The first time I publicly kissed (and only on the cheek at that) my partner was at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Greenbelt 3 in Makati City. Some years back (in 2004, if my memory serves me right), we caught up with an ex-boyfriend (who remains a friend) and his then boyfriend, both of them flying in from Australia for a visit. We were chatting, catching up on life when I happened to look beside me, saw my partner looking at me, and then he winked when he saw me look at him. I kept staring at him, and as soon as he joined the conversation again, I had this urge to give him a kiss. So I did. A peck. On his cheek.
He didn’t flinch.
He gave me one of his sweet smiles.
And then he took my hand, the one on his lap, held it tightly as he urged me to move closer to him, as the catching up continued.
Years and years and years later, in the privacy of our home, I recalled this to him again; that being able to be as open about expressing love like that as wondrous. He agreed.
Except we can’t do it everywhere.
I can’t even hold his hand in the train (though you’d see heterosexual couples kiss).
I can’t rest my head on his shoulder in the park (though heterosexual couples do more).
I can’t give him a kiss when I pick him up at the airport after months of being apart (though heterosexual couples twirl each other as they give each other embraces and kisses).
And this is NOT FAIR.
What, for me – and in not so many words – is discriminatory.
We tease young boys to kiss young girls, thinking it’s cute.
But if a boy (or girl) chooses to kiss, instead, another boy (or girl), we say “Yuck!”.
At times, this boy (or girl) even gets spanked.
All because of the affection for the same sex.
When a heterosexual couple is seen hugging in the park, it is generally accepted as “normal” paglalambing.
But in that same park, if a homosexual couple does the same, it suddenly becomes “Yuck!”.
At times bashing happens.
All because of the expression of love.
So where does this leave us?
At the fringes of society.
In dark cinemas.
In unused toilets.
In sex beats.
In empty car parks.
In deserted parks.
In unfinished buildings.
We have been forced into the darkness.
And these are the places that the likes of Mike Enriquez repeatedly claim to be “malaswa”, every time they tip authorities to raid us, their cameras in tow to shame us for being who we are.
What continues being unsaid is the bias.
When GMANews.tv wrote about the raid of the now defunct Queeriosity Palace in Pasay City sometime in September 2010, it quoted one PO2 Fernildo de Castro who said that only 10 men – all of them alleged male dancers – were arrested, and could face charges for violation of a city ordinance prohibiting male prostitution. To prove their claim of prostitution occurring in the venue, authorities confiscated items from the club, including a box filled with lubricants, condoms, and pornographic digital versatile discs (DVDs).
That this is the version of the news that makes it to the mainstream media is – plain and simple – wrong. Because what the writer Mark Merueñas (knowingly or not) failed to disclose were “facts” that were not simply handed him by the authorities.
Like the fact that Queeriosity Palace was a sex club – in the Philippines, called a bathhouse, which men (gay, bi or heterosexual-identifying) frequent to have sex with other men (gay, bi or heterosexual-identifying).
Like the fact that the confiscated items, such as the box filled with lubricants and condoms, were there to promote safer sex among MSM, NOT for use in selling or buying sex. This erroneous linking of condom and lubricant use with prostitution is, in fact, why many such venues decide not to have them so they avoid being raided – and this continues to be detrimental to the efforts to prevent the spread of HIV in the country…
Like the fact that not only 10 men were taken into custody. The dancers were not even taken; instead, the closeted clients were, with threats of being outed if they didn’t comply with the demands of those in power.
Like the fact that extortion happened (and still happens in similar venues)…
Yes, we are pushed at the margins.
And when already there, they still invade these spaces.
Like we don’t deserve our own spaces.
Like we don’t deserve to exist at all.
So, no, we are not getting the space that we deserve.
And we need to keep pushing, and pushing, and PUSHING…
Start with owning what you have. You are, and what you have is as valid as everyone else’s.
And then flaunt it. You ought to do just as others are allowed to do.
Because if we stop the pushing, then we lose.
Over and over and over again.
And honestly, I’m getting tired of this losing.
When I just want to be able to kiss my partner in public, too…