One look at the Filipino citizens of today will tell you that our society has come a long way from what it used to be. However, even though Filipinos have changed with the times and continue to work towards a better future, social issues like discrimination, bullying, and the struggle for acceptance continue to plague our society, affecting more than a few minorities.
One such minority that experiences these issues quite openly nowadays is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. Despite their exposure through the media and the all-around acknowledgment of LGBTs, has enough been done? For many, it’s a resounding “NO.” In the struggle for acceptance, LGBTs continue to strive to not only make their voices heard, but for their sentiments to have value to the rest of the Filipino community. Here are just some of the things they wish they could say.
On stereotypes: the common LGBT in the Philippines
The screaming faggot
We beg you to excuse the term, but to make a point, this is in fact the way many people stereotype the gay man, particularly after how the media has used flashing lights and over-the-top shenanigans to portray him for years. It’s no surprise, then, that this is one of the common images that pop into our heads when we hear someone come out as gay. Sir Johann Espiritu, proud Literature professor and outspoken advocate of LGBT rights, describes the stereotype as, “The binabae who wears female apparel and who is extremely effeminate in speech and overall manners.”
The butch lesbian
There is a misconception that just because gays and lesbians are attracted to their own sex, they automatically identify as the opposite gender. Such is portrayed by both the effeminate “screaming” gay man and the masculine, “butch” lesbian. What some people fail to see is that by dictating that a man must act or feel feminine in order for him to be attracted to another man, or that a woman must act or feel masculine to be attracted to another woman, society continues to force these stereotypes upon these individuals.
The token gay best friend
This is where it gets tricky. You may think there’s nothing wrong with the “gay best friend” stereotype, and in fact, many people do. What’s being missed here, though, is that the LGBT individual is seen first and foremost for his or her sexuality, which becomes the basis of “friendship”—not who he or she actually is, but whatever image is being placed upon him or her. In this way, the LGBT individual becomes just that—a token, a charm, an accessory. It’s a mean way to view anyone, straight or gay, but unfortunately, this and the above stereotypes remain common to this day.
Love? in the Philippines
The bottom line is, stereotypes don’t promote true acceptance, but simply tolerance. Many gay Filipinos still have trouble coming out because homosexuality is still seen as something that isn’t “normal”, and members of the LGBT community still experience being treated differently by their peers. “For example, I have a lot of straight male friends who feel very awkward and like to joke that you’re attracted to them, na lalandiin mo sila as if homosexuality is a form of sexual deviance or perversion,” Anthony Cambal (IV, BS-ECE2) says. “Many don’t really understand what ‘gay’ means and will have certain expectations towards you.”
In fact, Cambal points out that there doesn’t seem to be a word in the Philippine vernacular that actually means ‘gay’. The way the terms bakla, bading, or beki are used refer more to effeminate men than to just men who are attracted to other men. The same goes for the term tibo towards lesbians. It seems almost impossible to separate just being homosexual from all the stereotypes Filipinos have about it.
Others even become hostile when they are exposed to actual homosexual couples. “I have experienced, several times in public places, whenever my girlfriend and I would go on dates, older people would tend to look, whisper amongst themselves, and let us feel their [resentment] towards us even though we’re not doing anything to them,” says Francheska*, a lesbian Lasallian who would like to keep her course and year level confidential. “Just for the mere fact that you’re enjoying a meal together in a restaurant, they feel offended.”
How can love win?
Stereotypes can be harmful, so how can we look at homosexuality without seeing the “typical LGBT”? People should realize that homosexuality is simply sexual attraction to the same sex. There’s nothing about it that dictates personality, how one should act, or how one should dress.
While there’s nothing wrong with fitting the stereotypical gay image, people must realize that what they see on this image isn’t the point of being homosexual. It’s going to take time, but there are definitely steps that can be taken so everyone can better understand the situation of the LGBTs.
Francheska believes that an important step for putting homosexuals on equal footing with straight people in the Philippines is to successfully separate politics and religion. “I’m not saying this because I’m not Catholic, but I really believe that the closeness of our government with the Church is hindering the freedom of our government to create pro-people bills that may or may not be accepted by the Catholic teaching,” she says.
Education could also be a key to helping Filipinos better understand and handle the issue of homosexuality. Cambal suggests that, “We should not skirt on the topic of what gay really means and show that it’s as normal as being straight and that there’s no shame in asking questions about gay culture or what being gay is about.” He shares that one way to educate young citizens could be to include the topic of sexual orientation in sex education curriculums.
As Sir Espiritu states, what he would advise all Filipinos is, “To love [one] another, and to educate themselves—especially on the differences between gender and sexuality. That may be the key for us to finally understand the existence of variety in terms of gender and sexuality, since most of our people limit their views of sexuality to gender alone.”
More young Filipinos should be allowed to grow up understanding these significant differences. Yes, it’s going to take a lot of time to win the battle against stereotyping and discrimination, but the Filipino LGBT community refuses to give up and continues to fight for a future where, once and for all, love really does win.
*The interviewee’s name was hidden upon her request.