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Love in the time of apps

Yes, not everyone will immediately buy the idea that real love can be found through gay apps. But that there are actual success stories may reflect both “the changing times and evolving use of technology,” said Mowneek Mabasa Muyargas from the University of the Philippines (UP)-Visayas. In the end, “social media may facilitate the relationship” but how the relationship progresses “still depends on the couple.”

PHOTO BY Porapak Apichodilok (FROM PEXELS.COM)

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When 26-year-old Chris created an account in Blued, it was – he stressed – to look for a relationship. “I think this notion that (gay-centric geosocial networking) apps are just for finding sex is really not fair to so many people joining these apps whose purpose is to gain friends and, yes, find life-long partners,” he said, adding that this very belief automatically “invalidates those who are there who are not just aiming to find sex.”

This was Chris’ frame of mind when he was “approached” by 36-year-old Jong.

“I’m into older guys,” Chris smiled, adding that he was “flattered to have been given attention by someone, and even if that person was based all the way in Tarlac”.

Some chatting ensued, with Jong eventually asking Chris if he could pay him a visit in Metro Manila. Chris – again flattered that “Jong wanted to come to my place all the way from Tarlac because he wanted to meet me in person” – obliged, and the two met to have their first dinner together, joined by Chris’s friends who wanted to check Jong out.

Even then, Chris said he was already deeply attracted to Jong. “He took the effort (to be with me),” he said. “He traveled for almost six hours just to meet me. It made me realize that he was serious with wanting to be with me. That was sweet.”

Chris and Jong eventually decided to give being together a try.

“We are now in a long distance relationship,” Chris said, adding that “once a week, he (Jong) would come over to my place just so we can be together.”

Though they’ve only been together a relatively short period of time, Chris said that his experience may well show that “yes, finding your partner in life is possible via apps.” He even thinks that while “trying to find a BF in the physical world versus doing the same in virtual world are basically the same, I’d say the latter can even be easier because ‘approaching’ a person is a lot easier when done online. At least in my case, I can’t even talk to strangers I meet in a bar, for instance; but online, it’s a different game altogether.”

Chris said there will always be doubters, “but I have Jong whom I met online to prove me right.”

BROADENED PURPOSE

Blued’s Evan Tan is cognizant that “there’s that initial hesitation that online interactions are less authentic. I beg to disagree. Personally, I’ve met a lot of good people online, who I could say have become ‘real’ friends. I’ve seen success stories of relationships that started online.” He added that “also, even people you meet in the physical world can be inauthentic, so inauthenticity is not a problem solely encountered online.”
PHOTO BY DariuszSankowski FROM Pixabay.com

According to Evan Tan, Country Marketing Manager in the Philippines of Blued, there are people who look down on apps like Grindr, PlanetRomeo, Jack’d, Hornet, Tindr and – yes – Blued as just sources of sex partners. But he said that “no, this is not a fair observation. I think the platform can also set the context for the interactions that could happen.”

Tan said that for Blued, in particular, “we value our role in building connections of varying degrees. While we are sex-positive, we’ve seen different non-sexual connections that happen on Blued.”

The focus not just on sex is in the blueprint of Blued, which was launched in 2012 by Geng Le (a.k.a. Ma Baoli), a married former police officer in northern China. For 12 years, he secretly managed Danlan.org, a website for gay people. But his superiors discovered the website also in 2012, and Geng Le lost his family and job. It was this that drove him to create Blued.

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Blued counts 27 million users (majority of them still in its country of origin, China), making it the largest gay social network in the world. Every day, Blued sees active use from 11 million pax.

“Blued actually allows you to add friends, join groups, and even broadcast your hobbies and interests to other people,” Tan said. “We encourage people to keep it wholesome, because ultimately, they can always go to other apps if they’re just solely looking for sex. We want Blued to be more than just that. We want it to be a safe space where people can be who they are, without fear of judgment or discrimination.”

Blued features include: verification to guarantee that people have been manually authenticated as genuine profiles by Blued’s moderation team; ability to go live within a community of peers and to show what life is like around them; feeds to allow users to scroll through a stream of photos or videos posted by guys they have chosen to follow; grid that displays nearby profiles by distance, and users can either follow those profiles or engage in one-to-one conversations; and – obviously – the groups that allow the online homosocialization to develop/happen.

Blued prides itself for being an app that “allows people to share their viewpoints and talents, and there are groups in the app where people interact with other people, without the intention of having sex.”

In fact, when Blued surveyed its users on their reason for creating an account, looking for the so-called “other half” was cited as the second most popular reason (with 11,092 users claiming this to be true), only coming second to making or finding friends to form a community (with 13,204 users citing this as reason for creating a Blued account). Looking for a sex partner came in last among the reasons (with only 6,094 users claiming this to be true).

Tan is cognizant that “there’s that initial hesitation that online interactions are less authentic. I beg to disagree. Personally, I’ve met a lot of good people online, who I could say have become ‘real’ friends. I’ve seen success stories of relationships that started online.”

Tan added that “also, even people you meet in the physical world can be inauthentic, so inauthenticity is not a problem solely encountered online.”

And so, “I think that as more people go online, we’ll be seeing the lines getting more and more blurred. We’re developing technology really quickly to come close to what we call as ‘physical’, and we see how people reinforce connections made in the virtual world with physical interactions (and vice versa).”

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EVOLVING RELATIONSHIPS

“Social media has become the new and popular form or medium for meeting people,” said Mowneek Mabasa Muyargas, member of the LGBT Psychology Special Interest Group of the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP). “The social milieu allows for such new platforms of forming new relationships, rekindling old ones and facilitating some level of maintenance.”
PHOTO BY Oliur Rahman FROM Pexels.com

Yes, not everyone will immediately buy the idea that “real love can be found through these apps,” 21-year-old Jack Frost conceded. “Heck, even I wasn’t sold to that idea at first!”

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In 2016, Jack started chatting with 30-year-old Ralph Boston in another app because “I wanted to find a drinking buddy,” he said. They met thrice as “ka-inuman (drinking buddies).”

But Jack could recall how, after their third meeting, “I realized there may be something special there,” he said. So he asked Ralph “if he was willing to give it a try since we liked each other a lot anyway.” Ralph agreed; and the two became an item.

For Jack, while it may be true that the initial intention when meeting a person from apps is to have sex, or – as in my case – find a drinking buddy, you do not always have control over what happens after. And this is what’s beautiful about this; that what you have can evolve into something different, something more beautiful.”

In this sense, Jack stressed, “the app is just the tool to find someone. But how your relationship with that someone turns out is entirely up to you.”

CHANGING APPROACHES

For Mowneek Mabasa Muyargas, faculty of Psychology at the University of the Philippines (UP)-Visayas, the use of apps in developing more lasting relationships may reflect both “the changing times and, yes, evolving use of technology.”

“Social media has become the new and popular form or medium for meeting people,” said Muyargas, who is also a member of the LGBT Psychology Special Interest Group of the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP). “The social milieu allows for such new platforms of forming new relationships, rekindling old ones and facilitating some level of maintenance.”

But Muyargas added that “however useful and facilitative, love and relationships in this new venue may also entail its own share of advantages and disadvantages.” For instance, “sustainability and maintenance of romantic relationships may require more than the use of social media (since) intimacy, trust and commitment are among the variables necessary for relationship maintenance.”

And just as 21-year-old Jack realized in his use of an app to find a boyfriend, Muyargas also recognizes that “although social media may facilitate the relationship but it takes more effort and work for partners to make sure the relationship is stable, loving committed and passionate. These are the key features of a relatively successful relationship. So whether social media allows for that or becomes a barrier depends on the couple.”

NOT A BED OF ROSES

For Mowneek Mabasa Muyargas, faculty of Psychology at the University of the Philippines (UP)-Visayas, the use of apps in developing more lasting relationships may reflect both “the changing times and, yes, evolving use of technology.” But she added that “however useful and facilitative, love and relationships in this new venue may also entail its own share of advantages and disadvantages.”
PHOTO BY KristopherK FROM Pexels.com

That whether relationships – no matter where they are formed – are “hard work” was admitted by Luigi, 26, who first “met” 39-year-old Australian Damian John from a gay app sometime in 2015.

“I messaged him,” Luigi said, after noting that “malapit lang location niya sa akin (his location was just near mine) at that time.”

Luigi admitted that “I was just looking for fun then.”

After chatting for three days, they decided to meet. That night ended with a roll in the hay.

But Damian John did not stop staying in touch with Luigi, with the Australian “greeting me ‘Good morning’ or ‘Good night’, and asking me out for dinner.” Not surprisingly, said Luigi, “after three months since I first chatted with him, I fell for him.”

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Eventually, Damian John had to leave the country to work in Singapore. But “pinuntahan niya ako dito sa Pilipinas ng tatlong ulit (he came to the Philippines to visit me three times),” Luigi said. And on that third visit, “nag-propose siya sa akin ng kasal (he asked me to marry him).”

Luigi said yes; they now plan to get married sometime next year.

But Luigi said that “perhaps thinking that what we have is too good to be true”, some issues arise.

For instance, “there’s the trust issue,” he said. “At times I can’t help but think that perhaps he still actively uses these gay apps.”

To assuage Luigi’s suspiciousness, “he videocalls every night. Plus he visits me here (in the Philippines) twice a month,” Luigi said.

In this sense, the reputation of the apps, though already disproved by personal experience, still rears its ugly head to serve as the challenge that needs to be confronted.

Twenty-one year old Jack’s experience was similar to Luigi’s. “We agreed to uninstall the gay apps in our phones so we don’t get tempted to do something we both may regret,” he said. “Jealousy is not my thing, but he always brought up the possibility of me meeting others from the apps, in the same way that I met him.”

Jack and Ralph’s relationship didn’t last with the two eventually breaking up, though “we remain to be good friends now,” Jack said, adding that even this friendship “can be said to have been borne from the apps.”

IN SEARCH OF LOVE

PHOTO COURTESY OF BLUED

Exactly because things turned out well for him and his partner, Luigi doesn’t mind recommending using apps to find one’s life partner. “It can be a tool to finding happiness,” he said.

But he is first to say that there are key points worth remembering.

For one, “be true to yourself,” he said. “If you’re just using the apps to have fun, then be frank about it. In the same way, if you want to use these apps to find a BF, then panindigan mo (show you’re serious about it).”

Blued’s Tan agreed. “Be honest about what you want. Don’t mislead people with false promises,” he said.

In his case, Jack recommended “being smart with using apps,” he said. “If in the physical world you have to go out on a regular date to get to know a person better, in the same way, don’t just immediately fall with the first person to chat with you through any app. This is common sense.”

“Like in the real world, it pays to pace yourself. Give people time to share stories about themselves, and show genuine interest in people,” Tan said.

Tan added: “Of course, be on the lookout for signs of abusive behavior or psychopathy. I think it helps to be hopeful but at the same time cautious. Don’t assume you’ll truly know someone only after a few hours of interaction. You would be crazy to fall in love with someone with just one date – What makes you think you can find love after just one day of talking to someone online?”

In the end, said UP-Visayas’ Muyargas, “numerous relationship theories consistently propose that for relationships to go on to the long-term phase require so much work.” And yes, “there are success stories (with relationships that started or were developed using apps); but it really does depend on the couple on how they effectively manage social media use for their relationship sustainability.

Twenty-six year old Chris and his still Tarlac-based boyfriend 36-year-old Jong are still together; and both still have Blued accounts. “Every now and then, I see him online. (Risking sounding like I’m stalking him) I ask why he’s there; he tells me he’s there not to pick up, but for other reasons (like chatting with friends he made from there, et cetera). I trust him,” Chris said.

There are people who tell him to keep an open mind, he said, and “I agree. Whenever going online, you have to always be careful… maraming manloloko at paasa (there are lots of people who may deceive you, or who will make you fall for them),” he said. But with the negatives “come the possibilities – particularly that if you open your heart and your mind, you may find love in these times of apps.”

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The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Though he grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao), even attending Roman Catholic schools there, he "really, really came out in Sydney," he says, so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing and a developed world". Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language (FSL). Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).

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Now illegal to discriminate against LGBTQIA people in Marikina

Marikina City joins the list of local government units (LGUs) that now has an anti-discrimination policy that eyes to protect the human rights of its LGBTQIA constituents. Offenders may be penalized from P1,000 (first offense) to P2,000/P5,000 (second and third-time offenders), along with imprisonment of up to 15 days.

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The rainbow cometh.

Marikina City has joined the list of local government units (LGUs) that now has an anti-discrimination policy that eyes to protect the human rights of its LGBTQIA constituents.

The host of Metro Manila Pride parade since 2017, the city was also – for a while – under scrutiny for claiming to be pro-LGBTQIA but with (seemingly) limited LGBTQIA-related efforts topped by the once-a-year parade held in June.

But the ordinance introduced by councilors Paul Dayao, Mario de Leon, Manuel Sarmiento and Zifred Ancheta eyes to make it a policy of the city to hold non-discrimination of LGBTQIA people (at least there).

Discriminatory acts included in the ADO include: employment- and school-related discrimination; refusal to provide goods/services/accommodation because of a person’s SOGIE; and by subjecting (verbally or by writing) people to ridicule because of their SOGIE.

Offenders may be penalized from P1,000 (first offense) to P2,000/P5,000 (second and third-time offenders), along with imprisonment of up to 15 days.

The ordinance introduced by councilors Paul Dayao, Mario de Leon, Manuel Sarmiento and Zifred Ancheta eyes to make it a policy of the city to hold non-discrimination of LGBTQIA people (at least there).

Surprisingly, while the ADO is creating an Anti-discrimination Mediation and Conciliation Board to deal with ADO-related violations, no LGBTQIA organization/party will be among the board members.

The ADO is awaiting the signature of Marikina Mayor Marcy R. Teodoro, though this is already expected. In 2018, Teodoro told Outrage Magazine that hosting Pride is a way to show the city’s support to Metro Manila’s LGBTQI community, particularly since his office in particular supports this community’s push for a nationally enacted anti-discrimination policy. In the end, Teodoro said, “we want to be known as an inclusive community. We can only do that by recognizing everybody as all equal to each other.”

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Sexuality continues to change and develop well into adulthood – study

Substantial changes in attractions, partners, and sexual identity are common from late adolescence to the early 20s, and from the early 20s to the late 20s, indicating that sexual orientation development continues long past adolescence into adulthood. The results also show distinct development pathways for men and women, with female sexuality being more fluid over time.

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Unsplash.com

Traditional labels of ‘gay’, ‘bisexual’ and ‘straight’ do not capture the full range of human sexuality, and whether a person is attracted to the same, or opposite sex can change over time.

This is according to a study, published in the Journal of Sex Research, which analyzed surveys from around 12,000 students, and found that substantial changes in attractions, partners, and sexual identity are common from late adolescence to the early 20s, and from the early 20s to the late 20s, indicating that sexual orientation development continues long past adolescence into adulthood. The results also show distinct development pathways for men and women, with female sexuality being more fluid over time.

“Sexual orientation involves many aspects of life, such as who we feel attracted to, who we have sex with, and how we self-identify,” said Christine Kaestle, a professor of developmental health at Virginia Tech. “Until recently, researchers have tended to focus on just one of these aspects, or dimensions, to measure and categorize people. However, that may oversimplify the situation. For example, someone may self-identify as heterosexual while also reporting relationships with same-sex partners.”

In order to take all of the dimensions of sexuality into account over time, Kaestle used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, which tracked American students from the ages of 16-18 into their late twenties and early thirties. At regular points in time, participants were questioned about what gender/s they were attracted to, the gender of their partners, and whether they identified as ‘straight’, ‘gay’ or ‘bisexual’.

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The results showed that some people’s sexual orientation experiences vary over time, and the traditional three categories of ‘straight’, ‘bisexual’ and ‘gay’ are insufficient to describe the diverse patterns of attraction, partners, and identity over time. The results indicated that such developmental patterns are better described in nine categories – differing for both men and women.

For young men these patterns have been categorized as:

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  • ‘straight’ (87%),
  • ‘mostly straight or bi'(3.8%),
  • ’emerging gay’ (2.4%)
  • minimal sexual expression’ (6.5%).

Young women on the other hand were better described by five categories:

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  • ‘straight’ (73.8%),
  • ‘mostly straight discontinuous’ (10.1%),
  • ’emerging bi’ (7.5%),
  • ’emerging lesbian’ (1.5%)
  • ‘minimal sexual expression’ (7%).

Straight people made up the largest group and showed the least change in sexual preferences over time. Interestingly, men were more likely than women to be straight – almost nine out of 10 men, compared to less than three-quarters of women.

Men and women in the middle of the sexuality spectrum, as well as those in the ’emerging’ gay and lesbian groups showed the most changes over time.

For example, 67% of women in the ‘mostly straight discontinuous’ group were attracted to both sexes in their early 20s. However, this number dropped to almost zero by their late 20s, by which time the women reported only being attracted to the opposite sex.

Overall, women showed greater fluidity in sexual preference over time. They were more likely (one in six) to be located in the middle of the sexuality continuum and to be bisexual.

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Fewer than one in 25 men fell in the middle of the spectrum; they were more likely to be at either end of the spectrum, as either ‘straight’ or ’emerging gay’. Relatively few women were classed as ’emerging lesbian’.

“In the emerging groups, those who have sex in their teens mostly start with other-sex partners and many report other-sex attractions during their teens,” Kaestle said of her findings. “Then they gradually develop and progress through adjacent categories on the continuum through the early 20s to ultimately reach the point in the late 20s when almost all Emerging Bi females report both-sex attractions, almost all Emerging Gay males report male-only attractions, and almost all Emerging Lesbian females report female-only attractions.”

Kaestle said that the study demonstrates young adulthood is still a very dynamic time for sexual orientation development.

“The early 20s are a time of increased independence and often include greater access to more liberal environments that can make the exploration, questioning, or acknowledging of same-sex attractions more acceptable and comfortable at that age. At the same time – as more people pair up in longer term committed relationships as young adulthood progresses – this could lead to fewer identities and attractions being expressed that do not match the sex of the long-term partner, leading to a kind of bi-invisibility,” said Kaestle.

For Kaestle, “we will always struggle with imposing categories onto sexual orientation. Because sexual orientation involves a set of various life experiences over time, categories will always feel artificial and static.”

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Importantly, although the study found nine categories of sexual orientation development, limitations in the statistical methods used mean that more categories could exist.

The names of the categories are also in no way meant to replace or contradict any person’s current self-labelled identity. Rather, Kaestle hopes that these findings will help researchers in the future to better understand how a range of sexual orientation experiences and patterns over time can shape sexual minorities’ experience of distinct health disadvantages, and the effects of discrimination.

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Transgender people are not mentally ill, says WHO

The new classification is not expected to affect the healthcare provision to respond to the needs of transgender people, but – all the same – it’s expected to improve social acceptance among transgender people while still making important health resources available.

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Photo by Cecilie Johnsen from Unsplash.com

The World Health Organization (WHO) has decreed that transgender people are not mentally ill, with the WHO’s legislative body voting to move the term used to describe transgender people – “gender incongruence” – to the panel’s sexual health chapter from its mental disorders chapter.

The new standard of classification appears in the 11th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11); but will go into effect on January 1, 2022.

The WHO uses “gender incongruence” to describe people whose gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned at birth.

The new classification is not expected to affect the healthcare provision to respond to the needs of transgender people, but – all the same – it’s expected to improve social acceptance among transgender people while still making important health resources available, according to the United Nations health agency last year when it announced the intended change.

Dr. Jack Drescher, a member of the ICD-11 working group, wrote: “There is substantial evidence that the stigma associated with the intersection of transgender status and mental disorders contributes to precarious legal status [and] human rights violations”.

It is worth noting that the WHO still classifies intersex traits as “disorders of sex development”.

This is not the first time the ICD changed a classification related to sexuality. In 1990, the WHO declared that “sexual orientation alone is not to be regarded as a disorder.”

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First Pride parade held in Antipolo; eyed to showcase LGBTQIA existence

Antipolo showcased LGBTQIA Pride, with the city’s LGBTQIA community holding its first-ever Pride parade. According to Shane Marie R. Parreno, the parade was also an opportunity “to give members of the (local) LGBTQIA community to come out and take comfort in knowing that they are not alone”.

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All photos courtesy of Shane Marie R. Parreno

Rainbow pride in Antipolo.

Antipolo showcased LGBTQIA Pride, with the city’s LGBTQIA community – supported by ally communities – holding its first-ever Pride parade.

According to Shane Marie R. Parreno, co-founder of Transpinay of Antipolo Organization, which helmed the event, the idea behind the first Pride was “simple” – i.e. “Para mas malinaw na ipaalam sa lahat na we exist (To clearly show to everyone that we exist).”

But beyond this, the parade was also an opportunity “to give members of the (local) LGBTQIA community to come out; and that those who may be afraid because they are part of the LGBTQIA community (can take comfort in knowing that they are not alone; we can face the bullying and discrimination together),” Parreno added.

While eyeing to make the Pride parade a regular/annual event, there are also already plans to continue the dialogues with local politicians to push for an anti-discrimination ordinance.

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March 9 of every year declared as LGBT Day in Municipality of Itogon

An executive order was passed in Itogon, a first class municipality in the province of Benguet in northern Luzon in the Philippines, declaring the ninth of March of every year as LGBT Day.

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Touched by the rainbow.

An executive order was passed in Itogon, a first class municipality in the province of Benguet in northern Luzon in the Philippines, declaring the ninth of March of every year as LGBT Day.

Executive Order No. 03, signed by Atty. Victorio T. Palangdan in April, noted that “section 3 of Republic Act 9710 state that ‘All individuals are equal as human beings by virtue of the inherent dignity of each person. No one should therefore suffer discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, gender, age, language, sexual orientation, race, color, religion, political or other opinion, national or social or geographical origin, disability, birth or other status as established by human rights standards.”

Under the EO, activities are being eyed to be held for the local LGBT community, including – and going beyond the one-day Pride parade – “knowledge sharing or technology transfer on good grooming, personal hygiene, beauty care, interior design, floral arrangements, et cetera, such that the knowledge and skills derived therefrom could be transformed into livelihood or income generating activities by the participants.”

The aforementioned professions/fields are – nonetheless – still stereotypically linked with the LGBTQIA community, at times limiting professional opportunities.

The EO also enjoins barangay officials to actively support the programs and activities of the LGBT community particularly in celebration of the LGBT Day.

The Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office is tasked to monitor and evaluate the success/failure of the EO.

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Founded in 1951, and is the largest municipality in Benguet by land area, Itogon is a mining town with a population of approximately 59,820 people occupying a total land area of 449.73 square kilometers (173.64 square miles).

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What it’s like to be a queer woman in Brunei…

Generally speaking, “living in Brunei as a woman – no matter what background, what orientation – everyone knows that being a woman is hard… and its definitely not any easier being a queer woman.”

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As a queer woman in Brunei, Naz always expressed herself in a stereotypically masculine manner. That is, she has short hair and doesn’t always present herself in what’s deemed “feminine”.

Perhaps because of this “classic assumption that a girl is queer or a tomboy by the shortness of her hair”, Naz was sexually harassed at work. And when she told the story of her harassment to her sister, the latter just (dismissively) told her: “He probably knows you’re gay so its ok for him to touch you.”

This dismissiveness, this disregard is (apparently) but an example of how – in Brunei – women (and particularly queer women) “tolerate sexism and homophobia everyday,” said A.B., who produced and directed “The Visible”, a documentary that looks at how women are treated in Brunei. Included in the interviewees is a queer woman and a transgender woman.

Brunei made the news recently, of course, with the implementation of a dated, and even barbaric law that will see the stoning to death of members of the LGBTQIA community, along with adulterers. The laws, parts/elements of which were first announced in 2013 and adopted in 2014 (and have been rolled out in phases since then), will be fully implemented this month. Ruled for 51 years by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the Southeast Asian nation plans to implement a severe interpretation of Islamic sharia law. Under the strict laws, adultery, sodomy, robbery, rape and insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad would all be punishable by death. Those who are caught having gay sex or committing adultery would be executed by stoning.

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Upon hearing the implementation of this law, “I was honestly very surprised; at first I thought it was just old news being brought up again for whatever reason,” A.B. said. “But as it turned out, the law was put on hold from 2013 due to international criticism and is just now being implemented.”

For A.B., “it’s messed up because it seemed like no one in Brunei knew.” Her family, for one, “found out through international news. If you look at news articles about Brunei it’s all about the Sharia law; but if you look at news from Bruneian newspapers, there’s nothing about it. I’m living abroad and found out from friends sending me articles, it was only after a few days when there had finally been an official statement from the prime minister’s office.”

Brunei made the news recently, of course, with the implementation of a dated, and even barbaric law that will see the stoning to death of members of the LGBTQIA community, along with adulterers.

A.B. was born in Brunei, but she was raised abroad. And “it was only recently that I got to experience what life was really like for a queer woman like me in Brunei. For years I would view it from a distance, visiting for a few weeks once a year and always thinking ‘I can put up with it, I’ll be back home (in France) in two weeks.’ But moving back changed everything for me.”

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It changed because – in her experience in Brunei – women and queer women of tolerate sexism and homophobia everyday.

Naz’s case, for instance, rattled A.B., who said that “it’s unacceptable how issues like this are still predominant in Asia.”

“It’s a bit hazy with the law when it comes to that,” A.B. said, “because, in fact it is being caught in the act of (gay) sex that is banned, not just being LGBTQIA.”

If being LGBTQIA means living under scrutiny in Brunei, how do LGBTQIA people express themselves (if at all)? “It’s a bit hazy with the law when it comes to that,” A.B. said, “because, in fact it is being caught in the act of (gay) sex that is banned, not just being LGBTQIA. I always found everyone was capable of expressing themselves, to an extent; meaning, private accounts on social media (are available) but not necessarily changing the way you dress or express yourself. It’s more a ‘show don’t tell sort of situation’.”

Generally speaking, though, “living in Brunei as a woman – no matter what background, what orientation – everyone knows that being a woman is hard… and its definitely not any easier being a queer woman.”

Producing the documentary, by itself, was challenging.

“When we were in pre-production, I was unable to attend a meeting due to my family because ‘a woman is not allowed to be picked up by a man in Brunei’. During a production meeting I was stopped halfway by a family member because ‘a woman is not allowed to hang around with just men in Brunei’,” A.B. said. “So everything had to proceed with caution.”

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But even if things are challenging, “we pushed on. I was not going to let the opinions of others stop me from voicing a story that needed to be told. You find loopholes, you get back up again and keep going…”

A.B.: “I always found everyone was capable of expressing themselves, to an extent; meaning, private accounts on social media (are available) but not necessarily changing the way you dress or express yourself. It’s more a ‘show don’t tell sort of situation’.”

A.B. also noted the “bravery” of women in Brunei – in particular, her cast, who “really set an example for the women and the LGBTQIA community in Brunei, (explaining) to me that they never felt a sense of ‘danger’, just a sense of being cautious.”

Naz, for one, said that “despite the law, religion and her sexual orientation, she is still a muslim and won’t be doing anything to break the law.”

A.B. added that “it’s also important to note that no one has been executed in Brunei for anything since 1957.”

All the same, A.B. is pushing for the opening of minds.

“Being LGBTQIA is just who you are, it’s what you feel, it’s what you know, it’s something you should never be ashamed of,” she said. “The only ‘Western imposition’ is the fact that being LGBTQIA is a crime, which was brought by the British when they decided to colonize half of Asia. It’s like how our generation are standing up for gender quality; yes, in Brunei, that’s considered an influence from the West because you’re supposedly ‘going against the tradition’ of being a slaved housewife, when in reality it’s not just women of the West that have been fighting for rights, women all over the world have.”

And in the end, “it’s not really for me to say what’s right and what’s wrong (for Brunei). Brunei really is a lovely and beautiful country, but it also has a way to go… like all of Asia.”

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