Senator Sotto proposes to refer to LGBTQ+ members as ‘homo sapiens’

Vicente “Tito” Sotto. Photo: ABS-CBN.
Vicente “Tito” Sotto. Photo: ABS-CBN.

Philippines Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto yesterday expressed confusion about the term “LGBTQIA” and proposed that instead of referring to members of the community as such, they should just be called “homo sapiens.”

This head-scratching moment occurred after Senator Risa Hontiveros used the term, an elongated acronym meant to encompass individuals identifying as intersex or asexual, during a speech urging her colleagues to pass Senate Bill No. 1271 or the Anti-Discrimination Act. One of the provisions of the bill, aimed at introducing new legal protections for the LGBTQ+ community, includes prohibiting the act of denying a person access to a public facility on the basis of gender identity.

Hontiveros made the call after Gretchen Diez, a transgender woman, was arrested at Farmers Plaza in Quezon City after being barred from using the women’s restroom.

Read: Trans woman arrested after being barred from women’s restroom in Quezon City

After Hontiveros delivered her speech, the discussion between she and her colleagues devolved into a lecture on gender identities, which started off after Senator Aquilino Pimentel asked her questions.

“The good senator used the term trans woman. May we know what exactly that is?” Pimentel asked. “Is that different from transgender?”

Hontiveros explained that transgenders are people who do not identify with their assigned sex at birth. Transexuals, meanwhile, are people who have gender reassignment surgery.

Sotto then asked Hontiveros how the phrase “LGBTQIA” came to be.

Read: Farmers Plaza apologizes to trans woman Gretchen Diez after mall cleaner had her arrested

“Why that lengthy letters? Why not just ‘homo sapiens?’ We are all the same. Why do we have to segregate the gays from the lesbians, the straight guys?” Sotto asked.

Hontiveros responded: “There would not have been a need to segregate, Mr. President, I agree with you. [But only] if human civilizations and our societies including Philippine society have evolved to a point where there is no discrimination, and there’s equality among all, regardless of identity, regardless of expression. But that’s not what’s happening.”

This is not the first time that Sotto, a former actor and host, has said something odd in public. In June, he defended President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to allow Chinese nationals to fish in Philippine territories by saying that the fish they are catching may have come originally from China.

Some netizens expressed annoyance at Sotto’s lack of knowledge of LGBTQ+ issues. The term “Tito Sotto” is, in fact, trending on Twitter today.

@fightonphils tweeted, “#LGBTQIA+ advocates: please school #TitoSotto & his conservatives on what it means to live as an LGBTQIA+ Person in the Philippines. Share your experiences of pain, discrimination, & suffering in your day to day lives. Educate them so they can act like actual decent homo sapiens!”

Twitter user @issamazingxx called for the removal of Sotto from the senate presidency.

“Seriously?! Who voted for Tito Sotto? I have to unfollow and unfriend you,” @japs_eros wrote.

@bumfuzzld_ joked, “Parents who are looking for a clown for their children’s party, Tito Sotto is available.”

Got an opinion on Sotto’s latest controversial comments? Tell us by leaving a comment below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.

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