Menagerie(K)in defiance: The blaze that is non-conformity
(K)in defiance: The blaze that is non-conformity
January 16, 2019
January 16, 2019

Family has a hallowed place in Filipino society. For decades, the model of the nuclear family has been hailed as the archetype of virtuous citizens in a strong community. The dutiful wife, the provider husband, two children, and a nice home—the only thing society will deem as the epitome of a fulfilled life. Anything different is simply less.

With the subtle shift in social attitudes toward what constitutes a family and who can love who, it is worth looking at the people who have found joy, fulfillment, and more beyond the confines of the path prescribed to them, as well as some of the taboos that still plague our cultural perceptions of intimacy and companionship.


Woman unfettered

For 24-year-old Trisha O’Bannon, accomplished writer, performer, and sex educator, the truth has always been plain as day. She remembers vividly not liking baby dolls very much, as well as having a penchant for the “career” toys like doctor or cashier play sets. It would not be until high school that she found the courage to voice out that she did not want to be a mother. She deadpans, “Of course, nobody took me seriously.”

She was “too young” to know what she wanted, they said. Yet even as a grown woman, she stands unwavering in her resolve. Over the years, she has had to defend her choice; arming herself with a plethora of reasons like an aversion to babies, financial practicality, etc. One must ask however: why does a woman need to be interrogated for her choice to forego motherhood?

“I never really had that motherly instinct all women are ‘supposed’ to have,” she confesses. But she does not see it as a flaw, nor is she cold. Trisha considers herself as a very caring person, and she has channeled that energy into caring for her family, friends, and significant other.

It’s not that motherhood isn’t a respectable choice. For Trisha, she just wants a choice, “I don’t think there’s an ‘essence’ [to being a woman]; I think women are all incredibly unique and should be in charge of their own ‘essences.’” The prospect of her changing her mind about motherhood does not daunt her at all. If she does, the choice is hers and hers alone. For Trisha, that choice is everything.




Linda*, a first year from the Metropolitan Hospital College of Nursing, has experienced firsthand having to shoulder expectations placed on her regarding who and when she can love, as she comes from a relatively conservative household. “The ‘studies first’ and ‘family first’ rule is strictly observed,” she confides in us as she talks about how her parents view relationships, as something tangential, if not a hurdle to financial stability and job security. To her, the pressure of earning enough money to go around is a pang that rarely goes away as an eldest child. “That means I’ll be working first and taking the responsibility of supporting my sisters. They also fear the whole ‘getting pregnant’ thing when in a relationship. ”

Being three years into a relationship kept secret from her parents, she told us, “When it comes to my parents, of course I act in a way that it won’t be obvious, so they won’t find out. But when it comes to other people like close friends, I choose the right people to tell my situation to.”

She and her significant other still take measures to conceal their relationship. “Just randomly telling people may cause a risk of my parents finding out,” she explains. Several of Linda’s close friends and peers know of her relationship, as do the parents of her significant other, who have been much more accepting of it.

Despite the pressure to cover up or stifle her relationship, she continues to persevere, in a quiet insistence to live life on her own terms despite what the future may have in store. She explains, “In terms of relationships, there will always be judgements by adults. Their strict concern for their children will always be observed.”


Let us be (loved)

John Christian Aquino has never been the type to hide his affection. The 19-year-old college student has been with his partner for almost a year now, and he still looks at him with stars in his eyes. Having been with both guys and girls, the difference in public reaction is palpable to him. “As a couple, of course, we want to do the things any normal couple would do and that includes holding hands; but sometimes the attention we get whenever we do so is very overwhelming that I’d let go of his hand,” he laments.

When asked about whether or not he sees a future with his current partner, John said yes without any hesitation. However, the question of marriage warranted a pause from him. He admits, with a certain sadness, that he and his partner have not really talked about it as it is not yet possible for them to marry legally. From simple gestures of affection to relationship milestones like marriage, the concept of same-sex relationships, intimacy, and family is still dictated by heteronormative ideals.

Here in the Philippines, the LGBTQ+ community has a tenuous position. Popular celebrity figures and the adoption of LGBTQ+ culture on the one hand, and the friction with conservative forces on the other, the LGBTQ+ community is caught up in the middle. In mainstream media, LGBTQ+ characters are usually caricatures or relegated as an insult, with discussions about matters involving homosexuals inextricably caught up in matters of religion, politics, and social justice.



The notion of family has a hallowed place in Filipino society. For decades, questions of who and what can constitute a family have been the grounds for heated debate. But the traditions carved out by race, culture, and sex and gender, like all traditions, have been contested ever since their conception.

Listening to the stories of those in the margins of conventional narratives helps not only to bring in novel insight, but to humanize those so many us of are often at odds against.

*Names with asterisks are pseudonyms.