This is no confession | Inquirer Opinion
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This is no confession

/ 12:06 AM April 15, 2014

I once resolved that I do not and will not subscribe to labels because they are flawed, misleading, and often disempowering, but today I declare that I am what the patriarchy categorizes as “gay.”

I have long “hidden” from my family and peers, and I have lied countless times in the process of “hiding.” Discussions about love and sex are a trap, a slippery slope to lying, so most of the time I just shut up. I started talking about my sexuality only in the last few years, beginning in college, and only to close friends. Many people who know me still do not know.

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“Outing” has been a difficult, exhausting process.

When I first gained cognizance of male and female sexuality, I panicked. Suddenly, I was not sure who and what I was: I had both girl and boy crushes! In which box do I belong? How do I find the answer? Sex is not something we talk about at home, and sex education in school was alienating. Growing up in a judgmental world obsessed with boxes, how do you introduce yourself without misrepresenting yourself?

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As I got to know myself more, I had to contend with another kind of shame. I thought I was “lying by omission,” as Ellen Page described it in her “outing” speech. How do you “out” yourself to “others” without agreeing that you have wronged “them” all these years?

But more importantly, slowly I began to feel that I was not unfree. I gained more confidence to just do the things I want to do (some of which this macho society will categorize as “gay,” like go on dates or out with “openly gay” friends) or not do (like not play basketball). I was not necessarily being “gay” or “straight,” I thought, I was just being me.

So do I think I was in the “closet”? Despite the semblance of freedom, I was. Was I/were we “lying by omission”? No, I was not; we were not.

It took long, painful years of struggle with self-hate to reach this point and be able to say: Homosexuality does not make me a bad person, nor does choosing not to talk about it. I am guilty of many other lies, but not of “hiding in the closet.” I do not have anything to “confess” because being who I am is not a wrong. Because I do not owe anyone, except my romantic partner, the obligation of saying I am (also) attracted to the same sex.

I do sound defensive, because I am, because we have always been under attack. However, here, now, by speaking up, I hope to turn the tables and be on the offensive.

It is the patriarchal society that constructed and imposed this imaginary “closet” upon us. We are the ones who are gossiped about in workplaces and reunions, joked about in television shows and comedy bars, even by “out” gay wo/men, and portrayed and perceived as offenders when we (“closeted” or not) are the victims of repressive structures, norms and production.

A person whom the patriarchal system categorizes as “straight” does not “out” her/himself and “confess” that s/he is attracted to the opposite sex, but s/he isn’t charged with “lying by omission,” is s/he? It is unnecessary and defensive! Now explain why it is a “gay” wo/man’s obligation to the “other” to do so.

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Why then am I speaking up about it now if I do not agree with the idea of “confessing”? Why do I call myself “gay” when I do not subscribe to these labels? Why do I feel it is important to say something?

Here I will clarify that I believe in the idea of “outing.” The “outing” of many, including celebrities, helps change society’s and every gay wo/man’s perception of human sexuality. However, what I do not believe in is the portrayal of “outing” as penance to “lying by omission.”  A truly empowering “outing” is not a confession, which is an act of submission to the patriarchy’s morality of what is “true” and of who owes whom the “truth.” It is not an apology because one realizes s/he is not obligated to the “other.” Rather, it is a stand—an act of resistance and self-empowerment.

As Foucault will argue, my “outing,” and that of many others before me, amounts to recognition (in Althusserian sense), ergo legitimization of my/our being “subjects” of the “other,” the “oppressor.” Yes, I am “outing” myself because I recognize that these unjust, moronic boxes (closets)—the stereotype of a masculine male who should be attracted to a feminine female, and vice versa—still exist today. However, an “outing” does not legitimize the “oppressor” if it is an exposition of the foolishness and injustice of power relations, a call for the dismantling of the patriarchy.

My story of “outing” is my first step to challenging our dominant preconceptions of people in the “closet,” to deconstructing our ideas of “truth,” of “lying,” and of “outing,” and to advocating empathy for the struggles of every person whose identity, including their sexuality, race, and (non-)belief, is being discriminated against.

I am calling myself “gay” even if it crudely and incompletely represents my sexuality and the entirety of my humanity, because in the end, I still belong to this community (even if arbitrary) of people that to this day are subjected not only to psychological but also and more impor tantly to economic repression. It is our common interest to end discrimination in all forms and thus organize our selves to a united agenda.

Allowing myself to be counted is my first step to collective action.

By using these labels—bakla, bading, badaf and many others that were/are long used to either humor or insult—I/we coopt power over language, appropriate our own meanings, twist and saturate them in the hope that in the near future, there will be no more need to use any labels. That in the future my being gay is not more important and special than my being an activist, a comrade, a student, an artist, a son, a brother, a lover, a friend.

Owning these labels is my first step to changing and destroying them.

My silence is peace only in my progressive but imagined world. To realize that vision, I have to face the material world as it is today—imperfect, barbaric and unjust—and engage it. The fight starts and ends with my dream of a better life and world for the next generation, for my children and my grandchildren.

Speaking up is my first step to realizing that world.

 

 

 

Marc Batac, 24, is a political science graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman. He is working with a national coalition working for equitable development, and a regional advocacy and solidarity organization promoting peace, democratization and right to self-determination in Mindanao and Southeast Asia.

 

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TAGS: gay, Labels, LGBT, outing, sexuality
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