- What does it mean to be gay? In the Philippine context, to be homosexual means to be bakla, an effeminate gay who wears makeup and dyes his hair peroxide blonde. It also means to be a straight-acting man who is attracted to another man. This attraction can take the form of affection and sexual relations. Some gays have slept with girls; some still do, and they’re called bisexuals. Some people slide along the sexual spectrum with the grace of butterflies. There are also gays who choose to live a double life and they’re called closet queens. But there are also transgenders, who in their hearts and minds know that they were born into the wrong (physical) body.
- How many are you? Cross-cultural studies show that 10 percent of the population is gay. If we are now 110 million, then there are 11 million gays today. The sociologist Margaret Mead found out as society becomes more affluent and sophisticated, the incidence of gayness also rises.
- But aren’t you perverts and molesters? No. A Reuters report from Chicago said: “A child’s risk of being molested by a heterosexual, lesbian, or bisexual is less.” The finding was based on a study of 269 cases of child abuse, in only two of which the offender was gay or bisexual, researchers at University of Colorado said. The scandals about talent managers and reporters taking advantage of male starlets are few when compared to the casting couch going on in the suites of bigger-and straight-people in the industry.
- But what do you do in bed? The same things that you do in bed. We kiss and hug and make love to people we love, preferably. Or failing that, people we like. Or even failing that, people we lust after. Isn’t that the same way with you, guys?
- How do you find each other? We go to gay bars, which can even be quiet cafes where we drink and talk about the books of Edmund White, or loud, no-holds-barred affairs when we sing or dance or pick up guys, preferably straight-acting, if not straight (we wish). A few of us go to a bath house in Pasay City to display our abs and pecs. We also find each other in malls, theaters, discos, restaurants, bookstores, the streets and, yes, even in church.
Or now, in the wide world of social media: Grindr and Blued and who knows what else. However, many gays now dream of a relationship with another gay man based on respect and love. There are also gays who have opted to be celibate and, on the other hand, those who have a new date every Saturday night. The important thing, though, is that we have a choice to love somebody – or to be chaste as nuns.
- So how do two gay guys form a, uh, relationship? Some of us want to formalize our relationship through a civil partnership, but others don’t. Others may opt for a same-sex marriage. Like you, we work at it. There’s the rent to be paid and the laundry to be done, the food to be cooked and the clothes to be pressed. When he’s in a bad mood, you look away, and when it’s your blood that boils, he just shuts up. It’s a give-and-take affair, where the roles are flexible. Some relationships are strictly monogamous, while others are open. The thing to do is to talk about the parameters of the relationship, to negotiate with openness and honesty. It’s more exciting when the roles aren’t fixed.
- Can a gay man become friends with straight guys? Of course. Admit it: some of your warmest and kindest friends are gay men. We’re in touch with our inner selves, having discarded the masks we used to wear. And admit it, girls: you like to go out with gay guys because you can be your real selves. We know how it was to grow up isolated, playing jackstones or practicing Chinese garter in our rooms while our brothers boxed each other in the sun.
- But why are some of you so loud? Because even gay people are also different from each other. Some are quiet as Carmelites, others as hyper as the late Elizabeth Ramsey. Some have black hair, others flame with orange. Some are stockbrokers, others are beauty-parlor attendants. Some have stripes, others spots. I like guavas, you like durian. The important thing is to respect the diversity around us. The world would be a boring place if everyone looked and acted like yuppies who go to poetry readings, then talk loudly about the now-cliched Boracay while the poet reads.
- Won’t your parents have a heart attack if they know? They already know. In fact, they’re the first to know, to notice the difference from the rest. Some of us like volleyball more than basketball, were so quiet when others were rowdy, and were also bright (!) when the rest of the brood was dumb. We should not let anybody, even our parents, point out our life’s directions. They are good guides, yes, but we’re the ones who will take that long, lonely, lovely walk down the lane.
- Aren’t you afraid of growing old alone? Why, does having children guarantee you’ll have company in your dotage? You can always adopt. Or save your money and hire a nurse later.
Bonus question: Aren’t you afraid to offend God? Have we done anything wrong? If we were so despicable, then God wouldn’t have made us. Our God, unlike the God of Homophobes, is a kind and all-embracing One. He or She loves all of us purely – whether gay or not – even if we don’t deserve it.
Danton Remoto is the Head of School, English, and Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia. He was educated at Ateneo de Manila University (ASEAN Scholar) and the University of the Philippines, as well as at the University of Stirling (British Council Fellow) and Rutgers University (Fulbright Fellow). He has taught at Ateneo de Manila University, headed Communications at the United Nations Development Programme, headed Research at TV5, and served as Dean of Journalism and President of The Manila Times College, which has campuses in Manila and Subic. He has published 12 books of poems, essays, and fiction, including the novel, Riverrun. His body of work is cited in The Routledge Concise History of Southeast Asian Writing in Englishand The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature.
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