I once wished, as a young boy, that I owned a Barbie doll. I would have treated it like a person. I would have taken care of it, brushed its platinum blonde hair, changed its clothes all the time, tucked it to bed when it was sleeping time.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed by my parents to own one, because they said it was a “girl’s toy.” They bought me Power Rangers action figures instead.
There was a bit of compromise, because I would choose the female ones — the white-pink and turquoise Rangers — and that was enough for me. But I still fantasized: What if I owned a real Barbie doll, one that I could dress up and customize according to my taste?
Had I owned a Barbie doll during my formative years, I would have been gayer than I am now, I think, and by “gayer,” I mean more female-presenting. I would have been bullied at elementary school worse than I had experienced for being effeminate. I would have not only been humiliated in front of the class for my feminine mannerisms, particularly my ever-flailing hands, I would also have been probably ganged upon by the bullies.
My parents would have been angry at the bullies. But I suppose they would have been angrier at me for being this way.
In many ways, though, I’m glad I never owned a Barbie doll, or I wouldn’t have discovered my love for art, because it was through imagining and drawing female figures that I learned to express my emotions, the feelings I couldn’t verbalize. I found creating lines very therapeutic. Conceptualizing characters and creating scenes in my head served as my temporary escape from cruel reality.
Moreover, I wouldn’t have met childhood friends had I played with a Barbie doll by myself, instead of playing tumbang preso on the streets; wouldn’t have bonded with my high school barkada in our after-school Dota games; wouldn’t have killed time with my best college buddies, all of whom were straight guys, during our Counterstrike and Left4Dead sessions as we waited for our next class.
Befriending them was not an attempt to pass being masculine, though. I genuinely enjoyed their company, and only had to act manly because I feared they would reject me because of my sexual orientation.
On the bright side, I learned to be calm, controlled, calculated and careful with my words and actions, among other traits often associated with being a man. I had to act like a man, which certainly helped me in social situations.
That is not to say, however, that it did not harm my wellbeing. Acting out a persona can be quite tiring, especially because I’ve been in the closet for the past 22 years and counting. I’m
Perhaps this was to help me cope with the real world — presenting myself as masculine as a form of self-defense. Or at least, that’s what my parents wanted to instill in me. It’s like they prepared me for society’s harshness toward the LGBTQ+ community. Or maybe they just didn’t want a gay son. Now, I’d like to think I’m wearing some sort of masculinity armor just to help me avoid the sneers of the homophobes.
But it still gets me thinking: What if I had owned a Barbie doll as a child? Maybe I would have been one happy gay boy who got to live the truest and best version of himself. Maybe I would have grown to be a confident person who ignores the opinion of others. Maybe I wouldn’t have to come out because, for one, I’d have a bold sense of style, and people would assume I’m gay by default — and that would be fine by me.
Or maybe I was never really meant to own a Barbie doll. It will remain a childhood dream of mine.
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“Ken Doll,” 22, secretly likes boy dolls. He lives in Imus, Cavite.
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