Questions for the heterosexual

LODESTAR - Danton Remoto (The Philippine Star) - May 8, 2021 - 12:00am

Years ago I attended a seminar on gender issues organized by an international NGO. Some young journalists comprised the core of the participants. Well and good, I told myself, because the cliché holds true that, perhaps, hope lies among them.

I still remember my legendary debates with the macho editors who used to splash photos of near-naked “prostitutes” (call them sex workers) and of raped housemaids on the front pages of the newspaper I used to work for. During one of the editorial meetings held every day, the fiercest among them, who looked like a bulldog, barked at me: “What are you complaining about? Their faces are shown on the evening news. Why can’t we show those faces on our front pages’?

Since Bulldog must have forgotten his class on Ethics in Journalism, I reminded him that a newspaper is a public record. Surely, nobody tapes the evening news and runs them again for his delectation, right? But the newspaper is there for posterity, bound in volumes and collected in archives in the form of microfilms. Now they are scanned or converted into pdfs and collected in CD format. The split-second image on TV fades easily. The one in print stays there, and can be passed on from one person to another.

That’s the problem, I told myself, leaning back on my fake-leather office chair, when you have editors – the gatekeepers of the news – who only put stories of women above the fold when they have been raped, their places of work raided or they wrestle gleefully in the mud, for work. The object of the male gaze has not changed.

Before I left the meeting, I photocopied a query called “Do You Need Treatment?” that one of my female friends in the meeting got from an old magazine. Since it might help our straight friends see us in another light.

*      *      *

Gay people get asked some pretty strange questions. Often, this is because their interrogators have a narrow, strictly heterosexual view of what is “normal.” The New Internationalist turns the tables and asks heterosexual people some strange questions, too.

1. What do you think is the cause of your heterosexuality?

2. When did you first realize you might be heterosexual?

3. Have you told your parents? What do they think of it?

4. Are there others like you in your family?

5. Would you say you had an inadequate mother or father figure?

6. Don’t you think your heterosexuality might be a phase you are going through?

7. Are you afraid of members of your own sex?

8. Isn’t it possible that what you need is a good gay lover?

9. What do you actually do in bed?

10. You put what where?

11. But how can people of the opposite sex really please each other when there are such vast emotional and biological differences among them?

12. Although society gives considerable support to the institution of marriage, the divorce rate is spiraling. Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?

13. Is it because heterosexuals are promiscuous?

14. There seem to be very few happy heterosexuals. Have you considered aversion therapy?

15. Why do you feel compelled to seduce others into your sexual activities?

16. Why do you insist on making such a public spectacle of your heterosexuality?

17. More than 90 percent of child molesters are thought to be heterosexuals. Would you feel comfortable entrusting your children‘s education to heterosexual teachers?

18. Why do people like you emphasize the heterosexual qualities of famous people such as film stars? Is it because you need to validate your own condition?

19. Penetrative sex is most common among heterosexual couples. Aren’t you worried about the risk of getting the HIV virus that leads to AIDS?

20. If everybody were heterosexual like you, what would happen to the world’s population? Don’t you think it is unreasonable and irresponsible of you to insist on sleeping with people of the opposite sex?

If you’re asked questions like these – and I’m often asked, as I’m sure many lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgenders are asked – how would you feel? What words could you even say?

*      *      *

“Should I stay or should I leave?” More and more, I also get this question from young people, a question sent frantically to my email.

If this were 30 years ago I would have said quickly, “Stay and help develop this poor but beautiful country.” But more and more, as the days stretch into months – with the procurement of vaccines going on at a snail’s pace, with a treasonous government that has de facto given away our islets and reefs in the West Philippine Sea, with the clowns that now govern us – many bright young people just want to leave. And I cannot blame them.

So I tell them now to leave. Leave and go to a place that will contain all your dreams. Information technology, the internet and social media have led to porous borders. The notion of country has been interrogated. The idea of home has changed.

As an addendum, let me quote a short excerpt from Sandra Cisneros’ book, “The House on Mango Street.” The American writer and critic Joyce Carol Oates rightly noted that “Cisneros’ gift is for the luminous image, the revelatory phrase. Her emotionally rich subject is the Latino community, specifically the experience of growing up female in a male-dominated society; her work, as this selection suggests, might be as readily classified as prose poetry, poetry as prose fiction.”

This excerpt is about a young Latina finding roots in her definition of home. It is called “A House of My Own.”

“Not a flat. Not an apartment in back. Not a man’s house. Not a daddy’s. A house all my own. With my porch and my pillow, my pretty purple petunias. My books and my stories. My two shoes waiting beside the bed. Nobody to shake a stick at. Nobody’s garbage to pick up after.

“Only a house quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem.”

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