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Living History: ‘Conceptual history’ of gay culture in Phl started in the 1960s

The bakla have actually been organized since the 1960s in the Philippines, usually as neighborhood organizations with low-income members, and mainly to provide entertainment. And so it can be argued that the 1960s was when the conceptual history of Philippine gay culture started.

No, darlings (or as they say, ‘mga mahal’), the LGBTQIA “community” did not start with “us”.

The bakla have actually been organized for many years in the Philippines, usually as neighborhood organizations with low-income members. Of course, it is worth noting that these organizations functioned mainly to provide entertainment (Tan, 2001). One such community association was Sining Kayumanggi Royal Family, established in 1968 to hold parties, including beauty pageants.

And so it can be argued that the 1960s was when the conceptual history of Philippine gay culture started.

It was also around that time when swardspeak/gayspeak/baklese emerged. This is said to be the “‘subcultural lingo’ of urban gay men that uses elements from Tagalog, English, Spanish and Japanese, as well as celebrities’ names and trademark brands” (Ricordeau, 2009).

It was also at that time when homosexuality-related writings that were Philippine-centric were published, including those from Victor Ganmboa and Henry Feenstra, and Lee Sechrest and Luis Flores (Garcia, 2008).

The bakla presence continued into the 1970s, when many bakla entered niche industries like fashion and entertainment (and where many continue to belong).

Also at that time, gay men called Kakasarian formed a group that had members who were middle-class professionals. Now get this: the group was actually formed to champion gay rights. Unfortunately, this group folded after less than a year, supposedly because bakla themselves did not see the need to fight for gay rights (Tan, 2001).

The discourse on the “third sex” at that time also included the lesbians (Garcia, 2008).

Sources:

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Garcia, J.N.C. (2008). Philippine Gay Culture: Binabae to Bakla, Silahis to MSM. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.

Ricordeau. G. (2009 February). Review of “Philippine Gay Culture: Binabae to Bakla, Silahis to MSM”.  Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, Issue 19.

Tan, M.L. (2001). Survival Through Pluralism: Emerging Gay Communities in the Philippines. Gay and Lesbian Asia: Culture, Identity, Community. Gerard Sullivan & Peter A. Jackson (Eds.). The Haworth Press Inc. 117-142.

UNDP, USAID (2014). “Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report.” Bangkok.

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