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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.

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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.

Have you embraced your inner bigot today?

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. described bigotry this way: “The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract.”

That sums up right away the way I feel for those who harbor prejudices against anyone or anything. A kind of resigned acceptance, even tolerance–the same things that they cannot find within themselves. I don’t try to change them; I just make sure that our paths cross as minimally as possible. However, there are times when this becomes difficult to do, especially when bigots find a platform to stand on and a channel to broadcast their bigotry to the rest of the world.

I was prepared to contain my reaction to Christine Babao’s parenting column article within a single tweet because I felt it deserved nothing more. Many have reacted to the article and there have been far more eloquent responses and reactions than mine would have been. One such reaction here, from a lesbian and another from a developmental psychologist provide insight based on critical and scientific thinking instead of pseudo-psychology and moralistic and polite shaming.

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However, just the other night, as I was having coffee with a close friend (who’s also gay), this topic found its way into our conversation wherein he told me that he wasn’t really bothered by Ms Babao’s pronouncements on parenting (possibly LGBT) children. Because he felt that, as a parent, she was entitled to think that way and to act according to what she thought was good for her own children. He had a point, I had to agree.

Therein, I thought, lies the deeper problem. Ms Babao’s comments are a reflection of parents’ lack of knowledge and understanding of human sexuality. The fact that she talked about looking for ‘early signs of homosexuality’ is a clear indicator that she and the so-called expert she quoted view homosexuality (and other variations of sexual preference) as a disease or a disorder of some sort. She also displayed a complete ignorance of the differences between sex and gender, which further affects her views on sexuality.

For someone who’s in the mass media, one might express surprise at her old-fashioned dated views on human sexuality. However, she’s not really alone in this. Ms Babao is not the first and she won’t be the last. I know for certain a number of female celebrities who are surrounded by gay men & women colleagues and friends who will find it inconceivable to accept should her son/ daughter grow up gay. When this hugely popular actress had a talk show, I remember cringing upon hearing her prejudices against gays, which she let slip discretely beneath her very nice and polite demeanor. And just last night, in a talent show, while judging a young male contestant who might’ve danced too gracefully (like a “girl”) so as to arouse doubts on the boy’s sexuality, its out-spoken female judge said that if it were one of her sons (who acted like that), she would probably die.

Bigotry is a tricky thing. Not many will admit to having prejudices but we all have it, in varying degrees. Like I said, my problem is when bigots find a platform to stand on and a channel to broadcast their bigotry to the world. Ms Babao tweeted some sort of apology that reeks of arrogance and self-righteousness. She even relayed the same kind of apology, presumably from the pseudo-psychologist that she substantially quoted in her article.

I thought, my God, has she really deluded herself on her so-called expertise on parenting? Having a child does not make one an expert on parenting; it’s like regarding yourself a mathematician after learning just to add and subtract. In these times, Ms Babao, parenting is already challenging as it is. So please don’t muddle the issue by imposing your prejudices on other concerned parents and disguising them thinly as your simplistic disclaimer. Good thing somebody gave an insightful response, here.

The television wields so much transformative power over the psyche of people. It has the great potential to broaden minds and mitigate the impact of bigotry and discrimination. Unfortunately, these potential and power are largely ignored by many of its practitioners, choosing instead to provide entertainment that panders to instead of uplifting the minds of viewers, to highlight opinions that espouse shallowness of thought instead of critical thinking and acting, and to emphasize ideas that deepen materialism and greed instead of equality and equity.

ADDENDUM:

I just finished watching Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho’s segment on raising LGBT children and I would just like to congratulate the show for its factual and sensitive treatment of the issue. The two case studies were both presented without a touch of sensationalism that lesser shows would normally succumb to. The resource person spoke simply but effectively, unlike that Dr. Camille. It was touching and uplifting, even in its most tragic moments. Best quote of the segment: “Homosexuality is a normal variant of sexual preferences.” As it was just proven, there is hope after all for Philippine television on being an agent of change.