Category Archives: Uncategorized

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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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.

Queer Dog

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It’s my dog’s 4th birthday.

His name is Chippy and, theoretically speaking, he’s a poodle. I got him when he was about 2 months old and no bigger than my forearm. I got him because my other dog, a boxer named Bailey, had died a few years back, and it was lonely sitting alone at home with only cockroaches and the occasional mouse to freak you out. I wanted a chihuahua, but my mom said that they look too much like rats to be cute. So I got a poodle – at a discount. I also didn’t want to get a girl dog because when they get their period, it gets everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE! (Once, I woke up and I found Bailey beside me – and my sheets were bloody. Eck!) So I got a male dog. Well kinda, only one of his testicles dropped, despite two testosterone shots, which is fine because I have no intention to have him mate. He’ll remain as frigid as me. hahahha!

Anyway, I’ve been trimming and cutting his hair myself for the past year, so it’s gotten all tangled in places and unevenly cut. So I decided to go to the groomers (Pet Passion Dog Shop along Macapagal Avenue, right next to Yakimix! :P) and spend 300 pesos for a proper haircut. And I also saw an Ateneo jersey for dogs. Don’t read too much into this choice: I got it because the UP Maroons jersey they had didn’t match his fur color; the blue was a better match. Yey school spirit.

Here are some photos.

 

What’s queer?

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Ok. So, new blog. I originally wanted a new blog where I could talk about gay films from a queer perspective. Not exactly a novel idea, I know, but it’s what I know about, and it’s what I like to talk about.

Then the other night, while watching a Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, I thought the principles and concepts of queer theory can quite as easily be applied to non-gay films as gay-themed films.

And so that’s what this nerdy little corner of the interwebs will talk about: queer culture in non-queer contexts. This will be quite challenging, but I think I’m up to it.

Now let the nerdiness begin!

Queer: a short definition.

Ok, super short – it’s like this. Queer theory is a bunch of writings and critiques on gender and the hegemonies which govern it. Its basic premise is this: that all parts of our identity are nothing more than mere performances; it’s the constant repetition of these performances that make the world (and certain genders) look natural and fixed. Breaks in these performances are possible and important because they allow us to shift from one identity to another. The inner self (who we really are) doesn’t matter because we base that on our performances, on our roles, which can be quite easily changed.

Add to that other elements of queer culture (gay icons like Judy, Cher, Madonna, and yes, maybe even Gaga; camp, the art of exaggeration; and the bakla concept – effeminacy, cross-dressing, sexual desire, and social class) and you get this blog.

If you want to know more about Queer theory, read up on your Judith Butler and Eve Sedgewick. Be careful though, those women’s writings can induce heavy nosebleeds and brain hemorrhage.

In this blog, I will attempt to look at non-queer texts (films, operas, music; friends and conversations) in a queer manner. Because everything is Queer.