Honestly, I have mixed feelings writing about this topic. Not that I am gay. In this gender-labeling society, I am what is called as straight–as straight as this pen I’m writing with (whatever that means). To put it more accurately, I’m a homophobic straight. I’ve been trying to understand more about homosexuality, but society has conditioned me to despise it. Just the mere mention of the word makes me feel strange.
I have to admit I have homophobia, but not entirely for the sake of finishing this essay. I’m hoping that by writing about homosexuality, by facing your demons, as they’d say, I’d be able to lessen, if not totally eliminate, the fear, ever realizing that we only fear what we do not understand. Or so again, I hope.
Well, some time ago I did face my demon that is homosexuality. I read lots of ‘homo’ literature. I corresponded with gay rights activists and writers, viewing this sexually biased society through their perspectives, empathizing with their plight. This since I have always believed in the simple premise that all human beings were created equal hence we all deserve equal rights and opportunities. One time I wrote a letter to an NGO protesting the seemingly unjust termination of a gay couple from their organization. I even made friends with several gay men through mail, consoling them in their predicaments. But underneath that psychological cloak, I remained afraid of homosexuals. My mind was willing to understand, but my social belief was not too weak to be altered.
One penfriend said that if it were not for Sigmund Freud’s coining of the term “homosexuality”, then people like me would have one less puzzle to solve in life. My pal said that before the word existed, men from ethnic communities in the Southern Philippines were not mindful of social consequences of sleeping with other men. Englishmen in Shakespeare’s time didn’t care if he was gay; the notion that he is so has become an issue only now, in this Information slash Digital slash Virtually Insane Age. Just as so as people in Lewis Carroll’s era-they didn’t suppose the author of Alice in Wonderland was a perverted pedophile, that it was not alright for him to take nude photographs of little children. Sexual malice between adult and child was alien to them. They just didn’t know.
All of these phobias and mental disorders were mere products of early 20th century psychoanalytical theories. My friend argued that if we didn’t know, then we wouldn’t mind anything about it. We would be continuing to hear sexual affairs between two men (or women), and not give a damn. And if the term were not invented, then, obviously, there would be no gender-labeling. There would be no homosexuals and the fear of them would have but become a figment of our skewed imagination.
I’m beginning to ask myself who are really mentally twisted: those homos who claim they are born like that or homophobic people who claim they were born normal but has acquired such psychological defect through social conditioning? Really, what is ‘normal’? It is even abnormal to use this word when talking about homosexuality.
I think another problem with people with homophobia like me is that we’re having a hard time admitting it to ourselves. That deep inside us, we wouldn’t mind seeing gays and lesbians in the streets as long as we wouldn’t be nudged by or brush shoulders with one of them. We could tolerate having a ‘bading’ to prepare our faces or fix our hair for parties or as their couturier for special events, but as long as the bading doesn’t assert his/her ‘own’ sexuality on us too much. Or as long as we do not feel like we’re being sexually harassed, even by an honest, friendly touch from a ‘bakla’.
One dilemma here is that, I think, tolerant homophobic people do not really know how to react to homosexuals whose nature we do not completely understand. We do not really know how to respond to ‘badings’ and ‘tibos’ as we can’t take it upon ourselves how we would treat them: as one of our own or of the opposite sex? So we may incorrectly interpret harmless and sincere tactile or verbal communication (gay speak) as sexual assault.
Nevertheless, we Filipinos are generally a very understanding lot when facing homosexual realities, perhaps brought about by family values intrinsic in all of us. We welcome homosexuals to our mainstream society, very much unlike in North America where there are record numbers of violence against gays. We welcome and tolerate them, yes, but, I think, we are far from completely accepting them for who they really are. We always see them on TV, entertaining us. But we have deeply seated doubts in placing them in sensitive positions in an organization. Is it because they’re self-confessed homosexuals? Or is it because we’re, in one way or another, homophobic and just too damn proud to admit it?