‘I’ Column Marlea - Marlea Pinor Munez

... on how sexual rights affect one personally, and how they are affirmed and/or violated in one's local cultural setting. 

Marlea Pinor Munez

I had a dream. I was in ‘heaven’. I also had a nightmare. I was in ‘hell’. My life moves with ‘heavens’ and ‘hells’.

In February of this year, I was interviewed for an NGO work assignment. Looking at my CV, the principal interviewer asked why I am still single. I simply said, ‘That’s only a legal term sir, I am actually partnered’. ‘Are you getting married within the near future?’ he continued. I responded, ‘No, sir, I am for civil union, and for lesbians like me, there is no room yet here in the Philippines’. He looked uneasy but readily talked about issues that are faced by lesbians and gays in the country. In a week’s time, I started working with the organization. 
Three months after, my older brother was asking for directions on how to reach my parents’ place in Mindanao, a major island in the south of the Philippines. When my brother arrived in my parents’ house, my mother sent me a text message to give her a call. She told me that my brother referred to my lifestyle as ‘living in sin’. My brother, by the way, is a member of one of the popular Church lay groups in the Philippines. I immediately asked my mother whether she believes my brother. She said, ‘No, you will always be my daughter’. Before ending our conversation, my mother remarked, ‘How could you be living in sin, when you have done no wrong?’ 

This very inspiring moment I had with my mother was followed by another similar experience. I was tapped as one of the National Consultants to work with an International Team. Our task was to conduct an evaluation of a foreign-funded community forestry project in the Philippines. While we were on a long trip to the field, we had a chance to chat and asked each other personal questions that are not usually found in CVs. The line of discussion was about families, number of children, ages during marriage, and the like. I was quiet because those matters were not relevant to me. 

Then I was asked, ‘Marlea, how old are you?’ I replied, ‘Thirty eight’. The next question was, ‘How come you are not yet married?…might be too late to have children, are you planning to get married? How many children do you want?’ Without hesitation, I told my colleagues that I have no intention of getting married at this time and I will not be having biological children because I am a lesbian. My colleagues treated my response like they did those of the others. Nothing was unusual, nothing special.

I still have dreams. Whether they are ‘heavens’ or ‘hells’, I am very sure, life would be no better than my being myself – a woman, a lesbian, a woman loving a woman, not wanting to be a man, and not hating men.

I will continue to dream my dreams.

Marlea Pinor Munez is the President of Women's Initiatives for Society, Culture, and Environment (WISE), Incorporated and is based in The Philippines.