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Questions for the heterosexual

Danton Remoto: Questions for the heterosexual
20-Jul-11, 5:42 PM
Online news portal of TV5

Years ago I attended a seminar on gender issues organized by an international NGO. Some young journalists comprised the core of the participants. Well and good, I told myself, because the cliché holds true that, perhaps, hope lies among them.

I still remember my legendary debates with the macho editors who used to splash photos of near-naked “prostitutes” (call them sex workers) and of raped housemaids on the front pages of the newspaper I used to work for. During one of the editorial meetings held every day, the fiercest among them, who looked like a bulldog, barked at me: “What are you complaining about? Their faces are shown on the evening news. Why can’t we show those pages on our front pages?”

Since Bulldog must have forgotten his class on Ethics in Journalism, I reminded him that a newspaper is a public record. Surely, nobody tapes the evening news and runs them again for his delectation, right? But the newspaper is there for posterity, bound in volumes and collected in archives in the form of microfilms. Now they are scanned or converted into pdfs and collected in CD format. The split-second image on TV fades easily. The one in print stays there, and can be passed on from one person to another.

That’s the problem, I told myself, leaning back on my fake-leather office chair, when you have editors – the gatekeepers of the news—who only put stories of women above the fold when they have been raped, their places of work raided, or they wrestle gleefully in the mud, for work. The object of the male gaze has not changed.

During the same meeting, the director Nick Deocampo showed his film The Sex Warriors, a brave and beautiful film about a transgender who works in Japan. Now that I am reminded of it, I remember Noel Cabangon asking me last Sunday, during the break for the PETA play Caregivers that the Ladlad Party List sponsored, “What is the difference between a transgender and transsexual?”

“Well,” I began, “a transsexual is somebody who wears the customary attire of the opposite sex (female), but that’s just that. He does not identify with the opposite sex; his sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) is still male. On the other hand, a transgender feels that he is born in the wrong gender; thus, this mistake has to be corrected. He feels female in mind, heart, and body; thus, the need, nay, the ache, to have a sexual-reassignment surgery to finally come into full being as a member of the right sex. In the Philippines, the pioneering group is Society of Transsexual Women in the Philippines (STRAP), and they call themselves, with their breasts thrust up proudly, if I may say so, “transPinay.” Bemz Benedito, the present chairperson of Ladlad Party List, and the one to whom all media queries on Ladlad should be directed, is an out and proud “transPinay.” Last month, Bemz had chest pains and was rushed to the emergency room of St. Lukes’ Hospital where a female doctor said, “Sir, just relax and deep breathily, Sir.” The effervescent Bemz could not help it and said,” Doktora, please grant me this and call me Miss, especially now that I might be on the brink of death.” Yes, even near the cliff-edge, our transPinay activists are still daring and do everything with dash and √©lan.

But back to the brave and beautiful film of Nick. It deals with transgender Filipinas doing sex work in Japan to keep their families alive in the Philippines. The things we do for our families, Nick seems to imply, who can only accept us – gays and bisexuals and trans – only if we are their piggy banks, their central banks, their ATM machines that don’t go blink any time of day or night.

Nick’s films also deals with the slippages of language. “There are many names for us here,” Nick said in his usual flamboyant manner, then he ticked them off: “agi, bayot, bakla, badaf, bading, baklesha, sirena, verde ang dugo...“ and we’ve only just begun. Nick said his list contained at least 100 names for gays, with each word and every nuance carrying the complexity of Philippine gay life.

Before I left the meeting, I photocopied a query called "Do You Need Treatment?" that one of my female friends in the meeting got from an old copy of the New Internationalist. Since it might help our straight friends see us in another light, I’m reprinting it in full. Listen.

“Gay people get asked some pretty strange questions. Often, this is because their interrogators have a narrow, strictly heterosexual view of what is ‘normal.’ The New Internationalist turns the tables and asks heterosexual people some strange questions, too.

“1. What do you think is the cause of your heterosexuality?

2. When did you first realize you might be heterosexual?

3. Have you told your parents? What do they think of it?

4. Are there others like you in your family?

5. Would you say you had an inadequate mother or father figure?

6. Don’t you think your heterosexuality might be a phase you are going through?

7. Are you afraid of members of your own sex?

8. Isn’t it possible that what you need is a good gay lover?

9. What do you actually do in bed?

10. You put what where?

11. But how can people of the opposite sex really please each other when there are such vast emotional and biological differences among them?

12. Although society gives considerable support to the institution of marriage, the divorce rate is spiraling. Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?

13. Is it because heterosexuals are promiscuous?

14. There seem to be very few happy heterosexuals. Have you considered aversion therapy?

15. Why do you feel compelled to seduce others into your sexual activities?

16. Why do you insist on making such a public spectacle of your heterosexuality?

17. More than 90 percent of child molesters are thought to be heterosexuals. Would you feel comfortable entrusting your children‘s education to heterosexual teachers?

18. Why do people like you emphasize the heterosexual qualities of famous people such as film stars? Is it because you need to validate your own condition?

19. Penetrative sex is most common among heterosexual couples. Aren’t you worried about the risk of getting the HIV virus that leads to AIDS?

20. If everybody were heterosexual like you, what would happen to the world’s population? Don’t you think it is unreasonable and irresponsible of you to insist on sleeping with people of the opposite sex?”

If you’re asked questions like these – and I’m often asked, as I’m sure many lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Filipinas are asked—how would you feel? Ano ang mase-say mo, manash?

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