Earlier this year, a gay dean of a tertiary educational institution in Dapitan allegedly refused to give trans students clearance to graduate unless they presented themselves based on their gender assigned at birth. This meant cutting their hair short, and – as this gay dean allegedly demanded later when he was not satisfied with just the haircut – demanding that the students undergo surgery to remove breast implants. The “sting” was more felt in this instance because a member of the LGBTQI community was seen to helm the discrimination of other LGBTQI people.
But this is not exactly new, with members of the LGBTQI community ending up “attacking” those who do not conform to heterenormative notions of gender expression. Sadly, this is not given as much attention.
According to Evan Tan, country marketing manager for the Philippines of Blued, “femme-shaming runs counter to the LGBTQI community’s push for diversity and inclusivity, and is very hypocritical in the face of the movement’s wish for the larger society to accept us. Femme-shaming implies that there is only one proper/acceptable way to be a gay/bi man, and that anyone deviating from that ‘proper, masculine gay’ template deserves to be humiliated or scorned. The community needs to learn to accept and empathize with experiences that may not subscribe to their own personal experiences. Likewise, it needs to be aware of its internalized homophobia and misogyny.”
The gay and bi community – in particular – may be said to have obsessed with “masculinity” for decades now, giving rise to the clone culture, Muscle Mary and the likes. This obsession has generally been harmful, as it is often manifested in the loathing – not just subordination – of the more feminine.
“We as a community should start asking why. Why do we think being masculine is better? Why do we associate power with masculinity? Why do we see femininity as weakness?” Tan said.
In the case of Blued at least, there’s an effort to be proactive to deal with the femme-shaming via Ur_Tadhana, a web series.
Conceptualized by Fifth Solomon, who came out on the national reality TV show Pinoy Big Brother, Ur_Tadhana explores various themes important for young gay men, including coming out, self-discovery and, ultimately, finding courage and love for one’s self. It is directed by Jedd Rommel, also behind the gay short film Nessun Dorma, an entry in the 2012 Asia-Europe Foundation Short Film Competition.
Blued makeup vlogger Yosef (Brigiding Aricheta), a chatty makeup vlogger who loves sharing his life on social media. A senior high school student and the only out gay guy in his all-boys’ school St. John, this hopeless romantic and drama org member wonders if his being femme is getting in the way of him finding true love.
Justin (Opi Eusebio), who is the new boy in school. He is is drawn to Yosef, but is scared to get closer to him and risk being outed. Deep down inside, Justin only wants to be accepted for who he is.
Rex (Marcus Asis), the resident school bully and a homophobe. Rex is the bane of Yosef’s existence. He tries to get the newbie Justin on his side and turn Justin against Yosef, making it harder for Justin to admit that he is gay too.
“I think creating avenues where effeminate men are portrayed as empowered characters can help more people see them as aspirational, admirable and desirable,” Tan said.
For Tan, there is a need to “unravel and reverse the negative associations towards femininity through these portrayals. It may take time to attack unconscious/implicit biases – but surely we’re better off starting with the more overt ones, than not do anything at all. When we accept these stereotypes as gospel truth, then we stop questioning the validity of these ideas. We shouldn’t stop questioning, and we should always challenge our peers to do the same – to constantly elevate the discourse, instead of merely shrugging our shoulders and resigning to the way things are.”