'Don we now our gay apparel'
By Isagani Cruz (*former Justice in the Supreme Court, NOT the playwright)
Last updated 02:14am (Mla time) 08/12/2006
Published on Page A10 of the August 12, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
HOMOSEXUALS before were mocked and derided, but now they are regarded with new-found respect and, in many cases, even treated as celebrities. Only recently, the more impressionable among our people wildly welcomed a group of entertainers whose main proud advertisement was that they were “queer." It seems that the present society has developed a new sense of values that have rejected our religious people's traditional ideas of propriety and morality on the pretext of being "modern"” and "broad-minded.”
The observations I will here make against homosexuals in general do not include the members of their group who have conducted themselves decorously, with proper regard not only for their own persons but also for the gay population in general. A number of our local couturiers, to take but one example, are less than manly but they have behaved in a reserved
and discreet manner unlike the vulgar members of the gay community who have degraded and scandalized it. I offer abject apologies to those blameless people I may unintentionally include in my not inclusive criticisms. They have my admiration and respect.
The change in the popular attitude toward homosexuals is not particular to the Philippines. It has become an international trend even in the so-called sophisticated regions with more liberal concepts than in our comparatively conservative society. Gay marriages have been legally recognized in a number of European countries and in some parts of the United States. Queer people -- that’s the sarcastic term for them -- have come out of the closet where before they carefully concealed their condition. The permissive belief now is that homosexuals belong to a separate third sex with equal rights as male and female persons instead of just an illicit in-between gender that is neither here nor there.
When I was studying in the Legarda Elementary School in Manila during the last 1930s, the big student population had only one, just one, homosexual. His name was Jose but we all called him Josefa. He was a quiet and friendly boy whom everybody liked to josh but not offensively. In the whole district of Sampaloc where I lived, there was only one homosexual who roamed the streets peddling "kalamay" and "puto” and other treats for snacks. He provided diversion to his genial customers and did not mind their familiar amiable teasing. I think he actually enjoyed being a "binabae" [effeminate].
The change came, I think, when an association of homos dirtied the beautiful tradition of the Santa Cruz de Mayo by parading their kind as the "sagalas” instead of the comely young maidens who should have been chosen to grace the procession. Instead of being outraged by the blasphemy, the watchers were amused and, I suppose, indirectly encouraged the fairies to project themselves. It must have been then that they realized that they were what they were, whether they liked it or not, and that the time for hiding their condition was over.
Now homosexuals are everywhere, coming at first in timorous and eventually alarming and audacious number. Beauty salons now are served mostly by gay attendants including effeminate bearded hairdressers to whom male barbers have lost many of their macho customers. Local shows have their share of “siyoke” [gay men], including actors like the one rejected by a beautiful wife in favor of a more masculine if less handsome partner. And, of course, there are lady-like directors who are probably the reason why every movie and TV drama must have the off-color "bading” [gay] or two to cheapen the proceedings.
And the schools are now fertile ground for the gay invasion. Walking along the University belt one day, I passed by a group of boys chattering among themselves, with one of them exclaiming seriously, "Aalis na ako. Magpapasuso pa ako!" ["I’m leaving. I still have to breastfeed!”] That pansy would have been mauled in the school where my five sons (all machos) studied during the ’70s when all the students were certifiably masculine. Now many of its pupils are gay, and I don't mean happy. I suppose they have been influenced by such shows as "Brokeback Mountain," our own "Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” (both of which won awards), "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," and that talk program of Ellen Degeneres, an admitted lesbian.
Is our population getting to be predominantly pansy? Must we allow homosexuality to march unobstructed until we are converted into a nation of sexless persons without the virility of males and the grace of females but only an insipid mix of these diluted virtues? Let us be warned against the gay population, which is per se a compromise between the strong and the weak and therefore only somewhat and not the absolute of either of the two qualities. Be alert lest the Philippine flag be made of delicate lace and adorned with embroidered frills.
My (tentative) reply:
Dear Mr. Cruz:
Sir, I'm afraid to say that as much as you make a "disclaimer" comment early on, about respecting some gays and so on, its validity seems to have been obliterated by the rest of your statement.
The way you have formed an irate statement against gays is similar to how the Americans saw Filipinos as "little brown monkeys," barring the President and people in power, of course (but are we sure they didn't think of them the same way within closed doors?) Your statement's tone and message can be likened to the way Americans saw African-Americans in the succeeding years of their Reform Movement (think Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr.), or even how the Spanish saw Chinese traders as they eventually took over commerce in the Philippines. Your statement reeks of the same tone, I am sorry to say. For in the end, Sir, it just boils down to respect--for our individual quirks, our individual differences.
As you said early on, there are decorous gay members of society. Neither were we "little brown monkeys;" I believe you will agree to that. And such analogies can go on--but always debunking the dominant view, who had formed that view on feelings of being threatened to be overcome. Such seems to be the case here, as well. But don't you see, the "little brown monkeys" did not want to dominate the Americans, but to live in peaceful co-existence, with different boundaries that may sometimes peaceably overlap. The same case can now be applied to heterosexuals and homosexuals. Homosexuals are built of the same stuff heterosexual members of society are, too, only with different tastes and predilections. That doesn't authorize persecution. For as much as there are differing races--even within our own Filipino culture--so too are there different forms of sexuality, converging into one big being. For as much as we should be all one people--one global community, so too are we of different sexualities coverging into one giant [sexuality]. We all have different forms of expression. Such differences have enabled us to grow as a species, as a culture. Homosexuality is a part of this equation. There should thus be no reason to condemn it.
I hope this puts things at a better perspective for you--a better worldview, with more respect and tolerance. Thank you for your time.