grow up to be a dude, as portended by his childhood mohawk, just have to deal with it.

    “Well you know Bimb, whatever you choose to be, it’s none of their business," the Philippines' queen of all media said, offering support that is rare for a Filipino parent for all of social media to see.

    This was a moment for the LGBT community, said Edgar Belda, a family life and child development expert.

    "Not everyone gets to have that conversation with their parents, which is very important particularly for children who are still exploring their identities," Belda, a faculty member at the UP College of Home Economics, told reportr.

    It's already rare for Filipino parents to sit down with their children and talk about forging identities.  When they do, it's usually a matter of career paths or interests — not of sexual or gender identities.

    "So to have that conversation with your child, and for a parent to respond the way Kris responded which was very open and accepting, it’s very important for children especially those who turn out a member of the LGBT community," he said. 

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    Why no one should decide for children (or for anyone)

    The public's fixation on his sexuality is something that the younger Aquino has known since he was 10 years old, at least as far as his mom's vlog records show. “Why would you judge a child?” Bimby said in one of her older videos, responding to critics saying he was gay.

    His mother said, “Don't judge a child, and don't make the decision for the child." Bimby added, “It's because we're still learning about ourselves and puberty hasn't struck for me yet." 

    In the most recent video, when Bimby so much as labeled himself as straight, it should already be taken as valid, said Belda. In the first place, even if they're public figures whose lives are somewhat beholden to the public, "dapat hindi tayo nakikialam sa ganoong bagay especially when it concerns a child".

    Pressures like this could stunt a child's identity development, said Belda. It can lead to identity foreclosure, a process in self development in which an adolescent assumes an identity forced upon him by his environment before he even got to explore ideas on his own.

    "Because of the pressure to make a decision earlier on, mapapadecide sila agad kasi hinihingan sila ng response eh, so they’ll question themselves, ‘Am I straight? Am I not straight? Maybe I should just say something and then panindigan ko nalang siya," he explained.

    And because no one likes to be labeled a liar, "pipilitin niyang panindigan yun kahit developmentally, nagche-change yung gender identity niya because of experiences," he added.

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    People have to realize, even Bimby, that gender is fluid, Belda said, noting that if ever the teen changes his mind, he is free to "come out" once more, free of judgment.

    "If that ever happens, people will probably accuse him of lying in the first place and of course, that will be untrue. It's just that, gender can change because of experience, of physiological reasons or anything like that. People have to respect it," he said.

    To understand it more, think of physical growth. Imagine questioning a five-year-old child about their height. Do you ask them if they're a three-footer, a four-footer? You probably won't, because you know for sure that a child is still a child — a growing human being.

    "Ganon din siya sa concept ng sexual identity, hindi ka pwedeng mag-label lang, if at all, kasi lumalaki pa siya," said Belda, noting that even when a child is already a "grown up", the fluidity of gender doesn't stop. Take American socialite Caitlyn Jenner, born male at birth, who publicly came out as a trans woman at the age of 65.

    "There are individuals na even at late adulthood, 'dun pa nila narerealize yung changing gender identity nila. What more for a child na nagsisimula pa lang sa process na 'yun?", he said.

    Society needs to do better

    Discrimination against the LGBT community runs deep in predominantly Catholic Philippines, a legacy of a 333-year Spanish rule. Activists have long fought against the heteronormative status quo.

    Exactly how challenging has it been? The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) bill has been morphing through the legislative mill for 21 years.

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    While it may be true that relatively, media representations are now better, Philippine society is still at the level of tolerance. It's one of the reasons why Filipinos are capable of being harsh even to a developing child.

    In the end, "we need to wrap our heads around the idea na sexual identity and gender expression are a natural phenomena. Of course, part of it is nurtured, part of it is a choice, but a huge part of it is natural," Belda added. 

    "Feeling ng iba, hindi siya natural, na pinili mo lang yan kaya pwede ka pa ring bumalik sa kung ano yung 'default'. When in fact, for most LGBT people, it’s been there since they were born.

    "Hindi lang nila maexpress because of discriminatory views, but it's really as natural as someone being straight, or someone having curly hair or straight hair," he said.

    This story originally appeared on Reportr.

    *Minor edits have been made by the SmartParenting.com.ph editors.

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