Thank God for sassy women who can sing. Or divas, as we’ve exalted them. I’ve adopted many of their songs as personal anthems, if not emulated their moves on the dance floor while inebriated. Moreover, each of these glorious gals has inspired this gay man to be a feminist.
At the forefront of this rallying call, of course, is the Queen Bee herself: Beyoncé.
Since having some rapper spit for your track is so passé, Mrs. Carter took a different route with her [fire emoji] single, ***Flawless. Because why invite T-Pain to rap about getting turnt up when you can have South African author Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie preach about feminism?
ADICHIE: We teach girls to shrink themselves—to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man.
I now use Ms. Adichie as a relationship guru and have been on the lookout for a man just as successful I am. And so I am still single.
All jokes aside, let me assert that we should all be feminists. All of us should believe in social, political, and economic equality for everyone. Anyone who says otherwise is on the wrong side of history and is probably a direct descendant of Satan. However, there is another cause that is even closer to my heart but might never gain the same amount of traction that feminism has: effeminism.
For everyone else, effeminism refers to having qualities and characteristics that are quite feminine. For gay people, on the other hand, effeminism is when you find yourself at the bottom of the gay food chain thanks to a flying ipis and your concrete-cracking high-pitched squeals.
An acquaintance of mine had recently interviewed me for a newspaper piece. It was on the discrimination against non-traditional masculinity within the gay community. I shared a recent experience wherein an anonymous guy from Grindr messaged me saying, “Hey, you look hot and you seem very smart. But I checked your Instagram and you seem too gay. Sayang.”
Such a remark did not even warrant a reply; however, it got me thinking. Why is it unfortunate that I seem “too gay”? (It isn’t.) What was it about me that did not pass his minimum requirement for masculinity? (There’s not enough space in this post, but offhand, it might be my penchant for short shorts.) What is the prescribed amount of gayness that would not warrant ridicule anyway? (On a scale of pre-pubescent Lohanthony to Richard Simmons maybe?) Said anonymous guy should be thankful that I am in no mood to hunt his sorry ass down and shriek, “Did you even fucking consider if you were my type?”
This is the reality that effeminate gay men live in. While there has been a greater acceptance of the gay community in most societies, one can still smell the foul stench of bigotry towards those who manifest more feminine characteristics. This cannot be anymore truer in the Philippine context. Friends have constantly shared heartbreaking anecdotes regarding this conditional acceptance.
One friend’s family is okay with his homosexuality as long as he doesn’t start wearing dresses and putting on makeup. Obviously, the family didn’t get the memo that gays are not transsexuals. For another friend, his workplace claims equal opportunity employment but only hires gay people who are discreet and “not flamboyant.” (There goes the Lady Gaga lip sync battle one could have staged by the water cooler.) And then there’s discriminatory dating—other gay men are more than happy to date you as long as you aren’t too camp. We teach gay men to live their truths, if only those truths deepen their voice and pump iron at the gym.
In my younger years, I have been guilty of masking some of my traits to appear more masc when meeting potential partners. The first to go was my voice, which can be best described as Assumptionista-esque. During dates, I would speak in a register low enough to make Toni Braxton squirm. And rather than slip into the hot pants I secretly loved, I donned the latest button-downs and khakis in hot-cereal tones.
But then I grew older. I smartened up and no longer gave a fuck. I decided to live honestly as a slightly effeminate gay man, Tita laugh piercing the sky and neon pink gym wear distracting passersby. After all, it was Madonna who taught me to “express myself.” So I did—I became true to myself and found eligible gay men along the way. Ones who would eventually become serious partners who appreciated me for being me.
The divas in our lives sometimes use club anthems to get our attention (“Express Yourself” being one of them). But there are also times when they use a quieter voice to make the loudest statements. In her 2001 single, “What It Feels Like for a Girl,” Madonna opened one of her loveliest tracks with a savage sample from Charlotte Gainsbourg. It pretty much sums up the problem for feminism and effeminism:
Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots. ‘Cause it’s okay to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading. ‘Cause you think that being a girl is degrading. But secretly, you’d love to know what it’s like, wouldn’t you? What it feels like for a girl.
I can’t help but sigh as I watch a big swath of younger gays glorify the paminta, espousing masculine qualities just so they can maintain the mystery on Instagram or their “personal brands.” On nights out and on the dance floor, I would encourage them to let their freak flags fly. “Ikembot mo na yan! Ilabas mo na lahat ng kendeng sa kaluluwa mo!” I would chide. After all, the dance floor is a wonderful place to start embracing our inner Sasha Fierces.
We may live in a “man’s, man’s, man’s world.” But with a lot more self-acceptance and even just a sprinkle of girl power, it could be a world for everyone.
© 2017 Victor John Platon
All Rights Reserved.