The reality of what I was about to do finally caught up with me as Illinois Republican U.S. Senate candidate Alan Keyes took to the podium to the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) 6th National Empowerment Conference held in Chicago. A lump at the back of my throat began to form. I wanted chicken out.
But as Keyes started talking about how we were all diverse peoples of different backgrounds, I decided that it was now or never. So I stood up at my table and chanted over and over, 'I'm gay! I'm Filipino! NO HATE IN OUR STATE!'
NaFFAA delegates were confused, amused, angry or maybe all three. Keyes was non-plussed, as would be any experienced speaker of his stature. Just as I expected, Keyes resumed his speech and everything went back to normal as soon as I was forcefully taken to the nearest exit. (Lesson #1: Filipino guys can make for excellent bouncers!)
I contemplated that disruption since the day before he spoke when I had found that Keyes was speaking at all. I was angry thinking, 'A man that professes that all lesbians and gays are sinners and selfish hedonists cannot address my national Filipino community without comment.'
Correction: I should really say 'without 'even more' comment.' Statements from fellow Illinois Republicans such as Judy Baar Topinka, GOP state chair, have described his recent anti-gay remarks as 'idiotic' in an effort to distance themselves from Keyes.
Just in case you didn't know, in a Sept. 1 radio interview Keyes said 'If my daughter were a lesbian I'd look at her and say, 'That is a relationship that is based on selfish hedonism.' I would also tell my daughter that it's a sin and she needs to pray to the Lord God to help her deal with that sin.'
I'm sorry Mr. Keyes. Praying to God to make me heterosexual would be like praying to God to make me puti (white). My sexual orientation is intrinsic to my being as is the color of my kayumanggi (tan) skin, my black hair.
On top of all that, Mr. Keyes, your values and politics divide us instead of unite us, and should have no place in the state of Illinois.
If Keyes ever finds out that he really is the parent of a gay child, he needs to follow my father's example. When I invited him to a speaking gig I did last year for the Lesbian/Gay Catholic Family Ministry of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, he was asked to comment on what it was like to have me for a gay son.
In a thick Filipino accent that he still has despite being in Ohio for over 25 years, he answered, 'He is not a bad person. He is not on drugs. He has a good job. He is a good speaker. He win award(sic). I support my son.'
I also hope that NaFFAA officers were reminded of the diversity of the delegates who attend these conferences. More and more lesbian/gay Filipinos will demand to be recognized despite the fact NaFFAA has deterred attempts to be inclusive of lesbian/gay Filipinos in the past, especially if future conferences continue to be committed to valuing empowerment.