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Friday, July 19, 2013

The Threat Of Sameness

Over the course of these past few weeks, the topic of homosexuality could hardly be avoided: from the striking down of the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) by the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States), to NBA player Jason Collins and singer Charice both "officially" coming out (and, more recently for the latter, being named as the "Hottest Lesbian" in a popular LGBT website), and to the ratings success of the GMA-7 show "My Husband's Lover", there seems to be an unofficial sentiment which was voiced by someone I hardly knew in a seminar I recently attended: "What the hell...suddenly the gays are everywhere?!"

(Courtesy of

What the hell, indeed.

Over the course of my lifetime, we have traversed from "the love that hides in the closet" to "will you please shut up already?!?"

The uncomfortable pinch I feel in my gut tells me this new, slightly varied reaction is another form of homophobia: no, not the kind that uses violence; rather, it plays up the "we're sick of it" card, turning a potential plus - that of being treated equally  - into a minus; to continue using the words of the guy in the seminar, "...I can't stand the fact that they're in our faces na (already) all the time!"

It's the underlying message that disturbs me.

What it says is, sumosobra na kayong mga bakla at tomboy. (You gays and lesbians are taking it too far.) What it also means is "we're just tolerating you, but don't force us to turn against you, and that will happen if you don't somehow censor yourselves."

It begs the question: what would homophobes and moralists consider "acceptable behavior"?

My theory is that as long as gays and lesbians - the visible ones, anyway - act according to preconceived norms, expectations, and roles, then it would be considered "fine." Take a look at the three instances I mentioned above, and why the sentiment of the conservative crowd has been palpably, hideously negative.

(1) Marriage Equality

This has been a banner year for marriage equality, with the UK being the latest country to approve of it. (For those who are quizzical about the term, marriage equality is what I and several people in the LGBT movement prefer to use, as opposed to "gay marriage" which qualifies it, separates it and makes it seem different.)

Let me state clearly that what the movement is fighting for is a legal right. There has never been a thrust for changing the policies of religions, to force faiths to bless/accept these unions. This is all in the realm of secular law, and I leave those who struggle with what their chosen faith says about same sex unions with their own thoughts and decisions.

The reason why DOMA was even introduced is to effectively - and legally - bar the LGBT community from participating in the legal right to marriage, and it's no surprise that those who pushed for it were largely conservatives who had ties to certain religions. It springs from the belief that gays aren't supposed to get married: a cursory look at any social media board for the reasons to oppose it range from "what they do (in bed) is disgusting!" to "how can they even reproduce, which is the entire point of marriage?!?" and the veiled-but-hypocritical concern for "the child who does not have a strong male/female presence in the house?"

(2) "Charice is a singer. Let's focus on that, nothing else, please."

I saw this reaction on a Facebook post, when she had just come out, and has said that she was seeing someone (in fact, there were footage/photos of the couple). Contrast this reaction to those given other stars (who are implicitly assumed to be heterosexual): a lot of the questions range from "who's your crush/manliligaw" to the more pushy "so, have you set a wedding date already?"

Somehow, it's perfectly fine to be nosy and prying about a celebrity's love life, give us all the sordid details, with pictures please, as long as your partner is of the opposite sex. But heaven forbid that a reporter should dare ask Charice who she is seeing, even though practically everyone in this country embraced her as "our own" when she "went international" and appeared on Oprah and Ellen, worked with Akon, and became a sometime member of the hit show Glee.

It lines up perfectly with the experience of several people who have come out to their parents and have been begrudgingly accepted/tolerated: OK, you're gay, we know it. But please, don't talk about your romantic life, we have no interest in it, thank you. Gays aren't supposed to be able to form healthy, loving relationships, they are all doomed to failure, especially where gay men in this country are concerned, where the guys they have a "relationship" with can be summed up by what a character in My Husband's Lover said this week: "Diba pera lang naman ang habol ng mga lalaki sa inyo?!?" (Aren't men only after your money?)

(3) "How dare you make their lives seem normal!"

This was an online reaction I saw directed towards the people behind the hit show My Husband's Lover, which revolves around two gay men who used to be a couple, but one has opted to get married and have kids, as was expected of him by his parents, religion and society, and the show is told from the viewpoint of the wife caught up in this particular situation.

Since gay people cannot get legally married in this country, I wonder what the reaction was specifically aimed at: Was it the fact that a telenovela was being shown with two gay men as the lead roles? Or that she was unsettled because this was a rare instance when gay men are being shown on television neither as comic relief nor caricatures, and with attractive qualities for the heterosexual female? Gay men aren't supposed to be the lead characters, or given any serious lines; they're supposed to be the sidekick; wearing make up, talking really loudly and acting abrasively, and have mannerisms that "clearly" identify them as bakla.

My theory is that what some sectors find so threatening is the fact that somehow, we are the same and want the same things: someone to love, and hopefully grow old with. Someone who will be recognized as a partner legally, with all the rights given to any other spouse. To be asked about our romantic lives, the way we have asked those of our straight colleagues, for decades. To be anyone and do anything, even be an athlete in a sport that would make the most homophobic parent tear up.

And when we have all been taught the same misconceptions from birth about the gay community - that they are untrustworthy, out to steal for their papas; that they will be miserable; that they are deformities of nature; that they are only good as parloristas (for gay men) and security guards (for gay women) - it must be incredibly jarring to be faced with realities that turn those long-ingrained beliefs upside down.

What this tells me is that some sectors will work their hardest to make the gay community stay in the fringes, occasionally allowed to sit at the table, and only if we act in "proper decorum", and whose rights and privileges can be revoked without question or appeal. It has come to the point that we are now accepted because we are perceived as different, and are treated as a danger when we wish to be treated no differently.

What a strange, strange world we live in.

1 comment:

  1. I suddenly felt awkward kasi kwento ako ng kwento about sa lovelife ko.