The United Nations finally passed a resolution affirming the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered peoples on 17 June 2011: <http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/europe/06/17/un.lgbt.rights/index.html>. With this action, a report, due by December 2011, will document laws and discriminations against people of other sexual orientations and gender identities.
My friends and me are all so happy now that we feel gay. For some who don’t know or remember, the old definition of gay meant “to be happy” before it became associated with sexual orientation. Then people began associating things that were gay as absolutely abhorrent, like when someone says “Oh god, that is such a gay CD you’re listening to”.
When I grew up in Manila, being gay was rather taboo. People generally tolerated it, but there was a general sense of ridicule attributed to being gay, since more often than not, the exposure most people I knew had were limited to seeing people being excessively effeminate, dressing in drag, and speaking with a high-pitched voice and lisp.
Rene, a gay friend in Manila who did not have any of those qualities people associated with gays in Manila during the 90s, told me it was even harder for him to be gay amongst “gays” than it was for straights. To him, he faced the discrimination from the straights and Catholics in the form of people thinking he was abnormal or calling him names. However, because he didn’t dress in drag, act flamboyantly, or impose himself on straight men the way many of the Manila gays did (also known as baklas), he didn’t have any stories of being egged by kids from their cars while walking on Makati Avenue on a Saturday night. Being amongst gays made it hard for him because there was a certain image and lifestyle he didn’t believe in that the baklas enjoyed. Being gay to him was just a sexual preference, and it was hard to find a potential partner who shared that with him without fitting into the conventions of being a bakla-type gay.
The progress that has been made over the past twenty-seven years I’ve lived is amazing, but still not enough on the social level. Sure, I’ve seen television shows like Queer as Folk and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy; Ellen is an icon (no, not my favorite Ellen); and it’s not uncommon to have gays as main characters in films nowadays. One of my favorite films was the Thai masterpiece, Beautiful Boxer, about the legendary fighter Nong Thoom, who raised money from her fights to have her sex change operation. But only when being gay isn’t treated as an exception, that it isn’t seen as a deviation from “normalcy” will I be satisfied.
Earlier this week, before the resolution passed, I did an experiment while performing before an audience. I played a married man, while my partner played his supervisor, who asked him to work extra hours. When his character asked mine, “Can you tell your wife to pick up your kids from soccer practice?” I changed my lines to “I’ll have my husband pick up our kids”. The audience roared with laughter, and my scene partner had a hard time holding back a smirk. I wasn’t trying to make anyone laugh, but hopefully, one day I’ll wake up to a world where a gay person is married with children and people don’t laugh about it.
I want to wake up one day knowing that I can be a supporter of gay rights without being asked if I’m gay. Sure, I have fun responding and saying “Can’t you see how gay I am? I’m the happiest person alive!” or “Yes, you got me. I’m a lesbian trapped in a man’s body; I love women too much and I can’t stand it!” But why do we get questioned for supporting others?
I want to wake up one day knowing that when someone is different that people don’t ask if he’s gay and use that as an explanation to explain any behavior they can’t understand. I consider myself a quirky guy, and growing up around Manila, Hong Kong, and the U.S., I have a unique mannerism, but when people think it’s “weird” in a negative way and associate that with being gay, that’s a problem with society that’s unfair to gays.
It’s not so simple as black and white, gay and straight around the world. Whether it’s the Thai kathoey or the Samoan Fa’afafine, no matter how different people may seem and how difficult it is to understand them because of their gender identities and sexual orientation, that is no excuse to deny them the rights that all people of the world are entitled to. Whether it’s discriminatory law or social ostracism, nobody deserves to be singled out and attacked for their preferences and identity. I remember a child who had gay parents I met once, and she isn’t sad that she doesn’t have a mother, but that she feels like she’s the luckiest girl in the world because she has two dads who will always love her, making her a true princess and daddy’s girl.
As the world opens up, I’m going to be right here waiting and working for a day when I finally don’t have to apologize to my gay friends for being around bigots, nor do I have to yell at bigots for discriminating against my gay friends.