On Jennifer Laude: She had it comin’?

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“Wag kasi magpanggap na babae kung di naman tunay na babae.” (Stop pretending to be a real woman.)

“Hindi natin masisisi ang kano nagpakilala sa kanya na normal yung pala ABNO” (You can’t blame the American man, he thought she was normal, but she turned out to be abnormal.)

“Babala sa mga malalandi: yan ang mapapala nyo pag di kayo tumigil.” (This is a warning to all the sluts: this is what you get if you don’t stop.)

“Karma lang yan. May fiancé na kc, naglalandi pa e.” (This is simply karma. She has a fiancé and she’s still whoring around.)

I could go on indefinitely about those stupid comments made by the ignorant masses about Jennifer Laude after she was brutally killed (allegedly) by a member of the US Marine Corps. But that only serves one purpose: to prove that even the most uneducated have access to the internet. In this post, I will try to contain myself and avoid name calling from this point on. Those people who made these comments after all are mere products of a social system that has so inherently been fucked up, they really can’t help themselves from acting like idiots.

Instead, I’d like to talk about the following things: how the media has framed this violent attack on a transwoman, the violence and hate that transwomen face daily, and how this is somehow our fault…

Read more at The Philippine Online Chronicles.

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A conversation about the dangers of mainstreaming (Part 1 of 2) Cross-post from The Philippine Online Chronicles

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View the original here.

 

This article is a response to the Bench campaign about #100HappyGays which can be viewed here. I was having a conversation with my friend and I thought it might be nice to write an article about how both of our respective blood pressures went up while reading through the campaign. Yes, we know as of the time of this article’s writing, only half of the campaign has been released. Still we thought the first two parts actually give a good precedent for the rest of the campaign so here it goes:

Mikee: Can I just start with a loud and clear, “What the FUCK?”

Jiggs: I know! I can call stupid when I see it, but really? Seriously?

M: Ok so, they’re calling it a campaign for Pride March, but I’m not quite sure what it’s for? Is it to glamorize the ‘success’ of queer people? What success? I don’t see anything here but class politics and economic elitism. Let’s forget for a moment that they lumped all the queer people under the term ‘gay’; I’d like to know what my trans* sisters and lesbian friends think about that. Gay hegemony rears its ugly head yet again, but this time in “designer” clothing.

J: There are so many issues with this campaign; I don’t know where to begin. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s this: I have never seen a more self-defeating campaign. If this truly was a campaign for Gay Pride/Pride Month/Pride March, then why are there quotes that reaffirm the oldest, if not the most inane arguments anti-LGBT people have been using to undermine the LGBT movement?! The contradiction is really so silly, it’s almost laughable. But really, how can you laugh when you are so frustrated by how much of a missed opprtunity all of this is?

Class Politics

M: I know it’s Bench. I know it’s probably one of those big companies that make huge profits out of unfair labor practices. I also know that it’s using queer people for its profit-making agenda. What I don’t get is why these people wouldn’t challenge that, or why queer people would agree to be used in this way. It’s Neoliberal politics at its finest. The campaign is less a celebration of gender and sexual diversity, than it is a celebration of capitalism and consumerist culture.

The whole campaign talks about a “gay community” and then proceeds to put up barriers about what it means to be part of that community – you have to be a rebel, you have to stick out, you have to be an outcast – but you also have to be rich enough to actually be able to afford the things that make you that. The whole thing just reeks of class privilege. I mean fine, I also benefit a lot from being middle class and being (relatively) well-educated, but I won’t go around shoving it into other people’s faces. And I don’t run a campaign that on the surface attempts to promote gender and sexual equality, but actually just promotes class hierarchies.

J: PAK! I’m not really surprised that Bench wanted to capitalize on “gays” now being mainstream. Hey, at the end of the day, their motivation is to sell, so it’s not like I expected much from them (actually I kinda do. Hello, anyone heard of corporate social responsibility?). I did however, expect more – so much more from those featured in this campaign. Come on, they’ve been given an excellent platform to talk about the real issues the community is facing. But no, not only did someone said that being gay is “a choice”, one even reduced us to an accessory, by saying that “gay today is a totes must”. Seriously.

That leads me to thinking: are most of the quotes in this article so shallow and senseless because the people chosen to speak on behalf of the LGBT community belong to the “sheltered” class? And do we put the blame then on Bench because they did not try to diversify their so-called 100 happy gays? I would think that featuring LGBT Pride, there would be at least talk of struggle, challenges, and pain at the very least because isn’t that what we should be proud of? The fact that we endure despite of all the ugly things we’ve been through? Divine Lee actually touched on this, but I wish there was more.

Bench should’ve chosen real LGBT heroes, those who have toiled and sacrificed for the movement, used their personal stories and said something like: “the brave and proud wear Bench”. (There, I just fixed this campaign – you’re welcome.)

Identity and Politics: Who are these people?

(View the rest of the article here, please.)

Tranny (cross-post from the Philippine Online Chronicles)

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View the original post here.

There has been a lot of brouhaha about RuPaul and his fabulous show, RuPaul’s Drag Race and its use of supposedly transphobic slurs (one segment includes Mama Ru very cattily saying, “Oooh Gurl! You’ve got She-Mail”). The reality show can be easily described as a mix between America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway where all the contestants have to make their own fabulous costumes, strut them on stage, and perform in various challenges that include comedy, acting, dance, and singing, and lip-syncing. It’s like the gay gods exploded glitter all over your TV and for some reason, you can’t stop watching. Full disclosure: I’m totally in love with the show, so this piece may come off as a little biased. I write this, though, not to defend the show’s use of supposedly transphobic slurs, but to offer a different view of the issue, one that takes off from a question of semantics rather than activism or political correctness.

When I was a relatively young and inexperienced university grammar teacher, I taught freshmen that words have meanings and that these meanings can be altered if you choose to describe the same phenomenon using different words. Fat and obese mean the same thing, but the former may be taken as an insult, the latter is more polite. A person who strolls down a park is not doing the same thing as another person who struts through it – even though they’re both basically just walking. The point I wanted to make was that words color the meanings they produce. And it’s this idea that words have standardized meanings that I find very problematic when it comes to describing people – whether it’s race, gender, sexual identity, class identity, or whatever. And the reason I feel very uncomfortable with this essentialized form of meaning-making in describing identities is not only because it also tends to essentialize the very identities that they describe, but also mostly because it takes the words away from the contexts in which they are being used.

Context is very important, I think, because it colors the word, and by coloring the word, the meanings are colored as well. So, to divorce a word from the context in which it is used would actually be to take away one layer of meaning, leaving you with a half-baked, ill-formed idea that simply makes one word negative and another one positive or neutral.

In the show (and may I remind you again that this is a show with drag queens) words like she-male (she-mail) and tranny are used in sort of tongue-in-cheek ways that aren’t supposed to be taken seriously. The whole show is a farce – and yes while there are moments of emotional authenticity, on the whole, it’s something that pokes fun at the very idea of seriousness or of people treating themselves too seriously. The whole idea of drag is that it parodizes the concept of a gender binary, and in doing so, it parodizes the very idea that anyone’s identity is a monolithic, non-changing entity: that there is one thing that defines a person and that that thing cannot change.

Of course I do understand why a lot of trans women find the use of these terms offensive – because they have been hurled at us so many times, and with so much vitriol, in the past (and present) that it’s difficult to purge them of their essentialized negative meanings. But I don’t think that should mean that we should ban these words from public (and private) use. There is a reason why those words exist and it’s not just to spread hate or fear or anger. I think it’s more important that we look into the circumstances and the social and cultural forces that have enabled these words to be created and to be used in certain contexts that disempower some people while giving power to those who use it against them.

I understand why the knee-jerk reaction to someone using these terms is to try to demean that person and to take away that person’s choice of using these words, thereby denying them any power over people whose identities are described using these supposed slurs. I also understand how a person could be quite defensive (or dismissive) about his or her use of a certain term. What I don’t understand is how people could see these issues are purely black or white – that there’s no space for a middle ground or a more complex and nuanced way of looking at the issue. Instead of what we usually end up with, which is basically a volley of slurs from both sides (you call me a tranny, I call you bigot), is there a way we could look at words and their meanings from disagreeing vantage points and say that sometimes it’s bad to use them, other times it’s not quite so?

Dangerous Garbage

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*the title of this post takes its cue from a comment left by Jan Gabriel Castaneda on a Rappler article that reviews the film, Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy by Wenn Deramas

 

On Christmas Day every year, the Philippine public is treated to a parade of mindless garbage in the form of the Metro Manila Film Festival. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: to call this a film festival is an insult to the whole global film industry and every artist and scholar who works in and around the movies. So of course I was not expecting much from any of the films. Full disclosure: my friends have made a tradition out of watching these MMFF films during the holidays; I begrudgingly go along. I love my friends dearly, but it’s sometimes difficult to contain myself when they say that they enjoy certain films that make me question how on Earth this country survives its own idiocy. 

Director Wenn Deramas and comedian Vice Ganda have made lucrative careers out of exploiting this said idiocy and the public’s constant need for a laugh at any expense. Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy delivers the expected punchlines and a loose story-line that strings one contrived conflict after another. The film is rife with political incorrectness: racism, sexism, effeminophobia, transphobia, misogyny. Again, it’s not something that you would not expect from a Vice Ganda film, but what truly bothers me is that this film supposedly won the “Most Gender Sensitive” Award at the festival. This is bothersome because it mirrors exactly how blase Philippine society treats the marginalization of the lgbtqia (etc) people.

Visibility is not acceptance. It is tolerance at its best and indifference at its worst.

Just because a film has queer characters that does not mean that the film treats them with any semblance of sensitivity or compassion or understanding. You will not find any trace of these in GBBT. I truly wonder what the parameters were for the festival’s category of a gender sensitive film. This one pits the bakla against the girl, creates a martyr of the mother while villainizing the husband’s new girlfriend and the mother-in-law, leaves the boy impotent and weak because of his illness, and trivializes the body of the tomboy. I also saw the Kimmy Dora prequel, and I found that film much more sensitive to gender issues than GBBT. 

Of course critics would say that to look for an actual story-line or proper character development in an MMFF film is in itself a futile endeavor. But is it really too much to ask for a mainstream comedy film that does away with all the racism and sexism and stereotyping that’s already so common in thousands of other mainstream films?

Apparently it is.

repost: Beauconera

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Originally from thepoc.net 

 

Much has been written about the gay beauty pageant, but it remains a topic so central to Philippine gay culture that it demands a closer look. One of the most basic questions this phenomenon poses is that of the name itself: Ms Gay.

It is a question that is so intricately linked to aspects of naming and identity. Are the contestants really gay or are they transgender or transsexual? The Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines, more popularly called STRAP, staunchly advocates distancing the transgender identity from the gay identity, and even from the local bakla identity. The members of STRAP call themselves transpinays, a coined term that allows transgender Filipinas to localize the global (Western?) transgender identity. These women are not bakla, they are not gay either.

To the uninitiated, these names may be quite confusing. But it’s relatively easy to separate gay men from trans women: gay men don’t identify themselves as women, they are men who happen to be attracted to other men. Transgender women identify themselves as women, who were assigned male at birth because of their bodies. At the risk of sounding like an essentialist (and reinforcing gender binaries), trans women have male exteriors (body) but are internally female (cognitively, emotionally, spiritually). It all basically boils down to body politics and the restrictions the physical self puts upon all other aspects of the self. But our sense of self is not only a function of the body. The SOGI framework attempts to address the concepts of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression. It draws much from Judith Butler’s writings on Queer Theory and proposes that the Body, Sexual Orientation, and Gender are all separate concepts and that people can freely manipulate any of these three.

The question of how different the bakla is from the transpinay is much more complicated and points to issues of economics and urbanity. Not very many people outside advocacy groups like STRAP and the Transpinays of Antipolo Organization (TAO) are even aware of the term transpinay (and conversely for trans men, transpinoy). Fundamentally, thebakla identity is much closer to the transgender identity than it is to the gay identity. The bakla, like the transgenderis male on the outside and feminine on the inside. The bakla is commonly known for having a pusong babae. Through years of oppression, the proud historyof the bakla, which traces its roots to the ancient babaylan healers, has been defaced. Now the word conjures up tragic-comic images of the parlorista. And so really, it is economics that separates the baklafrom the transgender. That and straight peoples’ conflation of these terms of identification under the umbrella term (politically correct euphemism?) gay. You even see that on shows like My Husband’s Lover where one character tries to explain, in as little detail as possible, that there are many kinds of gays: some dress like women, others are very masculine.

So are gay beauty pageants really gay? That depends.

Many gay pageants, especially those organized by text clans, actually have gay men who go into drag to join the competition. However, many other pageants are actually joined by trans women. Some of these are the more prestigious of these are The Queen of Cebu, Manila’s Five Prettiest, and Miss Amazing. In Australia, the categories are separate: Ms Gay and Ms Transsexual. The distinction is that for Ms Gay, a contestant must identify as gay or be a drag queen, and for Ms Transsexual she has to be either pre-op or post-op. Just exactly what kind of operation is needed to be in Ms Transsexual is left out in the guidelines. But does calling the pageant any other name make it less gay?

Of course there are more complex questions that follow. I suppose one of the more glaring ones is why gay pageants are so pervasive.

Scholars like J.Neil Garcia and Martin Manalansan comment on the spectacle of the beauty pageant and point to how these become avenues for the bakla/transgender to live out the ultimate dream of ‘becoming’ a ‘real’ woman. Conversely, it allows heterosexuals a ‘safe’ place to gaze at the beauty of the transgender, as evidenced by several of my straight cousins who keep commenting on how beautiful the contestants on Super Sireyna are. But this, of course, leads to questions of whether beauty pageants can actually advance the plight of transgenders in society.

Many of my feminist friends contend that beauty pageants cannot be platforms for equality because the contestants are paraded around like objects; this is a view I tend to agree with. These pageants also set an incredibly high standard for beauty, one that is problematically old-fashioned: either white and mestiza or dark and exotic. However, my pageant friends argue that it is through these contests that they learned to be confident in who they are and to value being graceful, strong, and intelligent. I also believe that people should be allowed the choice to enter competitions if they think it’s good for them and will help them better themselves.

Finally, and I think this is the most controversial question, should trans women be allowed to join pageants for ‘real’ women?

Miss Universe changed its rules last year so that trans women could be allowed to represent their countries. It was a controversial decision, but one that has very little actual impact since most local pageants still require contestants to be biologically female. But is womanhood solely rooted in biology? And if that’s the case, what physical/hormonal/chromosomal property actually turns a person into a woman? The reason I loved Jenna Talackova’s entry into Miss Universe Canada is that she forced everyone to rethink their preconceived notions of what a woman actually is. It’s a classic example of Gender Trouble: Talackova undid the perceived ‘naturalness’ of ‘being’ a woman and challenged people who work in an industry that survives by putting women on display to put her on display as well, at par with all the other contestants. She successfully blurred the lines between the categories of gender and sex, masculine and feminine, but not without creating new boundaries for herself and for her kind. As with the Ms Transsexual pageant in Australia, the new rules of the Miss Universe pageant indicate that candidates must have already had sexual reassignment surgery – a procedure that not all transgenders can afford (or are willing to undergo). This clearly reinforces a sort of hierarchy based on how close you are, bodily, to ‘being’ female.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the move to include trans women in a pageant as prestigious as Miss Universe is a phenomenal step toward the right direction. With that change as precedent, perhaps we can also move for trans women’s rights in areas that are actually more important: the access to education, proper healthcare, and the protection from physical, sexual, and emotional violence and workplace discrimination.

The Catholic School ‘Girl’

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Recently, there’s been a lot of negative backlash against cartoonist Pol Medina for his comic strip that talks about how single-sex exclusive Catholic schools are basically breeding grounds for gays and lesbians. Look here:

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Now, I was raised Catholic. I also went to an exclusive Catholic school for boys when I was young, and there is some truth to Medina’s cartoon. At least three other members of STRAP, including one of our fabulous founders, actually come from the same high school. So why are people so angry at Medina for pointing out the obvious? All these negative reactions, to me, simply reinforce society’s homophobic sentiments – that it is innately wrong to be queer, and subcultures that tolerate them should be rooted out.

But I do have one comment about the strip. Medina writes that these schools tolerate being queer (and calls Catholics hypocrites along the way). The hypocrite part, I totally get. What I don’t understand is how he can say that queers like me were tolerated by the school administration. It is true that we were encouraged by our more nurturing teachers to be ‘true to our selves’, whatever that meant. We were encouraged to be creative and be free to indulge in the arts – our class performances were always amazing, our reports were always entertaining. It’s like early on, we were pushed into a box labelled queer, and that box came with expectations of creative output. I suppose it’s the same for the straight boys – they were expected to be good at sports, we queers were supposed to be artsy.

For someone like me who loves the arts but is not incredibly creative or good with crafts, this was always terrible. My penmanship has always been bad – the first fine art we learned in our home economics class was calligraphy, and of course I sucked at it. We were made to make Christmas Lanterns every holiday, and mine were always embarrassingly simple. We were expected to be good at delivering orations (that one, I did pretty well), and excel at dancing and performing (no hand-eye coordination here).

But we were smart, so we weren’t bullied much and most teachers loved us. We were tolerated.

And there is the problem. Tolerance is like acknowledging that something is there, but keeping mum about it. Tolerance leaves very little room for acceptance and a lot of room for homonegativity and brainwashing. Allow me to demonstrate:

When I was in the sixth grade, my friends and I were called into the year-level prefect’s office, and she opens with “Your teachers tell me that you’re all very effeminate,” then goes on about how a proper Bedan gentleman was supposed to behave and act. At this point, I had no idea what the word effeminate even meant; I was just being myself, performing my self in ways which were most comfortable for me. I wondered what was wrong with that. On the plus side, I learned a new word. She also asked if the other boys tolerated our effeminacy and forced us to reveal which boys were flirting with us. After she dismissed us, she asked those boys to see her in her office for what, I assume, would have been a stern talking to.

When I was in freshman year in high school, our class adviser thought it would be best to pool all the queer kids’ parents and tell them to keep an eye on us and watch for signs of queerness. I thought it was a gross betrayal of our trust in him as class adviser, and a severe invasion into our private home lives. He basically stole our ‘coming out’. When my parents got home, they asked me, “Sabi ng teacher mo, bakla ka daw.” To which I replied, “Eh bakla din naman siya.”

I also remember another gay teacher who was very loud and flamboyant. One day, while my friends and I were at the library researching (or looking at the boys?), he came over to us and said he wanted to talk, which basically meant we needed to shut up and listen to him. So he went on and ranted about how difficult it was for him to be a single adult man with no wife and no kids to take care of him when he grows older. He then started telling us that being gay makes life hard and that if we wanted an easier life, we should seriously start thinking about ‘becoming’ straight.

Now, does that sound like an environment that tolerates queerness?