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'My Husband’s Lover,' where gays are not clichés

June 14, 2013 6:59pm

Homosexuality has been in the headlines recently. There was Charice’s dramatic coming-out as a lesbian, followed by the controversial Pugad Baboy comic strip about lesbianism in Catholic schools, which led to artist Pol Medina Jr’s resignation from the Inquirer.

Now the Kapuso network has launched My Husband’s Lover, a bold new teleserye about gay relationships, and the buzz so far has been phenomenal, with its unprecedented depiction on primetime television of two hunks in love.

My Husband’s Lover is told from the point of view of the wife, played by Carla Abellana, who is married to the titular husband, Vincent, played by classically handsome Tom Rodriguez. Vincent strives to be a good husband and sincerely loves his wife, but he remains conflicted about his sexuality. He never had a girlfriend before getting married, and apparently his closest intimacy had been with his high school best friend Eric, played by leading Kapuso hunk Dennis Trillo.

Vincent and Eric were basketball teammates when they won a championship (wearing uniforms that recall the Ateneo Blue Eagles). Both are very masculine in appearance and behavior. Eric is out of the closet, with a supportive mother, but Vincent is very much conflicted, the son of a military general, believing that deep down, despite his love for Eric, that he is not really bakla.

GMA Network deserves congratulations for daring to go down this road less travelled. Eschewing the stereotypical storylines and cardboard cliché characters, the writers of My Husband’s Lover are depicting homosexual persons as no different from heterosexuals, which is radical in these parts. (Gay men playing basketball? Wow!) Homosexual characters have long been television staples, but they have been limited to supporting roles (e.g., the loyal best friend) and comic relief. When homosexual characters have been front and center, they nonetheless remain stereotypes (e.g., Vice Ganda’s top-grossing movies). What this tells us is that in the Philippines there is still an aversion to depictions of homosexuals as “normal.”

Why is this so? Why can’t Filipinos accept that homosexuals are normal? There was a recent news report that ranked the Philippines as one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world. We see homosexuals everywhere—the politically correct term is LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) persons—and so we must be gay-friendly, right?

On one level, it is easy to see why Filipinos are viewed as gay-friendly. Compared to our neighbors in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, obviously we are more accepting of LGBT persons. But on a deeper level, the homophobia that exists in those countries also exists in the Philippines. The prevailing attitude here seems to be thus: for as long as the bakla remains confined to beauty parlors and comedy bars, that’s fine, but please stay away from our families. LGBT persons are accepted only if they remain in the corners of society reserved for them. They are not supposed to intrude into the mainstream professions, such as, for instance, law, medicine, education, the army and police. LGBT persons who dare to enter jobs usually reserved for straight persons risk ridicule and discrimination on a daily basis.
If Filipinos only accept LGBT persons in certain areas and not in others, then such acceptance is incomplete. Some will contend that this is not acceptance at all, but merely tolerance. Filipinos only tolerate LGBT persons, in the same way perhaps that we tolerate petty corruption, traffic jams and seasonal flooding.

As a gay man who hid my true self in the closet for 30 years, I used to believe that my homosexual self was a “disordered inclination” and a source of sin and evil. This was what two decades of Catholic education and countless Sunday Masses have taught me. God abhors homosexuality and homosexual behavior, and if I wish to become a good Christian, I must reject the sin of homosexuality and lead the normal life of a heterosexual man.

I maintain that the biggest obstacle to greater acceptance of LGBT persons in the Philippine society is the Roman Catholic Church and its insistence that homosexuality is a sinful disorder. For as long as this remains dogma, Filipino Catholics will never fully accept LGBT persons.

At age 47, I have now come to accept my homosexuality and have fully embraced it as a special grace from God. I have detailed my struggle for self-acceptance in a book about my life in the closet, Of God and Men. I have since become an LGBT advocate fighting for the right to equality of all LGBT persons. As Ladlad Partylist’s third nominee in the recent elections, I had hoped to be the voice of LGBT persons in Congress. Sadly, Ladlad failed to win a seat.

Yet I am heartened by recent events such as Charice’s coming out, and by My Husband’s Lover. The teleserye’s non-stereotypical depiction of gay men can accomplish what Ladlad failed to do, which is to bring LGBT awareness into the mainstream of Filipino consciousness. Seeing the likes of Tom Rodriguez and Dennis Trillo as gay characters is subversive and challenges common perceptions of what it means to be bakla. The impact on collective consciousness could be tremendous. For us LGBT advocates, what we want to see is LGBT persons being accepted as normal and equal to everybody else. Positive media depictions of LGBT persons are crucial in encouraging greater acceptance and recognition of our fundamental equality.

But, I hasten to add, My Husband’s Lover is only in its first week. We do not know how this teleserye will turn out. While the depiction of homosexuality has so far been mature, nuanced and honest, I am also aware that Vincent the husband is attracted to a person other than his wife, and being gay might thus be associated with infidelity, dishonesty and deception. So many negative ideas are associated with homosexuality in our country, and in many stories the gay characters often end up dead, or infected with AIDS, or in jail, or tragically lonely, spending the rest of their days alone.

Such unhappy endings for LGBT characters in media are typical because this is consistent with the view of a God who punishes sinners, and that gay characters deserve a sad fate for going against God’s will. I am hopeful that the writers of My Husband’s Lover will continue to blaze trails for gay characters on television, that they will remain courageous and sympathetic of LGBT persons and our fundamental equality. I personally look forward to seeing where they will take Vincent and Eric’s story next. – GMA News
 
Atty. Raymond Alikpala is an LGBT advocate and the author of "Of God and Men: A Life in the Closet."

 
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