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I Chose to Be Gay

Yes, I chose to be gay. Now before you accuse me of ignorance or political incorrectness, and lecture me on how dangerous and irresponsible this statement is, please hear what I have to say. Consider this my second “coming out.”

An overwhelming majority of the literature I’ve come across with claim that I did not choose this life. Why would I, if all it brings is suffering? Lady Gaga has honored my tribe by singing to the world that I was “born this way.” But the people on the other side of the table claim that it is a political strategy. This is the minority who claim that no one is born gay, that being gay is an option.

I have read enough material, and have debated with enough people to say that both camps have valid and invalid arguments. However, I don’t like the idea of other people speaking on my behalf. So, like any freethinking individual driven by critical analysis and introspection, I had to evaluate my own personal experience in order to answer the question: “Was I born this way or did I choose to be gay?”

Obviously, it was not an easy question to answer as it required that I knew exactly what made me “gay.” Is it the fact that I am attracted to men? Is it that I act upon this attraction and have sex with men? If I am only attracted to men but do not act upon the attraction, does it make me “less gay?” The exercise raised more questions than answers. But the more questions I had to confront, the more I was convinced. I chose to be gay.

It was one summer night when I made the choice. I had just gone on a date as a “confused” teenager with another guy. I was 18. Lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, I thought of the possible consequences of my actions. I thought about what it would take for me to choose that path. I thought of what to say to my family. And after sorting out my thoughts and my feelings, I was no longer confused. At that precise moment in my life, I had made a choice. I thought to myself, “Yes, I am gay. And yes, I’m gonna do this!” He eventually became my first boyfriend. It was a result of my choice.

I could have chosen a different path. I could have chosen to dump him and raise a heteronormative family. He would have become part of a “phase” that I “experimented” with. Perhaps the world might have never known about that lovely skeleton in my closet. I would, most likely, still be attracted to men, because that is one part of me that I didn’t choose. But other than that, I could be showing all signs of being straight, in all its manly glory. Would my “straightness” then be questioned because of my remaining attraction to men? This raises the question, “What makes you straight?” Attraction alone is definitely not what makes me gay. The totality of my being gay today is a result of innate traits and conscious choices I made along the way.

This could easily turn into a debate over definitions. And this debate will surely continue even after both camps reach a conclusion. I doubt that bigots will cease to be bigots if we find conclusive proof that Lady Gaga is right. Sure, some of us did not choose this. But so what if some of us did? If I choose to love another man and not a woman, what logical, rational, scientific explanation do you have to say that it is the wrong choice for me?

Again, this is my personal experience. It may not apply to other gay people out there. But for people like me, the discussion will no longer be about whether it was a choice or not. It will be about why the choice should not even be a topic of discussion.

Yes, I chose to be gay. And that should be okay!

This article first appeared here

Posted in Advocacy, Gender Rights, PoliticsComments (9)

On Gay Labels and Gay Memories

“The mass of steel started to crawl away from the train station. The smell of rust was drowned out by a deafening noise that signaled our departure. I reached for the nearest handrail as the ground beneath me started to move. The whole cabin swayed to a rhythm that was random and measured at the same time. In between sobs, my heartbeat tried to catch up with this rhythm but it soon took its own cadence. I was three or four years old. It was a few years before the people power revolution. But all I cared about was where my mother was. And the man seated next to me, who claimed to be my grandfather, had promised that she would be waiting at the next stop.”

This is my earliest memory. I wrote it as part of a writing challenge I accepted for 2013. I have also secretly doubled up this challenge by seeing if I could consistently frame anything I wrote with an LGBT perspective. But my earliest memory does not have anything gay about it, unless I turn it into fiction and “gay it up.” I am, after all, a gay writer. I have also occasionally introduced myself as a gay activist. I am also a freethinker, a photographer, and a teacher. But I have never called myself a gay freethinker, a gay photographer, or a gay teacher.

So when is it appropriate to make something or someone ‘gay’ simply by adding the ‘G’ word? If you’re gay and you’re reading this, does it make you a gay reader? And as my partner (who happens to be gay, so perhaps I should say my gay partner) properly posited, should someone self-identify as a transgender in order to be a transactivist? And how about marriage? Why do some people reject the term gay marriage and prefer marriage equality?

Ascribing labels is a basic concept in identity politics and serves multiple functions. Minority groups use labels to claim an identity, or define an experience that would otherwise be assumed to belong to the majority. For example, we do not usually hear someone say “I am a straight statistician” as the heterosexual majority has made us assume that everyone is straight unless they say they are not. But one could be a gay statistician if one so chooses because it is his way of claiming an identity in a field dominated by straight men. Guy Branum, in his article “Yes, Nate Silver, You Are a Gay Statistician,” slams Silver for rejecting the word gay in his title. By dropping the word ‘gay’, Silver is attempting to detach his identity from his experience. It is as if calling himself a gay statistician would require him to use a pink computer and to “gay up” his calculations.

This same hesitation is shared by those who do not embrace the term gay marriage. According to detractors, if we follow this logic, we would have to append the word ‘gay’ to everything that is currently not accessible to gay people. We would have to fight for gay adoptiongay inheritancegay visitation rightsgay immigration, and so on. It would seem too obvious to point out that the labels matter less than the actual benefits and improvements to our lives.

This is where identity politics comes in conflict with political correctness. Political correctness is a hungry monster that devours unsuspecting words to sustain its relevance. It then spits out neutral labels that have been stripped of their rich history, political conviction, socio-cultural value, and ultimately, their original identity. And that, to me, is a pity.

Don’t get me wrong, I acknowledge that political correctness has its place in social discourse. In fact, for the sake of interpersonal relationships and political harmony, I will continue to use marriage equality and whatever other permutations. However, I will keep calling myself a gay writer. If I wear a rainbow shirt and use a fluffy pen when writing about gay characters, it would be of little to no consequence. What matters is that I am a passionate writer who also happens to be proud of his sexual orientation. And if I become successful, I would prefer to be remembered as a successful gay writer and not simply a successful writer. Perhaps, when the time comes, I would figure out how I can be a gay freethinker, a gay photographer, or a gay teacher. For now, I am happy being a gay writer.

The train behind me sped away taking with it all worries I had. In place of my mother, there he stood, the boy of my dreams.



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Men in Uniform, the Fantasy and the Reality

[ Read original article here | Read more from the same writer here ]

Inquirer’s article on gays enrolling in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) shows us that although LGBT activism has gained traction in the fight for equality, there is still a long way to go.


Sexual Orientation is not Gender Expression

It’s a well known fact that the general public (LGBTs included) is still struggling with terms and definitions related to LGBT topics. This is made even more difficult when these concepts (most of which come from the west) have no equivalent in our culture. Sometimes it is because there is no direct translation and sometimes it is because of differences in popular stereotypes. Take for example the following statement from Inquirer’s “PMA now open to gays but don’t show it“:

“From experience, there are (gay PMA graduates). Maybe he was able to graduate because during the training in the Academy there was no opportunity for his (gay) tendencies (to show). When he left the academy that’s when it came out,” – Captain Agnes Flores, PMA spokesperson

Flores was clearly referring to being effeminate (gender expression) when she said “(gay) tendencies” and “it came out” not to being gay (sexual orientation). This is because in Philippine culture, the effeminate gay male (who, at times, is actually a transgender woman) is the more visible stereotype than the masculine gay male. Thus, Filipinos associate being gay (sexual orientation) with being effeminate (gender expression). What Flores fails to understand is being gay has more to do with attraction and not outward expression.

In the Absence of Specifics, Generalize!

I have yet to hear of an institution which is able to or dares to profile its students based on sexual orientation. But if PMA’s claims are accurate, then it may very well be the first.

“In any case, they say, gay cadets eventually leave the PMA anyway before completing the four-year course because they cannot stand the rigors of training.”

“Flores claimed that school officials had observed that gay cadets apparently could not cope with the demands of training.”

It would be interesting to request data that would show what percentage of the PMA dropouts are gay. In simplistic terms, this is asking how many dropouts said “I’m dropping out because this is too much for a gay man to handle.

Yes, getting these data is moot and academic. But Flores not only has a responsibility to ensure her claims are based on facts, she also has the responsiblity to ensure that her statements do not put a specific sector of society in a bad light. By claiming that gay men are not able to stand the rigors of training, she has effectively made gay men inferior to straight men even without factual basis. This, by the way, is a discriminatory act. And if House Bill 1483 or 515 (both Anti-Discrimination Bills) were already in force, any PMA officer who dismisses a cadet using Flores’ baseless claim would face imprisonment of up to 6 years or pay a fine of 250 to 500 thousand Pesos.

Perpetuating Gender Norms

Discrimination is often justified by invoking social constructs. It may be summarized by the statement “I am not discriminating against gay men and lesbian women, I just expect them to act like straight men and women because that’s what society accepts.” What people do not realize is that gender norms reinforce discrimination because it forces people to meet expectations created by heterosexuals.

“So anyone who displays gay behavior would be reprimanded because that’s not what is expected of them. They enter our institution and they are to follow the rules and regulations of our organization,” she stressed.

This statement needs careful unpacking so I will dissect it one homophobic thought at a time.

So anyone who displays gay behavior would be reprimanded…” – This is where I would ask Flores to define what is “gay behavior” and what is the corresponding reprimand. Similarly, I would also ask if females are reprimanded for displaying “lesbian behavior.” And finally I would ask for a report on the kinds of “gay behavior” they have actually documented.

…because that’s not what is expected of them…” – So what is expected of them to display, “straight behavior”? Taking off from the previous paragraph, I would also ask for a definition of “straight behavior.” But semantics aside, the following statement takes the cake as far as discrimination is concerned:

…they are to follow the rules and regulations of our organization,” – If a group of people is singled out by rules and regulations solely because of this group’s gender expression, then ladies and gentlemen, that is discrimination.

Unintended Discrimination is Still Discrimination

My gut tells me that Flores has no malicious intent. It may be that she is not aware of the slimy worm of discrimination slithering in the core of the pretentious apple of tolerance she is parading about. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, unintended discrimination is still discrimination. And while half-baked tolerance is still the lesser evil than an outright ban, there is still much to be desired as far as the LGBT education of these PMA officers is concerned. We can only wish Flores and the rest of the PMA would one day understand the true meaning of acceptance and equality. Until that day becomes reality, equality among men in uniform will remain a fantasy.

[ Read original article here | Read more from the same writer here ]


Image Credit: Philippine Information Agency

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