Our Heroes Are Only Human: Manny Pacquiao And Gay Marriage

By Guest Contributor Theresa Celebran Jones, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine

A few weeks ago, a scandal erupted on the web thanks to an unfortunate misquote regarding Manny Pacquiao’s stance on gay marriage, made in response to President Obama’s public extension of support for it. Essentially, Manny Pacquiao tells a reporter, “God’s words first.” The reporter then quotes Leviticus 20:13; an L.A. Weekly blog post quotes that piece and uses the headline “Manny Pacquiao Says Gay Men Should Be Put To Death”; and the misquoted story goes viral. About a day later, the whole thing had been researched and debunked. As it turns out, although Pacquiao’s still against gay marriage, he said nothing about wanting gay people dead–but the damage was done. His image was already tarnished, my conservative family members were already blabbering on about the biased liberal media, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. had already jumped on the opportunity to support gay marriage publicly.

It’s hard to keep track of the layers of f*ckery in this story. There are so many questions we could (and should) ask: Would this issue have gone viral and would Pacquiao have been misquoted in the first place if he were white and American instead of brown and foreign? Could our leap to conclusions have hurt the gay community in the eyes of people who don’t yet consider themselves allies? Did nobody realize that Floyd Mayweather, Jr.’s coming out in support of gay marriage because it was a more popular political move was actually a pretty big deal–given his history of homophobic rants–even though it was clearly opportunistic on his part?

But then, I’m hung up on my experience as a Filipino American growing up around some gay Filipino American folks, and that’s where the story hits me.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a single Filipino American who didn’t feel possessive over Pacquiao. He was sometimes like our embarassing cousin (see him singing karaoke on Jimmy Kimmel), except the entire world knew he was awesome, and it made us proud. He was charming; he was ours; he represented us. What we felt for him was a pride we hadn’t felt for anything else and, in the wake of the scandal, many of us lost that feeling.

What he actually said wasn’t quite as awful as what was reported, but clearly not talking about his views on gay marriage at all would’ve been preferable. The fact now remains that he doesn’t believe in equal rights and, given how widespread the misquote was and the way he chose to control the damage, it’s not something any of us can ignore anymore. We can no longer pretend this entire thing just didn’t happen.

I can’t say I know what it means for anyone else, but it brings to mind how exhausted I’ve become of making excuses for the unacceptable things that go on in my community. How old folks are racist because they’re “from a different time,” or how little cousin had to get married when she got knocked up because Tito and Tita are super-Catholic.

The Pacquiao scandal is actually a pretty good example of what goes on in our families. He doesn’t dislike gay people–in fact, he said he had a gay relative (though that doesn’t necessarily prove anything) and he most likely has some gay folks in his entourage or, at the very least, in his constituency. But it is somewhere documented in some ancient book that God wouldn’t approve of gay marriage or something, and therefore his faith dictates that he must be against it. God as the ultimate cop-out.

I, too, have gay family members. In particular, the smartest dude in my family is out, and he was largely embraced by my entire family. But my family has a track record of voting Republican because they’re fiscally conservative. Most of them don’t actually care whether gay marriage is legalized or not (though I should note that gay marriage is now legal in Connecticut and New York, where most of my family lives), but when asked the “What about gay marriage?” question during election season, many of them will dodge it.

Gay marriage is quickly becoming an issue that can put you on the wrong side of history. President Obama’s public support of gay marrage has rightly been considered both a huge deal and something we somehow should’ve been over three presidents ago. The NAACP then went on to support the Prez and endorse gay marriage as well. Hell, even Jay-Z spoke out in support of gay marriage, evolving from his homophobic lyrics of yore.

Gay-rights activists have been working hard to turn the tide, and there has been a huge amount of progress in public opinion over the course of just a few years. While there’s still a long way to go, there may be hope for our socially conservative fam yet. We just might change your mind, Manny.


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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

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  • dersk

    Except, to me saying “God’s word first” is pretty much saying you think gays should be killed (and non-virginal wifes, and wearers of mixed fibers). I’m getting really sick of Christians copping out on Leviticus and cherry picking verses to support their personal bigotry. Either it’s God’s word or it’s not, and your cognitive dissonance should be telling you something.

  • dersk

    Except, to me saying “God’s word first” is pretty much saying you think gays should be killed (and non-virginal wifes, and wearers of mixed fibers). I’m getting really sick of Christians copping out on Leviticus and cherry picking verses to support their personal bigotry. Either it’s God’s word or it’s not, and your cognitive dissonance should be telling you something.

  • Anita

    Coming from a conservative, old world family, I share your frustrations. Yet, I continue to make the same excuses for my family against their racism and homophobia. I have heard from many people that you can’t change the mind of a stubborn racist or homophobe, just focus on educating the young. I’ve also heard that it’s Western centric to convince people from the Old World that our view of what is right is better than their view. I guess it comes down to the age old cultural relativity versus universalism argument. What do people think about this? 

  • Gyasi Ross

    Great non-bumper sticker analysis.  Expecting a sea-change in EVERYBODY’s thought process simply because “they should” is not realistic, as much as we’d like it to be.  Very human writing; loved this.  Thank you.

    • Grace

      I don’t think most of us fighting for “social justice” (of various flavors) expect overnight success. If things were that easy, it wouldn’t be called a “fight”. Granted, you may have newbs who are so gung ho that they’re blind to certain things, and folks who are the extreme of the extreme, but those people are relatively few. We aren’t dumb; all one has to do is look at human history to see that radical change (the kind I fight for) will take time.

      I don’t think anyone should have to apologize for their people (biological, cultural, whatever). Speaking as a queer woman of color, in my book, I don’t care where or when you were born, how much money you have, or who your parents are. Wrong is wrong, be it racism, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, sexism, classism, Islamophobia, ageism–you name it, it’s wrong. Period. That doesn’t mean I’m against parsing out why things and people are–most certainly not, but at the end of the day, quite frankly m’dear, I don’t give a damn.

  • Sal Baje

    i, too, have felt exhausted by “making excuses for the unacceptable things that go on” in pilipino-american communities.  the one approach that has seemed to relief the exhaustion is to stop making excuses for the way things are. 

    our culture is a big bundle of contradictions — just like any other society.  it seems to me to be an unfair imposition to feel compelled to explain how, for example, the philippines can elect not one but two women to the presidency, yet still be mired in machismo and condescending attitudes toward women in general.  if i must explain such things, particularly to people in the US who are likely unable to locate the philippines on a map, then i want an explanation in return to help me understand why, for example, the US can calls itself so “christian” yet still keep death penalty laws on the books and display such eagerness to go to war.  

    yet, adopting a “bahala na” attitude (not so literally translated as, “i strive for good; what will be will be”) isn’t as fatalistic as some cultural critics have deemed it to be.  part of striving for good can be about making “kapwa” (“togetherness”) as big and inclusive and compassionate as possible, minimizing who we deem to be “ibang tao” (others).  it’s not easy, by any means.  personally, i want a table in which the manongs and manangs, the queer, brilliant cousin, and the big-hearted sister who had a baby outside of marriage can have a seat.

    thanks for your post.

  • Gambieman

    Have had my hangups on Manny for years now. in all honesty, hes always had this schtick of being a tiny impish asian man and thats how hes sold his fights. Floyd Mayweather may for once in the peoples eyes come out on the right side of an important issue, whether it be altruistic or not(when in history has the reason ever truly mattered) and of course it only helps sell the megafight between them. im a boxing fan, and ive seen manny fight yrs before he became famous for beating de la hoya at a catchweight, and his promoter bob arum(who used to poorly promote floyd mayweather when he had him) has done a masterful job of selling manny to america as a quite, non threatening, no trouble causing asian man who packs a punch, and generally being everything that america hates mayweather for being(loud, cocky, outspoken, brash). I dont agree with his stance on gay marriage and hopefully he sees that its simply not right.