Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Maybe it is time to be counted. See that banner on the left? That's my version of Independence Day. "But you have always been out," you might say. Which is, of course, right. But this blog never was -- I never considered this a gay blog simply because it wasn't, even when it used to host banner images that ran the gamut of GQ and Icon, even when some things courted the racy. For the most part, it was something more for Philippine literary snobs, demons, and angels than anything else. But something happened. Somebody trolled a dearest friend and issued forth homophobic threats. Somebody else called him a "bayot" in a tone so condescending it curled my blood. I thought later: maybe that's what we get when we cloak ourselves in comfortable silence, refusing to acknowledge who we are. So that's why I'm coming out again, with this post, because there really is a war going on, and I want to prove my courage by being a good soldier. Below is an old, old pseudo-fiction I have never published or posted anywhere. Read it, and know where I'm coming from.
He missed autumn. The last time Gerry saw autumn, he was leaving Stockholm in a hurry and the brown leaves became just a blur from outside the train windows. Now there are no more autumns for him, only a choice of heat—humid heat—or cold rain. Tonight it rains, in spatters. Even when it’s not raining, it rains
There are always thunderstorms, too. In Manila, most especially—a kind of crackling that jolts through Gerry’s bones like a nightmare. The thunder that brewed for a long time inside him was, however, mute. He had once thought that, if he could get a change of place, he could hide in New York for a while, he could run away from it all and delay the acknowledgment he did not care to make, except perhaps as tentative constriction around his throat, absently searching for the wayward swollen lymph node.
Gerry tells me he was so afraid.
The other day, he accosts me in the hallway and tells me he just received a letter from Samuel the other week. “Samuel just does not understand,” he complains. “He has lived a full life: a house in Nice and now Spain, a Nathan by his side, a ripe old age. Would I, too, have that?” He realizes it is so easy to say things are all right—“but just you wait until an ex-lover calls you up with some interesting news, then feel the crash of the whole world dropping on your shoulders,” Gerry says.
Last weekend, Gerry’s best friend in high school dropped by his place for a visit. The guy, a joe named Justin, had earned a few days off work. A dreary job, really: as sales supervisor, Justin gets to travel the length of Northern Mindanao on a new pick-up he’s careful not scratch, or else he gets “Justined” by the hawks in the company. The future was bleak, Justin claimed, but then again he was wearing sunglasses when he said that. Sunglasses at 6 p.m.!
Didn’t quite get the point, until Justin pulled it off to convince me he had been crying.
Justin had been dumped again, by the love of his life, simply because he was not Chinese. But Justin had also grown rather fat, which was not a surprise. Gerry, on the other hand, had grown a little belly. An embarrassment, he said, but he still had his little resolutions intact: to go to the gym, to go on a diet, to jog. One of these days, he said. “The physical is the best asset for people like us,” Gerry tells me. Beefcake. But Justin was a cow. “I look like a cow, don’t I,” was what Justin actually said. Gerry began to say no, but to his horror he also began to laugh. This fed Gerry’s embarrassment even more, which escalated into an uncontrollable fit of the giggles. Such were the horrors of honesty.
That was Sunday evening.
The TV was broken, so we had one of our usual heavy talk instead. On Gerry’s bed—a nice bed, and soft, too. Justin kept standing up to pace the room. “Are we happy?” he asked Gerry. “Is anybody happy?” Gerry answered back, “And what is happiness anyway except an over-hyped standard to make us all miserable?”
“A cookie right now would make me happy,” Justin said.
“Sorry, I don’t eat after six,” Gerry said.
Justin voiced concern about Gerry’s being gay and how Justin didn’t even bother to “hide” it from everybody else. “You talk so openly about being gay,” Justin said, “but you must know that this is a macho society we live in. How are you supposed to succeed in life with discrimination being hurled at you? How will our friends react?”
But Gerry saw through his disguised concern. Later he said he always knew Justin to be a guy who valued other people’s opinion over his own happiness, or his well-being even. Gerry began to reply reluctantly: “I cannot be friends then with people who can’t accept me for what I am. What has changed? Nothing. That they know I’m gay? But I’ve always been gay ever since the first time I met them.” Justin persisted: “You don’t understand... these people are not as accepting of your choice as I am. How will you gain respect if people know you’re gay?”
And then the dam burst. Gerry began telling him things I never even thought he was capable of thinking about. He told Justin: “Before I went to Stockholm, I had a two-year relationship with Ben. When people asked us what was the nature of our intimate togetherness, I told them we were just best friends. That was our cover, our deception. But if there is one thing we should know about other people, it is the fact that we should never underestimate their intelligence.”
Gerry said people are not stupid. People see things we think we are not showing. When people see smoke, they always assume, correctly, that there is fire. That the only thing we gain from deception is the fact that people will then start talking, and talking often leads to disrespect. “When Ben and I were telling people we were just friends, they laughed at us behind our backs,” Gerry said. “When I finally ‘came out’ and told the truth, I inadvertently cut off the chance for the gossip to grow because there is no more gossip to talk about. The truth is already out there. The best chance to live a good life is to be honest about it.”
In Stockholm, Gerry continued, he spent his free time reading up in the library about the nature of his "illness," i.e.,
homosexuality. Yet what he found out was that many of the prime movers of history and civilization were gay men and women. People like Shakespeare, like Alexander the Great, like Julius Caesar, like Oscar Wilde. They “succeeded” because they transcended petty talk about gender and instead went for a greater glory.
“A friend once told me,” Gerry said, “that it takes a strong and courageous man to be gay. It takes strength and courage to live under a predominantly heterosexual world fearful of even the slightest deviance because it undermined their own identity. I sure would like to think I’m strong and courageous. So I choose to be gay.”Disrespect? Homophobia?
Gerry said: “Let me tell you this: There was one night when I went out with our friends to one of the local bars in the city. We hadn’t seen each other for a long time, and over a game of Ice Breaker, we began telling ourselves the stories of our lives. Then I told them I was gay. There was the requisite moment of silence, the predictable comments of ‘What a waste!,’ but then they began telling me it was good I was being honest to them since it gives them a chance to know the truth first-hand and not have to deal, with ignorance, with other people who approach them to gossip about me. ‘Now that we know, we now know how to defend you since you are our friend.’ That made me feel good.”
In the end, disrespect can only be gained if one does dishonorable things, Gerry said. “Look at me. Am I, or do I look, dishonorable? Do I need to wear a bra and make my mother cringe in shame? Do I go around telling men I want to suck their cocks? No. If you have a hold on a certain personal dignity, you have the respect of people regardless of whether you’re gay or not.”
For almost two years now, Gerry has been out of the closet to almost everyone. Everybody knows about his sexual orientation, and so far, he says he has not received any instances of discrimination. Only instances of homophobic jokes among friends who know no better. And when people do ask him about certain things, he says he makes sure he tells the truth.
But right now, I told Gerry, our friend Bert, who is also a gay man, is being laughed at by some people. Why was this? He is good looking, and was once a prominent figure in campus. Yet people disparage him. Why? “Because everybody knows he’s gay,” Gerry said, “and his tragedy is his denial. He forces himself to project an image that he’s straight. Again, like what I said before, if you tell people lies, you gain only their disrespect.” I think of Bert: when he passes by, people make catcalls and call him Berta—and he can only blush in anger.
“And here I am,” Gerry said, “openly gay, and people look up to me. See the difference?”Being gay is not the issue then?
“What is the issue is how one lives an honest life, and how one works hard that really matters,” Gerry said. “So no one can scare me with their concerns over how I would fare in a macho society. I do not care for reputation. I only care for character. I live life on my own terms, and according to the presets of my happiness. One cannot live a lie and say that he has lived,” he finally said.
Gerry made a speech, all right. In the end, Justin could only nod. “You are happy,” he said. “And I envy your sense of self-worth.” There was a sadness in Justin’s eyes, swallowed up by the layers of body fat that were the manifestation of his many insecurities. Poor Justin. Poor heterosexual Justin. As Gerry said, it takes a strong, courageous man to admit he’s gay. Justin was definitely not gay.
 This is Where You Bite the Sandwich