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On respecting human diversity

How many times have we heard gay men being told: “Sayang ka, guwapo ka pa naman, pero bakla ka nga lang (You are such a waste; you’re good looking, but you are gay)!”? Interestingly, at times we even think this is a compliment – after all, we were considered good-looking. But that whatever we have is devalued (if not taken from us) because we are gay should point out how we are not accepted for who we are. And this should concern us.

Screenshot from the Facebook page of Outrage Magazine

How many times have we heard gay men being told: “Sayang ka, guwapo ka pa naman, pero bakla ka nga lang (You are such a waste; you’re good looking, but you are gay)!”? Interestingly, at times we even think this is a compliment – after all, we were considered good-looking. But that whatever we have is devalued (if not taken from us) because we are gay should point out how we are not accepted for who we are. And this should concern us.

Screenshot from the Facebook page of Outrage Magazine

Screenshot from the Facebook page of Outrage Magazine

Gusto naming ipakita na kahit bakla, puwede maging normal (We want to show that even if one is gay, he can still be normal).”

That, in not so many words, was the summation of one of the writers of My Husband’s Lover, a popular TV series that told the story of a gay man who – even if he was already married to a heterosexual woman – had indiscretions with another gay man.

He added: “Na kahit bakla, nagbibihis lalaki, may magandang trabaho (That even if one is gay, he can dress up properly like a man, that he can find a proper job)…”

I was, at that time, with UP Babaylan’s Pat Bringas – invited to give a mini-lecture on the use of media in the promotion of LGBT-related issues.

And so we looked at each other, Pat and I, as we both asked: “So being trans is NOT normal?”

I know that the writer did not mean to offend. But his way of seeing (at least at that time) may have been (arguably) limited to his exposure. Obviously, he did not know much about being transgender. This was further highlighted when he explained to us after that mini-lecture that one of the characters in the show who self-identified as a woman even if she was assigned male at birth was NOT transgender because “hindi pa naman siya nagpa-opera (that character did not undergo gender confirmation surgery yet).”

In any case, I was reminded by this again when a Facebook post we have reacting on Binibining Pilipinas Universe 2014 MJ Lastimosa’s comment while judging ABS-CBN’s Showtime’s PoGay Finals received a LOT of anger. Surprisingly, many of those who expressed anger are members of the LGBT community themselves.

Nakakatuwa sila. Ang guwapo nila pero baklang-bakla sila.

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That was – in a gist – MJ’s comment.

And yes, I know she did not mean to offend.

But that statement highlighted lack of awareness (if not knowledge) on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE).

And for someone who is in the public eye, her statement had to be called out.

Why so?

For one, there’s the insinuation that just because one is gay, he can NO LONGER be handsome. This is actually ill-informed. A gay man IS STILL A MAN, and so – making use of the adjective to refer to a man when referring to his appearance – he can be handsome (or ugly), just like any other men.

By the way, note the use of the word “pero” (i.e. “but”), a caveat that takes away the merit of what was earlier mentioned.

Secondly – and related to the above point – is the need to highlight the still pervasive belief that when one is gay, he can no longer be handsome because he then becomes BEAUTIFUL. This is because there is the assumption that he then becomes more like a woman, and so the adjective to be used to refer to him should be the one used to refer to women.

One of the comments received by of our FB post was from a woman who said that gays should just accept that by being gay (i.e. we’re talking about a competition for gay men, after all), gay men should just accept our turning into women.

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In the past, the dominant belief was the existence of only two sexualities – lalaki at babae (male and female). So that a gay person was believed to “want to be like a woman”, while a lesbian was believed to “want to be like a man.”

Note that, interviewing one of the candidates, host Anne Curtis referred to the gay male candidate as “girl” – again stressing that notion that a gay man then becomes “less of a man and more of a woman.”

That binary is erroneous.

And again, this is misguided. Simplistically, A GAY MAN IS A MAN WHO HAPPENS TO DESIRE/WANT/LIKE/LOVE OTHER MEN. He does not desire to be like a woman (we’re touching on the issues of transgender people, which merits a separate – and lengthier – discussion). If you think this is so, then you need to change your way of seeing because, plain and simple, your way of seeing is outdated and wrong.

What’s worse is if you pick fights just so others will only see your wrong way of seeing.

Why do we need to bring this up?

Because stereotyping us is harmful to us.

It puts us in boxes that are detrimental to us.

And whenever people in the public eye who knowingly or unknowingly raise issues that should be of concern to us, we should speak up.

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If you happen to be gay, and someone thinks – and openly says – that gay men can’t be good-looking/intelligent/good at what they do/hold good jobs/raise children/et cetera, that should concern you.

Because we have come across cases wherein verbal abuses were hurled at young gay men because they are now considered “more girly.” Many of them are now considered less human because “baklang-bakla sila (they are very gay).”

We know of at least one gay man who, as his parent said, “ang guwapo pa naman, pero bakla lang pala (is good looking, but is apparently just a queer person)”, and to straighten him up because “sayang ang pagka-guwapo niya (he is wasting his good looks),” his father would put him in a sack, and then put that sack in a drum that is then filled with water. As if being gay and being good looking ought not go together; else, those who are gay and are good-looking, should be punished.

We know of gay men who were not promoted even if they deserved the promotion, only because they are gay, and as gay men, they will supposedly just waste what they will earn by giving it to men they will have sex with [incidentally, another one of the judges during the show, Vicky Belo, asked: ‘Totoo ba na ang gay mahilig magbiGAY (Is it true that gay men readily pay)?’].

We know of a LOT of men who ONLY HAVE SEX/FIND ATTRACTIVE OTHER MEN, but still refuse to self-identify as gay men, and claim instead that they are “bi” solely because they do not want to be considered feminine. Some of these men even self-identify as “PoGay”. And in fact, we know many of these “bi” men who openly discriminate other members of the LGBT community, particularly trans women, because – as one of the interviewees I had in the past said – “they chose to express themselves in a way that merits for them to be abused, so we can’t be blamed for abusing them.”

We know of gay men who were forced by their parents to marry because “sayang ang pagkalalaki at kaguwapuhan mo pero babakla-bakla ka lang (you are wasting your manhood and your good looks if you’re just gay)”.

And just how many times have we heard gay men being told: “Sayang ka, guwapo ka pa naman, pero bakla ka nga lang (You are such a waste; you’re good looking, but you are gay)!”? Interestingly, at times we even think this is a compliment – after all, we were considered good-looking. But that whatever we have is devalued (if not taken from us) because we are gay should point out how we are not accepted for who we are. And this should concern us.

Because simply, kung may pangit na lalaki, may pangit na bakla (if there are ugly men, there are ugly gay men). Kung may guwapong lalaki, may guwapong bakla (If there are handsome men, and so there are handsome gay men). There’s no exclusivity there. And the sooner we accept – and help in promoting – that, the sooner we are helping in accepting – and promoting – human diversity.

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