Monthly Archives: May 2014

Friday Photo 42

I like patterns. I see them in almost everything in life.

friday-pic-42

Advertisements

This Gay-Straight Thing 2

Would you, a gay man, enter into a relationship with a straight man? If I got asked this question twenty years ago, I would have empathically and categorically said, “No way!” Twenty years ago I used to sneer and laugh at my fellow, usually older, gay men who were only sexually attracted to presumably straight men for being so clueless. For me, engaging in a relationship with a straight man was like walking on a narrow one-way street that led to a dead end. What is the extent of a straight man’s actions in bed when he is with a gay man? And more often than not, the straight guy eventually abandons “that part” of his life and joins the rest of the straight world by marrying a woman. Sometimes, he will marry a woman and will have the gay man stick around as wedding planner, devoted godfather to his child, and generous provider of financial and emotional support.

I have seen many movies and met many tragic figures to understand and firmly decide that this is not the way I will live as a gay man. Even if my concept of monogamy at that time was also based on a heterosexual framework (a sad situation, but a different story), I have decided that the men I will have sex with would only be gay men. Twenty years, five boyfriends, and countless flings and affairs later, where do I stand?

Contrary to my earlier decision, I have slept with straight men and found them generally boring in bed, unless they were intoxicated or particularly horny. A friend told me that the pleasures in sleeping with a straight man lies not in the act itself but in the journey that leads to bed, or some other place where the sex act is performed. The “hunt” can indeed excite one but as all excitements go, the feeling is fleeting. It’s a temporary high, at best.

All things change, no matter what we say to the contrary. People, climate, feelings, and even sexual preferences change. My own concept of monogamy has changed as well, but more on that later. Two years ago, I ended my relationship with my Cambodian partner when he got married. For years we remained committed to each other, even if we both knew that he will eventually marry, because of a strong cultural imperative. As the eldest male in his family, he was expected to marry, no matter how he identified himself. He assured me many times that his marriage will change nothing between us, that his feelings for me will remain the same. This arrangement is common for many gay Cambodian men, who get married because of a sense of duty and keep a male partner. But what about my feelings, I asked myself. I was uncertain as to how I would feel when he did get married.

GST-03

I do not equate being married with being straight but when my partner’s marriage edged closer to reality, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to handle it so I ended things with him. We remain friends to this day. I let him refer to me privately as his boyfriend but nothing more.

But going back to the first question, my answer now would probably be, “I don’t know”. It’s partly because of this guy. I have broken up and reconciled with my partner many times and in between those times I have been kind of involved with another guy. It started casually; our initial encounters were discrete and furtive. He would call to check if I was available. He’d come to my house and leave when we’re done. He became my delicious secret. And because I didn’t take our involvement seriously, I didn’t mind when he told me he had a wife and a son. But we grew closer as the months and years went by. He never asked me for anything, except once, when he confided that his wife got pregnant and they had no means to support a second child. I paid for the abortion, which is legal in Cambodia. We’re still in touch to this day. Looking back, I realized that I have been involved with him for as long as I was involved with my ‘official’ partner. Even if both of us wouldn’t dare call what we had as anything more than friendship.

Do I think the same thing will happen to me in the future? Here in the Philippines? I don’t know. I think I got into those situations because it was ‘foreign’ to me and my life in Cambodia was all about embracing the ‘foreign’. Now that I’m back in my home country, I’m not sure if I retained that kind of open-ness or if I have reverted to my old beliefs. I guess we’ll see. But this situation with Vice Ganda and his unidentified-but-hinted-upon boyfriend and the old prejudices rearing their ugly heads certainly got my mind piqued.

In an ideal world, there is no need for labels. Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, bi-curious, discreet, questioning, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, all these will not matter. In this world, families will not only be determined by genes and gender, but also by emotional and spiritual bonds that people share. And the only arbiter of morality will be our own conscience.

In this ideal world, my first question will not only be irrelevant, it will also be immaterial.

X-Men as time goes by

I have been looking forward to watching ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ because (1) Bryan Singer was back as director, (2) it gathers most of the original cast, (3) plus many of the new cast, (4) Tyrion Lannister has an important role, and (5) I loved the Days of Future Past story arc, having seen its animated adaptation (I got it on DVD). However, when it opened last week, my newsfeed was abuzz with people who were dissatisfied with the movie. I wondered if this X-Men movie will leave me feeling the way I felt about ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’. Nevertheless, I ventured into the cinema, determined to find out.

poster_xmen-dofp

I’m happy to say that I left the theater fully satisfied. The latest X-Men movie is the most ambitious to date, primarily because it wanted to stuff the whole X-Men universe into one film. And it works 95% of the time. There are a lot of fabulously staged scenes, like Magneto’s Pentagon prison escape, Mystique’s fight against a young William Stryker in Vietnam, and Wolverine’s first few minutes in 1973–complete with a lava lamp and a water bed. I liked the look of the 70s Sentinels more than the future Sentinels, which reminded me of that big fire-breathing robot in ‘Thor’.

Time travel as a plot device is always complicated in a movie and here it’s no different. But the editing, cinematography and art direction are helpful guides in distinguishing one timeline from the other. Another element that I liked is the cleverly music, which surely enhanced my viewing experience.

The biggest scene stealer is Evan Peters, who as Quicksilver eclipsed his seniors in the few scenes that he’s in. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine carried the whole movie in his massive shoulders, and he did it very well. Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique perfectly captured the emotions of a person on the brink of a great tansition. In this movie, she hasn’t turned into the remorseless Mystique played with equal aplomb by Rebecca Romijn. Making the most of her brief screen appearance is Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde. Peter Dinklage’s Bolivar Trask was excellent, although I wished his character had more layers aside from that single-minded hatred towards mutants. Needless to say, the four actors who played the two Professor X and Magneto, acquit their pretty selves beautifully. I loved the contrast between the 70s and future pairs.

Unfortunately, the sheer number of X-Men (and other characters) in this movie resulted in unequal exposure. Getting the short end of the stick were Daniel Cudmore (Colossus), Shawn Ashmore (Ice Man), Halle Berry (Storm), and Anna Paquin (Rogue). At least Storm died spectacularly. I wonder how happy that scene made Bryan Singer. After all, their previous clashes are by now public knowledge.

As (American) summer blockbuster movies go, the level of destruction seen in X-Men DOFP is scaled down. A refreshing change, if you ask me. Sure, the White House was fenced in by a stadium, but no skyscraper and city were harmed in this movie. And it’s fine. There are many other reasons to like this X-Men movie. The formidable cast, who tackled the material seriously while clearly having fun flexing their powers, is just one of them. As in his two previous X-Men movies, director Bryan Singer managed to inject gravitas, emotional resonance, and snarky humor to the mind-bending and convoluted proceedings.

Lastly, if you’re watching, stay through the credits for a glimpse of the next ‘apocalyptic’ installment. 🙂

This Gay-Straight Thing

I was working the whole of Sunday but in the afternoon, as I was spending a few precious moments away from the glare of the computer monitor, I caught the segment of “The Buzz” on the recent break-up of gay celebrity Vice Ganda from his unidentified boyfriend. The identity of said boyfriend has been the subject of speculation for a long time and the end of the relationship only seemed to fuel the speculation further. I think this is also largely due to Vice Ganda himself, for tweeting cyptic messages that, based on one’s interpretation, obviously alluded to a particular man, who is also known to be one of Vice Ganda’s friends.

GST-01

image courtesy of rappler.com

Terrence Romeo, the man allegedly alluded to, who recently transitioned from varsity to professional basketball player, allowed himself to be interviewed and, again depending on one’s interpretation, got manipulated into issuing a denial of his alleged relationship with Vice Ganda. Adding un-necessary fuel to the fire is his father, who stated that his son couldn’t possibly be involved in a relationship with a gay man because he “raised his children properly”.

Boy Abunda, the gay host of the show and self-declared LGBT advocate, latched on to the father’s statement and started to go into a lecture of sexual diversity until one of his female co-hosts interjected–probably at the behest of the producers of the show. “The Buzz’, after all, is an entertainment talk show and probably not the best venue for disseminating sexual and gender diversity information.

I’m not surprised that while certain people acknowledge that LGBTs have gained a lot socially in the past years, many of the old prejudices remain. It’s true that gay representations in media have increased a lot and improved a bit. But I believe that at its core, many families still find it okay to have a gay son or daughter, as long as it’s not their own family. And God forbid that their son or daughter gets seduced by gays and lesbians.

The advocates’ work is far from over. Sexual diversity can be conceptually complicated, especially when taken alongside our existing cultural and religious biases. But it’s fairly simple on a practical level, especially if one views it behind the lens of respect to others. The process might be long and circuitous but I believe that gender-blindness is attainable.

Because in that ideal world, the identity of Vice Ganda’s lover should only be an issue because he’s a public figure and not because he’s gay. Terrence Romeo, regardless of his relationship with Vice, shouldn’t feel the need to clarify anything for fear of negatively affecting his masculine image and budding basketball career. And we the public shouldn’t have to care about a gay-straight relationship, no matter how much we are teased to do so.

Friday Photo 41

I arrived in Cambodia on a warm April evening, 10 years ago. In the next month, my friend and host took me to Siem Reap where, for the first time, I beheld the beauty of the Angkor Wat temple complex. Over the six years that I was in Cambodia, I made many trips to Siem Reap and to its temples. Their magnificence is etched in my mind, and will last as long as the temples have lasted. This particular photo was taken at the Terrace of the Elephants. The figures around me are Garuda–mythical and majestic birds.

friday-pic-41