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Friday, August 2, 2013

Obsessing Over The Superficial, Yet Again

The last few days saw an outpour of online support for the new Pope and his statement as far as gay people are concerned: his "Who am I to judge them?" has certainly made the rounds across social boards, and was largely seen as a (welcome) departure from his predecessor's feelings about the subject matter.

Now comes archbishop Oscar Cruz, who has taken it upon himself to "refine" - so to speak - on what the head of the world's Catholics had to say concerning gay people. In a recent Huffington Post article, Cruz agrees that gay people should not be disrespected, but only if they wouldn't "dress up as females, wear high heels, and other such acts."

It certainly highlights what I wrote for Rappler earlier this year: a predilection for this country to focus on what's outside, not the inside, in "determining" if someone is (supposedly) gay.

There are three things I find problematic with how Cruz sees gay people.

(Courtesy of

(1) The first - and rather obvious - landmine is that how one chooses to comport oneself is never reliable as an indication of one's sexual orientation.

I would have thought that in 2013, we are all astute enough to know that just because a guy doesn't play basketball does it make him gay, so should we have known that not all gay men like dressing up in women's clothes. If I may make an unscientific observation, given this country's purported (Catholic) religiosity and supposed moral uprightness, the pressure to act according to socially accepted norms is that much greater, and I theorize that there are more gay men who wear what Cruz would call "appropriate" clothing than what is commonly described as "parlorista" wear.

Cruz, however, cannot be faulted for what seems to be the general, prevalent notion: if you're gay, you must be a beauty pageant aficionado, wear makeup/are extremely knowledgeable about the subject, and want nothing more than a sex change to be a "real" woman. I can counter all these misconceptions in one fell swoop, using myself: I loathe beauty contests and see them as hideously disrespectful of women, I know absolutely zilch about beauty products, and I have never entertained the thought of going through any sex reassignment surgery.

See, at the heart of it all is that anyone who identifies as a gay man does so because he is attracted - romantically, sexually - to men. Period. That is the only thing that needs to be defined. What he wears, how he dresses, what bags he uses, which restaurants he goes to are not dictated by some "gay manual". If people see "more" gay people in industries like entertainment and fashion, it's because gay people are more readily accepted - some say essential, wink, wink - in certain fields, and let's face it: the thought of working in an environment where you could be beaten up for being honest about who you are is not exactly an appealing concept.

But it doesn't mean that someone like me, who has no idea about fashion design, will aspire to be an Oscar de la Renta just because "it's what gays (are supposed to) do" - in fact, I pity the straight guy who may be interested in dancing but doesn't learn it for fear of cultural reprisal: they work on the same assumption of compartment, that only straight guys do this, and only gay guys do that.

I've read an observation that somehow, the rules go up earlier for men, or rather boys: no crying, strength measures your manhood, emotions are for sissies. But that deserves another post.

(2) It sounds no different from a rapist telling a judge that he wouldn't have violated the victim if she wasn't wearing such a short skirt.

It's called blaming the victim. Simple. In other words, not being held accountable for our actions. In my line of thinking, even if a woman was to go streaking across EDSA, that still doesn't give you the right to forcibly have sex with her. I dare you to tell me otherwise, and come up with a plausible reason why I shouldn't persist in it.

Similarly, when you laugh/make homophobic remarks, hold yourself responsible for your words and actions. Don't pass it off by saying something lame like "eh, kasi, kalalaking tao, ganyan manamit!" Unless your name is Joan Rivers, and you work on the show called Fashion Police, everyone would best be reminded that freedom of expression also includes the right to wear, pierce, string, etc. anything on one's hair, face and body. In our secular democracy, there is no law that prevents men from wearing skirts or women from wearing pants, which I understand certain religions expressly forbid.

By all means, no one's stopping you from making fun of others. But have the balls to say it's because you're a homophobe, you revel in hatred, and won't apologize for it.

Besides, if you want to talk about gender-conforming clothing, Mr. Cruz may want to consider that his fellow priests certainly do not fall into that category themselves as far as their work clothes are concerned.

(3) What you laugh at/find worthy of ridicule is a reflection of you, and not the object of laughter.

I prefer to think of it as a Rorschach inkblot: that famous psychological tool using a series of images to determine your state of mind. We may be looking at the same thing, but we will all perceive it differently.

Likewise, when you go out of your way to denigrate someone who doesn't "measure up" to your standard of clothing, action or morality, it reveals who you are: a judgmental individual who cannot accept any other view but your own, and is hellbent with subverting any idea that contradicts yours, free choice and decision making be damned.

As a non Catholic, I appreciated what Pope Francis tried to do: extend an open palm to the LGBT community, however trite it may have seemed to some quarters. I have also read several commentaries that the core position of the Catholic Church has not changed; in fact, other priests have come out saying gays are still going to hell.

I am not looking to change anyone's religion or how they treat the LGBT community. I have long maintained that it is religion, not sexual orientation, that is a matter of choice. But the new Pope has given me a sense of his humility that I do not see quite often in religious leaders (ironically).

And as I've indicated to some friends, I prefer the Dalai Lama's formula, who said that his philosophy is kindness, and that his temple is the heart. That really is what all anyone can ask for: that we treat each other with kindness and compassion, regardless of how we identify ourselves.

That can only happen when you take your eyes off the exterior, and focus on the inside.


  1. very well written. I've always enjoyed reading your posts. Well-thought out.

    And I agree, people have the tendency to hold offensive stereotypes against gay people.

    I hope they get a chance to read this post for a little enlightenment.


  2. I can never forget the time when I was sent to the principal‘s office when I puched my classmates for making fun of me and calling me a cock sucker. That was way back in elementary. I could never forget the teacher‘s response:

    “bakit ka ba kasi ganyan? Magbago ka na lang.“

    I was shocked and surprised. Wala akong gingawang masama. And my classmates got away without any teacher‘s “guidance“

  3. What is irrefutable is that there absolutely seems to be a ""gay agenda." If you accept my premise, you might want to know what that agenda is? It would appear to be general acceptance and the patina of normalcy. For years the American Psychological Association had classified homosexuality as an illness.