In “Gay Friendly” Philippines, Lesbians Still Forced to Keep it in the Closet

Katrina Casino

By Intern Katrina Casino

I get proposed to. A lot. Outside of gay clubs, by gay men. It seems to be the customary practice upon meeting other queer Filipinos here in the States. Give the gay eye, give the Filipino eye, hug and rejoice, pronounce each other’s names with silly fake Filipino accents, begin to plan a wedding so that our parents will never have to know. Standard, yeah?

It is for us.

It’s more than just a giant inside joke among countrymen, really. It’s more like a reflection of the greater society that our parents grew up in; flamboyant and celebratory at first glance but guarded and secret for those who dare to look closer. It’s a Filipino cultural thing: we can be out and proud and dancing queens (of any gender) all up in the gay clubs and in our lives away from home, but when it comes to family, a certain code of closeted conduct is expected.

01_Manila_mixed_49The capital city of the Philippines, Manila, is a city that lives behind gates and listens through walls. It’s also a huge cultural center where tradition coexists clumsily with progress. Its palm-tree lined back alleys and boulevards give way to the towering monoliths of condominiums and office buildings which rise indiscriminately behind stately manors as often as they ominously shade rows of dilapidated huts.

The Philippines is also widely regarded as Asia’s most gay-friendly country. Despite this, it’s also the kind of place where, if you’ve got something to hide — and for women, this probably applies to most of your feelings and ideas — you’d better do so before everyone and their mom and their priest finds out about it.

Let me explain. When they say that the Philippines is a “gay-friendly” country, they mean two things:

1) Friendly to gay men, of course. What are these “lezz-be-ins” you speak of? Aren’t they from Greece or something? This is the Philippines, sorry, we don’t have those here.

2) “Gay-friendly” as in like, “we would like to tokenize you as our hairdressers and makeup artists because you gay guys are cute and funny, come make people laugh on our TV shows.

In fact, gay men are so prevalent in Filipino society and media that they’ve become universally recognized icons referred to as “the bakla” (meaning: “gay”). Although this term has a derogatory connotation (though, if we’re living in a society that holds a derogatory opinion of gays, isn’t even the truth meant to sound insulting?), it has very much been reclaimed by the gay male community, rendering it fairly harmless. It’s kind of like what’s been happening to “queer” in the US for the last 40 or so years. Redefining a word on our own terms takes away its deprecating power. They can’t shout it at us in the streets if we’re shouting it ourselves.

The bakla remains something of a jester or a spectacle in society, something to be tolerated, but not necessarily fully accepted or understood. Still though, because they are frequently employed, once again as makeup artists or stylists, by upper-class women, they may gain social status. The bakla are given an opportunity that gay women are not: social mobility.

For some reason, the first thing most gays, male or female, say to me when I tell them I’m Filipino is, “Oh my God, my ex is Filipino, that’s so funny!” Really though, if all of you have Filipino exes, where are they?! Where the girls at?

Social mobility is a big deal because tolerance of homosexuality varies among classes. Those in the lower classes tend to have more pressure to have children as a form of financial security. Those in the upper classes are more likely to be followed and scrutinized by society as a whole. It’s a lose-lose situation, but at least gay men, being men, are afforded a greater opportunity for financial independence, freeing them, to some extent, from familial expectations or obligations.

Where the girls at?

For some reason, the first thing most gays, male or female, say to me when I tell them I’m Filipino is, “Oh my God, my ex is Filipino, that’s so funny!” To which I usually reply, “Oh we’re totally related! How did you know?” because I am sadistic and enjoy making people feel uncomfortable using my ethnicity and sexuality. Really though, if all of you have Filipino exes, where are they?! Where the girls at?

I dunno, perhaps ask the Catholic Church.

Good Friday in The Philippines

Good Friday in The Philippines

See, the history, and subsequently the contemporary culture, of the Philippines is one largely shaped by colonization. For about 300 years the Philippines was under the crown of Spain (I’m still a little mad about this), and as we all know, the Imperial Spanish loved their Catholicism! 90% of the Philippines is Catholic, which manifests itself in some relatively innocuous ways (neon “Jesus Loves His Children” signs on the highway, the God’s Love Drugstore), but also becomes prevalent and highly influential in harmful ways, such as hegemony over the government and the shaping and reinforcement of social norms.

Seemingly less dangerous than the all-American “God-Hates-Fags” route is the Filipino Catholic Church’s focus on a specific type of family unit. Though the Filipino family can be a cohesive, supportive, and loving unit, the pressure to, or rather expectation that one will, create a family weighs heavily against the closet door. Here the traditional heterosexual family model is the only acceptable possibility; same-sex marriage, never mind adoption by a same-sex couple, is not within the realm of public consideration, and so for women, who are expected to have children, marriage to a man is really the only option. Sorta like pre-WWII America, where women couldn’t come out because (among other things) their position in society did not allow them to seek or achieve financial independence from their husbands.

Katrina and her gay shoes

Katrina & Shoes with Postcard

Specific gender roles, it is no surprise, are also strictly adhered to. With women in powerful careers as well as in political positions (we’ve even had several female presidents), the Philippines is pretty progressive when it comes to the workplace roles of women. Despite this, the prevailing sentiment is still that the primary role of women is in the home, and they are expected to maintain a certain air of “femininity” within their appearance. This is the kind of weird shit that comes up when my family is about to go to church on Sunday, and 30 seconds before we walk out the door my mom freaks out and tells me to “wear girl shoes” because I “had better look like a girl.” Like what the hell does that even mean? I’m a girl, I’m wearing these shoes. Girl shoes. It’s easy.
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While in the Philippines last month I surprisingly did find some lesbinformants, if you will, to ask about what it’s like to be in a new generation of gay ladies in the Philippines. This happened unexpectedly while I was out on my first night at a (straight) bar with my cousin and her friends. We were sitting at the bar, eating chicken wings and being legal (at 19, being underage in the US is getting a little old), when a girl walks in— you know the type—gay swagger, plaid shirt, aviators in the collar even though its 11pm, and to my internally wide-eyed surprise, she walks right over and sits next to my cousin.
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NEXT:These stories finally give some light as to why my parents and I were mutually shocked by each others reaction to my coming out.

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Katrina is a 23-year-old grrrl splitting her time between her great homeland of New York City and Washington DC. She loves activism and hates sleep, which is convenient because neither of those things really allows for the other anyway. She thinks that slang is rad. As a math equation (with words, because she is bad at math), Katrina would go as such: writer + riot grrrl = wrioter grrrl. When not manifesting itself as a mathematical equation, Katrina’s life usually reads out like a lesbian coming-of-age novel, though sometimes she wishes it were more like a bad 1950s lesbian pulp fiction story. Also, she really, really, truly believes that the revolution is upon us. Come read her rantings about it on her twitter and blog!

Contact: katrina[at]autostraddle.com

katrina has written 64 articles for us.

111 Comments

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      Pinoy lesbians do have some political visibility in groups such as The ‘Babaylan Group’ (the name is from pre-Hispanic cross-dressing priests) at the University of the Philippines, ‘CLIC’ (Cannot Live In the Closet) in the main city of Manila, ‘Lesbond’ in the summer mountain resort city of Bagiuo and ‘The Group’ in the southern city of Davao. Here in the U.S. there is ‘Kilawin Kolektibo’ (literally the ‘ceviche collective’ with ‘Tibo’ being Pinoy slang for lesbian). And yes, while the most visible exemplars of ‘baklas’ or ‘badings’ (gay men) are in couture and coiffure, the majority are office workers, doctors, nurses, soldiers (even a 4-star Brigadier General) and the like.

      The difficulty here is in transposing the notion of being ‘out’ onto a culture that does not necessarily fall within the monolithic model of ‘gayness’. Certainly not in the politicized manner that it is usually defined in the west.

      I myself know some flamboyantly gay Pinoy men who are accepted as such by their wives and children. So go figure…

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    Gosh, this was an excellent article. I got all out of bed and turned my computer back on after seeing the link to this article on TweetDeck (of course, having to check Twitter one last time before falling into a deep drug-induced sleep). I am glad I got out of bed for this. Thank you.

    Deciding to put my career ahead of my personal life (no, not usually wise), I followed finally coming out with just weeks later leaving Vancouver (you know, one of the most lesbian-friendly cities ever) for Manila (a city, as you pointed out, where lesbian-friendly is not even close to the reality here). I’ve spent the last year living in Makati City, the Manila business district, and have come up short in all of my attempts to locate some sort of an active lesbian network. Unfortunately my total inability to speak the local language likely doesn’t help anything (while the English in the Philippines is excellent, there is something to be said for networking opportunities that come with knowing the local tongue), and there is also nothing on the internet except dead ends, there are no exclusive Lesbian bars, and I have no idea how my very Catholic employees (who tell me often that they are praying for me, maybe because I yell “Jesus Christ” at inappropriate times ) would react if I asked them if they know any gay ladies, regardless of how out of the closet I am here.

    Your explanation of the historical, religious, and personal family pressures that have caused and continue to cause Lesbian women across the Philippines staying in the closest/living heterosexual lifestyles, is insightful, extremely interesting, and in a lot of ways for me very helpful. In an attempt to pull an immature “I told you so,” I have already sent this article to my therapist, who for over a year has had a very hard time understanding why every time I talk to her on the phone I haven’t gotten any further in my “goal” to make a lesbian bff or two. She keeps telling me I cannot possibly be the only lesbian in Manila, and while I obviously am not (case in point, Lesbinformant 1 and 2 – if either of them are looking for a new bff let me know), the idea that I am just not trying hard enough is not the whole issue here.
    Yes, thank you for this.

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        My therapist said, after reading this, that Katrina Casino is a very good writer. I am not joking. Response part one – that woman really can write.

        And then she said she believed me a little bit but that I have to find my way into the secret society (more my words than hers, the secret society reference anyway), and if that doesn’t work I need to hop a plane (yes, her term this time, for reals) to Hong Kong every once in a while so I can get laid.

        In other news, I made a friend. HERE in Manila. Because of this article/this website. You alls are awesome.

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      totally agree on the language barrier deal. you also never know what you’re missing out on overhearing.
      THE LESBIAN NETWORK EXISTS SOMEWHERE THOUGH. for reals, keep in touch around here; i’ll talk to lesbinformant 2’s girlfriend and see if i can’t get you some informaton. maybe you’ll get inducted into the secret society eh?

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      There is a Filipino thread on AfterEllen.com you might want to check out in the forum section. Most of the discussion is in English (since it is an English language site). You can make some online acquaintances that way. I think there are also some online forums like http://lezpinay.unlimitboard.com/forum.htm but I haven’t checked it out so I don’t know if it is active or not.

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    Really interesting article, it was certainly a different take on my understanding of being gay in the Philippines but I can see where you’re coming from. Very good read indeed.

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    My Filipina sister! This gave me a LOT of feelings. I may only be half Filipina but that side of the family is enough for me to feel the pressure. I haven’t come out to them yet because, frankly, I’m terrified. My uncle’s gay and I see what he has to go through and it’s dumb. He can’t visit my great grandmother [even though they’re very close] because every time he goes there, my great aunt blesses him. His mother is praying for him because of his sexuality. I can’t even begin to imagine what they’d do about me. Whether I like it or not my family kind of considers me a “big deal” because I was the first daughter born in three generations or something [and I definitely started a trend.. all my cousins are girls.] I’m also the first one born in my generation. So they expect a lot from me. It’s so unfortunate that the stereotype of Filipinos being all up in EVERYBODY’S business is so true in my family. Family gatherings consist of gossip, food, gossip, more food, and a whole lot of gossip. Everyone loves a good scandal and once one family member finds out that I’m gay, the entire family will know within a few days and I can guarantee no one will stick up for me.

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      Ok, obvs my parents would stick up for me [my mom likes the gays/is not filipina and my dad doesn’t really share a lot of the same values and traditions as the rest of his family] but everyone else.. I’m not holding my breath.

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      ugh vashti my filipina sister, you make me feel so many things for our country.
      i feel like we’re kind of in a similar situation what with the expectations of our parents and all. like there’s a LOT to be said for the pressure put on the older kids of first generations, what with our parents having come to america for a better life and all. like what a fucking trump card.
      and i feel like there’s no escaping external family pressure. like going there really made me realize how huge my family is and how many people are going to be “let down” and “disappointed” and all that. it’s absurd, why can’t i just live my life for me! in an ideal filipino world, we would have the food but not the gossip.

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        ahhh i’m half pinay too. the 3 of us must be related! haha!

        i was actually in the philippines a few weeks ago. wish we could have hung out while i was there. i was in Cebu for the most part though.

        I noticed that when I went to the Philippines with my mom a few years back she was hanging out with the bakla’s and getting her hair done by them and learning how to salsa and do the cha-cha. it was really one of the first times my mom and i talked about my own queerness. usually she changes the subject or never brings it up. she still thinks that i just need to find the right man (which will always frustrate me) but it was interesting to have those conversations with her while i was there.

        i also found out that my godmother’s were tomboys and ended up dating each other! no wonder i’m a big homo!

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          1) Um, so Katrina and I may or may not have spent hours trying to figure out if we’re related [still haven’t verified if we actually are] and we decided after finding out that we share two last names that we most definitely have to be related because of fate/destiny/etc. WHAT I MEAN BY ALL THIS IS: yes. You are probably related to us. And if not, we consider you family anyway. =]
          2)That’s hilarious/awesome about your godmothers! I’m pretty sure you got the gay gene from them. Haha.

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    Nice article Katrina!

    I don’t speak Tagalog but if I did, I would say something to you right now in Tagalog!

    Like “Good job girl!” or “People just don’t know what it’s like, you brought some good insight to the situation.”

    I get written off b/c I don’t speak Tagalog. It’s kinda mean but my parents never taught me!

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      aw, it’s okay, if you said something to me in tagalog, i wouldn’t understand it anyway :(
      i think that possibly my least favorite feeling in the world is when someone approaches me trying to talk, and i have to utter the cringe-worthy, “i’m sorry, i only speak english!”
      first generation curse?

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        I have a english-tagalog phrase book right here, but only because my sponsored child (Jaima Darilla Belmes) from Children International is Filipina and sometimes when I write her notes I include phrases like ‘Ako ay iyong kaibigan’ (I am your friend). She writes me letters in very broken proper English (‘My dear sponsor, thank you for writting me. I surprise for your picture. Your so cute and beauty.’) And she says she would like to meet me one day (CI allows sponsor visits) but I don’t know, I feel like I would stick out like a giant, gay thumb…

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    “I’m a girl, I’m wearing these shoes. Girl shoes. It’s easy.”

    I think you just won every argument a gay girl has had with her parents about her clothing/shoes/general appearance.

    also I have many bromotions about this piece

    slow clap

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        You can try a Liz Feldman approach. You know her bit about gay marriage… she doesn’t want ‘gay’ marriage, she wants gay marriage. Because she had lunch today, not gay lunch. And she parked her car, she didn’t gay park it…

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    Maraming Salamat! haha like the only thing I know how to say in Tagalog. Excellent article… As a Filipina it is nice to see I am not alone in my struggle between this strange dichotomy of wanting what my family wants and staying true to my own desires… YAY so thanks for this

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      ahahah, the only thing i know how to say in tagalog is various insults about one’s mother. i feel you might be on a better path.
      but yeah, it’s really weird being raised in america with really strong filipino ideals. the vast majority of my friends are gay (my world is weird), and literally everyone’s parents are okay with it but mine.
      i had this weird revelation while there. i had finally come to terms with the fact that my parents aren’t going to accept me right now, and then i remembered how many aunts/cousins/mother’s family friends turned priests from ateneo were going to never see me get married to a man. stressful naman.
      i don’t even know if i used that right. anyway, that was my personal life.

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    katrina this is SO GOOD. i knew/ow nothing about the philippines, but this made me feel much more enlightened. and way to put your parents’ reactions into context ’cause that can be really really hard to do.

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      can i just say that i have heard most of these from creepy creepster asian fetish guys.
      also there was this one guy who accidentally called me handsome instead. i was quick to correct him and his man ponytail.
      also, thanks boo. i’m glad to be your asian lesbian spirit guide. come stay at my house and have a talk with my parents!

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      omg, did you know 25 people crucified themselves on good friday in the philippines? i felt that was besides the point but you can imagine finding that photo for your article and subsequently the post it came from and the news article it linked to was like a 45 minute tangent of OMG. Similar things happen everywhere, obvs, b/c catholics have a lot of strange feelings/ideas about G-d wherever they dwell, but um, um, um boom boom WOW.

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    Dad: I just…think that you should try dating boys.
    Me: I think that YOU should try dating boys!
    +
    well said.
    +
    well written piece. except i don’t see any mention of rice. i feel things have to happen out in the rice paddies.

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    i’m really glad i’m friends with someone who can write about something serious and still be funny. i’m having a hard time saying how awesome this is, but know that it is really, really awesome. good job little chicklet!!

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    This is ace, really really well done. I particularly enjoyed the paras about lesbian smoke signals and the use of the word ‘lesbinformant’.

    As for DEBS being the most underrated of lesbian films – Agreed. Totally.

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    Katrina, wowwwwwieee!!! This was a really well written, insightful, and hilarious piece. You are such a star.

    “Being willing to meet them halfway means nothing if they’re not willing to budge, ’cause that just means I’m standing here halfway, alone, in my gay shoes.” I love this so much and although I come from a very different background, I understand what this feels like 100% and have for a long time, and it is a terrible feeling. You put it into words so well. I just want to give you a big queer hug.

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    This was wonderful and funny and sad and witty and a million other emotions that are not always felt at the same time but that you managed to jumble all together in one amazing piece.
    And I compleeeetely agree about the DEBS thing!

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    Even on my 15th read, I still LOL at you asking your Dad to try dating boys. Actually I just read it again and laughed again.

    This is so good, kc danger jazzy hurricane. I’m gonna play a song on your harmonica for you.

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    this was like watching a gay episode of no reservations w/ anthony bourdain on the travel chan. (only reading, not watching you know)

    it’s really awesome (as everyone has said) :D

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    this is so gay awesome or better….gawesome. This is actually the first time in long I read the an article in one strech, without getting sidetracked by twitter or your mom of whatever.

    insert #slowlorrisclap

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    Wait. Sexuality. Politics. Religion. Cultural Relativism of being gay in the Philippines vs US.
    ____

    I’ve a lot of thoughts regarding this matter and gaygod help me my mind won’t pull a Dory on me this time.

    Seriously, why of all times must I chance upon this article at this hour when my mind is not entirely in its lucid (non)glory. Argh.

    Let me start by sharing the life cycle of questions for us (this may not hold true for everyone, but I’m assuming most of you would agree–oh yeah, of course, I’m Pinoy):
    1. Do you have a boyfriend?
    2. When are you getting married?
    3. When are you going to have a baby?
    4. When is the Baptism?
    5. When are you planning on having another baby?
    Repeat question #4 and #5 until you’ve reached your desirable quota.

    See, whenever there are family gatherings, one is sure to be stumped with question #1, because you know, your love life is everyone’s business. If you’re not out to your family, you’ll end up being hounded with the perpetual question of where’s-your-significant-(opposite sex) other-and-why-haven’t-you-introduced-him-to-us-yet? For years I’ve dodged that question and as if by knee-jerk reaction, I answer with great gusto, “I enjoy being single and independent.” I’ve said it too many times, I might as well record my obligatory response and play it whenever asked. Luckily though my immediate family isn’t one of those families, it’s my other relatives that ask this barrage queries. Do I blame Roman Catholicism for this mentality? Organized religion sure does have a way of affecting one’s life whether you believe in this predominant religion or not.

    I’m not holding my breath for the laws to be changed as regards gay marriage. Admit it or not, Philippine politics is beholden to religious influences. It’s political suicide if a government official dares to advocate something that blatantly defies the Church’s teachings. I’m sure, rather, I hope there are some politicians out there who are willing to champion equal rights for the LGBTQ community. Heck, if US hasn’t done it yet, what hope is there for Pinoy politics. Don’t get me wrong, it’s just that even after almost half a century of American occupation, there’s no denying that Uncle Sam still has the most influence back home.

    Sure, the Philippines may be a thousand leagues ahead of other Asian countries with regard to “acceptance,” or *gasp* tolerance of one’s sexuality, but the way we are portrayed in the media is either downright stereotypical or non-existent. The gay males which are daily staples of variety shows are still the butt of everyone’s jokes—it hasn’t changed one bit since time immemorial, I tell you. Filipinos know gays and lesbians exist but we are utterly forced into the dichotomous schema of loud and eccentric for gay males, and tomboy which by the way is tantamount to being lesbian. That’s what we’re missing as far as representation in the media: the gray area between these extreme perceptions. Oh, who am I kidding, is there lesbian visibility at all? As far as I know, all points lead to Aiza Seguerra (out singer/song-writer/actress) when the word “lesbian” is mentioned in Pinoy pop culture. That’s it, or are there new token lesbians now? I sure hope so.

    Gay until high school or college. Yep, I can attest to this. I’ve a lot of friends (coming from a Catholic exclusive girls high school) who were “gay” until they got out into the magical world of heteronormativity. I can’t speak on their behalf though; I mean, for all I know, it may as well have been an experimental phase for them, or that they’ve simply allowed society’s pressure to be “normal” be drilled into their consciousness. And of course, we all know that the latter is most tragic. It’s like a thousand hallelujah’s can be heard whenever there’s a “convert” i.e. the butchiest of all butches from high school or college has finally come to her senses and decided to grow her hair long and have a boyfriend. It’s these instances that somehow fuel the notion that it’s a choice being gay. As far as being a gay Filipina here in the US, I’ve no idea yet, because honestly, I have yet to meet one. How sad is that?

    I guess it’s a universal truth for gays that coming out to your family is the point of no return. It’s that moment when your relationship with them as you know it may come falling down right before your very eyes. And yes, it’s friggin’ scary, but I guess my self-respect triumphs over the fear of rejection from them. I can never forgive myself if I can’t show them who I really am. After all, my being gay is just an ancillary facet of my entirety as a person.

    Hmm. I’ve lost track of time and I’ve babbled enough. Sorry for the long post. I’m not sure if it made any sense at all.

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      i am so into you right now.
      the way you answer the boyfriend question is SO. GREAT. because honestly, that’s the reason i don’t have a girlfriend, so 1) it’s not really lying, and 2) it’s nice to introduce people to the concept that *gasp* some people don’t need a significant other to be happy and fulfilled. heresy.
      “And yes, it’s friggin’ scary, but I guess my self-respect triumphs over the fear of rejection from them. ”
      i love this. there have been points in my summer where i’ve been like “oh god why did i come out to my parents, this is too difficult.” but then i realized that it’s much more gratifying to be punished for being honest and unashamed than it is to be silenced out of fear.
      YEAH filipina lesbians! you go!

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        Hah. I think it’ll take years before the blasphemous notion of having a significant other is the measure of one’s happiness. Le sigh.
        And hey, I salute thee for coming out at an early age. I mean, for realizing and proclaiming your truth while knowing the “repercussions” involved sure is fulfilling and bittersweet indeed. :]
        FFS, we’ve only one life to live–well in my belief anyway. I might as well live it according to my rules and not the society’s skewed heteronormativity.
        P.S.
        I am not an angry lesbian. Haha. Passionate. Yeah, that’s the term.
        Mabuhay ang mga lesbiyanang Pilipino! :] Woot!

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    I’m currently sitting in an internet cafe in a city just outside of Manila.
    I could barely contain myself from screaming or laughing or doing something crazy when I saw and read this article. It was too personal. The things you mentioned in this article were the same observations that have been bothering me for so long.
    I’m a Filipina as well. I was born here but left for Canada when I was 6. It’s been 10 years, I’m 16 now, and this is my first time back. I arrived on July 10, and I’m here until Sept. 2 so I’m really getting a huge taste of the culture. Although I can’t speak the language well, it’s been so useful being able to understand Filipino and about 5 other dialects.
    Before coming here I was somewhat hoping that I would finally get the courage to take advantage of a good opportunity to come out to my parents and the rest of my family all at once. But after arriving and learning more about what it means to be gay in the Philippines, I’ve only become discouraged. And plus, there was already too much family drama so I didn’t want to make things worse. I guess I’ll just have to wait until university then. Maybe I’ll even get a doctor girlfriend so that, at least, will be a small comfort for them.
    But I think they all suspect it anyways. My mom once actually asked me if I was a tomboy (apparently the Filipino term for lesbian), but I didn’t know that tomboy meant lesbian so I was just went “Uh, yes? Duh?” And she was so shocked I automatically said “just kidding” to make her calm down, and walked away confused. Depressing to think how I missed an easy chance to come out because of a small cultural difference…people would have finally stopped asking me if I have a boyfriend.
    Anyway on a much lighter note, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that two of the Interns are Filipinas too! At least now I know there are other lesbian Filipinas than Aiza Seguerra! (who I only know because everyone was comparing me to her, which led to my grandmother telling me to not end up a lesbian like her. Yay.) I wonder if we have a support group or something.
    -sigh- It’s hard being too young to really get the chance to explore and experience the underground lesbian scene here, but I’ll survive. I saw some bootleg copies of the L Word selling for about $1 per season.

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      As one of the Filipina interns, I’d just like to say that I love reading all these comments and seeing so many lesbian FIlipinas! It’s awesome! I can’t speak for Katrina but I’m sure she’d agree [and if not, I’ll make her agree, don’t worry] that we’d definitely love to talk to all of you if you actually do need any sort of support or whatever. We’re here to help and/or talk about our feeeeeeeeeeeelings! Haha.

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      FILIPINA INTERNET LESBIANS UNITE!
      no really, vashti and i are so psyched about this. it’s actually so awesome to see the filipina readers coming out of the woodwork for this. see, we DO exist! mabuhay! or something.
      i get what you mean about the coming out deal. like here in the states i’m out and loud and supervisible, but i have never felt so silenced or scared about coming out as i did when i was in the philippines. i mean don’t get me wrong–it’s a beautiful country with a lot of really wonderful, hospitable people (thank you, ma’am!), but when it comes to being gay and out, it’s just not an option for a lot of girls i think. and it’s not a concept that most people can grasp.
      the tomboy thing made me laugh though. also it made me frustrated because people can’t grasp the difference between gender and sexuality, but that’s a different matter. i was trying to search for the female equivalent of “bakla,” and tomboy was all i could come up with!
      anyway, good luck with the rest of our trip, hope to see you around AS some more!

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    I really appreciate the depth and breadth of autostraddle’s articles! Keep it up!

    This article is great and just what the general community needs to see, that the lives and cultures of queer people extends across the whole globe.

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    i love you! :D so far all my cousins know, i’ve told my aunt and uncle but yeah, they just can’t grasp it. they’re respectful enough though. i still have no idea when i will/can come out to my parents. this article should be featured in girl magazines…

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    If you’re a woman, it is definitely revolting to imagine having a relationship with your same sex. You lesbians are sick in the head. No wonder why most lesbian relationships are very emotionally and physically abusive. Get it straight, there is really something wrong with your mental state.

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      Actually, based on research, most lesbian relationships are more stable than heterosexual relationships. Get your facts straight. In arguments like this, using biased opinions as facts make a statement invalid – unless backed up by research.

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    I’m a middle-aged British lesbian who’s been hanging out in the Middle East for the psst 25 or so years, so although I am confident about my sexuality, and my family are moderately tolerant, I don’t live near them and don’t see them often. I am however used to living in religious-based cultures (in this case Islam, but Catholicism in the Philippines) that are not willing to acknowledge gays and lesbians or give them rights. Now I’m in a dilemma. For the past 18 months I have been in a loving relationship with a younger Filipina who was working here and has now gone back to her country. She wants me to follow, drawing pictures of a happy life there together, running a small business, and I am tempted but terrified too! I’ve always loved the Far East, having lived in Malaysia as a child, and visited Thailand many times – but would we be able to run a business, and live together in our own home, without being hassled or outcast? Its worrying to hear that things are still so difficult, as per the other comments left on here..
    I would love to network with others, both in and out of the country, to help decide where to consider living. My girlfriend is quite sure she does not want to live in Pampanga, where her family are! But incidentally she knows Manila well, and has loads of “tomboy” friends!!
    To be honest, they are quite easy to spot, since they dress like women we used to call “butch” in my younger days!

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      The main difficulty about being out in the Philippines is dealing with family pressure. Filipinos are pretty tolerant and rather non-confrontational. Non-family members will not get in your face about your sexuality. So it shouldn’t be a problem for you.

      For example, I have a good friend who is very accepting of me and my wife. But when she found out her younger sister is gay, it was difficult for her to adjust to it. She’s ok now, but at first there was quite a bit of family pressure, I heard, on the younger sister. Her girlfriend was not accepted initially. And since they are a very closely knit family, it was difficult for them. Since the younger sister stood her ground, they all just had to come to terms with it.

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    wow i just finished this artical and its great. I am a white girl in my first my first same sex relationship. She is a filipino and we are going home to meet here mom this month. Its my first time to travel out of the US and my first out experience. I am terrified.ButI feel i can identify with alot of what you say and i know more of what she goes through back home. Thanks

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    Great article! I am half Filipina, a lesbian and wanted to know how the situation in the Philippines is because I live in Austria/Europe. I was playing with the idea to live in the Philippines for a while (and I have a lot of relatives in manila) but currently I am not that sure anymore, thanks to your great article.

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    wow…this is such a breath of fresh air to read.

    i am definitely 100% filipina, born, raised and unfortunately, ageing as a closeted-lesbian here in the Philippines. I’ve had my share of serious same-sex relationships but is presently pretty much single. i guess the more you get older, the more you try/wish you could look for a more lasting relationship.

    I’ve to agree on most of the points raised regarding coming out. It is sure is “hell” doing so in a country as unaccepting as ours. Which is the very reason why until now, i have opted to stay in closet.

    For those who are asking if it would be a good idea living in the philippines with their girlfriends, just one advice: if you’re the type of person who really wouldn’t mind what other people would say and think about you/yourlife, then by all means, philippines (manila) is a nice place to live in.

    good job to all those who have shared their thoughts on this thread :)

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    Pretty accurate about the lesbian scene here in the philippines… Great article! :)

    I was born, raised and still living here and if not for my trips to america i wouldn’t have been open to the idea that there are actually lesbians who are femmes. Actually i was fortunate enough to meet with some of those said femmes early this year and if not of my constant interactions with them through the net since then, i would still be of the thought that every lesbian here are the “butch” types who will be contented to have relationships with straight – confused – girls, who will eventually drop them for a guy… Sad but so true…

    But in retrospect, the philippines is a country that is tolerant to same-sex relationships. Of course there will always be discriminations, snide comments and askance glances. But we will always get that no matter where we are in the world. So for those who are thinking of living here, just bear with it and DO NOT LIVE CLOSE TO FAMILY…

    Hope to be friends with some of you here :)

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    Great article that I sent to my filipina friends. Question why is the pinks and blues (butch-femme dynamic) so prevalent with filipina lesbians? I see that there is a new category called purples which I’m guessing issomething like middle or the road or switches have become more accepted as of recently. I’ve dated a few filipinas and since I’m so femme they seem to prefer that I always bottom or behave as a pillow princess. Not complaining but I recieved comments that I can’t come until you do. I even dated one stone who wouldn’t let me reciprocate at all. I know from reading about the history of butch-femme dynamics in the US that they believe this exsists or is more prevalent in cultures that still repress sexuality or keep it underground. But because our society haqs grown more accepting of gays we see less of this dynamic and to a point we reject girls in either category or labels. I am curious as to what others opinions are of this?

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    Sorry this is my proofread and clarified post. Where’s my netiquette? LOL

    Great article that I sent to my Filipina friends. Question why is the pinks and blues (butch-femme dynamic) so prevalent with Filipina lesbians? I see that there is a new category called purples which I’m guessing is something like middle or the road or switches have become more accepted as of recently. I’ve dated a few Filipinas here in the U.S. and since I’m so femme they seem to prefer that I always bottom or behave as a pillow princess. Not complaining but I received comments that I can’t come until you do. I even dated one stone butch who wouldn’t let me reciprocate at all. I know from reading about the history of butch-femme dynamics in the U.S. that they believe this exists or is more prevalent in cultures that still repress sexuality or keep it underground. But because our society has grown more accepting of gays we see less of this dynamic and to a point we reject girls in our own community that can be lumped into either category. We really seem to detest labels now. I am curious as to what others opinions are of this?

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      Filipino society is just so gendered and it extends to lesbian relationships. Lesbians don’t really have anything or anyone to look up to so they emulate the straight kinds of relationships. The concept of “trans” here is not even that well-known. A lot of stone butches would identify as males and would tell you that they’re not in the right body but they identify as lesbians. Or that peer pressure makes them identify either as a butch or femme. It’s very much like the 50s in the US.

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    Good Luck!

    This was very very inspiring! Even though I don’t know you I feel overwhelmingly proud of you! Weird? Possibly, but your articles and autostraddle are such a powerful and encouraging part of my life and the lesbian community (lesbommunity?) every single day.

    Way-to-go, Les-Bro-I-Dont-Even-Know!

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    I’m a Filipina bisexual, and I’m writing a persuasive speech which, hopefully, would encourage the audience to appreciate and accept gay women just like how they accept gay men.

    Our society right now should be more open-minded. Boohoo. Some people think only straight men and women should exist. They have to deal with the fact that we’re human too, and guess what? We’re proud to be gay. Deal with it.

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    “…trapped by circumstances that don’t allow us to be out in every, or maybe any, aspect of our lives. Whether it be something as small as growing out our alternative lifestyle haircuts to appease our parents…”-EXACTLY. I’m out most everywhere except with my family and I’m pretty much active in the LGBT advocacy circles. And try being a Filipino-born Chinese at that. The pressure becomes 10x tougher. No Catholic guilt shit (was raised Buddhist) but years of molding you to be a dutiful daughter and filial piety guilt are worse.
    KUDOS to this article!

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    Great article Katrina! I’m a Fil-Am lesbian who’s been living in the Philippines for a year and I have to agree with you on all the points you mentioned about the Catholic Church’s influence on keeping lesbians in the closet. And family dynamics as well, not being able to come out because of pressure, fear, and lack of understanding that being a lesbian isn’t a choice. I’ve been out to my family for 10+ years (immediate and extended) both in the U.S. and in the Philippines, but as an American I am aware that I do have privilege re: coming out, that circumstances are different for me, compared to let’s say, a closeted lesbian here in the Philippines who lives with her family and cannot risk coming out. I live alone, am independent, and my Filipino parents (because of their class, education, and exposure living in the West for so long) have been more accepting of alternative lifestyles, gender, and sexuality than others would. Thank you for your article. Really keen writing style, full of wit, colorful anecdotes, and sharp analysis. If you’re ever in the Philippines you should hang out with me and my lesbian friends! Most are out and active in the LGBT movement here. They truly are models of what can be possible in the repressive climate here.

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    Nice to know that you are thinking of us out here. I am a Filipino. I am living w/ my lesbian partner almost for a year. My mother can’t accept it and my father don’t even know that I’m living w/ a gay and that I am a gay.
    He will hang me up side down.
    That’s the life of gay(lesbian) people in my country.

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    Great article and a real insight for me. I am European but live in Bangkok and work all over Asia including Philippines.

    Take some hope from the Thai scene which even just 10 years ago was similar with gay men readily accepted but gay females absolutely not. Now Bangkok positively hums to the sound of lesbian bars and clubs.

    I think we had a generation skip and that should happen in your country too. The young are totaly open but the 30+ stil tend to hide away. Time is a great healer.

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    I just wanted to add a small addendum to my last.

    I have limited experience in PI so i could be way off the mark but even when mixing in gay/lesbian company there I have experienced both shock and even disdain for the fact that I am femme4femme. Several mocked me for my “lipstick” ways.

    If PI lesbians truly wish to be emancipated they need to work on removing their own prejudices and stereotyping too.

    As I said, my experiences there are limited so I could be way off the mark but that has been my experience every trip so far.

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    I’m a Filipina lesbian living in Manila and I’m out to most people I know, except for my family.

    I guess I’m one of the lucky few who experienced “dorming” in college here. I studied for about five years in Baguio City (which is six hours away from Manila). I’m grateful I belonged to a community there that is very open-minded and helped me understand why things are the way they are in the country.

    I choose not to come out to my family (yet) because I understand that they do not understand homosexuality in general (for reasons this article has very wittily expounded on). I think this lack of understanding consequently leads to lack of tolerance and acceptance.

    I don’t have plans of staying in the closet for that reason, though. This is quite sad, but I plan to come out to my family when I am already established financially. In this third-world country with strong familial ties grounded on conservative values, it seems that some economic or financial power (at least) within the family somehow ‘compensates’ for unaccepted aspects of one’s personality, such as being gay.

    I have a cousin who’s openly gay and no one seems to have a big problem about it. Since he has no kids or a family of his own, he’s been the breadwinner of his family. It’s sad that we have to prove ourselves to people that in spite of our decision to live differently, we still do not forget obligations to our families.

    I came out to a different cousin recently and I feel I’m taking baby steps towards helping my immediate and extended family understand things. Funny because she said I did a good job at hiding my gayness since I dress “like a girl” (though I prefer not to be limited to the butch-femme setup). Very telling that Filipinos are still restricted to patriarchal norms even in homosexual relationships.

    Regarding the visibility of non-stereotypical lesbians in Philippine pop culture, yes we still have a long way to go. But I think people behind indie films here are already working on it, taking baby steps. :)

    Btw, yes there are bootleg copies of TLW sold here and boy, am I oh so thankful for that. Haha.

    Apir (high five) to Pinay shumboys on the net!

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    Wow… Great article. My sister is an American living in the States. She had (ex now) a filipina gf in the States for 5 years so we got to discuss this a bit. And i am an American man married to a filipina and living in the Philippines.

    I have always been a bit confused about the gay community in the Philippines. It seems that so many of the men want to be women. They dress like women and act like women, where in the States most of the gay men have no desire to be women and dont want to look like women.

    It also has been explained to me that if a man has a bakla bf he is not gay only the bakla is gay? I’m still confused… but I do like the fact that it does seem to be more accepted here than I thought it would be (at least for the men). I dont have too man gay female friends here in the PI.

    Thanks for the insights in your article.

    Straight guy in the PI

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    I was just stumbling and fumbling about Autostraddle when I found this article.

    I have to say, I think my family defies the odds. I came out to my parents 5 years ago (5 months after I met my now fiance) and they were … so much cooler than I thought they would be. My mom’s BFF is a gay man, but I had never seen her talk to or befriend lesbians of any sort, so I completely understood where you were coming from in the beginning of this article. (Although I don’t think she thinks of it as disdainful or dirty or anything, she just never had any lesbofriends.)

    All throughout my high school career she pushed for me to get a boyfriend, to dress girlier, to wear some make up- but when I came out to her, she handled it quite beautifully. In fact, it’s my absolute favorite story to tell.

    So … there’s my two cents. In some ways I can agree with this article and I can see where some instances have been exhibited in my own life, but overall, both of my parents love me for who I am, and for that I am so very grateful.

    Good day.
    **K

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    Wow, I really love this article, and there were few insights that I couldn’t have expressed better myself.

    First of, I have no idea how lesbians are being scrutinized in Manila, I am more aware of Gay Communities in Visayas. There are large lesbian groups, and totally out lesbians in Cebu, yet somehow there are stereotypes involved with most of the gay women I have met and known who identify themselves as lesbians.

    Public display of affection is dominant in Cebu, and I’m happy to say it’s becoming almost like part of the norms. People are getting used to seeing this kind of relationship however each individual involved usually is being put in a category, it’s either you are butch or femme.

    It’s crazy having people trying to figure out who’s butch and femme between me and my girlfriend, when both of us don’t identify ourselves in such categories. Sure, my girlfriend does look and dress a little more feminine than I am, but we don’t go with others’ expectation that one of us, particularly me should act up on masculinity. We consider ourselves equal, and it most of the time causes commotion, which is really ridiculous.

    Sadly, lesbianism in some sort, though I would say has become so widely observed in Cebu, has become more of a fashion and the idealism that its just a phase, or for some an option. I say this because I have known quite a lot of couple whose relationship hasn’t thrived, and in the end has ended having the other party succumbed to heterosexual relationship basically for family security, or maybe the pressure put unto them.

    Honestly,I totally agree that the Gay Community in the Philippines is somewhat confusing. People have this kind of stereotype going on where in, if you are gay you are expected to indulge in androgyny, nor that you just want to be just like the opposite sex. To some this may be true, but I am hoping that someday people would understand that it’s so much more than dressing up or acting up the part.

    In my opinion, the Philippines society due to its Culture and Religious influences has eluded the opportunities to understand what homosexuality is, and rather than discussing the issue decently and as civilized as possible, majority of the people treat it as a forbidden and a disgusting issue. And sometimes, I try to believe that this is the reason why homosexuals are being stigmatized.

    I am currently here in US now, and I have to admit I am totally in support of LGBT groups, and though there are some frustrations with how timidly the US government is moving forward for equality, Philippines is just beyond compare.

    I grew up thinking that heterosexual relationship is the only way to have a family or to achieve happiness, and coming out has been one of the hardest things. Though we rarely discuss it in my family, I know that a part of them is still bitter with my sexual orientation, and it sucks that at times we submerge ourselves in pretense that nothing is going on to prevent awkwardness.

    I’m just glad that I have met someone who understands me the way I am and share the same insights, and that both of us though how our families deny our relationship, openly celebrate our affection for each other. It hasn’t been a major problem for us to be ourselves.

    I just hope that as time goes by Philippines would move forward and accept the homosexuality issue, that it is reality to a vast number of individuals. I am praying for strength to those who are being continuously deprived to be themselves.

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    Wow your awesome for sharing this blog :) …ME AS A PURE PINOY[ FILIPINO] I’M VERY PROUD for being me when I was in Manila, Im completely out since grade school until college, I enjoy and discover my transition [ myself] from being a baby butch to a being stud, I would say my life is very gay, colorful, having a past ups and down relationships and still searching for an answer How the Asian gays will exist in white community, because lately Im very active to participate in some website forum and as an Asian Butch,Im very proud to carry our identiy especially in my case as an STUD, because I noticed, we Asian are not visible in American community forum especially their forum are dominated by most White or Black with European talks plus their stories.Perhaps with the younger generation who attended university, there might be some changes but as a baby boomers dyke/stud I observe, Filipino LGTB community are still far to be noticed, so Im here now in the mainland USA, and very active to participate in some lesbian dykes forum and behalf of Asian community I proud to say Im a proud to

    As a pure blood stud/butch filipino, with my past experienced and right now Im finding myself HOW I WILL CARRY AND MIX MYSELF IN AMERICAN LGTB COMMUNITY, I HAVE 3ACCOUNTS IN SOME

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    I want to say so many things in reply to this article, but I’m only going to respond to that one comment that caught my eye.

    Aurisu said: “Great article! I am half Filipina, a lesbian and wanted to know how the situation in the Philippines is because I live in Austria/Europe. I was playing with the idea to live in the Philippines for a while (and I have a lot of relatives in manila) but currently I am not that sure anymore, thanks to your great article.”

    I’m an out lesbian here in the Philippines—to everyone but my family, that is. I met Katrina during her stay here, and she mentioned somewhere in the article about, “you know, that type—gay swagger, plaid shirt, aviators in the collar even though it’s 11pm.” I’m guess I’m pretty easy to detect under the gaydar. And I’m fine with that. Us Filipina lesbians are actually widely tolerated. Although there’s a big difference between tolerated and accepted, at least no one gets up in our faces. We can go anywhere we want without having people openly judge us. People just don’t give a shit about you. In fact, going to commercial places is actually amusing, because for some reason, a lot of women here—straight or otherwise—and even men, get weak in the knees after talking to an educated lesbian. (I say educated lesbian because, unfortunately, there are some UN-educated lesbians here who seem to be culturally and socially challenged and are downright annoying. Every sexual orientation has THAT type.)

    The only people who WILL have something to say is (you guessed it) your family. It’s ALWAYS the family. If you can handle that though, then you’re all good.

    So essentially, what I’m trying to say is; if you want to live here as an out lesbian, go ahead. No one will (openly) condemn you. Just get a condo unit and a car for yourself, and you’re all set. Live like you’re in LA, for Pete’s sake.

    Then your only other problem will be traffic.

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    hello there guys. this article strucked me. i remembered what my mother used to say when i wore girlie sandals and said “just get back to your snickers!”

    well that really meant something to me. until now shes vague about me being a lesbian and i came across to facing the fear of not being accepted by my family already. well, i know its goin to be difficult but maybe its alot better if youll live to be who you really are than who you are not.

    right now im worried about the workplace here in the philippines.

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    This is awesome! (I’m sorry for being one year late in giving you a well deserved Kudos, Katrina.)

    I have been out since High School but most people have attributed it to a break-up with my then boyfriend. Yes, at a young age, I have experimented with the dating scene. Although I fancied the attention that my male suitors gave me, it wasn’t quite as real as my lesbian relationships. I had my first girlfriend when I was 14 and we lasted a year and seven months, which was, at that age, already a decade. We have remained friends through the years and she also now works for the same company.

    My family has never been outright mad about it, but there are times that my sexuality and my partner are subjects better left untouched. My mother and siblings are already “in the know” but I believe that my father is still at his denial stage. The more he avoids it, the more the “issue” becomes non-existent for him.

    But my current situation isn’t what I would like to share. It’s how I lost my first true love. My girlfriend of 6 years was unluckier than I am. Her parents were totally against it. Just imagine, her cellphone was take away, her mother took the liberty of fetching her from school and talked to our teachers to make sure that we do not sit next to each other in class. Sometimes, it even got physically and emotionally abusive for her. But we did succeed to bring our love affair with us to college. But because of the pressures of school, of new friends, environment and her family, we often took our frustrations out on each other. Yes, I know, WRONG. But we were young then and didn’t have anyone to talk to who knows better. So six years past with our relationship going on and off and finally ending on a sad tragic note. She got engaged with a guy and broke my heart. When she realized that she was willing to accept her sexuality, to fight harder for me, I was the one who found comfort in another man. We are now both with lesbian lovers. We keep in touch from time to time, but as cliche as this may sound, nothing is the same between us.

    Sometimes, I blame how the system is. I find myself wishing I was born in a different era, where a lesbian’s sexuality is nobody’s business but her own. But then, there are sites like this and people like us, where comfort and understanding is one internet connection away.

    TO ALL THE LESBIANS OUT THERE (FILIPINA OR NOT) – Hindi mo man ako kilala, hindi man kita kilala, pero gusto kong malaman mong hindi ka nagiisa. = You may not know me, I may not know, but I want you to know, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

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    What I noticed about the Filipino community (regarding lesbians) is that they question the word LESBIAN or don’t full understand it. Rather, they use the word “tomboy” and the description is a female loving female who is stone butch. I think that the butch stereotype became an icon for the term lesbian/tomboy and I always get a “Noo. You don’t even look gay” response or look when I say I AM A LESBIAN aka A TOMBOY, because I don’t look the type. So I think not-so-butch/androgynous and femmes are not fully represented in the Philippines, they all think we don’t exist and that really bothers me. Not all Lesbians look like Justin Bieber.

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    Amazing article! I am from the philippines and i too, have noticed how its ok for guys to be gay but not the women.. Thank god that i have an amazing immediate family who loves me for me!

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    Hi, I stumbled accidentally on your blog by searching “lesbians, philippines”. LOL. I was thinking at 3 A.M. where are all the lesbians? and there are no gay clubs for women here.

    In the Philippines, parents tend to accept more, their daughters who are single mothers than those who are lesbians. Do not get me wrong, I am also celebrating that women can be mothers, without the necessity to marry. I’m just pointing out that Catholicism has paved the way for the ultimate hypocrisy in this country.

    Just to share my experience, I moved out of our family home four years ago. Financial freedom and independency are great friends when it comes to accepting your sexuality. And although I do want to come out to my family, they have made it harder for me by giving snide remarks (my sister have guessed my sexuality based purely on my decision to move out as it is customary for Filipinos to move out only when they are married).

    Even if my sister has already shouted in front of my family when we were fighting, “Go back to your lesbian lover!”, what irritates me the most is their denial stances, as if noone shouted it. Am I the only one who feels awkward? Should I continue what I was doing? Is this the proper time to say “yes”?

    And even if there have been hints of my orientation, my mother still asks me THE question “when are you getting married?”, shortly followed by “maganda ka naman, wala bang nanliligaw (you’re beautiful, no one is courting you?)”.

    For each time my mother asked, I answered:

    “Don’t bet on me, I’ll never marry here in the Philippines”
    “When divorce is permitted here.”
    “Please ask my brother instead.”
    “No, I’ll die single.”

    The other thing I related to is when my some of my straight friends advise me to date boys instead as if that’s the solution to my relationship problem. I always tell them that they are insulting my sexuality.

    I would like to share some more, but I might have bored you already. Sorry for the long post. Your article was well-written and speaks the truth. :-)

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    I have so many thoughts and feelings about this article. I have been an everyday-reader of Autostraddle and Afterellen for a while, and almost believed that I’m the only Filipino reader here (in Autostraddle at least; there’s a Filipino forum on the other site). Ironic that I have to type “gay Philippines” in Google to discover this (I have to dig deeper the archive section next time). So yes, I’m very happy to have found this article and very proud being a Filipino and gay!

    Now straight to the topic. I guess the biggest problem being gay in the Philippines is the “Hate the sin, not the sinner” mentality of the Filipinos. While gays in other countries have to deal with discrimination at work, or gay teen suicides, or corrective rape, or gay killings, here we are in our Gay-friendly country where we can be “OUT” (almost) everywhere (even in many conservative provinces) without having that “disgusted” look on other peoples’ faces. How can we complain, right? I think that’s the main reason why there’s very little LGBT movements in this country. Now back to the “Hate the sin, not the sinner” idea. Yes, “the sin” – gay relationships, gay sex, gay marriage, gay couples adopting kids, anything related to gay + marriage + family – are NON-existent, [of course they do, there’s a lot of them, but people (the church being number 1) are in a VERY DEEP denial ground (more like we have to wait for year 2025)].

    In the 20+ years that I have been watching Philippine television, the roles gay guys play haven’t changed – they’re the funny gay bestfriend to the lead female character, lesbians are no where to be found, unless you count those “tomboy-looking” pretty girl characters who (ALWAYS) turn straight after meeting the handsome looking lead male character. It’s so painful to watch, I could vomit! There are a few indie films about Gay relationships (mostly about gay guys), but other than that we’re stuck. I remember watching PLL shown on a local channel, they cut-off the Emily-Paige kiss by the window scene!(me = outrage, thanks to the internet). So yes, gays are portrayed very “shallowly” and lesbians are “what-are-they-?-they-don’t-exist-wait-for-year-2025″.

    As for me, I don’t feel the rush to come out. All my friends are straight except for one gay guy. Even though, my gay guy friend is very much accepted by my other friends, it does not make it easy for me to come out. I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be all different standards for me, I fear that 1) they don’t get it, treat it like a joke, and I would have to come out 3 or 4 times until they get it or 2) they get it the first time, and treat me so differently like I have evolved into a stranger. Or of course, they can accept me and everyone happy! My biggest worry is not my family or friends, it is the possibility that despite being brave, talented, smart, caring, pretty and just amazing (yes that’s me! hahaha), I can’t still find love (and marry) because of the fact that I’m gay and I’m in the Philippines.

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      I agree with C_MK about coming out to friends, family and relatives. I’m a Filipina and I knew I was a lesbian since I was a child. When I was in high school, I was too afraid to come out (though I came out to three of my closest friends) because of the treatment I might receive after I come out. I was also afraid that I would be left homeless if I were to come out to my family and relatives, most of whom are devout Catholics. When I got into college, I rarely saw my high school schoolmates. I had clean slate. Bit by bit, I came out to the members in my organization. I was glad that they were okay with me being a lesbian and because of that, I was very comfortable around them.

      That didn’t mean that I was safe from “homophobia.” I know I always have to watch my back because people in my neighborhod will always talk about me. Also, I may be out in my organization but my sexuality is treated as a joke. They treat me as a man. They also always tell me that being a lesiban is just a phase, that I should date a man, dress in a more feminine way so that guys would find me attractive, etc. They sometimes even joke about how they would get me very drunk and do something (you know what it is) to “convert” me into a straight woman. I got used to being treated like this for around 3 or 4 years although I still feel insulted by how they treat me.

      I still feel lucky though, because nothing bad hasn’t happened to me yet. And yeah, love hasn’t found me yet either but I wish I could find new friends who are lesbian. I really wish the lesbian community in the Philippines would make up a secret handshake or sign. XD

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    Great article; I know my comment is almost two years late. Haha. But I do agree with so much that has been said here. I’m a Filipina lesbian myself, in a comnplicated semi-out situation, but I find that this blindness towards lesbians is really rooted in a deep anti-feminist culture. So whether you’re a straight or gay girl, our conservative society is “closeting” or hindering you one way or another. Of course, it’s always worse for the “tibos.” I’ve recently started a blog on “pedestrian feminism” for Filipinas that I hope can help get the idea out there, and make feminism really accessible and popular. It’s targeted at the average straight middle-class girl, but I’m slowly trying to inject some lesbian-friendly or at least lesbian-aware things into it too. Do check it out sometime. :)

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    I’ve always said that i feel like i’m the only gay girl here in the Philippines.. but of course i know that there are other lesbians here. What i really mean is that, i think i’m the only “gay girl in the country who is chinese-filipino (i.e. i’m pure chinese but born and raised in the phil), who is in her early 20s and doesnt look and act like the stereotypical ‘tomboy’ that the Filipino society is so used to seeing, and therefore, thinks that every lesbian is like that”. Gosh, i hate the way they use the word “tomboy” when it doesnt necessarily mean “lesbian”, it just refers to a girl acting boyish.

    I dont have anything against masculine-looking filipino lesbians here. I mean, if that’s the way they feel comfortable looking, awesome for them. But to be quite honest, i am so sick and tired of feeling like i really dont have any hope of meeting lesbians here who don’t look and dress like they’re guys. Just not what i’m attracted to.

    I’m studying in a prestigious university here, already in my senior year, and i’ll be graduating in 2012. I haven’t met any attractive lesbians here. It’s just so00ooo sad. I’m open about my sexuality,(my fb pic right now is even a round pin that says, “We’re here, we’re queer. Get used to it) but not just to my family yet. However, i think no one really thinks that i’m gay bec. of the way i dress. So no one asks, and i dont go around declaring my sexuality. I mean, that would just be weird and unnecessary.

    I really wanna migrate to San Francisco or to Vancouver since i’ve heard that those cities are “gay capitals”. But even if i get to that point, i don’t know if it’ll get any better for me, romance-wise. I don’t even know if that’s really the solution.

    Right now, im still figuring out what to do with my life. I know i just cant continue on living a life devoid of any lesbian-loving moments, i have to find a way!! By the time i can be financially independent, i hope i can! :)

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      are you a permutation of me? me in the future? haha. i am only 1/16th Chinese(i actually did the math) but somehow the other 15/16 of my genes recessed the hell out of themselves and most people’s first impression of me is Chinese-or-Korean-or-something.

      “i think i’m the only gay girl in the country who is in her early 20s and doesn’t look and act like the stereotypical ‘tomboy’ that the Filipino society is so used to seeing, and therefore, thinks that every lesbian is like that”.

      //
      i have this running argument with myself that goes something like this:

      me1: Your idea of femininity comes from an overbearing patriarchal society which makes you buy into the whole women-have-to-do-a-lot-of-crap-to-themselves-to-look-beautiful mentality and if you don’t find *THAT kind of lesbian* attractive then something’s wrong with you.

      me2: But this straight girl is so pretty. I want to kiss her. I don’t want to kiss that butch girl over there, the one who might actually want to go out with me.

      me1: You are denying yourself a chance at love by clinging to such a narrow definition of attractiveness.

      me2: But this straight girl is so pretty.
      //

      so i feel kind of evil because i really don’t want to be with a butch, they’re just not my type. and you made me feel better about that i guess.

      i’m studying in a pretty good high school (i think!) and i’ll also be graduating next year.

      i dress like a boy most of the time but since i’m so vain about my face and hair people usually disregard the clothes and when the conversation turns to homosexuality (which seems to happen a lot these days) and they start making their disparaging comments i just sit and laugh along and squirm unobtrusively. I never tell people if I can help it.

      i feel so isolated. i’m too young to be part of the community and too shy to go out and try to meet lesbians individually.

      i think of my life right now and of my upcoming college years as mere preparation for the never-ending festival of rainbows and unicorns that will surely be my life in some other country. i don’t know what country. anywhere but here.

      sometimes in my most emo moments i feel like i am going to die of loneliness here.

      ehh i’m sorry if you think i’m just reading too much of myself into you but… well. i read so much of myself into you.

      graduate, make a fuckload of money, and begin your never-ending festival of rainbows and unicorns. i’ll follow along in four years.

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        i know that to some people, me being more attracted to “feminine” girls as society would define it, might be shallow.. but i mean, i can’t help it if i’m less attracted to boyish women.. i couldn’t just force myself to be attracted to what im initially not attracted to right..?
        Well, goodluck to us girl! I hope we’ll find that happy gay life somewhere over the rainbow someday! ;)

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    Great article! This is so true on so many levels. People keep telling me that Filipino culture is awesome for being so accepting of gays, but I always had this nagging feeling that it wasn’t quite so. Now I know how to respond the next time this comes up!

    One of the things that kind of disturbed me a bit when I visited the Phils. a few years ago was when I overheard my cousins being all scandalized because a girl asked out a boy at their school. Women still have a long way to go in Filipino society, let alone queer women. Gender roles are really hard to break.

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    Thank you sooo much for this blog! I have been googling all sorts of stuff to try to figure the lesbian culture here. I am a high femme lesbian into soft butches and it is nice to know that there are lots of butches to choose from :0) Anyhow, I am struggling to understand socially how to meet women. I am American (39 yrs old)and am on Downelink in an effort to meet women. It has helped to meet a few women, but I think I may put women off by not understanding the rules and nuances that go with dating here. It’s funny to have to admit that, but my American ways of meeting and dating women in the US aren’t the same. Alas, I will keep asking and researching. Thanks again for your wonderful post! And thanks to everybody else for commenting!!

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    Great article. Yes. Most of the time its hard for families to understand. My father grew up in a military household, so we lived in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The only people who i came out to were my roommates and neighbors. I never understood why even my closest friends think they could “change” me. Thanks for the article :)

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    When I first came out and brought my gf home, my aunts were like “Will she be able to provide you a house and a car?”, to which I responded with “She’s not a noon time show, we both have decent jobs, and I love her!” much to their disgust. Well you must know that most noon time shows in the Philippines have games where you can win a fortune. After that I, the next woman I dated I chose to just introduce to my immediate family. Sad but true. I am the first in the immediate family to come out and it’s such a big fucking deal. Everytime they see me they ask me when I will marry. I secretly answer “When same-sex marriage is legal here already!” The woman I’m dating has just recently landed in Canada for work and we both are talking about marrying there after about 2 years. So my daydream lately consists of me going home answering their constant inquiry: “Yes people,I am married now! I married the WOMAN I love!” Haha! #itsmorefuninthephilippines

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    I found this article while doing research for a practice thesis that focuses on the limits of the Filipino language when it comes to describing QLGBTs. I agree with this article.

    Once you have short hair or boyish clothes you are lesbian. But lesbian is not equal to tomboy. But, it really works that way here. :(

  54. Pingback: In “Gay Friendly” Philippines, Lesbians Still Forced to Keep it in the Closet, Autostraddle | girlDick journalism

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    This was really useful as I do research on the situation of LGBTs in the Philippines. I’m a soft butch meself, and so far my family’s been avoiding the issue of my sexuality because any confirmation of their suspicions would shatter their illusion that we are a traditional, religious family.

    As for acceptance in society, well, let’s put it this way: I’ve noticed a pattern of spitting after I’ve walked past a dude. I don’t know if I’m being hypersensitive, but it’s these little gestures of disapproval that make me think acceptance of lesbians, especially the more masculine ones, in Philippine society is still a long way ahead. But with the outpouring of support for Charice’s recent coming out story, who knows?

    I can only wish I’d live to see the day when Filipina lesbians are free to express their affection for their ladyloves without getting weird looks or hearing nasty remarks.

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