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from lullaby to requiem

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Hope for the Flowers

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Hope for the Flowers (An article for the UP Manila Collegian)
Mikee Nuñez-Inton

A few months ago, Justice Isagani Cruz wrote a rather hateful article entitled “Don we now our gay apparel,” published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. In our modern News world where things happen fast and headlines are forgotten just as easily as last week’s crossword, the article can be (and is actually) considered old news. But allow me to open the healed wounds caused by this atrocity, because I believe that these are not meant to be healed or forgotten.

Justice Cruz referred to homosexuals – gay men in particular – as pansies, fairies, and every other word short of calling us fags. By using vile words that portrayed our kind as unnatural beings, he warned the country of our so-called invasion. He says that if Filipinos are not careful, gays will overrun the country, painting everything pink and turning everything floral. I’m paraphrasing, or course. And while I do not deny that pink has become one of the symbols for gays and that many of us are quite fond of flowers (they do call many of us Flower Children, modern-day versions of hippies), I resent that Cruz thinks this ‘invasion’ a bad thing, and feels morally obligated to warn his countrymen so that they can wipe us out with one fell swoop.

The article has been answered by many – through blogs, text messages, e-mails, etc. – the most poignant being Manuel Quezon III’s own reply, which was also printed in the Inquirer. Even one of my blog posts was used by the Inquirer when it decided to print an anti-homophobia spread in its Saturday Super section. Still, though, homophobia and gay bashing is alive and well. Allow me to tell you some stories of my own experiences with discrimination.

I am what the Flower Children refer to as a Transgendered woman. Translation: while my body remains physiologically male, my heart, mind, and soul are female. Many transgenders are on their way to fixing the dissonance between matter and spirit, I’m a pretty long way from that. Although many people mistake me for a real girl (perhaps because of my tiny stature, and signature curly hair *wink, wink), I’m not quire ready to be a real girl – at least not yet.

Unlike many gay men who can tell you the exact time, date, and place where they discovered their difference from other people, I can’t. I really, honestly can’t. My earliest memories involve me asking my Kindergarten teacher, Miss Cinco, to transfer me to a seat next to a boy I found cute whose name was Jeremy, if I remember correctly. This is also one reason why I hate being asked “when did you know you were gay?” I don’t know; when did you know you were straight? It was the simplest, most natural thing for me. Although many people don’t see being asked their preferences a form of discrimination, I do. At least, it’s one of the more tolerable forms. Some people are just genuinely curious.

Discrimination, though, comes in many different types, ranging from unintentional stares, to hateful words, to violence. For example, as I was walking out of the building where I live, I noticed this Muslim man gawking at me. I thought I had something on my face, but then I realized that I was just wearing a woman’s blouse, strappy sandals, and fabulous shades. I looked like a movie star who had no boobs. I found the stare coming from a Muslim man weird because, I’m sure by the way he was dressed, people look at him the same way – with confusion in their eyes and their mouths half-open, disgust in between their brows (or at least, people who think Muslims are terrorists; I personally don’t. I would convert to Islam if only for the pashminas, but that’s how nonchalant I am with all religions). I see the same look on Security Guards who have no idea whether to let me in the Male entry way or the Female. To solve their problem, I go into the Female entrance; I don’t like being frisked by men. It also happens in bathrooms. I still use the male bathroom – but only because I have to. When I can, I take my friends inside, so I don’t have to go alone. I learned that trick in high school – none of us (gays) ever went to the bathroom alone.

My high school was pretty special though. We ruled, as Bette Midler would say, with an iron fist in a velvet glove. It’s an exclusive school for boys and although it does have the reputation of producing a lot of gays, in high school, we were tolerated, even venerated. We were the brightest, most talented, and vocal of the cliques in school. My batch was the biggest batch ever because the 6th and 7th graders were merged. Through this merge I have discovered my true friends, whom I love with all sincerity. We’ve been through a lot together – from our first loves to our more recent ones. Still, we were not sheltered from discrimination.

During our 4th year retreat, all the gays (around 15 of us) were sequestered from the straight boys. We really didn’t think it was discrimination because we stayed in air-conditioned rooms and had private showers while the boys were left to roast slowly in the heat of their rooms and icky communal showers. But then, why did we have to be kept separate? Did the teachers and priests actually think we would indiscriminately sleep with the entire class? As if. And then, when some of us applied for college in that same school, they were asked to sign what we called the Pink Form – a contract that said you can’t cross-dress in campus, put make-up, wear earrings, carry a fan, or even act effeminately. In short, you can’t come to this school – your high school Alma Mater – if you continue to become gay. One of my friends’ moms actually went to the counselor who gave him (my friend) the form to complain about it. The only answer she got was that it was a new school policy – in frustration, she stormed out of the room, but not before snapping at the counselor “Mas-maganda pa nga ang anak ko sa ‘yo e!” And it was true – my friend was so much prettier than Ms. _________.

There are, of course, harsher forms of discrimination. All over the world, gay boys are verbally abused, beaten up, and hated. Some are denied access to schools, some are refused to be taken into a company, some are thrown out of restaurants, and others are banished by their own families. But, my dear Flower Children, there is hope. In the , we now have our first possible Party List candidate – Ang Ladlad. Under the wings of Professor Danton Remoto as its newly elected president, the group is a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights advocate. Currently, the party is hoping to run for a position in Congress – and aims to speed up the adoption of the first Anti-Discriminatory Bill that would seek to protect LGBT Filipinos from, well, being discriminated upon – in offices, schools, restaurants, and perhaps even from their abusive families. The group stands as a beacon of hope and inspiration to many, like myself, who are tired of hearing stories about hate-filled acts against people who are different. It will take a lot of serious effort to get into Congress and enforce a bill, but at least we are making baby steps to get to our goal of abolishing discrimination and hate altogether. I know it sounds a little too ideal, but perhaps the future will be kinder to our cause. Who knows? Perhaps in the future, comments like Isagani Cruz’ will disappear, and be replaced by kinder, gentler words for a race that is so rampant but is so very much misunderstood.
For more information about Ang Ladlad, you might consider joining their Yahoo! group:

go to: - much prettier. ^_^


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