Tuesday, July 26, 2005
7:18 AM |
Lament for Good Men
At 5:30 in the morning, with dew still clinging to the window vines, it is almost too easy to believe that the world outside -- which smells fresh from last night's rain, seemingly ready for another day's hopeful starts -- is a perfect place. No jadedness there, only stirrings of possibilities.
But last night, that wasn't exactly so: how imperfect it had seemed, ruined and scarred with practicalities and the loss of integrity -- and waking up now to prepare for another day at work, I can still hear echoes of last night's heartbreaks.
How, I wonder now, can life's odious realities easily break somebody's heart, in five text messages or even less! How easily it can turn out one more person with vows of doing away with once cherished principles! "Principle...," my dear friend had shook his head, uttering his final refrain in last night's talk, "Principle has never made a person rich, I realize that now." And with a deep breath, he finally said, "It can go... and kiss my ass."
And what did I say to that? I said nothing; after all, one has learned from the sayings of wise men that behind all great fortunes lie great crimes. The road to success is often littered with the debris of principle, shed away by men and women learning, too painfully, the language of the rat race.
It began innocently enough as an encouraging phone call from Manila.
A scout had called this friend; he had seen his pictures in Friendster, and wanted to know if he had some modeling experience. "Yes, I do," my friend said. Some television work, too. But you know how it is: living far off the center of the world called Manila can be a kiss of death to many of our dreams. "But we are very interested in you," the scout said. He went on to say that he was in the process of building a new modeling agency, in partnership with the sons of one of local filmdom's golden couples. He mentioned the names of the couple. Truly an amazing pair; these were two actors who have proven their mettle beyond showbiz's short-attention span. My friend had nothing to lose. He emailed his resume and a bunch of photos he called his portfolio.
It was impressive enough to merit more text messages from the scout in Manila. Given what my friend had in terms of appeal, they would invest in a quick make-over, and he could soon be a "talent." There was even an offer to house him if my friend decided to make the jump and go to the big city of everyone's dreams.
But there was also this question: "Are you gay?"
My friend replied, "What has that
got to do with modeling?"
It turns out, plenty
But let me tell you first about how my friend is.
For someone his age -- and he is only in his very early twenties -- he can shame anyone with a lesser backbone. A self-proclaimed activist with razor-sharp wit and intellect (he is a first-class debater, too), he has been out with his sexuality for the past two years, disdaining those who choose to stay in the closet as the very reasons why gay men like himself cannot seem to forge forward in the careers of their own dreaming.
He hates Piolo Pascual
with the gusto of a maddened man. "This faggot," he rants in one of his typical tirades, "is an imbecile. Of course he's gay! And the way he denies it -- complete with that stupid crying session with Boy Abunda on television -- only fuels the stupid paranoid need to stay in the closet!" How he hated it when the actor cried out "I am not gay!" on television, in tones, he said, that signaled derision. "Of course, with denials like that, people are going to discriminate against gay men!" he said. He hates it, too, when people assume he wants to be a woman just because he is gay; hates it when a certain effeminateness is expected of him; hates it when people get confused in the use of proper gender terminologies: for him, "gay," "transgender," "transsexual," "cross-dresser," "gender dysphoria," and such, have distinct meanings, with one not to be confused with another.
I am much older than him, and so much more versed in queer theory, and even I can only give a grudging respect for his crusades. He has the tons of courage I lack.
My friend is also a beautiful man. He is one of those people gifted with the ability of making other people turn and take a second look while he is walking downtown. He also loves the spotlight, and once made it known to me that he has always wanted to model.
This phone call from Manila could be the break he had been looking for.
But there was the question again. Is he gay?
"What has that got to do with modeling?" my friend asked.
"Well, my partners are a bit macho kasi
. They're a bit homophobic," the reply from Manila came.
My friend took time in his reply. "Well, I know
what I can offer as a model. But I am
gay. I am not effeminate, if that's what you fear. I am not your regular wild party boy, either, and unless asked, nobody will know that I am gay by the way I look or move. But if your company is too discriminating in that respect, I can only say thanks for considering me. May utak naman ako.
And then there were no replies from Manila anymore.
It was I who once told him never to own up to "anything" while he is still on his way to breaking down the necessary doors for a successful entry to any field he wants. I remember the lesson from Mike Nichols' Working Girls
where Melanie Griffith says that while it is expected of everyone who is trying to get to the top to follow the principles of the business ladder, sometimes it is necessary to break some of those just to get there
. "Just stay quiet," I told him, "but once you get there, you can then use your clout to break that discriminating door in."
And yet, my friend would have none of that. He said he needed to be accepted the way he was: a gay man with so much talent his sexuality shouldn't even count as a hiring factor, in an ideal world. Once a famous film director -- also a gay man -- offered to help him in show business, but gave specific instructions with regards sticking to being "straight" when asked about his sexuality. My friend right then and there stopped correspondence with that director, and said, "I don't want to be another friggin' Piolo Pascual!"
But how many dreams can you sacrifice in the name of principle?
Last night was the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak. With barely concealed sadness, he finally said, almost in a whisper, "I really
wanted that modeling job."
We did not speak for a long time.
And then he said, still softly, "There are times when I hate being gay. It's so tiring being judged all the time, for the wrong reasons."
That was the moment when he slowly made that pact about letting go of principles. "My uncle had the strongest of principles," he said, "and he died a pauper."
And I, too, realized the same thing about my father: how he fought to steer right into the clean path, but how his more wily colleagues got the promotions, the better lives. My father died a broken man, too.
And now another day begins, but with the coming light, I can only hear the dirge of good men's spirits succumbing to the dark practicalities of a moral world without soul
Good luck, my dearest friend, in the pursuit of dreams. Someday, I swear... someday the world will be a better place.
 This is Where You Bite the Sandwich
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