Monday, October 26, 2009

Concerns about TGs and SH

Our unit conducted a gender orientation at CMC. I lectured on "sexuality and sexual identities". The room was replete with laughter especially from the men's group. Later on, I learned that most of the women audience were single and they smirked off when I uttered the Tagalog equivalent of our genitalia. But after the lecture, questions revolved around the transgendered people in the campus. The audience has this fear that the image of their campus is that of 'haven for LGBT' and sexual harassment cases.

One of the questions was the staff knew of TGs who frequent the ladies room, will they allow them? I told them to conduct a dialogue with a gay and TG group because as far as I know, the groups demand a separate comfort room for TGs and gays. But I am personally worried because we encountered a case of out gay who attended one of our trainings and yet after two months, he was convicted of child sexual abuse.

Another question was a certain TG who does not want to be addressed as "mister". I told them the change from "mister" to "miss" as a referent would require a legal process. So, it is better to drop off all the referents. A related question was how to approach such demand from TGs. I answered, just simply ask them how they want to be addressed.

It was very interesting that when a lecture on sexual harassment ensued, a letter was handed to me asking " if it is SH case when a certain male co-worker uttered directly to her 'I dreamt about you last night' while simultaneously wearing a malicious smile". I consulted our speaker on SH, she said the "smile" factor has bearing on SH and I encouraged the letterwriter to go to the office and elaborate more about the other factors and context of the SH she cited in her letter.


I was so eager to attend a workshop on "family counseling" because of the family problems concerning my counselees. For instance, what to do with a family with bipolar members, or how to engage in mother-daughter dialogue to patch up "generational gaps" in the family, or to reduce instances of violence in the homes (emotional abuse), or how an "alternative" (lesbian couples with children) family be counseled in cases of sexual abuse of their children by a "religious" person. Those were just several problems I encountered that challenged me to know more about family counseling.

But to my dismay, the workshop began and ended with 'pre-school' songs. I do not mean to disparage the competence of the speaker but most of us were working with elementary, high school and college students and as I noted above we encountered very difficult problems concerning families at present. One of the most articulated was the 'cyberspace addiction'. The session could have been salvaged from deterioration but nobody from the organizers intervened. (Perhaps, neither one of us had the courage to voice out because the speaker was one of the board members.)

Though I salvaged a little from her input like that of the different births a person need to undergo (physical, psychological, mental, spiritual). Though I hated it when the speaker recounted that one of her counselees 'killed' (induced abortion) her fetus. Such a conservative stance! She also gave us a hand-out about different types of "dysfunctional" families (e.g. detached, disengaged) but she never elaborated on the dynamics of those families.

I heard from one of my co-participants that perhaps the speaker, being old, was rattled by the barrage of questions from the participants so she "forgot" all about her lecture; though, that maybe one of the reasons. I surmised that the speaker is in her 'religious' mode that she only wants us to feel "love, smile, heaven and God" that she forgot that there are realities that must be addressed head on before one can actually feel love, smile, heaven and God. I myself hope that someday I will age gracefully, still grounded as well as feeling peaceful and heavenly.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Brgy. Bagong Silangan

Another site our group visited to do CISD was Brgy. Bagong Silangan. The plan was to conduct puppetry, action songs and games, reading aloud, drawing activity, among others. But when we got there, there were about 500 children of all ages (we were expecting only a hundred, ages 9-12). So, we changed plan. The session started with a prayer led by a nun. She introduced two action songs. It was folllowed by reading aloud about a story of an ant which saved a lot for rainy days against a lazy grasshopper which had nothing to lean on in times of crisis. The latter survived because of the ant's help. Children went up of the stage because they cannot see the images of the ant and grasshopper. So, instead of having another reading aloud, we engaged the children in action songs.

I was so excited that I did not even noticed that my actions was that of another song (hehehe). Though I saw children even at the farthest end of the circle dancing and circling around as they moved to the beat of "Bugsay, Bugsay" (Row, Row) and "Nagagalak na Makilala" (Nice to Know You). While we were singing, ten children were gathered at the back to practice puppetry. So, when they were called upon onstage, the children's crowd went chaotic. As a whole, it was a success. The story was about a boy who lost his brother in the flood.

Gift of Holiness

We (the staff) had a gender orientation among more than a hundred history students of a certain professor. I was attracted to his description of what we are doing. The professor said that "GST is a holy activity". He elaborated that he had imbibed lots of knowledge and practices that served only to 'oppress' women. So, now he is in the practice of washing his brain from all of those influences. Indeed, that was a very apt description of the activity. I was also illumined because there were lots of questions regarding homosexuality and religion. My lecture started with "trivia" questions as to who were the homosexuals in the Old and New Testament and when did same-sex marriage began. By asking trivia, I intended to tickle the imagination of my listeners of 'personas' in the Bible who was labelled as homosexuals. Questions the students asked after were: "when will same-sex marriage become a normalcy", "if lecturing on the 'normalcy' of third-gendered persons will stifle the debate on the issue", or "differentiate between gender and sexuality", among others.

Initially, I answered the difference between gender and sexuality. I said that the latter is a bigger concept and the former approximates our Tagalog concept of pagkatao. About same-sex marriage becoming a 'normalcy'; I noted it began in 14th century, but till now we have no law legalizing such practice. And what is "normal" actually depends on our notion of 'normal'. Though this term has been appropriated by different disciplines/authorities such as psychologists, psychiatrists.

After the lecture, I had to search for answers about the different world religions' stance on homosexuality. I found out that Pope Benedict XVI regarded it as "intrinsic moral evil". Buddhist monks regard all sex as prohibited; this was balanced by the ruling warrior's class of acceptance of sex. Hinduism is not supportive of H. It was regarded as source of sterility. Though we know that the Hindu's Kamasutra depict of sexual pleasures. Taoism and Confucianism are also neutral about sex. It even supports female sexual freedom because it believes that yin energies are limitless. Whew...what a gift!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fulfilling Experience

I volunteered as counselor at the Ultra Evacuation Center last week. I was with twenty four fieldwork students of the College. We were assigned to look after the 549 children ages 5-12. Unfortunately, there was no electricity. We were supposed to show a short documentary film about typhoon/ disaster. So, the students ended up as impromptu performers/actors depicting a story of a family whose main income is logging. A news breakthrough about an impending typhoon. The family was caught unprepared and they were seen climbing up their house and shouting for help. At this point, the children were shouting at the top of their voices as if they were really experiencing the same event at that moment. I thought role play is really a powerful tool in "debriefing" the children. The play ended up with the family at the evacuation center receiving relief goods and psychosocial help. I was at one corner attending to a sleepy five year old boy among other children sitting on the bench. The next day, the site received donations of toys from UNICEF. So we put the children in different tents with one box each of toys. They were so happy playing, as if there was no trace of trauma whatever. Boys in our camp were seen playing with plastic cookwares, dolls, etc. Children tend to group themselves based on the toys of interest. After a two hour play, everything seemed in chaos but deep in my heart I knew it was a very fulfilling experience because I was enervated by the enthusiasm and vitality of the children.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

4-hour SRHR

While typhoon Pepeng was hitting Luzon, we were pre-testing our module on SRHR among returned migrant women. It was a condensed form of a three-day training. We started with introducing ourselves with body gesture that depicts our 'best' attribute. Most of the women were known to be cheerful. Next exercise was touching the most liked and least liked body part/s. The most liked part/s were varied (eyes, hands, feet, among others) because of the functions it provide. But the least liked was commonly the 'bilbil' or 'puson' or the belly. Most of the women see it as 'disgusting' because they wanted to become 'sexy'. From there, the discussions led to the concept and standards of beauty and what makes a woman fit and beautiful. Two women were past their menopausal stage, the rest were in their forties. They learned to accept themselves or their bodies for what it is because they have given birth to several children. The most exciting part of the session was the "Choose Your Spot". Two statements were discussed: it is the woman's obligation to have sex with her husband and motherhood is tantamount to being a 'ganap na babae' or 'womanhood'.

The elderly women were certain that they did not initiate sex with their husbands while the women in their forties uses subtle 'come-ons' to intiate sex with their husbands. Another revelation was the common issue of 'sexual dalliances' among OFWs abroad. They become sexually 'liberated' to ease loneliness while working abroad. But nobody admitted they have done it personally. They cited numerous experiences: one was a co-worker who sideline as 'prostituted' woman because her family always asked for money; another was a 'promdi' co-worker who had a string of boyfriends but she was known in their place as 'demure', among others. Other issues cited were dynamics between in-laws and the spouse left behind, raising children, use of money remitted and infidelity. We ended the session with 'wishes' of women for themselves given that they have sacrificed some things for their families. Most of them wanted to finish their studies and live happily with their families. Suggestions to improve the training was to include statements like sexual activities when one is married, and how to cope with loneliness while working abroad.