04 November 2014

The Wind-Up, A Challenge

It was late at night. Just as soon as I got in and sat down, my mind began to wind itself up. It must have been well over an hour that he and I were driving on that desolate provincial road. I lost track of time. He didn't say a word while he drove. It was only as we got closer to the end of the roadthat I realized that the radio had also been silent the whole time.

The car passed the seemingly abandoned AFP guard post on the right where another dark road winds its way up the side of a cliff to a radar station. The car entered the provincial beach recreational area and he drove all the way to the end. Unusual. There were no other cars parked on the side of the road at that place. He turned the car around and pulled off on the beach side of the road.

He remained looking forward. He was tense. After what seemed like forever, he broke the silence.

“Look.” he said. I held my breath.

“I have a girlfriend now. It's what my family wants.” he said.

“I.....I.....” I stuttered.

“It will never work.” he interrupted me while maintaining his forward stare.

“Do you love her?” I asked. There was a long, long pause.

“It doesn't matter.” he said breaking the silence.

“Do you love her?” I asked again. There was an ever longer pause. I noticed for the first time that the windows had fogged up and I could no longer see the dark ocean out my window.

“But it could never work.”

“Do you love me?” I asked. There was a long pause. He slid his hand over my hand which was resting on my leg. The palm was warm and moist. He was still looking forward. He then turned to face me and a tear ran down his cheek. He quickly closed his eyes as tears began to stream down his cheeks.

He then leaned toward me and put his head on my shoulder and wrapped his arms around me awkwardly. He began weeping uncontrollably. I wasn't sure whether I should try to wrap my arms around him too. But I did.

“I.... I don't..... mean to hurt you.” he sobbed. I started to tear up a little.

He began to kiss my neck. I tried to push him away – at least mentally. He suddenly swung over the gearshift and center console and now straddled me as he kissed my neck. His hands caressing under my shirt. It felt so nice but I wondered if we should be doing this.

As I got the courage to open my mouth a little to express my doubts, he blocked me with his mouth. We began to passionately kiss. And we did this as we caressed each other for a long, long time. We rubbed against each other a little now and then and we were both clearly aroused. But we just kissed and cuddled in the passenger side seat.

After a few hours of kissing and touching, you finally collapsed on me. And the gentle rhythm of your breathing lulled me to sleep under your weight. A delicate dance, a delicate embrace, a requiem for the past that is our present – forgetting the weight and pain of this refrain once more. The mainspring is unwound and I all alone beweep my outcast state.

And then you said, “I love you.”

31 October 2014

Singapore Court of Appeal Refuses to Strike Down Anti-Gay Sex Law

 Gary Lim and Kenneth Chee 
lost the battle but may have won the war

Following the baffling decision of the Indian Supreme Court, the Singapore Court of Appeals ruled that it is up to the legislature and not the courts to repeal the section of the Penal Code that bars same-sex sexual acts. The court also questioned whether legislation adopted during Singapore's colonial period is entitled to the same level of constitutional deference as laws adopted by the national legislature.

This is obviously a disappointment. A ruling that the law violated the due process or equal protection clauses in the Singapore constitution would have had the effect of banning all public forms of discrimination against LGBT people. As it happens, the public prosecutors office has indicated that it will not enforce the section. But the reactionary elements of Singapore society also do not want the provision removed, precisely to subordinate LGBT people in society as shadow criminals.

The Pink Dot movement has continued to grow every year since it started in 2009 and that is the most promising. If China (PRC), Taiwan (ROC) or Vietnam adopt some legal framework for same-sex couples in the near future, it will be all but certain that Singapore will follow. But Singapore activists don't have to wait and neither does Singapore.

The full ruling can be read here.

25 October 2014

Movie Review: The Perfect Plan Kế Hoạch Hoàn Hảo

I've reported previously about the Vietnamese government's efforts to consider approving same-sex marriage. From the party's perspective, there's a practical reason for this. "Property" relations become way too complicated for long term same sex partners with respect to government officials. So they are considering legal changes to accommodate this.


But this movie is not about creeping capitalism in a socialist state. It's about two young men who deeply love each other having to deal with negotiating family expectations of themselves and their future.

Enter Mom. I won't tell you how the story ends so as to disappoint or get your hopes up. I'll just end it here by saying its worth the watch. Especially if you are struggling with complex family issues regarding acceptance of your own singularity and destiny.

24 October 2014

Movie Review: Never Again เพราะรัก...มีมากกว่าหนึ่ง

 Well I have to admit that I was slightly confused by the entire short. But after watching it a second time, my confusion came from ill-advised ill-placed jump cut that almost made the main character, Nhui, look like a big ass player. But actually, it turns out that that was the case. Nhui has a major commitment issue. In the first three minutes of the short, the main character celebrates his one month anniversary with several guys. Then he wakes up from a nightmare with yet another guy.

There is a lot of toggling between various boyfriends. But then Nhui is eating with one boyfriend, Ko, when his next catch, Prince, sits down next to him and that ends that. Nhui and Prince enjoys happiness for about a month and then Nhui decides to rekindle things with Ko on the one month anniversary with the next one. Prince discovers the rekindling on facebook and is devastated.

Nhui continues suffers from nightmares that an unspecified boyfriend is cheating on him.

But then on day in the library, Nhui stumbles upon a guy., It turns out that the guy, Tae, is a long time crush of Nhui. They enter into a cat and mouse type flirting situation.

But the nightmares continue.

Perhaps one of the best gay cinematic scenes of all times

NowTae does not operate as the others have. He does not let Nhui rush into things. He is supersweet on Nhui, just pure sweetness. But in a way that's different than the repeater boyfriends. No sex and no kissing in the beginning. It's overwhelming for Nhui, really.

Things go quite right but then Nhui discovers that Tae and Prince are friends and have been. This disturbs Nhui tremendously. And then, Prince finds out and it gets even more complicated. (I wonder how life would have been if every guy at my school was gay and tended towards melodrama.)

It's quite a thought experiment and its actually interesting that it's based on a true story as told over the radio!

23 October 2014

Movie Review: Dunno Y... Na Jaane Kyon

Indian and Gay? While there is something about it that seems quite natural, you never really consider it in the filmic realm. When I think of Indian movies, I think of Bollywood. I think of a clan or tribe of people dancing in the background as the young maiden lip syncs to Lata Mangeshkar. Some movies push the limit of what I'd call soft porn but you never see full on kissing, as the kids call it these days "lips to lips." But you never see positive representations of gay men in Indian film. The hijra are assigned to the same tacky bakla status of Philippine comedy.

As you know I've written about aspects of gay India, mostly in the juridico-political realm, but also White's Kiss of the Yogini, Reddy's ethnography With Respect to Sex and the now banned-in-India The Hindus, An Alternate History.

But this movie was surprising. First, I have to admit that I watched it without the benefit of English or Vietnamese subtitles so when the characters go into extended dialogues in Hindi, I had to somewhat guess at what was being said. Fortunately, only the poor, old and other marginalized characters spoke in Hindi. (And surprisingly, the male boss who is a fat, sexist pig, exclusively spoke in Hindi, but because he was so obnoxious and slimy, it was not difficult to grasp what he was saying and doing.)

So, like any good Indian creative expression, there is about an hour of set-up regarding the main character's family. What made it a little confusing was that I think the family or part of it hails from a "Saint Thomas Christian" community -- that is the ethnic group in India that descends from a community of Christian believers from almost 2000 years ago or a "mixed" family of Anglo-Indians. (Yeah, if you didn't know, Christians went both east and west and not all of the communities established in the eastern direction remained in communication with either the Roman or Byzantine hierarchy!)

But what we find out is that, irrespective of those details, they still comport with the major Indian traditions of arranged marriage, blind deference to elders, etc.,. Everyone is miserable. The main character lives with his wife, mother and paternal grandmother in their house. He works as a manager in a corporation. The mother also works. The younger brother doesn't work. The younger brother is in love with the main character's wife. And after an hour of nothing having to do with homosexuality, we find out the main character is a gay.

The story is then about the middle-class bourgeois married guy and his falling in love with a club prostitute who hustles the rich and famous of Bollywood. Things are just lovely. The prostitute breaks up with his regular, famous and discreet tricks to be with this guy solo. The prostitute is an orphan where the middle-class guy has a giant Bollywood family. Then, things start to strain when the police catch them making out in the middle of nowhere. The prostitute tries to stand up to the police harassment and shakedown while our burgis main character takes up the bribe challenge. He then admonishes his lover with "you have no family, you have nothing to lose." They then decide it best to split up. The last 15 minutes were perhaps some of the most interesting.

To sum up the lessons I learned: it's better to be dead than gay in India and the only thing that matters is the good name you give to your family.

It is worth mentioning that the main character, Yuvraaj Parashar, was actually sued by his real parents after the movie came out. Apparently, "it's better to be dead than gay in India" also applies if you only act the part of a gay in a movie because "the only thing that matters is the good name you give to your family." It was reported that his family said that they did "not want to see his face even in death." I thought it a little bit excessive since a majority of the movie dialogue was carried out in English, the people are, for the most part, fair skinned Christians, but what do I know about modern Indian mores.

If you watch it and have no exposure to Hindi, I'd recommend watching it with subtitles. It lacked the customary singing and dancing I associate with Bollywood, but the theme song was sung by Lata Mangeshkar so at least you have that.

22 October 2014

Movie Review: Change : รัก..ไม่เปลี่ยน

This is another short film based upon the radio program of Love Actually where young adults call in about their tragic and sad love life and the DJ calls the other person and asks if they'll be with the original caller or not (answering: true love or one-sided crush).

Change is about Champ (left) and Jay (right). Champ is a young and gentle boy. The boys in school tease him constantly and Jay regularly comes to his defense. The other boys tease Jay calling Champ his wife. They go through their ups and downs but Jay has a genuine affection for Champ.

The story takes place after both have gone to and through college. Champ has become a successful beauty products store owner and has saved for an operation to become a "real" woman. You see, Champ revealed one day to Jay that he liked Jay. Jay said that he was not disgusted or repelled by Champ but that he did not like men. That they should talk when Champ became a woman. For Champ, this was an puerile command to become a woman.

And become a woman Champ did. But as for Jay, whether Jay says yes or no, I'll leave to you.

My only comment is that these are the fairytales, good and bad, that young gays need to be exposed to. These short stories based upon the wildly popular radio program are beautiful in their archetypal reality. The stories end with, what I value, as an appropriate moral for the audience.

And one more thing, Fluke Pongsatorn is adorable. I enjoy the roles he is cast as the meek and sweet gayboy. I identify! haha

 Fluke Pongsatorn

21 October 2014

Book Review: Gay L.A.

Lillian Faderman is an American scholar of lesbian history and Stuart Timmons is another American independent scholar of gay history. This is their first book together about the history of the American LGBT movement with the focus on the county of Los Angeles, California.

This book is the political tour de force that the Gay Metropolis was in tracing the history of the American LGBT movement with the focus on New York City. Whereas the Gay Metropolis was much more philosophical and abstract, social and cultural, Gay L.A. is much more political.

In fact, they don't come out and say it, but if you follow the events of the 1960s from a political and legal perspective, its clear that it was the political and legal challenges launched in Los Angeles that created the circumstances that made the Stonewall Inn riots, the "birth" of the LGBT movement in America -- if that can really be called true and not just myth making for the New York tourism board. All of the significant legal challenges that went to the Supreme Court that allowed for a free LGBT press arose from L.A. cases. The LGBT organizations present in New York City in the late 1960s all originated from 1950s gay L.A.

Philippine Gay History, authored by Neil Garcia, is a fascinating book for its investigation of ideas. But what would really be of use, in a more practical sense, would be more history of the gay Philippines or public sexuality. There are a number of Supreme Court cases where provincial judges had removal cases filed against for being "homosexual." As far as I understand it, the Philippine Supreme Court, as long as it has entertained such cases, has denied them -- saying it was not in itself relevant to holding judicial office. It has allowed individuals diagnosed (medically) with sexual ambiguity to chose a gender and have the birth certificate reflected in that change. Yet, on the other hand, it refused to allow Rommel "Mely" Jacinto Silverio to change her birth certificate to reflect the fact that she had undergone medical treatment and became a woman.

Cinema has provided us with stories of transgenders who suffered during World War II -- Markova: Comfort Gay and Aishite Imasu 1941: Mahal Kita. We have limited accounts of LGBT life in various diaspora contexts.

But what we are lacking is a coherent and broad narrative, much like Gay LA, that can give us a coherent and long-term view of the history of making intelligible same-sex desire starting in the nineteenth century. Even a deeper and more sustained approach to the available documents in the Spanish-language archive and comparative ethnographic materials that can trace all the various lines of how desire was rendered intelligible to help us understand the palette we currently paint from.

Nevertheless, because the American LGBT movement has dominated the drawing of the contours of the global LGBT movements, Gay LA is really necessary reading -- much like the Gay Metropolis -- in telling about the historical and material forces and struggles that shaped the American LGBT movement.

It is fascinating to consider the story of police persecution repeat itself for over 50 years and how the persecuted and persecutors respond to each other over time -- culminating in the 1960s! Even without such militant activism, the material experiences of the gay Filipino over the last century have created the current conditions. Let's know what this history is.

As Marx noted, "Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionizing themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle cries and costumes in order to present the new scene of world history in this time-honored disguise and this borrowed language."

Let us know what traditions our meaning making has conjured up as spirits of the past to our service. And for that, we need practical history.

The version I read was a 464 page cloth published by Basic (Perseus) on October 2, 2006. ISBN: 046502288X. Lowest price seems to be abebooks.com and amazon.com