In 2016, world-renowned Filipino pugilist-turned-politician Emannuel ‘Manny’ Pacquiao described gay people as “worse than animals.”
He said the view was plain common sense, as animals have never mated with the same sex. He is, of course, wrong.
As a lesbian science journalist who grew up in the Philippines, I was disturbed by this, as a plethora of scientific studies showed that the animal kingdom is replete with examples of homosexual behaviour.
In 2022, when Pacquiao ran for president, this statement was widely reshared. While he has since apologised for it, his assertion highlighted a common misconception about being gay, which stems from a knowledge vacuum about science.
I now work in Hong Kong as a supervising editor for a fact-checking project, but this has stayed with me. I have always wanted to fact-check his claim.
I don’t want another generation of Filipinos, especially those who are in power, to say that queer people like me are ‘worse than animals,’ when same-sex behaviour has been proven to exist in animals too.
So I began writing short stories about lesbian fact-checkers, protagonists who are just like me. These characters provided context and clarifications to such misleading and even harmful statements.
In “Sero + Oxy,” characters historicized the spread of misinformation and corrected errors about inventions and scientific discoveries in Philippine textbooks.
The fact-checkers in my stories came up with their own Facebook page where they debunked misleading claims about vaccines and natural disasters.
And they did all of this while falling in love with each other.
Another one of my stories, “Hakbang 44 1/2”, explained in Filipino the science behind sunset and sunrise, which Filipinos found meaningful and romantic. We showed how science communication could delve into relatable, everyday occurrences.
I chose this unconventional route to reach other young queer people. Those who may not be news consumers but dedicate their time and energy to other platforms. Whose manner and form of storytelling speak to them in a different way.
I think it’s important for us to be aware of this and to try our best to connect with audiences and communities outside of our regular reporting. Especially when regular reporting doesn’t always have space for distilling and discussing subjects about sexuality.
Suffice to say, as journalists, we need to do our part in challenging the antiquated depiction of queer people and be more creative in doing it. I've recently started doing this work with a newsletter for queer scientists: “Scientibs Times”.
It may have taken me five years before I could come up with a way to challenge and correct statements like Pacquiao’s. But it’s never too late.
What’s essential is that queer journalists like me set the record straight about misinformation concerning our gender, sexuality and identity.
As part of our commitment to the sector, QueerAF has partnered with the LGBTQ+ Journalism Network to run this 'Journalist Like Me' content series and help develop a thriving network of queer media professionals. We're once again accepting pitches for this series.
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