Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bakla ako, pakialam mo [I'm Gay! So What?, literal]

This is a Facebook post written by one of my favorite professors who is as brilliant, if not more, as any heterosexual professor I've had.

(Warning: This is a rant so pardon the profusion of argumentative fallacies. I deserve to unburden myself once in a while, I guess.)

I woke up this morning thinking this day would be pleasant. And I must say it started pleasantly. I finally submitted a chapter of my dissertation to my supervisor via email (after weeks of mental constipation) and got my Schengen Visa via the Polish Embassy in Singapore which granted it to me free of charge! As soon as I got the visa from the travel agency along Cantonment Road, I was ebullient!

That ebullience was cut short by the little incident that happened at the bus stop while waiting for Bus 167 that would take me to Orchard Road (I was to register as an overseas absentee voter at the Philippine Embassy located at Nassim near Orchard.). At the bus stop was a compatriot, a manong (uncle), who was speaking to what I surmised was his wife/lover/ girlfriend on his cell phone (I overheard him say ‘I love you’ to the other party). At one point in the conversation, he said these exact words in Tagalog: ‘…may bakla nga dito, e (in fact, there’s a gay man here).’ He was referring to me of course. We were the only people in the bus stop and really, there was no other gay spirit riveting his otherwise discriminating attention. My instant reaction was to glance at him with my rather bushy left eyebrow arched. Then he said to his fellow interlocutor: ‘Oo tumitingin nga sa’kin (Yeah, he actually glanced at me)’ to which I retorted ‘Pinoy po ako, naiintindihan ko po kayo (I’m Filipino. I could understand what you’re saying).’ Well, he was taken aback after I said that. He probably thought I was a Chinese Singaporean, or a Peranakan, or Thai (my apologies to Chinese Singaporeans, Peranakans, and Thais). I repeated what I said earlier: ‘Pinoy po ako (I’m Filipino).’ He quickly composed himself: ‘Ay sorry (Oh sorry)’ and then he continued to talk to his fellow interlocutor.

That was a very unpleasant experience, but I kept my cool. I thought I was just too blessed on this day to get a visa free of charge. Nothing can dampen my jovial mood. Not a butt ugly manong (ok, I’m biased but he is really bereft of male beauty!) who needs to be educated in civics, particularly the art of civic discourse.

When the manong’s telephone conversation ended, there was still no Bus 167 and we remained to be the only people under the waiting shed. As if to assuage the damage he has caused, he reiterated, ‘Sorry talaga. (I’m really sorry).’ I replied, ‘OK lang po (I’m OK)’ with a tone of sarcasm.

The guy is not only bereft of male beauty. He is bereft of balls. How could he afford to be so smug, so careless and so tactless and just take back words easily when his weakness is revealed? At the bus stop, I projected the iciest persona I could muster and distanced myself from the manong (Ang kapal kapal niyang kupal siya. He is not even my type! If the bus stop were an island where the two of us are the only surviving mammals, I would choose to die a spinster!). How could he be so mean and suddenly turn so defenseless when his vulnerability (in fact, stupidity) is unveiled?

I actually have no problem with the label ‘bakla’ per se. That term has been reclaimed/ re-semanticized by gay rights activists. Thanks to them, it has become a badge of courage, a sign of defiance in the sea of normativity. To others, it is a heroic subversion of what is repressive, of that which constricts livability. That it should hurled at me with contempt by a person who I do not even know since Adam is, however, reprehensible. Only my friends who know me and who have earned and deserve my endearment can call me that. But NOT even my most cherished friends hurl the term at me during our most carefree moments. That it should be used to spite me (albeit stealthily) while I sit quietly at a distance with the least-to-nil disturbance made on others around me is what offends me most. It is contemptuous; it is intolerant; it is inhuman.

At that point while I was waiting for Bus 167 alone with the man bereft of male beauty, I suddenly thought of GMA’s 2009 SONA. (That SONA will be remembered for its combative rhetoric – very consistent with the 2003 persona she carved in what should have been her valedictory address.) Well, I thought that that moment alone with the man bereft of male beauty was actually an appropriate time to be combative. And be boastful.

There was of course a moment of smugness when I would make obvious the NUS bag I was carrying. I thought the man bereft of male beauty should know that I am a doctorate student of Asia’s leading English language university (though not the top in the world), that I graduated with honors and among the top 10 percent of the UP system’s graduating class of 1998 (though not a summa cum laude and obviously not the creamiest of the cream), that I was awarded Outstanding Teacher in the Humanities and the Social Sciences at 26 (though only in UPLB and not in the entire UP System, which I should remind manong is the Philippine’s premier state university), that I’m the lone Filipino (scholar) presenting a paper in the 2009 International Conference on Political Linguistics (although I’m not really sure how well publicized the conference is. Haha!), and that I am all those things without having to pretend that I am straight! I am all those things (modest achievements as they are) without being heterosexual! Most of all, I need not be heterosexual to be able to exercise human kindness, compassion and tact! Charing! I surreptitiously laughed at the thought, of course. It would be the height of hypocrisy, not to mention, of being pathetic, to unleash those words to a blundering compatriot. Besides, I wouldn’t expend too much rhetorical energy just to spite a man already bereft of male beauty.

So when Bus 167 finally arrived, I gracefully walked towards it with my very dignity intact. Without gazing at the man bereft of male beauty. I thought he doesn’t deserve even the slightest of my rare glances.