Miel Pangilinan, the youngest daughter of Senator Kiko Pangilinan and actress Sharon Cuneta, on Wednesday came out as "queer", calling the experience “cathartic” as she opened up about the many sleepless nights she went through as a 17-year-old coming to terms with her identity.
The 17-year-old celebrated her first Pride Month on Instagram with a series of photos of herself with a rainbow flag, reflecting on the privilege she enjoys as a queer individual whose family and friends are accepting and supportive.
"I’ve spent so many sleepless nights over the span of much of my childhood and teenage life worrying and wondering about a plethora of things surrounding my identity, and it only feels right that i post this at the point i’m in now where i’m comfortable enough in who I am and who I love and how I choose to present," she said.
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The young Pangilinan said this wasn't the case for many like her, and that as "newer member" of a community that has gone through so much and still has a long way to go, she is trying her best to educate herself on the realities of others, as well as the issues concerning gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights in the Philippines.
"Happiest and safest of ride months, allies and members of the queer community alike," she said.
What being queer means
The "Q" in LGBTQ+, which could also mean "questionning", generally refers to "queer", an adjective used by members of the community whose sexual orientation is not exclusively heterosexual.
Compared to questionning, which is used to describe someone who is still in the process of figuring out their sexual orientation or gender identity, queer, as defined by The Safe Zone Project, is "often used as an umbrella term, in an affirming and positive way, to lump all marginalized sexualities and genders together". It is commonly used by those who find other identities like lesbian, gay, or bisexual restrictive in defining who they are and how they express themselves.
More common to younger members of the LGBTQ+ community, queer was originally a pejorative term for being gay. In the stylebook of NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists, the use of the word comes with caution, as some often older members of the community still find the term extremely offensive, "regardless of intent".
In an explainer published by NPR, it was explained that comfort levels towards the term still vary, noting it as a sort of a "generational issue" in which younger people, millennials and Gen Z, are more comfortable with it compared to Gen X, who are "somewhat OK" and boomers, who still find it problematic, having grown up to the term generally used as an insult.
As with all issues concerning the struggles of marginalized peoples, the key is to always listen, and so given how it's still not a universally accepted term within the community, one is advised to ask or wait for a person to self-identify before using the reclaimed term.
As with one's pronouns, it's best not to assume.