We immigrants mark our historical presence in America by the names of heroes who gave us a voice, an anodyne to invisibility in a country where documented history keeps some and discards others. It took me a long time to fully grasp Filipino-American history.
There will always be the unflinching devotion of a son to his mother, and history has shown many a similar story, and mine is similar too, except that I’m gay. A gay person’s life journey can have be made difficult by being rendered… “different.” You see, I never came out to our family. I never had to rehearse for weeks what to say, sit relatives down in a circle and make that traumatizing first confession — “I’m gay” — and leave the rest to the unforgiving hands of fate.
Converting immigrant communities into literary markets can be very challenging and complicated. Literature is introduced to most Filipinos in an academic setting as a top-down imposition more akin to catholic penance than scholarship. We certainly don’t equate reading literature with our hedonistic attachment to dancing, singing, and eating pork. And if Filipinos do read a book, their colonial dictates will have them picking up a non-Filipino author. Ah, heartbreaking truths!
It is difficult not to take the bigotry behind these articles personally, because I grew up in Manila and I had seen this culture of condemnation around me. By the time a gay child in the Philippines reaches adulthood, he has already survived an enormous amount of bullying, family rejection, public humiliation, catholic moral judgment, and other kinds of abuses that we all know nobody deserves.