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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Saturday, June 11, 2016

entry arrow4:57 AM | We've Come a Long Way From Harvey Milk. Or Not.

Does gayness count in politics? It's a valid question to ask because homophobia doesn't even seem to be a deterrent. A few months ago, the boxer Manny Pacquiao brought on outrage in the Philippines and sparked worldwide condemnation for saying that gay people are "worse than animals." Of course he later apologised for the grave insult, mindful that he was running for public office. And the people have spoken. He is now an elected Senator of the Republic. God help us.

I thought about this because I recently came across an article in The New York Times titled "The First Gay President?," where columnist Frank Bruni considers Pete Buttigieg, the Democratic mayor of South Bend, Indiana, whose personal and political profile marks as a perfect candidate for any elective position -- even the Presidency -- but is unique in one thing: he is openly gay. Bruni writes: "The breaking of barriers was the story of last week, as Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic presidential nomination. There are more milestones to come: for women, for blacks, for Hispanics, for other minorities. Although voters in Wisconsin elevated an openly lesbian candidate, Tammy Baldwin, to the United States Senate, and Oregon’s governor has described herself as bisexual, no openly gay, lesbian or bisexual person has ever emerged as a plausible presidential candidate. How soon might that change? Could we look up a dozen or more years from now and see a same-sex couple in the White House? I’d wondered in the abstract, and after a veteran Democratic strategist pointed me toward Buttigieg as one of the party’s brightest young stars, I wondered in the concrete."

We have indeed come a long way from when Harvey Milk. From his profile in Biography, we learn: "In 1977, Milk, who was known affectionately as the 'Mayor of Castro Street,' finally won a seat on the San Francisco City-County Board. He was inaugurated on January 9, 1978, becoming the city's first openly gay officer, as well as one of the first openly gay individuals to be elected to office in the United States." That landmark political turn for the LGBT however soon turned upside down when he was shot to death by a fellow politician, Dan White. [Gus Van Sant directed a powerful film starring Sean Penn, titled Milk (2008)...]

Today, it is not uncommon to have gay officials working everywhere in the U.S. government, but the question of the Presidency remains. The U.S. has had a Catholic president in John F. Kennedy, a black president in Barack Obama -- and potentially in Hillary Clinton it could have it's first female president. But a gay one?

In the Philippines, we've been more progressive. Fidel Ramos was our first Protestant president in an overwhelmingly Catholic country, and we've had two female presidents so far -- Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, albeit both of them placed in the highest position of the land by virtue of two People Power uprisings.

But a gay one?

We've already had openly gay men and women pursuing elective positions across the country, most notably Geraldine Roman who won in a very decisive way in Bataan to become the country's first transgender Congresswoman. [Read her CNN interview here.]

Well and good. But can a gay President happen?


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