Wednesday, December 7


Closet Quivers*
Glenn L. Diaz

All we need to know in this unfolding narrative are these: there was a crying girl, an ex-boyfriend, an emotional breakup. The girl, they say, is pretty, although a bit mannish, excused by the fact that she is cut from showbiz royalty. The ex-boyfriend is the “ultimate heartthrob,” although whispers had long persisted that it’s not exactly vaginas he has been causing to throb.

Throw in a bespectacled host’s series of “deretsong tanong” on a lazy Sunday afternoon and we had the makings of a veritable Pinoy saga; one for the books, apparently, evidenced by the fact that it was inescapable, rivaling news of a former president who’s on the brink of incarceration and at one point becoming a trending topic on Twitter worldwide.

The implications of this saga are multifaceted, but the trajectory of the jokes that it birthed appears to be one-tracked. There is a reference to another actress, who married an actor who turned out not only gay but, some say, even prettier than her. There is a joking speculation as to the heartthrob’s real motives, and some say he just wanted to get close to his ex-girlfriend’s goodlooking, if not morally ambiguous, father.

But outside good-natured Pinoy humor, the debacle revives age-old questions regarding the real state of the LGBT sector in the country. For while surely, “winning” the heartthrob to the gay cause might prove to be a step forward, the reaction that his potential outing spawned reveals that it isn’t as clear-cut as that.

‘The reign of telling secret’
That the whole saga is unfolding before the public eye at a time when social media had enabled the unbridled sharing of opinion has, in so many ways, blown things out of proportion.

“To the fine antennae of public attention,” writes foremost queer theorist Eve Sedgwick, “the freshness of every drama of (especially involuntary) gay uncovering seems if anything heightened in surprise and delectability, rather than staled, by the increasingly intense atmosphere of public articulations of and about the love that is famous for daring not speak its name.”

And so while there may be undeniable strides in the way homosexuality is displayed and perceived, it doesn’t diminish the seductive nature of people being yanked out of the closet. In the case of our heartthrob, the idea of his outing seems utterly irresistible, at least judging from the rabid, almost vitriolic calls from all sides of cyberspace.

The mob-like desire has ready justifications, too: that, for one, he reduced his ex-girlfriend to tears on national television; and, two, that he is a public figure and therefore fair game for butchery and accusations.

‘On their own’
But we simply don’t have the right to out other people, says J. Neil Garcia, UP professor and renowned expert on queer theory.

“We need more masculine representations of gayness … to balance out the sissy stereotypes that local showbiz is constantly dishing out, but even then, or precisely here, the ethical question regarding outing remains utterly germane.”

“The wish, of course, is for more and more masculine gay men to come out on their own – in mass media, if possible, since its stereotype-countering effect will simply be more potent, by virtue of the nature of mass media themselves. But we simply cannot out these guys. They need to come out on their own.”

Tangentially, the particularity that the case brings to the discourse hinges on his construction as a “bankable actor” and the changes, if any, that his outing will result to. There are speculations, to cite, that while the ex-girlfriend’s tears were true, there was still an attempt at damage control, which explains why the interview was taped to begin with, contrary to how most sensational tell-all’s are conducted.

It is interesting, therefore, to note how mass media, while largely profit-driven and prone to typecasting, can in truth serve as a vital platform in which to break the stereotypes it had contributed to perpetrating to begin with.

Sadly, judging from the jokes in the aftermath of the interview, including all the name-calling and the homophobic slurs, our heartthrob is not breaking any stereotype. The stereotypes are instead being hurled pointblank against him.

‘A defiant move’
Outside the glitz of showbiz, however, what steers the very premise of outing is heterosexism. Outing announces unequal power relations. To weaponize a potentially liberating act is premised on the belief that someone will fear being outed because it is a demotion, a downgrade. To threaten a public figure with being outed is to equalize homosexuality with the risk of utter downfall.

But voluntarily coming out of the closet, instead of being forced out of it, is a defiant move. It demonstrates a steadfast bravery that knowingly exposes one’s self to stigma. After all, outing demands resocialization; a paradigm shift from the “default” heterosexual identity with which everyone is raised. And so implicit in the act of coming out is the rejection of the ideology that posits the primacy of heterosexuality as the only acceptable orientation.

That may be true, and it probably is, but to end there is to ignore the larger issue with which the supposedly private love story is laced.

Because in our heartthrob’s case, coming out of the closet seems to offer very little incentive. Given the slightest chance at hating, there are those who pounce, instantly and with little deliberation. So for as long as people have a good reason for staying in the closet, we understand that our heartthrob will need to maintain his handsome silence.

*Apologies to J. Neil Garcia

Hunter, Sky. Coming out and Disclosures, Routledge, 2007.
Sedgwick, Eve. Epistemology of the Closet, University of California Press, 1990.

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