As expected, gay activists are now all over the case of the murder of transgender Jeffrey ‘Jennifer’ Laude. According to Benjamin Pimentel who wrote about the incident in the context of Gay Pride in his Inquirer piece Death of a Filipino transgender, “Despite progress and victories on many fronts, violence is still a frightening reality for [the LGBT] community. This is particularly true for an institution that is poised to play, once again, a bigger role in Philippine affairs, the US military,” after citing the case of the death of Jeffrey Laude allegedly in the hands of a US military serviceman on shore leave in Olongapo City. Pimentel further writes, “Details of the murder have yet to surface, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to speculate that this gruesome crime is rooted in a culture of narrow, violent machismo.”
Perhaps. But what Pimentel conveniently omitted in his piece was the possibility that Laude had possibly deceived the suspect who, presumably, was looking forward to a roll in the sack with a Filipino woman. The testimony of Laude’s companion on the night of his murder makes it highly likely that the US soldier who allegedly killed Laude is a heterosexual male expecting a heterosexual encounter. Mark Clarence Gelviro, was reportedly asked by Laude “to leave before the foreigner could discover that they were transgenders.”
Add to that an even more recent Inquirer report that Laude had a German boyfriend “of two years” that he had met over the Internet and that they were planning to marry in Thailand as soon as they had finished “working on their documents to finalize their union.”
Why then would Laude be accompanying a US Marine to a hotel room in Olongapo City on the night of his murder if he was already engaged to his German boyfriend?
Some clues to consider lie in the way his relatives described him. They reportedly described him as the family “breadwinner” who was “paying for the education of youngest sibling Rex, and also provided for their family’s other needs.” So the rather confronting answer to the above question as to why he was with a US Marine that night is the possibility that Laude was engaged in prostitution and other, shall we say, technologically-enabled income-generating activites that may necessarily involve foreign men from affluent countries.
Prostitution, defined by Philippine Law as “any act, transaction, scheme or design involving the use of a person by another, for sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct in exchange for money, profit or any other consideration,” is illegal in the Philippines. Sex workers are regarded as “vagrants” under Article 202 of the Philippines’ Revised Penal Code (RPC). Heavy penalties for people convicted of engaging in prostitution are also spelt out in Article 341, “The penalty of prision mayor in its medium and maximum period shall be imposed upon any person who, in any manner, or under any pretext, shall engage in the business or shall profit by prostitution or shall enlist the services of any other for the purpose of prostitution.”
This, of course, does not excuse perpetrators of homicide. However, it would be prudent for Philippine activists to refrain from being too quick to turn Laude into a posterboy for their causes and the entirety of the US military the bad guy in this media circus.
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