Gay readings

BY Danton Remoto
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Even if Rep. Bienvenido Abante of Manila’s sixth district is still bent on blocking the Anti-Discrimination bill in the 14th Congress, this congressman who sought the banning of the film The Da Vinci Code in Manila would turn pink with prissy dismay at the sight of our bookstores, where the hottest books flying off the shelves are gay.

Whether you are talking about National Bookstore, Fully Booked, or your friendly bargain-basement tiangge in the mall, gay-related titles are a smash. The Ladlad series that Neil Garcia of UP and myself have edited had never gone out of print, since the first edition came out in 1994.

Our other books – Black Silk Pajamas, Buhay Bading, Misterios, and Pulotgata, along with those of Jessica Zafra and Bob Ong, dominate the Billboard Charts of shelves in National Bookstore. My new gay books now in the bookstores include Ladlad 3 and Rampa: Gay Essays in Filipino, as well as the book of gay poems by Ronald Baytan of De La Salle University, called The Queen Sings the Blues.

Of the magazines, though, only Icon has hewed closely to its original intention, but it has not published in a year! Generation Pink (GP) has not published an issue in many months, while Him has been reformatted into a metro sexual version of GQ magazine. Invoice Magazine by the young and brave publisher Geo Macapagal is now on sale at the bookstores as well.

But I am happy to report that new authors are also, ahhh, coming out with their own titles. Louie Cano’s Pink Brusko (published by Milfores) is now on its second printing, and his Baklese: Pinoy Pop Queer Dictionary, is going in the same publishing route. Baklese 2 and Masculadolls just rolled out of the printing presses.

“This is baklese circa 2006,” says the intro, “[and] the wordplay begins here.” As in his earlier book, Louie has energy and enthusiasm and his books have life, although I would be happier if there were lesser adjectives and adverbs in those pages. They tend to sap the energy quotient along the way.

Like James Joyce

Be that as it may, Baklese treads “through the maze alleys of Maricaban [in Pasay] to the manicured lawns of posh North Greenhills, from the friendly neighborhood’s byuti parlor to David’s Salon Prestige hub in Podium, from the ubiquitous ‘bottoms’ to the strictly ‘top’ to the greedy ‘versa,’ from the discreetly mascula-dolls to buffed gurls and cocky divas, this lexicon is a journey that has taken me along the diversified faces of pink men.”

That is one-half of the intro. Listen to this version, in flamingo-pink language worthy of a gay James Joyce: “Hola, mga badutch, ecla-voo, King Kong Barbies at mga brusko pink na di pa bukella! Mga sisteraca y maderakah de Espana, mga botomesa de Sta. Mesa, mga pretenciosang alitop-tap ng Taft, mga bebang of Alabang, mga ineng ng Kamuning, mga pa-mhintang buo at durog ng Greenhills, sa lahat ng mga vhaklers kung saan-sann at kung anik-anik pa! Iteching ang first evahfonda lexicon (talatinigan, nini, as in dictionary lowkah) ng mga tienes ng mga syofatids mo.” Whew, getch mo?!

If you didn’t get it, then this slim, 33-page book will define the terms for you. There are a lot of names: Armida Siguion Reyna for military, James Yap for significantly younger partner; and Papaya Medel for a woman with big breasts. There are also references to looks, whether natural or cosmetically induced or otherwise, as in this item: “moon crystal power – beautiful only at night.” The dudes who go the gym are also defined, whether as “vorta — gym-buffed” or as “vostron – muscular gay man (baklang maton).”

Moreover, there are lots of references to a pendulum of feelings, from fear (“shokot”) to bitterness “nagmama-asim”). There are, of course, many references to sex: parts of the body, smells of the body, things one could do with the body. But lest the Catholic Women’s League readers of our website put me to task again for ruining their Tuesday mornings, I would rather let the reader go to the store, buy this book, and have a happy—and gay—day.

Lesbian section

If Fully Booked boasts of Blue Magazine and all those periodicals of men captured in erotic but tasteful photographs, then National Bookstore already has their Gay and Lesbian section!

Their first blast is composed of newly published titles catering to the hip, young and cosmopolitan set. One of them is The Trouble Boy by Tim Dolby, which has the razor-sharp urban wit of Candace Bushnell married to the dark gaze of Bret Easton Ellis.

Our antihero is 22-year-old Toby Griffin, born of rich parents in the West Coast but now living in New York. He hungers for fame, fortune, an Oscar-winning screenplay and a cute boyfriend, “not just a bed partner.”

But he is stuck in an online magazine that closes shop and a small flat in the East Village. He encounters with “the boys,” a group of preppies from the Upper East Side who are fab and have glam, who drink top-shelf liquor, and who only sleep with men as cute and as buff as they are. Their names are iconic New York: Subway Boy, Loft Boy, Goth Boy. It is a world of anti-depressants, from Paxil, “which medicated the student body in college,” to a new one called “Wellbutrin,” which sounded “so touchy-feely.”

The book glitters with sequiturs: “Experience had always shown me the best way to meet cute guys was to get to know their less cute friends.” Or sharp takes at cosmetic culture: “Having begun her transformation at age sixteen, [this model] attended to every detail over the years, including having a pair of ribs removed, further highlighting her concave stomach. . . .” Or the fear of old age: “We ate at a slick new gay restaurant in Chelsea. All around us were old queens tossing around bon mots. Someday, I feared, that would be us.”

But one day he becomes the PA of Cameron Cole, an aggressive and driven film mogul. The only person Cameron is afraid of is his mother, “a bottle blonde who, thanks to the wonders of plastic surgery, existed in that nebulous chasm between forty and sixty. . . .” Toby steps up into a world of designer drugs, VIP lounges, networking and hype. And he meets a rich, spoiled, young brat of a girl, who encounters a problem with her, ahhh, driving. The dark heart of Manhattan is skewered in this fast and furious read about the filthy rich who are also emotional zombies.

The last gay book I devoured, Tangled Sheets: Tales of Erotica, by Michael Thomas Ford. Not your usual porn queen, Ford has written critics’ choices, including the books Last Summer and Alec Baldwin Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Tangled Sheets collects the best of his erotica, with titles like “The Checkup” (about a dentist), “Riding the Rails” (about a New York-bound train), and “Paying the Tax Man” (about a tax collector). This book will leave you hot – and bothered.

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