I am in the middle of a month long seminar that will further my skills in financial coaching, and one of the most engaging parts is when coaches share real life experiences of how our sessions with our clients have commenced. The topic of financial coaching might be foreign sounding to Pinoys, but it is badly needed as many Filipinos do not save their money, choosing to be one-day millionaires. (Something I will write more about in the future.)
On a daily basis, we would swap stories, on how difficult it is to make people face the truth about their finances, to make a financial plan for themselves, their loved ones, their retirement, etc. Through this process, we learn to troubleshoot objections we hear, and it prepares us if the situation should arise.
On the day Mandela died - poetically now, it seems - one coach began sharing about an unusual dilemma: he had a client who was more-than-adequate in the financial literacy department. This client was under 30, a single male, who already owned a handful of condo units being rented out; he has insurance policies in place from different companies, he invests in various instruments ranging from stocks to variable unit linked products, and still had extra money to place elsewhere.
The coach threw the question to the moderator and to all of us: does he even need a coach? Personally, I would classify this client as an ideal one, who needs no prodding as far as saving and investing are concerned. The coach felt that he was almost useless in a scenario like this, and was opening the floor to suggestions.
I was quite excited to hear how different coaches would "attack" the problem, but before anyone could contribute anything useful, the coach concerned uttered: "I think I should have worn a tighter shirt."
There was a palapable moment when the room could have heard a pin drop, then chaos ensued.
"Aaaaaaaaay! Bakla ang kliente mo?" (Your client is a gay man?)
"You're right! You should have won a tight shirt...or flexed your arms!" (Note: this particular coach was into bodybuilding)
"Dapat sa gym mo binentahan! Sa may showers!" (You should have attempted the sale at the gym, at the shower area!)
The coach replies: "Ayoko nga! Baka may mangyaring iba, hahaha!" (No way! Something 'else' might happen!)
Even more suggestions followed.
"Spottan mo sa gym!" (Spot him at the gym!)
"Go on a date, one on one!"
"Anything for the sale, I'm sure your girlfriend won't mind!"
"Tell him you'll do anything for the sale...anything!!!"
"Alamin mo kung may boyfriend! Ligawan mo!" (Find out if he has a boyfriend! Court him!)
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. It was truly one of those moments where I had to ask, is this sh*t really happening?
For weeks, we have been complaining about how difficult it is to re-educate the Filipino public about saving up for a rainy day. We wailed at how, the moment we suggest a plan to set money aside for future use, clients would immediately shut down and say "I have no money!" even if they were decked out in the latest shoes or sporting the latest gadget. We wanted to shake the people we talked to, in order to knock some financial sense into their consumer-driven habits.
Here comes this client, a self made man before reaching 30 years old, having no dependents, various properties and other assets to his name, and still looking for ways to make his money grow. This was a person who we didn't have to coach from scratch, who was aware of fiscal responsibility and appreciation, and acted prudently beyond his years.
And the best thing we can suggest is to wear a tighter shirt? All because he is a gay man? (I didn't even get to ask the coach how he knew this piece of information.)
What is it about the word "gay" that induces so much myopia, particularly from those who are afflicted with homophobia?
Just because someone is gay, it doesn't mean sex is the only thing on that person's mind - at least, no more or less than a straight person's.
When we portray gay people as having sex, sexual acts, and sexual positions on the brain 24/7 - and we act, think and speak about them accordingly - we make the LGBT community caricatures of a whole person.
We make it okay to think of the LGBT community as inferior to those who are heterosexual, incapable of rising above sexual urges, always succumbing to lust at the slightest whiff.
We make it okay to make laws that demean the LGBT community, after all, the popular notion is that they are "sex-obsessed" and should be policed and restricted legally.
On the day Mandela died, a man who fought for equality and freedom, the amount of homophobia that oozed out of practically every participant in that seminar served as a stark reminder that his work is not done.
We pride ourselves in thinking we are "tolerant" towards the LGBT community. We fancy ourselves "moral" being Asia's bastion of Christianity. We think that because we have a gay friend, that makes us "accepting".
Until we learn to see "gay" as just a part of one's totality - albeit an important part - then straight people should be ready to be judged along those same, narrow, bigoted lines.
Half of (straight) marriages end in divorce - and we're not even counting those who are legally separated, annulled, or living separately. Using that same yardstick, what would that say about straight people?
A friend summed it up quite nicely: our sexual orientations may be diverse, but we all deserve equality.
(Courtesy of sexualitycounselingnyc.com)