6:39 PM |
A Small Thank You to Good Civil Servants
There are some government officials I know who went for government work knowing they were doing it for love of country -- and knowing that navigating the often corrupt system could be crippling, and knowing that the language of getting things done is compromise. But they braved it anyway, and some of them have truly been outstanding. Today is their last day of work, and tomorrow a new administration starts, with other people waiting to take their place in the bureaucracy. A salute to these good civil servants! Thank you for helping government become accountable to its people.
Metro: Dutch TV presenters (and straight men) Jan Versteegh and Tim Hofman in a gay kiss because they want to challenge how we view sexuality and masculinity and want to start a discussion about what homosexuality is. Awwww. So here's the behind-the-scenes video for that...
The Washington Post: A quiet campaign is placing gay people and their rights struggle in U.S. history.
The Atlantic: Gay marriage in the United States, one year later.
Advocate: Gay clubs in Russia and the U.S. are worlds apart but similar.
Medscape: Lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the United States are more likely to report worse physical and mental health than their heterosexual counterparts. Yikes.
Towleroad: Alexander Skarsgard talks gay sex scenes, drag, and his LGBT fan base.
And finally, here's Chris Martinez's theatrical take on Joey Gosiengfiao's gay camp classic Temptation Island (1980), this time taking the roles of the stranded beauty queens and giving it to actors in drag -- just as the old film's subtext exactly read so. It's the full stage production from 2005.
THIS IS ON TOMORROW! You are invited to attend a panel on "Gender Identity, Gay Culture, Qyeer Spirituality, and Pink Life" sponsored by the American Studies Center tomorrow this Wednesday, JUNE 29 at 2:30 PM at the Robert and Metta Silliman University Library. On the panel will be Dr. Bing Valbuena, Prof. Karl Villarmea, Ms. J Marie Maxino, and yours truly. The talk is open to the public!
7:18 PM |
A Brief Personal History of Faggotry. Or: Why Stonewall Happened
Forty-seven years ago today, the first brick that began the demolition of compulsory heterosexuality was thrown -- and then things changed, in a burst of fury at first, then a protraction that lasted for years, then a galvanisation brought about by a dreaded disease, and then a loosening (or a flowering, if you are more optimistic about things) that followed. And then here we are.
If you are a gay man or woman, we are all living in the repercussions of that violent brick throw. It was an unprecedented act that refocused things, that made people break out of centuries-long torpor. But like many things that lead to revolutions, this particular one began inconspicuously, and in the unlikeliest places: near midnight, in a very seedy bar owned by the Mafia, and in the unfolding of events that weren't even unusual to begin with.
But on the night of 28 June 1969, something snapped.
I can understand that snapping. A snapping is a sharp break. A snapping is a painful awakening. It was years and years in the making -- like lava exploding forth from a suddenly restive volcano: the fire had always been there, simmering as it were, but needed that one break in time to display its magnificent explosion.
I try to imagine being a gay man (or woman) cursed with living through history, and seeing "like people" (Felice Picano's term) enduring a culture of compulsory heterosexuality. It wasn't always trying times for gay people like you. After a brief idyll in Ancient Greece, when same-sex coupling between older erastes and younger eromenos was actually a widely-accepted practice (in fact, something enforced), the spectre of organised religion -- the trinity of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- brought with it a new kind of moral fervour and moralising, condemning certain practices as unholy "perversions," which were liable to land you (they tell you very ominously) in the very depths of damnation. The long darkness cast by religion prevailed, especially through the Middle Ages, silencing you, demonising you, keeping you to the shadows until even you begin to think everything that you are as a curse that could move even God himself to raze entire cities to the ground with.
So you begin live in secret, in the shadows -- but you never really disappear. You existed throughout history. You were Alexander the Great. You were William Shakespeare. You were Michaelangelo. You were Leonardo da Vinci. You were Abraham Lincoln. You were Eleanor Roosevelt. Sometimes in societies that remained unattached to the aforementioned religious trinity, you were allowed to flourish, even to become fulfilled members of your community. In India, for example, you were the Hijra. In pre-colonial Philippines, you were the catalonans, the babaylanes -- powerful figures who were often men who dressed as women and were allowed to live as women, and were considered by everyone as special people who occupied a third gender -- and hence, because they lived in the gray area of sexuality, were considered vessels of the gods. Then, in the Philippines, Christianity came with the Spaniards, and the same moralising story happened: the attendant erasure, the demonising, the shunning from society. It went on the same way with the rest of the world, and you had to hide.
But you could not really be erased. You persisted despite everything. In the late nineteenth century, in Europe, you sought people who were exactly like you, who felt the same way as you, who knew what it was like to live and thrive in the shadows that you know. For better or worse, you started forming communities. You even started having a kind of a shared culture. It must have been a visible development because a German-Hungarian sexologist named Károly Mária Kertbeny saw such communities thrive in 1868 -- you called yourselves, among other things, Uranists -- and gave you a term that aspired to the clinical. He called you a "homosexual." And for the longest time, it was a term used to describe a possibly psychologically damaged person who was in fact an "invert," somebody whose deepest desires, perverted as they were, was to become the opposite sex. The term stuck, and much later, in 1892, its counterpoint was also invented: the "heterosexual." You see, you had to be "invented" first before straight people could even be invented. Without you, you could say this, straight people could not exist.
And so it was. The 20th century began and in many civilised places in the world, your kind was becoming "tolerated," and you were allowed to flourish. Sometimes you were lonely a farm boy in Iowa, thinking your desires unnormal. Sometimes you were a young stevedore in the American colony of the Philippines, thinking there was nobody else but you, and you were desperately alone in the world. But things change, and world events overtake things. World Wars, for example, would erupt -- and you were suddenly wrested away from your far-away farmlands and tropical islands to city centers, where you are thrust into the middle of a great melting pot -- meeting so many other people, and surprise surprise, meeting others of your own kind. Suddenly, you think, "I'm not alone at all. There are others like me." Still, you are careful. You don't want to stand out. You know very well that affection for the same sex was very much frowned upon. And when you do get found out, and you are in the army, you are dishonourably discharged and are asked to go home. But do you go home back to that Iowa farm, where your father or mother could look at you with new disgust? You don't want to hear them tell you: "They sent you home because you are a faggot?" And so you decided to stay in the port cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York -- today the very epicentres of gay culture. In the anonymity of the big cities, in its tolerance for "deviance" and search for creativity, you found your home, you found the families you chose to have.
But still, for much for the early part of the 20th century, you had to keep to yourself and your kind -- and if by chance you had to live lives in contact with the heterosexual mainstream, you were expected to keep your quiet. You were expected to consider the closet your permanent address.
You had to. The heterosexual world demanded the silence, under the pain of the full force of every sort of institution that made up the world. The Church considered you a sinner, and destined for hell; they recited Leviticus to you like it was a death sentence. The Law and the Police Force prevailed that your very existence was illegal: sodomy was a crime, and you could not marry, and the places where your kind gathered were considered "suspicious" -- and thus you were liable to be picked up by the police, to be put in jail and be made to rot there if they so wished, and all because you were a homosexual, a pervert. The Medical Establishment considered you a psychologically-sick individual, someone who had mental illness: as such, it was perfectly right for your family to put you in mental hospitals where you could be administered electric shock for a "cure" therapy, and in the worst cases, a lobotomy. You know what a lobotomy is? They open up your skull, and slice parts of your brain, all to make you "ungay." They only almost succeed in making you a vegetable.
And since it was a sexual orientation that invited condemnation, its secrecy was contraband. Your secret gayness could be used against you, and many of your kind lost their jobs, lost their families, lost everything else because they were "found out." At the turn of the 20th century, Oscar Wilde -- already a celebrated writer in London -- lost a risky lawsuit he initiated in the first place, and was declared a "sodomite," which was an illegal thing to be in the England of that time: he was jailed and placed under forced labor, and died soon after a broken man. (But not before publishing his scathing confession De Profundis.) His case became the prime example that made gay men and women everywhere see what could happen to them. And so they hid some more.
In the late 1930s, William Haines, the biggest box office star in Hollywood, was forced to abandon his male lover by his studio, and forced to go on a publicity blitz that would convince everyone he was straight. He refused to do so, and subsequently lost his acting career.
In the 1940s, World War II ended prematurely by three years because of the efforts of Alan Turing, whose mathematical genius allowed him to crack the Nazi coding system, and helped make the Allied forces win the war. Despite that achievement, he was tried for being gay right after the war, and was found guilty. As a punishment, Turing was chemically castrated. He committed suicide soon after.
In the 1950s, Joseph McCarthy's witchhunt in Washington, D.C. targeted gay men and women working in government: because they were gay -- and that had to be kept a secret -- McCarthy reasoned that they were liable to be blackmailed by outside forces like Communist Russia, and thus could be used to become spies working against the government. Many people lost their job in the purge.
Of course, many gay men and women retreated to the shadows further. Many of them even married, had kids -- all to save their skin and their reputation, and effectively hide their sexuality from the world. Most of those marriages ended unhappily, resulting to divorce, to broken homes, to untold domestic betrayals.
But everywhere else, despite the fact that they "hid," gay men and women still found time to be with others of their kind, sometimes in alleyways, sometimes in abandoned warehouses and factories, and most often in clubs and bars that gave their kind service. Here, in these places, they could drink, sing, and dance among their kind, free to be themselves. Often these bars were seedy, like Stonewall in New York, but you kept what was allowed of you.
And so yes, you -- the butch gay men, the feys, the dykes, the drag queens -- partied in bars like Stonewall. And yes, you became used to the occasional raids by the police. And yes, you became used to the occasional arrests and the landing in jail. Bad things like that became a cycle, a round of abuse you took to be things you had to accept as "normal," if you insisted in living your authentic life.
But sometimes, just sometimes, all these things come to a fore, and you begin to think, "Why is this normal? Why must this club be raided? Why must I be arrested? Why do I have to land in jail?" And you begin to think things were not exactly right, and you begin to think that perhaps it was time to fight back.
And on June 28th, 1969, that was what exactly happened. The police came to raid, the patrons came to be rounded up, and they were led outside of Stonewall to the waiting police cars while the rest of the officers were inside the bar to take care of things -- just some routine, really. Except this time, some of the drag queens had had enough. And one of you, a firebrand by the name of Marsha P. Johnson or Storme DeLaverie, finally picked up a stray brick and threw it against the windows of the bar, breaking the glass, alerting the police inside. [There is an alternative theory about who threw the first brick.] The shattering sound galvanised everyone, and soon this small army of gay men and women -- the butch gay men, the feys, the dykes, the drag queens -- started to barricade the police inside the bar. And the protesting crowd grew and grew, and spilled over the entire street, and then spilled over the entire night, and then spilled over several days, and then finally spilled over history.
I can understand that "snapping." It is the sound of an angry people who could finally say -- despite their centuries-long conditioning in silence -- that enough is enough. To start feeling human again, there has to be pride and acceptance of who you are.
This is how Pride started -- and the marches, and the protests, and all the rest of the extravaganza have been designed to tell everyone else that "we're here, we're queer, and we cannot be forced to go back to the old silence anymore." We are not mad people you could lobotomize. We are not criminals you could hang or jail. We are not the inheritors of your biblical razed cities that you could send off to hell.
And the changes did come, slowly. By 1972, the American Psychological Association struck homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. By 1977, Harvey Milk became the first openly-gay politician elected to office. (He was soon assassinated.) Except in the Islamic world, sodomy laws were slowly being effaced everywhere, and finally a few years ago, Queen Elizabeth II issued a belated but much-needed apology for the United Kingdom's treatment of Alan Turing. Gay marriage sprouted slowly, and finally last year, the United States Supreme Court struck down the law that effectively denied gay men and women the right to be married.
The world has come a long way -- but that doesn't guarantee an absence of backlash, especially from Christian and Muslim rightists. And this month, during Pride Month, the most horrible demonstration of that backlash exploded in Orlando.
Does the Philippines have its own Stonewall moment? I cannot think of a singular event that has galvanised Filipino homosexual men and women to take up activism in the name of equal rights. Our gay bars are still being raided regularly, and its patrons constantly paraded by the police in front of TV cameras to make the evening news. No Stonewall among them. We still live in a country with no divorce, and with no same-sex marriage -- and in a culture dominated by a crafty Church, any of that doesn't seem at all forthcoming. Is the Philippines a gay-friendly country? In the outset, that sounds true -- but once we scratch the surface, the old homophobia is perfectly entrenched. Consider the overall response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year. Filipinos took to social media to register their dismay. It pitted suddenly friends against friends, family against family -- and the wound has been left to fester until now. Ang Ladlad, the political party for gay rights founded by Danton Remoto, finally earned accreditation by the COMELEC to be considered not a nuisance group, but it still failed to land a spot in the roster of elected party lists, defeated even by the group that advocated for the rights of security guards. Apparently, security guards are more a legitimate minority needing a voice than gay men and women. And we still get many people like Manny Pacquiao calling us "lower than animals" -- and find, to our horror, that some of our friends and family agree with them. He is now Senator of the Republic.
I don't know whether our Stonewall would come. We have borrowed the American culture war and its icons simply because of their cultural impact and their accessibility. I hope we won't ever need a local version of a Stonewall and its attendant violence -- and still come to have a country that is more open, more generous, more loving. I hope.
12:33 AM |
Is the Philippine Visual Art Scene in the Closet?
"Why is lesbian art practice a floating terrain in Philippine visual arts?" asked Eva Aurora D. Callueng in the Philippine Online Chronicles in 2010 [here]. "I decided to post that question as a title to deliberately and finally ask the question that most of us in the art community have not considered asking. For art scholars the very limited material for writing is the simplest and initial cause of not following this track. For art dealers, to venture in or establish a lesbian art market would assume a very specific niche market that may or not be successfully tapped; and that second option might compromise the figures. For art enthusiasts, to acquire lesbian art may force them to position themselves in this highly politicized identity culture; very few patrons want to be tagged ‘the lesbian art collector’. For lesbian artists, lesbian art practice might not be the name of the game. For lesbian advocates, the works may not be easy to locate, much more to be useful in community-based organizing. For non-artist, non-advocate lesbians, to seek such art may seem irrelevant when jobs are as hard to nail down."
She comes down to one conclusion: "In a nutshell, there is no practice because there is no support. There is also no support because there is no sustainable practice. Nobody wants to be boxed in frail box of lesbian identity." Which is sad.
This makes me wonder: Is the Philippine visual art scene in the closet?
I do know of some gay artists personally. (Paul Pfeiffer and Kristoffer Ardeña immediately comes to mind). And some I believe to be lesbians but have not exactly come out -- but the ones I know for sure are Irma Lacorte and Maita Beltran. I don't really know the answer to my question since I am not acquainted well with this world.
Irma I know because she happens to be part of the faculty of the Fine Arts Department of Silliman University, where I also teach. She identifies herself a lesbian, and has tackled issues on gender and discrimination, which has inspired her works in various exhibitions, including Lesbianarama 2k1, Batu-batuhin ang Langit, Tapakan Sinong Magagalit?, Walang Kokontra, among others.
She gave an interview to ArtinSite last year: "In 2003, I did a wedding performance with my partner and another lesbian artist, Maita Beltran, officiated the ritual while dressed like a nun. If we did the complete ceremony 'down to the last tearful petal' sabi nga ni Patrick Flores, then who says it’s not valid and why? I think this was the last work I did that dealt with lesbian issues. I have since moved on to other subjects, contents or concepts. Writing this forces me to look back and try to visually remember, hopefully, all that I have done as a visual artist."
So, is the Philippine visual art scene in the closet?
Last year, photographer Ed Freeman landed himself in hot water over a photograph he took ten years prior. That photograph, commissioned in 2005 for a cover in Frontiers, a gay magazine, did not stir controversy when it was initially published. The magazine had a small circulation, and its readers were people who could very well "read" into the image's intentions. It was also a very beautiful photograph: it featured four muscled young men of various ethnicities, some half-naked, all trying to hoist a gay pride flag -- that rainbow-themed symbol of LGBTs everywhere.
For anyone who knows history, the image is every bit a recreation of a famous older photograph, one taken on 23 February 1945 by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal who snapped a picture of five American marines trying to hoist the American flag in the heat of battle in Iwo Jima during World War II. It was a powerful image even then, a galvanising one that led the U.S. to use it for propaganda purposes (Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers is a mannered account of that piece of history), and it won Rosenthal the Pulitzer Prize.
Since then, Rosenthal's photo has taken on a kind of sacred iconography -- meaning to say it touches the raw nerves of people who see it being repurposed for something else. Over the years, such sensitivity has erupted to small brawls of words. For example: Time Magazine, for a global warming issue in 2008, was criticized for publishing a cover in which the American flag was replaced with a tree.
But when the Frontiers cover came out in 2005, nobody said anything.
And it was likely because it was a time in our lives where most people were "pre-internet." The web was already around at that time, but social media -- and its predisposition to sharing -- had yet to take root. (Facebook was founded in 2004, but it would only start gaining global reach in 2008.)
In 2015, in celebration of the U.S. Supreme Court's unprecedented ruling on same-sex marriage, LGBT everywhere rejoiced by sharing a lot of things in the name of "victory" -- and this time around, Ed Freeman's ten-year-old image was whisked from the shadows of the past and into the maelstrom of things in the Instagrammable present. The picture above was shared everywhere and by everyone -- and only then did the backlash begin for Ed Freeman, and with that even some death threats.
I try to make myself understand the anger and incredulity of these folks and their insistence of keeping "pure" an iconic image. After all, it is a real image: some of those men hoisting the flag died soon after in the war. It is symbolic of real-life sacrifice, and real-life shedding of blood. I understood their pain, even if I did not quite get their anger and its underlying homophobia.
But a year hence, and so soon after Orlando, I find the image by Freeman even more appropriate to use. Because the LGBT, truth to tell, has been in a protracted war, too -- this one being fought for decades and decades, even longer than World War II. And many foot soldiers have died, have lost family, have been lobotomised, have been fired from their jobs, have been ostracised, have suffered diseased because of negligent homophobic institutions, all in the fight for equal rights. The latest victims are the 49 in Orlando whose only sin was that they wanted to be in a place where they could express their authentic selves truly. They died for that, because a gun man believed they didn't deserve that right, or that wish.
We are fighting a war. Homophobia is our Iwo Jima. And we have all the right to hoist our rainbow flag in the big battlefield of this long horrible cultural war.
6:41 PM |
Saturday Night Live Goes Gay! and Other Instances of Humor in Faggotry
In the end, humour saves day. There is plenty of angry activism in the LGBT movement -- and there must be -- and in that regard, we are all children of Larry Kramer, the author and activist who goaded and scolded and shouted at all sorts of people, even colleagues in the gay men's health organisation he founded shortly after AIDS descended in full force in New York in the early 1980s. He believed in the power of his anger, and that anger spilled out in glorious rants in the novel Faggots and in the play The Normal Heart.
But there is also humour.
Sometimes that humour can be nasty, especially when it comes from straight comedians. Someone like Louis C.K. who once brandished the word "faggot" in a comedy routine and with such relish, too, that I could not help but cringe.
Can we excuse him for the "knowingness" he seemed to bring to the material? The "wink"? Wasn't he in fact making fun of the machismo of his audience? Perhaps. Jokes as a narrative can contain land mines. It can be used to be dismissive, and it can be used to sharply reveal the worms of a society predisposed to not talking about a "sensitive" issue. Jokes are a measure of our comfort with certain topics that galvanise us a people. To be able to laugh at ourselves is a sign of maturity.
In that regard, I do appreciate the humour Saturday Night Live! brings to the whole discussion of homosexuality.
In their "Gay Camp" featuring Ben Affleck, they make fun of conservatives' belief that you can "cure" gayness. Camps across America have been set-up to do just this -- and SNL pokes fun at this and the hypocrisy it is founded on.
They also make fun about the prohibition of gays from the military...
They also make fun of our tendency for erasure of the very gay certainty of things in some of our myth-making of the past -- and in this skit involving Spartan men (inspired by the gore and testosterone fest of movies like 300, which has since become a symbol of gritty masculinity), they magnify the little known fact that these men were probably highly involved homosexuals as befitted the culture then...
They also demolish for us the denial over the fact that rampant homoeroticism does simmer beneath celebrity culture...
And sometimes they just go for broke and glory in the fun and absurdity of gay life. In The Ambiguously Gay Duo, they parody superheroes in spandex (Batman and Robin immediately come to mind) who are really practically gay, they just don't know it. (Even the villains know it).
And sometimes they get to root of a certain issue, and in inviting laughter, we are forced to consider our stances in the culture war that is in fact brewing. Their "God is a Boob Man!" short film -- a fake trailer for a fake movie -- is a perfect example of this. In making fun of the recent conservative controversy over some "Christian" cakemakers' refusal to make wedding cakes for gay couples, they unmask the misguided venom of "Christians."
2:00 PM |
Fourteen Texts for Remembering. Or: What I Read or Watch or Listen to When I Want Inspiration for Creativity
My friend James Neish posted something in Facebook a few weeks back about the books, movies, television shows, and so on and so forth that he revisits again and again, just to be reminded about narratives that work, a kind of review and reinforcement for his own wrestling with creativity. His guide became a list of twelve — and it made me think, “What things do I revisit often in a kind of ritual of remembrance?" Here’s mine:
1. All the Studio Ghibli movies, especially Kiki’s Delivery Service, which reminds me about the wonder of creating new worlds that are at the same strikingly familiar.
2. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which reminds me about how beautiful perfectly chosen words can be.
3. Woody Allen’s Manhattan, especially the opening montage set to Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, and Allen's character in a voice-over wondering how to begin Chapter 1 of his book on New York. (A perfect exercise of sorts on doing revisions.)
4. David Leavitt’s short stories “The Term Paper Artist” (from Nebraska) and “A Place I’ve Never Been” (from A Place I've Never Been), which encourage me to (a) see how one can fictionalise one's life, and (b) how to deviate from the usual formula of gay fiction writing.
5. Jonathan Larson's Rent, which reminds me about using classical texts to make something new and comment about present reality.
6. The Lord of the Rings films, which reminds me of wonder, and the magic of perfect pacing to achieve cohesion in a long narrative.
7. Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, which reminds me that bricolage and madness can often work, especially if you have a complete faith in the material and you know how every single detail should fit.
8. The first and only season of Addicted/Heroin, and/or Jounjou Romanchika, which remind me that the perfect addiction to narrative comes from falling in love with characters we root for.
9. Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater's Spring Awakening, which reminds me that rawness of emotion are perfect well-springs for a story.
10. Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor, because it hums, and the album tells me -- more spectacularly even than Ray of Light, which I also love -- that an artist is always capable of reinvention.
11. Avatar: The Last Airbender, the television series created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, which reminds me that contemporary mythologizing is alive and well.
12. David Carson’s The End of Print, which always jumpstarts my designing instinct when I need it the most.
13. Disney's The Little Mermaid (and it looks Zootopia is going to make the grade), for providing the best possible sort of formula in captivating storytelling.
14. Sigur Rós' ( ) album, the only piece of music that makes me write for some reason.
12:01 AM |
The Ups and Downs (and Ups Again) of Gay Magazines in the Philippines [UPDATED]
"You can't be close-minded in this world, it's 2016," declares actor/model Tommy Esguerra, the cover boy of the latest issue -- for June, and the fifth for the new rag -- of Team Magazine, the Philippines preeminent and currently its only gay magazine. In what the magazine dubs as its Youth Issue, Team proclaims Esguerra as the prom date we all deserve, leading as he does "the pack of young straights who fight for love and sock it to bigots." In the same issue, there are articles and spreads and mentions of Bretman Rock, Pepe Diokno, and "flashbacks on youth from Boy Abunda, the King of Talk." It makes me all smile. I like the stark minimalism of the cover, and I like the hip vibe of the magazine over all -- and then it quickly reminds me that there has been a run of these magazines in the country since the late 1990s, and they never seem to last.
Magazines are important cultural signifiers and cultural arbiters/caterers. As a reflection of specific cultural communities with special interests -- feminism has Ms., avant-garde art has Interview, surfing has Tracks and Surfer and various others, bridezillas have Brides, alternative rock-and-roll had Ray Gun -- they become chroniclers of a particular scene, and when they are around just enough to impact culture, they become bibles of lifestyles. Magazines are the easy maps to navigate a certain life, fulfilling in the way of instant gratification our wishes for a certain type of knowledge. They are the colour-photograph, typography-laden fulfilment of our fantasies, the cheap way to obtain our aspirations -- all available for newsstand price and ready for the taking in the palms (or reading grips) of our hands. Today, they come in all forms: e-zines in online form, and plain zines for those private publications we make (and sell) as shrines to our passions.
Gayness as lifestyle quickly demanded a magazine. In the U.S., The Advocate was established in 1967 and is the oldest and largest LGBT publication in that country, and today it is the only surviving one of its kind that was founded before the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. There has since been others like Pink (a quarterly launched in 1990), Out Magazine (founded 1992, and now with the highest circulation of any LGBT monthly publication in the United States), Next Magazine, (launched in New York in 1993), Compete (launched in 2006 for LGBT athletes), OMG! (launched 2009), and a bunch of smaller national and regional periodicals. Other countries have their own successful counterparts: Australia (DNA and Q), Canada (Perceptions and Fugues), Brazil (G, now defunct), India (Bombay Dost), Japan (Barazoku, Badi, G-men, and Samson), Singapore (Element), Germany (Blu), Italy (Pride), Mexico (Ohm and Anal -- yes), The Netherlands (Butt), Spain (Shangay), Turkey (Kaos GL), and United Kingdom (Attitude, Bent, Pride Life, and Diva).
In the Philippines, our history of putting out gay magazines have been quite spotty. The granddaddy of them all wasn't even conceived as a gay magazine. Chika-Chika was a showbiz rag in the mid-1990s that had an unmistakable gay slant -- and often featured minor celebrities in various modes of undress. It was of course a huge success, especially among the "parlor gays" -- but a success ghettoised into a niche, nobody really took it seriously. In 1999, Valentino came into the picture.
In his short history of gay magazines in the Philippines Michael Kho Lim wrote of Valentino's inception:
[It] was the brainchild of business tycoon Ignacio B. Gimenez or more popularly known as IBG in the business sector because of his brokerage firm, IBG Securities. IBG is not gay nor is he a gay advocate. He is just simply an entrepreneur. His first publishing venture was Buy and Sell, the free ads paper, which took five years to break-even. Even though it did not give him good immediate returns, he took pride in being the first one in Asia to produce such a publication and enjoyed the glory of being recognized as the innovative entrepreneur.
With the success of Buy and Sell, IBG threw parties from time to time exclusively for the press and media people to strengthen his public relations. It was in one of those parties -- the Christmas Party of 1998 -- when he met showbiz reporter Jobert Sucaldito who was involved then with Chika-Chika. Both the writer and the entrepreneur enjoyed a nice conversation, particularly because Sucaldito was able to share with IBG the business success of Chika-Chika.
With the peso sign flashing in IBG’s eyes, he called for a management committee meeting quickly. Seeing the market demand and the absence of a product to an existing and available market, IBG thought that an unpretentious gay magazine would be a hit.
Copycats followed right from the very beginning. After only its second issue, almost all Valentino's editorial staff absconded to make a rival magazine, Male View. To counter the competition, Valentino's publisher went for its own spin-offs. Gigolo was launched in 1999, five years after Ladlad was published, this time catering for an audience (the C/D market) with a supposed taste for the "hairier" models, and more lascivious features -- plus a penchant for showbiz Chika-Chika was known for.
Another sister publication, Ohm also came out in 1999. Under editor Carmelo Roxas, Ohm for its first issue had a cover story on model Derrick Hibaler, a centerfold article on mountaineer Abel Serrano, an article on Joy (then a popular gay club), a profile on fashion designer Joji Lloren (where they never mentioned his surname), a short confessional about coming out by someone named Boxie from Davao City, flash fiction by Javier Villanueva, an article on vanity, and an article on the seven habits of promiscuity. (Interesting.) Immediately it made a splash: it dared do distribution out in the open, and landed in newsstands everywhere. And it was not easy to ignore: at 11x14.5 inches, it was a huge magazine, and the P70 price tag was quite a sum then. And it must have taxed closeted gay men who might have wanted to buy a copy but couldn't -- for the sheer problem of size. (Not all gay men, alas, are size queens.) Ohm lasted two issues.
Cover Boy was also launched in 1999, with a racier content, but it stopped publication after ten issues, with many insiders saying it had become "too daring."
Only Gigolo and Valentino remained. And while Valentino was unflinching in its goal to cater to the gay taste "without any pretensions," it balked at the pornographic, preferring the suggestive instead. This was where competitors tried to fill the gap, more and more magazines showing skin, there was an absolute saturation of it by the time the early 2000s came around. Kho writes: "What made Valentino flourish was that no other gay magazine existed before it. It was something new. I believe that the gay market was ready for the magazine when it was introduced. In fact, the market was just waiting for it... Valentino died a natural death since other magazines took the risk to go beyond the legal aspects of publishing and created a new underground market and economy. In other words, the competitors sold more skin... Valentino eventually died because of market saturation. There were already too many gay magazines that were mushrooming on street corners, offering the same thing. Innovation lost its glory. Skin reached its saturation point. The market died."
With the death of the mass-market magazines, however, came the "gay glossies," more expensive publications catering to gay men from the A/B market. Rice!, first published in 2001 under the creative direction of photographer Raymond Lontoc (with Butch Franco as editor), was a highbrow attempt at a journal -- mixing photography and literature in a heady mix, and was published in digest form. It lasted four issues.
L Magazine was published in 2004, but had a very short run. Icon Magazine had the longest run, and thus far, was the most successful of them all. It came out in October 2004 under editor Richie Villarin, with a tempting Rafael Rossell on the cover, and lasted until February 2006 with a bunch of Brazilian models in a huddle on the cover -- and then it disappeared without any explanation. Generation Pink soon followed in 2006, but folded up after five issues. Outrage Magazine appeared in 2007, with print issues appearing consistently, until it decided to keep -- following the worldwide downturn in magazine publishing -- a mostly online presence, coming up with a print counterpart now and then. (It's latest print issue is from June 2016.) Ketchup Magazine also appeared in 2008, published intermittently -- and still retains an active social media presence.
Meanwhile, the first lesbian magazine in the country was Echoes, which came out in 2001. It lasted three issues. My Femme Magazine appeared in 2009, but never made it to a second issue.
One interesting note of observance, however: most of these magazines think they are "the only" or "the first" gay or lesbian magazine in the country, signalling a significant lack of knowledge of gay and lesbian magazine publishing in the country.
Team Magazine, under editor Paolo Lorenzana, thus comes to us with us of expectations and a long memory of disappointments. It has a more than modest mission: it aims to "tackle how gay Filipino men relate [to] their identity, from fuckups to fantasies, to where to go for music you can actually dance to. We may not have proper rights in our country but we’re claiming some authority by getting our words and ideas on paper. And though we lack public places to convene, an open publication (and wide-open digital space) is a good place to start." Very bold, and I like it. It sounds like a call to battle.
But will it last? CNN Philippines' Don Jaucian has just written of its existence as a fledgling publication: "It’s hard out there for a gay mag. It’s problematic enough that the print industry is struggling to find a steadier footing. But as you flip through Team, currently the only gay men’s magazine in the country, you’ll wonder where the advertisers are — brands who have proclaimed themselves as allies of the LGBTQ community." But Jaucian continues with a note of hope: "But five issues in, Team has braved the CMYK-waters of print in these tumultuous times and gained confidence as a quarterly publication held up by its loyal following. Issues are available in major bookstores in Manila, and celebrities, like John Lloyd Cruz, have appeared on the magazine’s cover."
And I can believe it has legs.
For one thing, they're doing it differently. A study of the covers past and Team's present reveal a change of tact, for example: gone are the naked bodies of impossibly handsome young men from those older magazines -- and in place are hipsterish (Instagram-ish?) images of beautiful people sans the crude temptation of sex. (Perhaps sex doesn't sell anymore?) Set in a minimalist tone, it has the whiff of the cool and contemporary -- and a promise of timelessness and universality. That can only be a good thing. Lorenzana has a command of the articles, all clue'd in culturally, and doesn't set off gayness as something boxed in and alienating. He tells CNN pointblank: "Our issues are different for sure — I think there’s a need to unify faith with faggotry. In the Philippines, I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface in making being “out” look as appealing as it does in places like the U.S., for example. We’re still dealing with a caricatured view of gay men. Gay relationships need to go mainstream a little more, and so a lot of our content will still explore the normalcy of this in order to make our readers more comfortable..."
Normalcy as aesthetic, as gay magazine philosophy. That can work.
Here's wishing Team Magazine all the pink luck in the world.
6:01 PM |
A Working Bibliography of LGBT Books in the Philippines
(Or what poet Jerry B. Gracio calls "beklit.")
I honestly thought -- after the massive success of Ladlad in 1994 and the impact it had on many Filipino men and women who grew up gay in the 1990s and read the anthology and its sequels -- that there would be an avalanche of gay and lesbian titles coming out of Philippine publishing and being written by a younger generation of LGBT-identified writers. And then I tried to make a list [the bibliography below].
The list surprised me by its shortness.
A few observations: Only J. Neil C. Garcia, Danton Remoto, and Louie Cano remain prolific in gay publishing. Severino Montano's groundbreaking novel The Lion and the Faun (1965) remains out-of-print. ("It was never even published," Neil tells me. "Too scandalous, libellous... The second half of the 1000+ page manuscript has never been found.") And I'm not sure we can get new reprints of Nicholas Pichay's Ang Lunes na Mahirap Bunuin (1993) and Tony Perez's Cubao 1980 at Iba Pang Mga Katha (1992), both equally groundbreaking. Most gay and lesbian dramas remain uncollected and unproduced. There are hardly any lesbian literary books, which is a sad surprise. (Joy Cruz and Aida Santos seem to have this niche cornered, although Nice Rodriguez does have a book out. Where are the books of Shakira Andrea Sison? Libay Linsangan Cantor? There has not been a follow-up to the one lesbian anthology, Tibok.) And there is barely anything of LGBT-themed children's books. Bernadette Neri's award-winning children's story Ang Ikaklit sa Aming Hardin finally got published independently in 2012 after mainstream publishers kept rejecting it because of its subject matter. And a dearth of gay and lesbian erotica! The edgier kind are published outside of mainstream publishing.
Truth to tell, there are soooo many gays and lesbians in contemporary Philippine literary circles -- we made a joke once in a gathering at U.P. Diliman that there are so many of us we are practically the inheritors of Philippine literature (and then there was a burst of pink laughter) -- but it seems as if not many of them are writing about their experiences as gay men and women and putting out books about it. But then again, my M.A. thesis actually predicted this: that the third wave of gay and lesbian writing in the Philippines, post-Ladlad, would be to go for a kind of invisibility: the writers would write stories and poems and dramas about recognisably gay characters but will refuse to put their gayness (and its attendant issues) as the center of their narratives. So why am I surprised?
Nonetheless, here is the list I managed to compile. Comment if I missed out on any title...
Alfar, Dean Francis. Salamanca: A Novel (2006).
Alumit, Noel. Letters to Montgomery Clift: A Novel (2002).
Alumit, Noel. Talking to the Moon: A Novel (2007).
Alvarez, Jack. Ang Autobiografia ng Ibang Lady Gaga (2015).
An Lim, Jaime. The Axolotl Colony: Stories (2016).
Angeles, Mark. Gagambeks at Mga Kwentong Waratpad (2015).
Casocot, Ian Rosales. Beautiful Accidents: Stories (2012).
De Dios, Honorio Bartolome. Sa Labas ng Parlor (1998).
Dee, CJ. The Necromancer (2015).
Gangcuangco, Louie Mar A. Orosa-Nakpil, Malate: A Filipino Novel (2006).
Gilvarry, Alex. From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant: A Novel (2012).
Groyon, Vicente III Garcia. “Boys Who Like Boys.” In On Cursed Ground and Other Stories (2004).
Ilusyunada, Wanda. Mga Kwentong Parlor ni Wanda Ilusyunada (2007).
Juha, Michael and Patrice Marco. Santuwaryo: Tatlong Kuwento Ng Pag-ibig (2014).
Lee, Ricky. Para Kay B (O Kung Paano Dinevastate ng Pag-ibig Ang 4 Out of 5 sa Atin) (2008).
Lee, Ricky. Si Amapola sa 65 na Kabanata (2011).
Linmark, R. Zamora. Leche: A Novel (2011).
Montano, Severino. The Lion and the Faun: A Novel (1965, unpublished).
Ong, Han. The Disinherited (2004).
Perez, Tony. Cubao 1980 at Iba Pang Mga Katha (1992).
Portalan, Edgar. Bakla Bakla Paano Ka Ginawa? (2010).
Ramos, Ricardo. Flipping: A Novel (1998).
Realuyo, Bino A. The Umbrella Country: A Novel (1999).
Remoto, Danton. Riverrun: A Novel (2015).
Rodriguez, Nice. Throw It to the River: Stories (1993).
Sagrado, Jack. The Lavender Coffin and Other Homoerotic Stories of Mystery and Suspense (2011).
Sagrado, Jack. The Pink Morgue and Other Homoerotic Stories of Mystery and Suspense (2011).
Samar, Edgar Calabia. Si Janus Silang at ang Labanang Manananggal-Mambabarang (2016).
Santos, Aris. Hangganan (2012).
Torres, Gerardo Z. Pink Men In Love and Other Stories (2005).
Torres, Gerardo Z. Kulay Rosas ang Pintig ng Puso: Mga Maikling Kuwento (2009).
Villa, Jose Garcia. "Walk at Midnight: A Farewell" and "Song I Did Not Hear." In Footnote to Youth: Tales of the Philippines and Others (1933).
Villasis, Bobby Flores. Suite Bergamasque: The Boulevard Stories (2001).
Yee, Ernesto Superal. Out of Doors: A Novel (2005).
Baquiran, Romulo Jr. P. Kung Nanaisin: Mga Tula (2012).
Baquiran, Romulo Jr. P. Onyx (2003).
Baytan, Ronald. The Queen Sings the Blues: Poems, 1992-2002 (2007).
Carreon, Shane. Travelbook: Poems (2013).
Galan, Ralph Semino. From the Major Arcana (2015).
Gracio, Jerry B. Apokripos (2006).
Gracio, Jerry B. Aves (2009).
Remoto, Danton. Black Silk Pajamas (1996).
Remoto, Danton. Pulotgata: The Love Poems (2004).
Remoto, Danton. Skin Voices Faces (1991).
Garcia, J. Neil C. Closet Quivers: Poems in English (1992).
Garcia, J. Neil C. The Garden of Wordlessness (2005).
Garcia, J. Neil C. Kaluluwa (2001).
Garcia, J. Neil C. Misterios and Other Poems (2005).
Garcia, J. Neil C. Our Lady of the Carnival (1996).
Garcia, J. Neil C. The Sorrows of Water (2000).
Pichay, Nicholas. Ang Lunes na Mahirap Bunuin: Poems in English and Filipino (1993).
Santos, Aida F. Dobol Helix: Mga Piling Tula 1971-1991 (1991).
Santos, Aida F. Spaces: Earthbound, Skybound (2000).
Tan, Joel Barraquiel. Monster: Poems (2004).
Teodoro, John Iremil. Arkipelago kang Kasingkasing (2009).
Teodoro, John Iremil. Anghel sang Capiz (2009).
Teodoro, John Iremil. Kung ang Tula ay Pwedeng Pambili ng Lalake (2005).
Teodoro, John Iremil. Maybato, Iloilo, Taft Avenue, Baguio, Puerto: Mga Tula (2003).
Teodoro, John Iremil. Mga Binalaybay Kang Paghigugma (2008).
Teodoro, John Iremil. Paruparo at Korales/Butterflies and Corals: A Collection of Palawan Poems in Filipino and English (1999).
Abellar, Karlo. Señora Segundina [n.d.].
Abunda, Boy. Engkuwentro (1983).
Alfar, Dean Francis. Short Time (1991).
Alojamiento, Shelfa. Boy-Gel ang Gelpren ni Mommy (2010).
Arejola, Carlos A. Sayod kong Tataramon/Tuwiran Kong Sasabihin: Mga Dulang Pantanghalan at Pampelikula sa Bikol at Filipino (2009).
Balintagos, Kanakan [Aureaus Solito]. Esprit de Corps (1990).
Cabagnot, Edward Delos Santos. The Theatre of Director Julius Opus (2003).
Co-Unjieng, Quito. Skeletons in the Closet [n.d.].
De Jesus, Vincent A. Ateng (2005).
Evangelio, Albert Claude. Pepe en Pil (1990).
Guerrero, Wilfrido Ma. A Clash of Cymbals (1968).
Juan, Anton. Death in the Form of a Rose (1992).
Lana, Jun. Kuwan [n.d.].
Las-O, Bobby. Goodbye, Loverboy [n.d.].
Martinez, Chris. Baclofen [n.d.].
Martinez, Chris. Last Full Show (1994).
Mas, Glenn Sevilla. Games People Play (2007).
Mas, Glenn Sevilla. In the Dark (2001).
Montreal, Lani. Sister-Out-Law (2001).
Nadres, Orlando. Hanggang Dito na Lamang at Maraming Salamat (1974).
Palanca, Rajit. Intermisyon (1989).
Pichay, Nicholas. Karga Mano (1994).
Rivera, Frank. Casa Verde [n.d.].
Teodosio, J. Dennis C. Gee-gee at Waterina (2002).
Teodosio, J. Dennis C. Payb-Siks (2006).
Topacio, Soxy. Neneng [n.d.].
Unrubia, Clet. Sukatin Man ang Langit [n.d.].
Vera, Rodolfo. Kung Paano Ko Pinatay si Diana Ross (1992).
Vera, Rodolfo. Ralph at Claudia.
Villanueva, Rene O. Kumbersasyon [n.d.].
Garlitos, Rhandee and Tokwa Peñaflorida. Ang Bonggang Bonggang Batang Beki (2013).
Neri, Bernadette and CJ de Silva. Ang Ikaklit sa Aming Hardin (2012).
PERSONAL ESSAYS/CREATIVE NONFICTION
Alikpala, Raymond. God Loves Bakla: My Life in the Closet (2010).
Baytan, Ronald. The Queen Lives Alone: Personal Essays (2012).
Cadiz, Gibbs (Ed.). Dear Migs: Letters to Manila Gay Guy (2010).
Cano, Louie. Brusko Pink: King Kong Barbies and Other Queer Files (2005).
Cano, Louie. Masculadoll: Mga Sanaysay ng Buhay Bading na Di Buking (2008).
Cano, Louie. Pamhinta X: Mga Nagbabagang Sanaysay (2010).
Fleras, Jomar. The Quintessential Book of Manners & Etiquette for Filipino Gay Men (1998).
Lee, Raymond [now Moira Lang] (Ed.). McVie’s The Wet Book: Stories From the Bathhouse (2010).
Remoto, Danton. Buhay Bading (2004).
Remoto, Danton. Gaydar (2002).
Remoto, Danton. Happy Na, Gay Pa (2015).
Remoto, Danton. Rampa: Mga Sanaysay (2008).
Remoto, Danton. Seduction & Solitude: Essays (1995).
Remoto, Danton. X-Factor: Tales Outside the Closet (1997).
Reyes, Jose Javier. Porn Again: Midlife Outtakes and Mistakes (2003).
Teodoro, John Iremil. Pagmumuni-muni at Pagtatalak ng Sirenang Nagpapanggap na Prinsesa (2008).
Wigley, John Jack. Falling Into the Manhole: A Memoir (2012).
Home of the Ashfall: A Memoir (2014).
Yap, Karl Lester M. (Ed.). The Chronicles of E (2010).
MIXED PERSONAL ANTHOLOGIES
An Lim, Jaime. Trios/Hedonicus (1998).
Cruz, Jhoanna Lynn. Women Loving: Stories and a Play (2010).
Gallaga, Wanggo. Remnants (2015).
Linmark, R. Zamora. Rolling the R’s (1995).
Tan, Joel Barraquiel. El Canto de Animal (2006).
Erang, Claudine. Freedom (2016).
Navasca, Herbs and Rica Angela Padullo. Poster Boy (2014).
Navasca, Herbs and Rica Angela Padullo. Poster Boy: Fair and Square (2015).
Pulumbarit, Oliver. Lexy, Nance, and Argus: Sex, Gods, Rock & Roll (2005).
Vergara, Carlo. Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni ZsaZsa Zaturrnah (2002/2004).
Vergara, Carlo. One Night in Purgatory (2001).
Vergara, Carlo. ZsaZsa Zaturrnah sa Kalakhang Maynila (2008/~).
Garcia, J. Neil C. (Ed.). Aura: The Gay Theme in Philippine Fiction in English (2012).
Garcia, J. Neil C. and Danton Remoto (Eds.). Ladlad: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing (1994).
Garcia, J. Neil C. and Danton Remoto (Eds.). Ladlad 2: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing (1996).
Garcia, J. Neil C. and Danton Remoto (Eds.). Ladlad 3: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing (2007).
Sarabia, Anna Leah (Ed.). Tibok: Heartbeat of the Filipino Lesbian (2000).
Tolentino, Rolando B., Romulo P. Baquiran Jr., Joi Barrios, and Mykel Andrada (Eds.). Talong/Tahong: Mga Kuwentong Homoerotiko (2011).
Velarde, Armina. Pamana ni Larry. (2007).
Baytan, Ronald, Ralph Semino Galan, and J. Neil C. Garcia (Eds.). Bongga Ka ‘Day: Pinoy Gay Quotes to Live By (2003).
Benedicto, Bobby. Under Bright Lights: Gay Manila and the Global Scene (2014).
Buenaobra, Nita P., Leticia F. Macaraeg, Elvira B. Estravo, Leonila A. Villamor, and Anita G. Mangune. Mga Salitang Homosekswal: Isang Pagsusuri (2004).
Callueng, Eva (Ed.). Buhay Bahaghari: The Filipino LGBT Chronicles (2014).
Cano, Louie. Baklese: Pinoy Pop Queer Dictionary (2008).
Capili, Jose Wendell (Ed.). Mabuhay to Beauty!: Profiles of Beauties and Essays on Pageants (2003).
Evasco, Eugene Y., Roselle V. Pineda, and Rommel B. Rodriguez (Eds.). Tabi Tabi Sa Pagsasantabi: Kritikal na Tala ng mga Lesbiana at Bakla sa Sining, Kultura, at Wika (2003).
Garcia, J. Neil C. Myths and Metaphors (2002).
Garcia, J. Neil C. Performing the Self: Occasional Prose (2003).
Garcia, J. Neil C. Philippine Gay Culture: The Last Thirty Years (1996).
Garcia, J. Neil C. Postcolonialism and Filipino Poetics: Essays and Critiques (2004).
Garcia, J. Neil C. Slip/pages: Essays in Philippine Gay Criticism (1998).
Holmes, Margarita Go-Singco. A Different Love: Being Gay in the Philippines (1994). [Translated to Tagalog in Naiibang Pag-Ibig: Ang Maging Bakla sa Pilipinas (1995)].
Manalansan, Martin IV F. Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora (2003).
Manalansan, Martin IV F. and Arnaldo Cruz-Malave (Eds.). Queer Globalizations: Citizenship and the Afterlife of Colonialism (2002).
Mendoza, Tetay and Joel Acebuche (Eds.). Anong Pangalan Mo sa Gabi? at Iba Pang Tanong sa mga LGBT (2013).
Nadal, Kevin L. That's So Gay! Microaggressions and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community (2013).
OMF Literature [Various Contributors]. What About Same-Sex Marriage?: Christian Filipino Voices on Same-Sex Marriage (2016).
Ponce, Martin Joseph. Beyond the Nation: Diasporic Filipino Literature and Queer Reading (2012).
Remoto, Danton. Bright, Catholic, and Gay (2011).
Silva, John L. A Token of Our Friendship: Philippine Photos of Male Affection—First Half of the 20th Century (2011).
MONOGRAPHS AND TECHNICAL REPORTS
GALANG Philippines. How Filipino LBTs Cope with Economic Disadvantage (2015).
Health Action Information Network. Usapang Bakla (2013).
Lim, Anne Marie and Charisse M. Jordan. Social Protection Policies and Urban Poor LBTs in the Philippines (2013).
Manalastas, Eric Julian and Beatriz Torre. Social Psychological Aspects of Advocating Sexual Citizenship Rights for LGBT Filipinos (2013).
UNDP, USAID. Being LGBT in Asia: The Philippines Country Report (2014).
Whitam, F. L. and R. M. Mathy. Male Homosexuality in Four Societies: Brazil, Guatemala, the Philippines and the United States (1986).
SPECIAL ISSUES OF ACADEMIC JOURNALS
Philippine Journal of Psychology (December 2013). Special issue on LGBT psychology. Philippine Law Journal (October 2014). Special issue on LGBT Rights and law. Plaridel (August 2012). Special issue on queer media and representations. Plaridel (August 2013). Special issue on media and gender identity. University of the East Law Journal (February 2015). Special issue on same-sex marriage.
Many friends helped in completing this bibliography. I'd like to give special thanks to J. Neil C. Garcia, Gilbert Tan, Enrique Villasis, Hendrison Go, Alvin Dacanay Jr., and Edgar C. Samar for their suggestions and inputs. Special shout-out goes to Eric Julian Manalastas of the University of the Philippines Center for Women's Studies who mans the LGBT Section of its library for collating additional materials. Visit him and his magnificent LGBT collection, guys!
1. What would you say are the milestones of the LGBT community during your generation?
I’d have to say the primary milestone is the formation of the LGBT identity itself. Gay and lesbian cultures used to exist separately in the country, but since the 1990s, we’ve seen this strategic and coalitional identity take shape, conditioned as it has been both by local and global forces: feminism, HVI /AIDS discourse, the equal rights movement, and the “transgender moment” -- a historical period characterized not only by the globalization and increasing “crystallization” of this signifier, but also by the fact that cultures all around the world are remembering and recuperating their own transgender traditions. In Asia we see this happening in India and Nepal, which have recently instituted “third gender” categories in their legal documents. In our case, we also have our own “babaylanic” tradition of institutionalized gender-crossing to recover, legally honor, and contemporize (hopefully this will happen soon).
An offshoot of Filipino LGBT discourse would, of course, be all the political accomplishments of the last two decades: elected LGBT officials in local governments; the formation of the first LGBT political party (Ang Ladlad); the decades-long anti-discrimination lobby in several sessions of the national congress; and the municipal and provincial antidiscrimination ordinances that have already been passed (or are about to be passed), all across the country. Finally, let’s not forget the past two decades’ harvest of outstanding and memorable LGBT cultural productions—books, theatrical performances, marches, pageants, magazines, TV shows, and of course the slew of LGBT-themed digital films coming from a very dynamic stream of the Philippine new cinema movement.
2. How was the scene during your time? How is it different from now?
The pink economy was just picking up, and in the 1990s Malate was still pretty much the gay -- and the “cool” or bohemian -- place to be. It had all these fashionable and stylish bars and restaurants that were downright gay or at least identifiably gay-friendly. In Quezon City there was Cine Café, which doubled as a sexual and a social space, where gay films, plays, and pageants regularly took place—on the first floor, anyway (on the second floor was a blue room showing, well, blue films; and by the time you ascended to the third floor you found yourself immersed in delicious darkness—a reversal of the religious spatial order of things). There were also all those traditional gay bars -- with macho dancers and/or “floorshows,” the kind that you would see being cinematically (and miserablistically) recreated in the films of Brocka, Bernal, et al. I remember there was still a significant cruising scene to be found inside movie houses, public parks, department stores and/or malls—a carryover from the previous decade.
The Ladlad series came out during this time, and also the ground-breaking books by Tony Perez, Nicolas Pichay, Danton Remoto, etc. I had also just begun my academic work on Philippine gay culture, drawing from the studies of older scholars like Jose Javier Reyes, Michael L. Tan, and Martin Manalansan (who has since become the foremost researcher on the Filipino-American “queer diaspora”). Now and then, PETA and other theater companies would be staging gay plays. Every so often, on national television there would be an episode or two devoted to the story of a bakla (or tomboy) in any of the popular drama series -- a foil to the outrageous and uproariously funny gay character (exemplified most memorably by Roderick Paulate), who was a staple figure in comedy films and TV shows. The massage parlor scene started taking off during this time as well (although, as far as I know, there were only a handful of them). There were also two or three bathhouses. I suppose that some of these “trends” have persisted -- or even intensified -- over the past twenty years, but clearly the most significant shift has been the “mass migration” of the gay sexual scene away from actual toward virtual spaces—doubtless the result of information technology, and the employment opportunities it has made possible.
In other words, hookups are mostly negotiated online now. And with so many young LGBTs working in the BPO sector, the preferred meeting places -- and schedules -- have also understandably changed. The personal “diversification” that the LGBT signifier signalizes has also produced alternative concepts of fellowship and “belongingness” -- in clear evidence during any of the pride activities that are held in different parts of the country at different times of the year (June and December, the two months that the annual national LGBT pride march has taken place; and for a couple of years now, September, which is when the University of the Philippines Babaylan, the country’s first LGBT student organization, holds its weeklong “pride week”).
3. I know you as one of the editors of Ladlad, which I secretly read as a not-yet-out kid and became my entry point to understanding more about what it means to be gay. Do you think the book was revolutionary for its time? Why?
It obviously was (look at what has happened to you and others who surreptitiously—and voraciously—read and relished these books in their youth!). Kidding aside, allow me to quote myself (in my introduction to its fourth volume, The Best of Ladlad):
Two decades after the publication of the first Ladlad: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing, we offer this “Best of” edition, comprised of a selection of what my co-editor Danton Remoto and I consider the most accomplished and enduring pieces -- poems, stories, essays, and plays -- from the spanking three-volume literary harvest of the last 20 years… It’s interesting and immensely elating to revisit these works, and to read them from the privileged optic of the present that they doubtless made possible, at least in part: a present in which the “brand” Ladlad has recently become an accredited political party, gay independent cinema has seen an unprecedented efflorescence, alternative “homosexual” representations have proliferated on television and the new media, and a viable Lesbian-Gay- Bisexual-Transgender movement has veritably taken root in the Philippines… The Best of Ladlad… is both document and witness, and possibly also a source of rare and eloquent courage: bruised and disabused, delirious and enthused, Filipino LGBTs have made it this far. The rest of the luminous journey beckons.
And so, to be brief, yes: modesty aside, Ladlad has (I believe) been entirely instrumental in inaugurating a legitimate cultural space within which LGBT creativity -- in the literary as well as in all the other arts—could (and did) happen in our country. Ladlad definitely opened so many doors.
4. You mentioned during the Philippine Literary Festival about the need for this generation to involve itself in political issues. Care to expound? By that, do you say that your generation was more political than today's generation?
First of all, allow me to clarify that I said that in response to your panel’s own very political-sounding subtitle -- “finding a post-acceptance voice in a pre-acceptance Philippines” -- and to what I perceived was the “lack of fit” between this strongly worded agenda and the desire the panelists were all variously expressing, as they explained their painstaking efforts to produce Team magazine: to “normalize” the discussion of gay life in the country, by shifting it away from stereotypical images and ideas to more “relatable” things. At once, I thought: to reach this stage (of acceptance or “normality”), shouldn’t certain steps need to be taken -- the first of which being conceptual and/or critical: Just what exactly are these stereotypes anyway, and how might they be countered? If you may recall, in my ensuing comment I pleaded for a distinction to be made between stereotypes and the real individuals they superficially resemble but cannot remotely embody (precisely because stereotypes are simplistic and “flattened” images, that no real person actually ever coincides with). And I also suggested -- if I remember it right -- that the thing to do would be not to pick a fight or demonize members in our own precarious and embattled community, but simply to allow more and more LGBT self-representations—more and more LGBT stories—to circulate and disperse not only among our ranks but also in the larger culture. (I remember also making a plea for recognizing “contact zones” between or across our lives -- especially in regard to what were possibly our common experiences of “sissy childhoods”). It was at this point that I cheered the panel on, for while it may not be the first Filipino gay magazine (L magazine or even rice just now comes to mind), Team is certainly an entirely laudable project, carried out by a bunch of cute butchy and pamhinta (sometimes, borta) gay Pinoys, that deserves the full support of the Filipino LGBT community.
5. A friend told me that Grindr has somewhat fueled the demise of cruising and the gay club scene. What's your take on that? (And if you have experiences relevant to this, please share.)
I think I answered this already (see question no. 2). Social media and hookup apps have I believe globally redefined the idea of gay or even LGBT spaces. Jonathan Ong’s very interesting piece about Tacloban’s “afam invasion” in the wake of super-typhoon Yolanda makes a very clear point about the power of new media to create provisional gay “linkages,” even under the most adverse of conditions. Basically, this study looked at how local gay men, enabled by the popular app Grindr, took advantage of the wave of “gay humanitarian globality” that washed over post-disaster Tacloban in 2013 (as one respondent so pithily put it: “overnight… my Grindr became the United Nations!”). Nonetheless, as suggested by this study, we might need to qualify that the sexual “democratization” that information technology has effected in our society is still and all class-specific, in the main. As far as the Tacloban case is concerned, for instance, we need to realize that whatever libidinally “welcome” effects Grindr may have generated in the lives of certain gay locals, this certainly can’t remotely compare to and/or outweigh the tremendous psychological trauma and material difficulty this disaster has wrought on the lives of Tacloban’s citizens in toto -- including (if not especially) the lower-class and feminine-identified bakla… About your other “stealthy” (because parenthetical) request to reveal any personal “kiss-and-tell” moments in this regard: sorry, I’m not in the least exhibitionistic (at least, not in that way). Besides, I think oversharing is tacky.
6. How different is it to be gay then and to be gay now? What has changed? What hasn't changed (apart from the obvious "liking the same sex" thing!) What do you think has the previous generation given this current generation?
Information technology has basically transformed human societies all across the globe, especially in regard to identities and relationships, which are functions, to a certain extent, of connectivity. Young Filipino LGBTs now have access to LGBT-friendly audiovisual and textual materials that the teens of my generation didn’t. Thus, there should be more reasons for young LGBTs now to feel a sense of kinship or belonging to local, national, or even global communities of fellow LGBTs (on the other hand, we need to recognize the fact that this abundance of imagery and information can and does create a sense of confusion and alienation as well, ushering in it its own set of cultural “problems”). The libidinal economy has also of course become more accessible to them as well—a fact that has most certainly transformed sexual desires as well as behaviors (pornography, especially gay or lesbian, during my youth was generally rare and inaccessible). Perhaps it’s at this point that I can bring up the most urgent issue of the HIV epidemic that is currently facing us, especially the younger members of urban-based MSM communities.
Allow me to quote a germane passage from my The Best of Ladlad introduction, once more:
[O]urs is also a present that is imperiled by all sorts of challenges and threats, including the ever-rearing head of intolerance and fundamentalist abomination, and the deepening AIDS crisis that many of us were fearfully anticipating back in the 1990s, but which finally came to roost only in the last five years. Needless to say, in recent days, the rates of reported seroconversions among Filipino “men who have sex with men” have been inexorably climbing, especially among the 20s and 30s urban male sectors, which are arguably the most economically productive but also the least “aware” (and therefore most vulnerable) demographic groups in the country today. Understandably enough, from its first to third volumes, Ladlad didn’t quite directly register HIV/AIDS awareness in any of its texts, either: looking back, there was simply no urgent reason to, given the relatively small number of reported cases and an even smaller number of Filipino gay men coming down with the infection, from the 1990s to the early 2000s (as compared to, for example, male heterosexual Overseas Filipino Workers, who got tagged by local epidemiologists as a “high risk group” early on). It would take individual efforts by Filipino gay writers (some of whom are HIV positive, or “Pozzie Pinoys,” themselves) over the next few years to produce the Philippines’s own version of “AIDS literature,” which can only be formally and epistemologically different from what existed in the West when the then-lethal epidemic was in full swing. As we know, AIDS is now a chronically manageable illness, and being diagnosed with it no longer amounts to receiving a death sentence; thus, writing about it no longer carries the same kind of ontological weight that it did, back in the 80s and 90s. While AIDS was not specifically treated by the pieces in the Ladlad volumes (except for one or two poems, perhaps), the afflictions of the homosexual and bakla signifier extensively were, as well as the various ways their authors have sought to assuage or even “heal” them.
And so, yes, this medical “emergency” is probably one clear and compelling difference between the realities of “then” and “now.” And as I wrote in my introduction to this book (published by Anvil last year), the hope is that LGBT literature -- and creativity, in general -- can once again be summoned to help our community (especially its more vulnerable members) understand the complexity of this problem, and imagine the solutions to it.
7. and 8. What do you think is worth emulating from the previous generation? What do you think is worth celebrating about this generation?
The younger generations of Filipino LGBTs have of course their own problems and issues to confront, and I know they have their own copious reserves of talents and aspirations from which to draw the necessary vision and strength to grapple and resolve these. They are more comfortably “interconnected” with one another; they are literate in the new media, and can wield their languages and instruments with comfort and ease. They are newly brave, courageous, and oh-so-beautiful… We, the more “senior” members of the community, are of course standing side-by-side the young, and are happily cheering them on (in other words, to my mind we have no special virtues that are worth emulating; during our time we responded in earnest to the call for activism, given our own difficult circumstances; I know the young will, as well).
9. Same-sex marriage is gaining ground all over the world. Do you think it's going to happen in the Philippines in the next 5, 10 years? Why?
Probably not, and not only because getting the Church to reverse its position in this regard is going to be a herculean task. In the logic of things, marriage equality can only be operationalized after marriage has been rationalized as an institution. This is a step that our government has refused to take by keeping divorce illegal. Of course the simple truth is that without divorce, marriage is plainly an irrational -- and possibly inhumane -- concept. In this country, we’ve all seen the terrible mess of failed (but insoluble) heterosexual marriages; and the question is, do we really want LGBTs to suffer this, as well? On the other hand, getting a national antidiscrimination law passed appears to be a more logical first step, as well (as certain American LGBTs, newly and happily married—and also newly and unhappily unhired—are discovering, to their dismay). I think focusing our energies on this legislative agenda makes easier political sense. Around a dozen city and provincial ordinances that penalize discrimination against LGBTs are already in place, and this is obviously a great milestone that we should celebrate. But we really do need to push to make antidiscrimination a national policy, in the next session of congress.
10. What steps can we do to make the Philippines a better place for LGBTs like us? What are we doing right, and what are we doing wrong?
I think I’ve already answered this -- implicitly and explicitly -- in the foregoing. But just to paraphrase: We need cultural, social, and political activism, obviously. We need more Filipino LGBTs to care enough about their rights so that they will be willing to come out in the open to secure them. We need activism and “coalition-building” not only within our communities, but also across the divides of Philippine society. We need to cultivate a sense of identity and community that is keenly aware of the challenges confronting us on the local, national, and global fronts. Within our country alone, we need to identify and relate across classes, regions, religions, languages, cultures, generations, educational backgrounds, gender self-presentations, erotic preferences, etc. We need to complicate our understanding of gender and sexuality—seeing how historically specific and cultural constructed they are, on one hand; and appreciating the beauty of the human complexity that they betoken, on the other. And finally, central to all of these, we need more LGBT self-representations and stories, as well as more venues (like Team magazine) for these vital texts to appear in.
J. Neil C. Garcia finished his BA Journalism (magna cum laude) in the University of Santo Tomas in 1990. He is currently teaching creative writing and comparative literature at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, where he also serves as an associate for poetry in the Institute of Creative Writing. He is the author of numerous poetry collections and works in literary and cultural criticism, including Our Lady of the Carnival (1996), The Sorrows of Water (2000), Kaluluwa (2001), Philippine Gay Culture: The Last Thirty Years (1996), Slip/pages: Essays in Philippine Gay Criticism (1998), Performing the Self: Occasional Prose (2003), The Garden of Wordlessness (2005), and Misterios and Other Poems ( 2005) His latest critical work, Postcolonialism and Filipino Poetics: Essays and Critiques, is a revised version of his Ph.D. dissertation in English Studies: Creative Writing, which he completed in 2003. He is currently working on a full-length book, a postcolonial survey and analysis of Philippine poetry in English. [Panitikan]
It is interesting to hear kids of varying ages explain things we think are beyond their ken, because they can surprise us with their unanchored insights, and they can tell us a lot about how we come to shape our perspectives on things. So here's a bunch of videos where kids confront gay reality...
In Kimmel, they are asked about same-sex marriage...
In this Kids React video, a bunch of kids are shown viral videos about gay couples in various proposals for marriage...
In this Team Angelica short, a bunch of kids from same-sex families reveal what life is like in their kind of families...
And you can tell, from the first video, that that one kid who is openly anti-gay, when asks why he feels being gay is bad, is approaching what is truthful when he is: "I don't know." Where do you think he gets the idea of gayness being bad? From the adults around him. And the same goes for the kids who thinks there is nothing wrong with being gay: their perspectives are shaped by the people around them. To love or to hate, it's a contagious thing.
To choose love, it's the kindest and most courageous thing.
Interaksyon gives us an update about today's Manila Pride Parade! In co-celebration of this year's Pride parade -- which centres around the theme of “Let Love In: Kahit Kanino Kailan,” and which organisers say is "a battlecry to end hate that promotes the culture of violence, and to just let love reign" -- here's a few pink links for you to enjoy...
Outrage: When singer/provocateur Sebastian Castro met broadcast journalist Ryan Chua and sparks flew...
Slant: Here's another attempt at a list. The 75 greatest LGBT films of all time...
Buzzfeed: Tom Hiddleston has some new half naked photos and they are very nice...
Vulture: RuPaul on the Orlando shooting: "Don’t f*ck with my family."
I was asked the question again this week when I was at a wake; I had come in the morning to avoid the usual night crowd of people in vigil. An elderly aunt of the friend who died sized me up in all my bearings of grief, and then pointedly asked, out of the blue: "So when are you getting married?" Lola, I wanted to say, I don't even know you. And then she suggested that perhaps I should return that evening, in the hopes that I'd meet a girl and I'd become a catch. I'm 40, I was with my boyfriend, and still this type of questions throw me. What do you say to that, given the intricate negotiations of what is acceptable in "polite" Filipino society? Lola, I can't marry. My kind of marriage is not legal in the Philippines. Lola, I'll marry when they come up with unicorns. Lola, I'm gay -- don't you see that? None works without upsetting the lola -- and in wakes, you tend to avoid unnecessary confrontation. Alas, I don't have the quick and witty repartees of my friend Patrick who typically answers this question with: "I'll get married kung mahuman ug bursa sa akong gown [... when the beading of my bridal gown is finished]." Another friend could be morbid in his usual reply: "I'll marry when you're dead, lola." I have no capacity for winking answers, nor the stomach for wishing the inquisitor dead. But it does serve to illustrate the landmines gay men and women have to negotiate with as friends and family come to terms with their sexuality, and ignorant of everything else about it, can ask the silliest and stupidest of questions. Which is why when the Center for Women's Studies of the University of the Philippines came out with a "picture book" titled Anong Pangalan Mo sa Gabi? at Iba Pang Tanong sa mga LGBT in 2013 (through project coordinator Eric Julian Manalastas, and edited by Tetay Mendoza and Joel Acebuche), it seemed rainbow-sent.
Here is a book that deftly combines photography and sociology. As a photographic project, reminiscent of Humans of New York, it does the service of visualising for the uninitiated the variety of looks of people who identify as gay or lesbian or queer (because, hey, we all don't look the same), and Rod Singh's black and white photographs are powerfully staged even when naturalistic: he makes stark profiles of people captured in ordinary time, which lends the whole thing an unmistakable humanity, as it should. Each one, of course, holds up a small blackboard on which is written, in chalk, questions of all sorts that the LGBT have learned to answer, or to dodge, or to take as mirrors for how our society perceives gay lives to be all about. The book tries to dissect these questions, of course, but the general take I have is that these are questions coming straight from shadowy shells of heteronormative ignorance and sometimes pure homophobia. But alas they do get asked of us. And the book tries to spin for funny answers -- and does so with such aplomb -- but eventually it does its job, too, of seriously taking apart the questions and giving an honest accounting of gay lives. Says Center for Women's Studies Director Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio of the project: "Sa sampling mga tanong at sampling mga sagot na nilalaman ng aklat na ito, madaling mauunawaan ng mambabasa ang pang-araw-araw na panglalait at diskriminasyong dinadaanan ng mga LGBT sa Pilipinas. Pasensyosong sinasagot ang mga tanong, na kahit walang masamang intention, ay masakit sa damdamin. Makikita ang dignidad, pagkatao, at paging tao ng nga LGBT sa mga sagot -- maging seryoso, nagpapatawa or pasaway man. Hindi makatao ang mga tanong, hindi makatao ang diskriminasyon laban sa mga LGBT. Salungat sa kabihasnan at culturing Pilipino ang mating di-makatao."
So for the title question -- "Anong pangalan mo sa gabi?" -- the book answers: "Bata pa lang ako tinatanong na ako dito. Hanggang dito ba naman? Kapag bakla ang isang tao, inaasahan ng iba na automatic na babae ang presentasyon nya sa kanyang sarili. Ang Rod sa umaga ay nagiging Rhoda sa gabi. Ang Karding sa umaga ay Carrie Bradshaw sa gabi. Puno nga yata ang mundo ng mga simplistic dichotomies: Lalake o Babae. Umaga o Gabi. Pagtanggap o Pangungutya."
There are other questions, such as...
... and it is the singular enjoyment of the book to peruse the answers offered, to laugh at the humour of the replies, but also to think hard afterwards about the things we eventually learn when facts come with the answers and they serve to shed light on the discrimination these questions imply.
For a copy of the book, please contact the UP Center for Women's Studies, Magsaysay Ave. cor. Ylanan Road, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City 1101.