Danton Remoto
Remote Control
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Straight from the mouths of babes

Several weekends ago, I visited a college and talked to their students. They usually ask me about communication and the art of writing. If not that, then they ask me to give a talk on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and issues.

I always like talking to young people because they are so vibrant. They ask so many questions and that is good, because they want to know the answers as well. I think it is this casual impertinence and insatiable curiosity that are the hallmarks of the young and the restless. And it is these qualities that might fuel the so-called youth vote that all presidentiables are now angling for. This reminds me of a small run-in with a presidential wannabe in 2010, a man who loves to shoot his mouth off without knowing the facts and figures at hand. With imaginary poise, he told me breathlessly: “Professor Remoto, there is no such thing as a youth vote. They would rather go to Starbucks or watch MTV.” I answered him that the kids would rather go not to Starbucks but the fastfood places, and they would rather watch MYX. “MYX?” he asked, his big, wondering eyes glazing. There you go, I wanted to tell him, you will lose this election because you do not know your voters.

With this in mind, I talk to the young during weekends. Lolo Pepe Rizal was correct then, and now: hope for this scandalously colorful country only resides in the young.

And so several weekends ago, I gave a short, spicy talk about the images and stereotypes of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders in the mass media. Then I asked them for questions, which is always the more fruitful part of any discussion, especially with the young. And the questions, they came in such a deluge that I wasn’t able to answer everything. I gathered up the rest of the unanswered questions, and promised to answer them. Here they are:

How do you define LGBT?
Lesbians and gays are people whose sexual attraction and affection are directed at people of their own sex. Therefore, women to women, and men to men. Bisexuals are people whose sexual attraction and affection are directed at people of both sexes. I quipped that they are like AC-DC electrical outlets: plug them in and they will electrify everybody. A young man asked me if I believe bisexuals exist and I said, “Of course! They may be fewer, but I believe that bisexuals exist, and bisexuality is not just a step away from homosexuality, nor is it a phase that can be outgrown.” And how about transgenders? They are people who believe they were assigned the wrong sex. Transgenders are not gay men; their whole being rests on their gender identity of being women.

What causes homosexuality?
Some people say it is nature, that is why there are gay papayas — (they flower but do not bear fruit) and there are gay crabs — they have big bodies and they have eggs, that is why housewives love to buy them. So if you follow this argument, then gayness is part of nature and nature was made by God; so why would you despise something that God has made?

Another point of view is that of nurture: that gayness is acquired through upbringing and socialization. That young men whose fathers were absent when they were young grew up to be gay (something straight from Freud). And that young men who were molested by same-sex partners when young grow up to be gay. Of course not.
I think it is, like most things, a combination of both nature and nurture, birth and breeding.

What are metrosexuals?
Ten years ago, the concept of metrosexuality started in the West, crossed oceans and cyberspace, and reached our shores. Metrosexuals are men who have appropriated the style and even the sensibility of gay men in clothes, décor and even language. But some of them are still straight. I guess it has come to a point where it has become déclassé to be anti-gay. To know gay fashion and gay language is to be hip, to be young, and to be fashionable. If colegiala language was the youthspeak of the 1980s, then gay language is the youthspeak of the present generation.

How do you deal with all the discrimination?
Personally, I have never felt discrimination because I never let people oppress me. I oppress them. This must be because I was born in a military base to a father who was a military officer and a mother who is the soul of stoicism. My father, who also went to law school, insisted that you should always debate and argue with your nay-sayers. If he is a bully and bigger than you and challenges you to a fistfight — go, girl! But first, get a bamboo stick or a slab of wood to beat him up, black and blue. Because if you go home black and blue and mewling that the enemy was bigger, my father himself would give you a dose of the fabled military discipline. That was one of my earliest lessons in justice and fairness.

But there are others who did not have my, uh, pure, Amazonian breeding. Social structures created by people oppress them. One of the lesbian members of Ang Ladlad, a UP graduate, applied for a job in Makati. She was number one in the exams, and during the interview, the HRD officer’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when in came this mega-butch, super-dyke of an applicant.

HRD asked point-blank: “Are you a practising lesbian? Because we do not hire practising lesbians.”

Ang Ladlad lesbian’s answer: “No, I am no longer practising. I am already good at it.”

Naturally, she was not hired.

Another of our Ang Ladlad members, a transgender who took her MA in Sociology at the Ateneo de Manila University, applied for a call-center job in Ortigas. Again, she was number one in the exams. And the HRD officer’s eyes really popped out of their sockets and flew to the wall when in came this tall, long-haired transgender. With boobs.

HRD asked point-blank: “But the application form said your name is Rogelio and you are supposed to be male!”

Ang Ladlad transgender’s answer: “But I am a woman.”

HRD: “We cannot hire you because we do not hire men with breasts!”

Ang Ladlad transgender: “Why, will my boobs answer the phone and say, XYZ Corporation, may I help you?”

Naturally, she was not hired.

Are there more homosexuals today and why do you keep on multiplying even when you don’t procreate? Why is that?

I love the needling and insistent tone of this question. Parang she (the questioner is a she) is so shocked by the fact that we are now here, there, and everywhere. Do I detect here a babe scorned by a cute, buffed, and bright dude who happens to be a dudette? Hmmm.
Anyway, gays are not like gremlins: the moment water is thrown at them, they multiply. There have been gays before, but they were in their closets, living the life of mummies in their coffins made of stone. Sexuality studies by Alfred Kinsey, et al, have confirmed that at least 10 percent of the population must be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. If there are now 88 million Filipinos that translates to 8.8 million Filipinos who are LGBT.

That is the big news that our friends — politicians included — should think about, now that the 2010 political cauldron has begun to bubble and boil

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Mama’s Boy

BY Danton Remoto
Remote Control
Views and analysis
http://www.abs-cbnnews.com

Thirty years ago I joined an essay-writing contest for Quezon City high-school students and won for this piece, written when I was 14 years old. I recently unearthed this while fixing my files. Let us see if times have changed for the bagets nowadays.

* * *

It has been said that a mother’s hands shape the world. From cradle to college and even long afterward, a mother nags, laughs, cries and goads you to be not just what you are but what you can be.

“Your mother belongs to the old school,” my father will say when we are baffled by her actions. She barks orders like a platoon sergeant, telling us children to fold our blankets, flatten our bed sheets and not to leave our dirty clothes on the floor like molten snake’s skin. She also orders us to arrange our books, dust the windows, and sweep the leaves in the yard now that the maid has gone back to her hometown to join the fiesta and the baile (dance).

My mother is a worrisome woman who hates villains in soap operas, tends to her orchids as if they are diamonds, and plays well on our upright piano, which our father bought for her after they were married. She came from a musical family in Oas, Albay, and she required us to study the piano under her tutelage. When she has time, she installs herself in front of the piano and plays, her fingers running on the keys like spindly spider’s legs.

Her warts of worry multiplied, though, when we all grew up to be lanky teen-agers. She thought it was a bad reflection on her, a home economics major who teaches music in school. She requires us to eat, and eat a lot. Since I am a rebel and always do the opposite of what my elders tell me to do, I ate less and less. She is a mean cook, all right, but sometimes, I would rather just sleep, or read, or watch TV.

Her exercise of motherhood is simple but not simplistic. She sticks to the essentials: study well, do not quarrel with each other, learn the house work, and keep away from bad company in the neighborhood and in school. Also, look both ways when you are crossing the street, do not poke fun at the disabled, and attend Sunday Mass.

Of course, she has her weak moments: she will frown when my father comes home late from work; she will frown when we come home late from school, and she will frown some more when the house maid takes hours to return from the market. And she also talks a lot. I guess this happens, by reflex, from being a teacher. But I guess all these have made her more real, more human, and more alive for us.

We sometimes have our skirmishes. Being the eldest, I’ve been told to take care of my younger siblings until those words have clogged inside my ears. Like most Filipinos, we are a tightly-knit group. But sometimes, I just want to climb the roof of our house and stay there, under the aratiles trees filled with their tiny, red fruits. Sometimes I feel smothered, lost in the confusion of voices and faces and movements in the house. Sometimes, I just want a space where my spiky elbows can move about without hurting anyone.

But when I get sick, my mother becomes a mother again. No more drama from my part about wanting some space and distance. My mother’s blurred outline becomes sharp once more, clear in my mind. When my tonsils swell, like a fatal fever in my throat, she will rush to the room I share with my brother. She brings with her standard paraphernalia: blanket, rubbing alcohol, antibiotics, thermometer, and a glassful of lukewarm kalamansi juice that she herself squeezed.

She begins the ritual, naturally, with her scolding me for taking cold soft drinks, for letting sweat dry on my back. But after this, she settles back beside my bed, takes my temperature, shakes her head, pops a capsule into my mouth and washes it down with the lemony juice.

And then once again, I become the child, remembering the lullabies and the warm, gentle hands and not caring a bit if I am called, uh, a mama’s boy.