Ten years ago, gay characters in movies or TV shows were usually the best friends of the main character. Nowadays, somebody like Vice Ganda can play the protagonist in a movie or someone like Charice can come out and let the whole world know she is in love with a woman. Vice Ganda and Charice are just two of the many Filipinos who chose to be open about their sexuality and their preferences.
Months ago, It’s Showtime broke barriers by launching a new segment called That’s My Tomboy which featured lesbians who are ready to come out to the world. It definitely changed the landscape of Filipino TV with viewers who were used to seeing women in skimpy clothing in usual beauty contests. Now It’s Showtime’s new segment Pogay showcases good-looking men who openly admit that they are gay.
Kim Andaya, who was one of the first contestants in ‘That’s My Tomboy’ had her reasons why she decided to join. She was honest enough to admit that she needed support for her finances but she also did it for a higher cause, personal and social. She said, “Kasi po naisip ko gusto ko rin po maging representative ng LGBT at first ever contest ito para sa mga tomboy at ito na yung pagkakataon para mabago ang mga maling tingin at discriminations sa mga tomboy at para matanggap din po ng Lola ko at ibang kamag-anak na hindi nakakahiya ang pagiging tomboy at bakla.” Rejoice who is more popularly known as Phao Faraon said the reason why she joined was also for acceptance. “Nung wala na akong problema sa pagtanggap sa akin ng pamilya ko gusto ko ipaliwanag naman sa ibang tao ang side naming mga tomboy. Tanggap man nila kami o hindi, maipakita man lang namin ang kakayahan namin hindi puro panghuhusga at pagtapak sa amin ang alam nila. Alam kong may tatanggap, makakaintindi at aayaw sa amin kapag nakita kami pero handa ako ipakita ang totoong ako.”
Dr. Maricar Fajardo, a cognitive and developmental psychologist from St. Luke’s Medical Center, agreed that the main reason why lesbians and gays join such contests aside from the financial gain is mainly for acceptance, “To the person who joins these types of contests, it gives them a sense of acceptance, confidence, and peace of mind (being re-instated) into a society that was once very critical of the ‘third sex.’ It also shows an ever-increasing sense of pride in one's self, regardless of gender, and the belief that it is better to be true to one's self than to ‘live a lie.’”
She also added that times are definitely changing. “The times are changing, we are becoming a more liberal country. The media, specifically the advent of the internet and various modes of communication is a major contributing factor. It is constantly re-molding and re-shaping the values and attitudes of the Filipinos.”
But for Kim and Rejoice, joining didn’t just give them the acceptance that they needed. For them, it changed their lives. Kim said, “Nabago na rin po sa buhay ko ang pagiging mahina kumbaga nadagdagan yung confidence ko pero hindi naman po yung sobra yung tama lang po para buong loob ko po mapakita ang sarili ko sa maraming tao yung tipong parang halos buong mundo. Ayun po.” And for Rejoice, “Nung napakita ko sa buong mundo yung totoong ako wala na kong kinatakutan ilihim kung sino ako.”
But according to Dr. Fajardo, coming out and expecting people to suddenly accept their preferred sexual orientation is not a walk in the park especially here in the Philippines where people are still conservative. Dr. Fajardo said, “A stigma among the third gender still exists among Filipinos and their reactions vary. To the traditional Filipino, it is not healthy, because it's as if such shows promote and enable this gender, and may not be a good example to children. To the more liberal Filipinos, it is acceptable because it is reality and indeed, they are truly present in our society. It may be healthy for the individual to come out but may be offensive to the majority of Filipinos. Note however, that when That's My Tomboy aired, it trended worldwide in Twitter.”
At the end of the day, Kim and Rejoice are just happy with their choice to join the contest. Their advice to all who are just like them is as Kim said, “Sana maging inspirasyon sa kanila yung Showtime na wag matakot kung hindi matatanggap sa lipunan normal at tao din po ang mga tomboy hindi ka dapat mahiya kung sino ka at sa kung saan ka sasaya, dahil ikaw ang may hawak sa buhay mo wag mo pagdamutan ang sarili mo sa totoong gusto mo at sa ikakasaya mo.” Rejoice added, “Unang isipin nila ay yung saan sila magiging kumportable. Pangalawa kailangan nila ipakita yung totoong sila para alam nila kung hanggang saan sila kaya tanggapin ng mga tao sa paligid niya. Bago nila isipin ang ssbhin ng iba tignan muna nila kung masaya ba sila sa pagtatago ng pagkatao nila.”