Wanting a sassy gay friend, contrary to popular belief, does not make you an LGBT ally.
This International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we discuss how Philippine media represents the LGBT community – for better and for worse.
Back in 2013, US-based Pew Research Center found that the Philippines is actually one of the most “gay-friendly” countries in the world. But according to the findings of several news outlets such as GMA News and Inquirer, local LGBT groups feel that Filipinos are only accepting of gay people that fit into common stereotypes: the gay entertainer, the lesbian bodyguard and so on.
Ms. Universe 2015, Pia Wurtzbach also found herself under fire just last year after claiming to want a gay son. Someone that will “love to dress her up, do her make-up, and act as her best friend.” She subsequently apologized to the LGBT community, but her words reflected a sad reality that all gay people have to face: if they aren’t the “sassy gay friend” then what use are they to the main storyline of the straight lead character?
Mainstream media is no stranger to mirroring and, on multiple occasions, promoting these limiting views on what a queer person “should be”.
Though, it should be noted that mass media has always been known to exaggerate all character stereotypes, and it just so happens that queer fictional characters have been no exception.
However, there have been films and series that have twisted, subverted and satirized the “stereotypical gay persona” trope in refreshing ways. These stories bring to light the struggles (and joys) of being queer in the Philippines.
1. My Husband’s Lover
This teleserye was groundbreaking for the following reasons: it is the first gay-themed TV show in the country and it portrays various gay characters with diverse expressions of their sexuality: There is the “closeted gay” husband– Vincent Soriano. Then the tough architect Eric del Mundo who, at first glance, exudes the aura of a typical straight man but eventually wins the heart of Vincent. Similarly, David, his past love, has a similar “non-flamboyance” not so typically portrayed by a gay character. Finally, there’s Danny, the loud, proud and sassy gay friend of Eric. But of course, the true treasure of this series is that their varying expressions of gayness are simply an aspect of their characters. The story revolves around the forbidden love between the already married Vincent and his first love Eric; a relationship that is taboo for more than one reason.
2. The Rich Man’s Daughter
Following My Husband’s Lover, The Rich Man’s Daughter focused on the star-crossed relationship of Althea and Jade: a love not only banned because of their gender but also their societal status. Also featured in the series, is Althea’s close trans friend Batchi who battles his own set of struggles as a transgender man. The series plays on the typical “rich-poor” loveteam tandem in teleseryes and further explores the struggles of being in love with someone who is seemingly out of reach.
3. Baka Bukas
This 2016 romance indie film follows the story of Alex who eventually falls in love with her best friend Jess. Upon finding out Alex’s sexuality, Jess finds herself returning her feelings. Bittersweet and introspective, the film tackles queerness in the milieu of a budding romance– with all of its ups and downs. ‘Baka Bukas’ is a millennial love story that gives hope and renewed strength to all would-be or never-was same-sex relationships.
4. The Third Party
This is not your everyday mistress film. Not only because the two main characters are in an open and committed same-sex relationship, but also because Andi (the “third party” in question) does not actively try to steal Max, the supposed “cheater”. In fact, the film tackles an interesting dynamic between the three trying to contain, control and eventually, face their true emotions. It does not seem right to label anyone a “mistress” or a “cheater” despite the film’s title implying a salacious affair. The underlying themes of queerness are still there but the film also portrays unexpected moments of self-discovery, forging unlikely but necessary friendships and learning to move on even from the strongest of feelings.
5. Die Beautiful
“…If I’ll die and be blessed to live again, I would choose to be nobody, nobody but me.” This iconic line came from the main character of this 2016 comedy-drama film, transwoman Trisha Echevarria. A fitting line of empowerment for people who get teased about wanting to be reborn as a cis (biologically born) woman. The true gem in this film is in how they subverted the “sassy gay friend” trope and contextualized it into a heart-warming journey of a woman who dreamt of winning Binibining Gay Pilipinas.
It is said that the diversity of the LGBT movement is represented by the multi-colored rainbow. But if we continue playing these queer characters to the same tune, then our queer representation might as well be symbolized as a monochrome streak of light reflecting varying hues of the same shade.
Note: This list is by no means exhaustive! So feel free to comment other LGBT films local or abroad that continue to fight for proper and fair representation of the queer community.