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Bakla essay


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Bakla essay

  1. 1. Browne 1 Reciprocity of Tolerance: The Bakla in the Philippines For nearly four hundred years, beginning in the early 1500’s, the Philippines was a Spanish colony. In 1898, Spain relinquished the archipelago to the United States after losing the Spanish-American War, and for the next fifty years, the Philippines became an American colony. By the early 1950’s, the United States claimed that the Philippines was an independent nation, although the American military did not abandon its bases in this country until the early nineties. Apart from these historical facts, most of the Western world knows little about this small island- nation. An in-depth look at the Philippines and the Filipinos who live there, however, yields a dynamic sense of cultural syncretism. There are many facets within the Filipino culture that would lead a great many scholars to debate and theorize—especially those in the fields of cultural identity, postcolonial theory and gender studies. This essay explores these topics, focusing and theorizing on one Filipino cultural component: the Bakla. The Bakla and his/her role within the Filipino society is a response to former conservative Spanish and American inculcations of religious and cultural standards of gender role determination-- thereby resulting in a uniquely Filipino cultural identity. The Bakla, and everything the Bakla identity encompasses, is a reaction to hundreds of years of colonial and religious oppression, resulting in a vibrant figure in Filipino culture. Part One: What is a Bakla? Linguistically speaking, the definition of the term “Bakla,” (bæklâ) is an effeminate or homosexual man. The term “Bakla” is particular to Manila and northern Luzon- interchangeable with the word “Bading.” In the Visayan region, south of Manila, “Bayote” would be the identifying term of the homosexual male. Though the expression alters depending upon location
  2. 2. Browne 2 and dialect, the definition is consistent. However, simply retaining this two-dimensional definition bypasses intrinsic insights into Filipino culture and its evolution of cultural revolution against colonial oppression and gender differentiation. The Philippines has a long history of cultural identity confusion. Though sprouting from a Malay origin, the dominance of the Western world for hundreds of years has resulted in the loss of a pure, considerably more Eastern ideology. As an obvious example, the Philippines is the only Christian country in Southeast Asia with an overwhelming majority of Filipinos claiming Catholicism as their faith. In addition to the inculcation of faith, the instillation of Western values has disfigured the original Filipino image. American products have infiltrated Philippine consumerism, where television advertisements reflect pale skin and button noses as tantamount to perfection. What is left of the Filipino culture are shredded fragments of a once colorful and distinct garment, sullied and trampled from hundreds of years of subservience to the West. It is only until recently that Filipinos have been picking up these fragments of a former identity-- piece by piece, slowly sewing together an identity that is neither Eastern nor Western, but an incorporation of both. One fragment of this cultural reformation is the “Bakla.” The Bakla is the “Third Sex” among of the Filipino people. Physically, the Bakla is a man, with male genitalia; however, s/he is considered neither male nor female as s/he breaks the stringent gender roles placed upon the two sexes. The Bakla possesses highly feminized personality characteristics. S/he will wear dresses, bras, jewelry, make-up, and will physically alter his/her tone of voice and inflections to sound more feminine. The Bakla is more than a man acting as a woman the Bakla is a hyper-feminized figure, and prone to act more extrovertly in public than is deemed appropriate for a woman, contrasting with the Bakla’s female counterparts. Baklas will surround themselves with women, or other Baklas, and only interact
  3. 3. Browne 3 with men in an unctuous, solicitous manner. Their behavior is overwhelmingly jovial, comedic, sexual; as one interviewee described them, they have a “bubbly personality” (Fernando). A Bakla is also classified by his/her frivolity, bringing levity to the heaviest of topics, going to extreme lengths, including self-deprecation, to make an audience laugh. Rarely are they seen emotionally upset or angry, as the Bakla concerts heavy efforts to consistently appear felicitous and ready to entertain. Part Two: The Public and Private Sphere The Baklas are destined for three socially appropriated professional positions: beautician, prostitute, and entertainer. The first two of these three professions are directly related to a factor of subservience. Beauticians focus on improving their customers’ physical looks. They beautify the country’s women in parlors laden with posters of scantily clad American models; conversations remaining stereotypically superficial and sexually centered. Male prostitution, though not as rampant as female sex tourism, is still a pressing issue in this country as many families coerce or pressure their young Baklas into prostitution for the sake of a lucrative gain. An interesting aspect of Bakla prostitution is that it not considered homosexual. A straight Filipino man may have sex with a Bakla, but because the Filipino society does not consider the Bakla “male,” the act is nominalized to simply a patron releasing tension. Social expectations groom Baklas to please and entertain others, with no proper familial guidance; they are under a great deal of emotional trauma and risk physical harm when entering the field of male prostitution. A final role in which the Bakla plays, and plays quite heavily, is the role of public entertainer.
  4. 4. Browne 4 One would only need to spend a few hours watching Filipino television to notice the prevalence of Baklas in the media. They dominate the mid-day television shows as game show hosts; they are typically judges for singing or dancing competitions; and they crowd advertisements with commercials for whitening cream, cell phone promotions, and restaurants. True to socio-cultural expectations, the Baklas are outlandishly dressed, joke excessively, fawn over male guests or contestants, and demean themselves to humor others. Although this might not sound like an appealing position to be in, considering the other probable occupations for the Bakla, these “entertainer positions” offer a stable income, and more importantly, an opportunity to be in the spotlight. The desire for the spotlight can also be seen in the way news media depict Baklas during on-site investigations. As an example, if there is a fire in an apartment complex, the newscaster will specifically choose to interview with an available Bakla, as s/he is expected to colorfully depict the crises, going into dramatic detail as to how devastated s/he is, and how much was lost by the event. Though the fire led to either death, or destruction, or both, the Bakla is there to save the day and add a touch of humor to an otherwise grave situation. Once again, in this socio-cultural relationship, there is reciprocity: the Bakla gets a 30 second limelight, and the rest of the country gets a good laugh rooted in someone else’s suffering, These public displays to gain attention are instilled and reinforced early on in youth, as the young Bakla has his/her actions condoned or reprimanded while in school. High Schools begin the matriculation process at age eleven for the first year, with fourth year students graduating around the ages of sixteen or seventeen. The secondary education institution is a perfect venue to witness the development and socio-cultural facilitation of the Bakla identity. Expectations for the young Bakla are instilled early on, manifested in the behavior of the teachers and fellow students toward him/her. Two fourth year male students were interviewed to
  5. 5. Browne 5 give their own opinions regarding the Bakla at their High School. These two male students would be considered “medyo Bakla” as they do not wear make-up or female accessories. However, both students portray feminine characteristics such as hyperactivity, feminine tone and inflection, hand gestures, and have only female friends. The interview initially began as a discussion regarding Filipino socio-cultural assumptions of the Bakla, only to transition into a pronouncement of personal ideology—something typically concealed amongst Filipino youth. The young men were asked three specific questions relating to the definition of a Bakla, specific expectations of the Bakla, and how others act toward the Bakla students. The students answered the first question with incredible ease- the Bakla is “The sex [that] has been made here- the third sex. The gay [that] is dressed like a woman…portraying the attitudes of a woman.” Though the students were able to answer the initial question with a certain air of nonchalance, the follow-up questions, delving deeper into socio-cultural expectations of the Bakla identity were much more trying. The young men indicated very little about motivations for perpetuating the Bakla image, either by the Bakla him/herself or by those around him/her. Baklas were described as “so very happy,” and “like comedians,” echoing the idea that Baklas resort to the role of performer. High School is an emblematic setting to witness growth, maturation, and solidification of cultural normalcy. Filipinos’ perspectives and traditions are reiterated as their children transition from youth to adulthood. The next question the students addressed was related to how Baklas were treated by fellow students and teachers at school. With trepidation, they regarded the teachers highly, affirming that teachers treat the Bakla students “like an ordinary student.” The fellow students on the other hand reflect a more sinister side to youthful ignorance by calling the Bakla students “faggot…and they are teasing and saying ‘yuck,’ oh they are gay.” One of the
  6. 6. Browne 6 interviewees mentioned that other males will grab the genitalia of the Bakla student “without permission,” demeaning the Bakla with name-calling and mockery while they are committing the act. Though the boys felt uneasy about questioning the behavior of their teachers, for fear of reprimand, the teachers’ behavior is no less offensive. During class, as a teacher calls upon a Bakla student, the teacher will consciously question the gender of the child. “Oh, he…I mean she… answered the question,” is repeated over the course of the day, the teacher adding a chuckle to indicate the humor in confusing the two genders in front of the students. Also, there is little recourse for punishment to those students who sexually violate the Bakla. Teachers will shrug off a complaint, unwilling to take some semblance of responsibility for the welfare of the student body. In the Philippines, most schools are absent of a school counselor, or certified professional, to care for the emotional stability of the students. Serious faculty involvement and guidance for these students is essential to a healthy development of Filipino society, especially given the sensitivity of male homosexuality and the potential repercussions of peer sexual harassment. The serious lack of faculty support for the struggling Bakla students cyclically perpetuates their fatalistic self-denigration and thus the Bakla’s subservient role within the social sphere. As a final remark, one of the interviewees commented on the impact of familial regard for a growing youth, reflecting upon his own upbringing. “I can’t remember that…my parents corrected my ways. But, I’m saying, [why] didn’t they [correct my ways]? Why did they not try to be so conscious with my personality?” As this young man wrestled with his personal demons of social acceptance, he touched upon a substantial component of the emotional and societal development of the Bakla identity—the family. The family as an institution lays the foundation for the Bakla identity through social and domestic grooming. Filipinos maintain an entrenched apothegm that every family should have a
  7. 7. Browne 7 Bakla within it. As an example, if a family were to have three sons, the third son would be raised as a Bakla—the parents positively reinforcing feminine characteristics and consciously suppressing traits that are more masculine. The parents will go so far as to clothe a developing Bakla child in dresses and require him to play with gender specific toys, such as dolls. By the time the child enters High School, the Bakla has undergone severe familial reinforcement and grooming. By the age of eleven, a young Bakla understands his/her role as performer based upon socio-cultural expectations, and fatalistically accepts it. There are continuing conflicts over the “Nurture vs. Nature” argument on the topic of homosexuality. In the Philippines, there is an underlying assumption that young boys are easily nurtured into their role as a Bakla, implying that they are also to be homosexual—as dictated by the socio-cultural expectations placed upon them early on in their lives. If a man is homosexual, then he must also be a Bakla, with the inverse being true. In the Philippines, a man cannot be innately homosexual and yet masculine. Moreover, at the first sign of effeminacy, a boy is thrust into a homosexual orientation and deemed “Bakla,” in spite of a potential actual attraction to the opposite sex. Etymologically speaking, there is no difference between being Bakla and being homosexual, as similar expectations are placed on both roles simultaneously through a Bakla’s societal development in the public and private spheres. Part Three: The Bakla as a “Third Gender” Gender Studies is a recent focus in the world of literary and social criticism, centering on the socialization and development of roles applied to an individual based on their sex and personal background. Through continuing pursuit of Queer Theory and analysis, the integration of a conceptualized “third gender” has been established within certain cultural spheres. Traditionally, gender roles are distributed dichotomously between man and woman, correlated to
  8. 8. Browne 8 the biological differentiation of sex determination between male and female. In the Western world, there is little deviation from these two stringently placed gender roles, as assumptions of either man’s and woman’s behaviors, actions, and responsibilities remain inveterate and ingrained, albeit in the West, there is more equality between the sexes. The conceptualization of the “third gender” breaks the seemingly universal two-gender system with an individual’s adoption of gender roles belonging to the opposite sex-- undermining the idea that gender roles are solely determined by the sex of an individual. The Hijra of India are an example of this deviation from heteronormativity. They are recognized as biologically male, yet dress effeminately. The Hijra consider themselves neither man nor woman, but a gender that encompasses both (Agrawal). The “third gender,” though more or less socially ostracized in the West, is becoming an increasingly prominent figure in the East, with the Bakla of the Philippines as another example. Ostensibly, the Philippines would be deemed an inappropriate locale to host a “third gender,” considering the country’s overbearing Christian conservatism. Yet, the Philippines has embraced the role of the Bakla with incredible ease, despite its set dichotomy of gender roles. The determined gender roles of the two-sex system of the Philippines are archaic from a western perspective. Men are breadwinners within the normal heterosexual sphere, working primarily in labor-intensive duties such as farming, metalwork, and construction, while women remain close to their homes. Men dominate all fields of the workforce, with the exception being of education. Schools predominantly maintain female teachers and administrative staff. Women also typically hold higher positions of authority within the Philippine Department of Education. Despite this, gender roles are stringent and highly polarized. Men are socially permitted to drink alcohol, smoke, gamble, engage in extramarital affairs while women are explicitly prohibited from
  9. 9. Browne 9 participating in any of these activities. Women are chided for wearing low-cut shirts or shorts that go above the knee; men are consistently found without any top on at all, and are allowed to wear boxers in public with little or no derision. Many would attribute this anachronistic sense of custom to four hundred years of western colonial oppression and subversion of traditionally Filipino conventions. The Bakla deviates completely from the gender specific roles with biologically male individuals adopting female gender behavior and inflection. Despite the recalcitrant nature of “the third gender” within the Filipino cultural realm, Baklas are an integral part to societal identity. Arguably, this is due to the performance-orientated nature of the Bakla. There is no doubt that the Bakla identity seems radical within the confines of Filipino culture; however, the fledgling manifestations and development of this “third gender" are rooted in Filipino cultural progression, moving away from a former era of subservience. As Philippine culture transcends the constructs of Western dominance, new identities, including that of the Bakla, are formed. The Bakla breaks through the binary world of man and woman, earning space in Filipino culture, creating and recreating new elements particular to that identity. One facet of the Bakla construction relates to a development of an entirely new language, available only to the Bakla, called “Swarding.” There are conflicting lines of theory within Filipino socio-linguistics as to the reason behind the development of an entirely new language. During an interview, a participant stated that, “on some part, the gay is homosexual, isn’t it? So, they are having sexual affairs with the men. So, they are using this language to hide on what they have done, or using alternate words to make private what they are talking about” (Tacad). The speaker was alluding to the idea that Baklas, through their furtive homosexual affairs, create a code for discussing events that are inappropriate to the heterosexual Filipino. This argument sheds a negative light on the language of “the third gender,” implicating a degenerate quality to both the identity and
  10. 10. Browne 10 the language—a language based on coding and machination. A contradictory, yet more amicable argument states, “They [the Baklas] want to be unique. They are introduced as a third sex. The male and the female use their language regularly so they want to be unique from both the woman and the man” (Fernando). The development of identity and culture simultaneously reflect one another. The Baklas are disparate from both men and women, not a sub-identity of one or the other. As such, a language unique to Baklas reflects the “third gender,” and the division from the heteronormative. Though there is a strong discrepancy between the heterosexual norm and the “third gender” encapsulated by the Bakla identity, there is reciprocity in tolerance. Traditional Filipinos tolerate the avant-garde underpinnings of Baklas, while they (the Baklas) mutually tolerate their role as “entertainer” within the socio-cultural domain. As mentioned previously, this reciprocity of tolerance is arguably due to the performative nature of the Bakla. The Philippines is a country known for a great many things, including a staggering appreciation for the entertaining and the comic. It is considered inappropriate to express feelings of anger or sadness to a Filipino, especially in public, and as such, there is a continuous need for entertainment and joviality. The Bakla role of entertainer facilitates the necessity for entertainment through hyper-feminized, high energy and socially taboo antics. Traditional Filipinos tend to condone this behavior, allowing a modicum of ostensible freedom—‘ostensible’ in the sense that though seemingly permitted, culturally inappropriate behavior is expected of the Bakla, as it defines the mold of his/her structure. “I haven’t seen [a] Bakla or conversed with a Bakla who is very strict. My cousins who are gay, who are in the parlor and some of my classmates—they are so very happy. When they talk they are like comedians, also” (Tacad). The Bakla is outspoken, sexually engaged, a bold dresser, and has no social filter. It is the audacity of
  11. 11. Browne 11 the Bakla that Filipinos find entertaining, especially given the hundreds of years of domination and overbearing orthodoxy. This identity is bound by these elements of the intrepid, with transgression into a more subdued identity as unacceptable. Unlike in the United States, where a homosexual man is not defined by sexual orientation, the Philippines has designated roles and behavior for the “third sex” in order to be socially accepted. A straight man cannot appear effeminate, while a gay man cannot appear masculine. Just as the role of the Bakla is defined by its bold nature, the gender roles of heterosexuals are equally stringently placed. There is another identity within the Philippine society that receives very little acknowledgement- the complete antithesis of the Bakla. This antithetical “third gender” is that of the Tomboy. Even though the major focus of this essay is on the role of the Bakla, a brief look at the Tomboy is intrinsic to understanding the foundations of contemporary Filipino culture. The Tomboy is a woman who dresses like and exhibits the behavior of a man-- the title of her role adopted from the American term. The Tomboy identifies herself as female, but prefers to socialize with men and court women. In the Philippines, the Tomboy identity is completely ostracized from the Filipino social circle, with no chances of re-entering unless femininity and heterosexuality are irreproachably present. Unlike the Bakla, there is no role for the Tomboy to enact, and she remains a sideliner on the cultural stage. As there is an absence of performance, there is also an absence of mockery or derision for the Tomboy. She is simply ignored, along with the mentally challenged and physically disabled— socially negated from the normal heterosexual circles. Being acknowledged and prohibited would at least allow for a foundation of responsive discourse to be articulated. Yet, the Tomboy has no place in the social strata, leaving her no footing to begin to climb the ladder of societal acceptance. What is partially true for the denigrated role of the Bakla is especially true for the Tomboy. The Bakla is
  12. 12. Browne 12 accepted into Filipino society on the condition that s/he will perform the role that has been prescribed to him/her. The Tomboy currently has no foundation for responsive discourse to the values placed upon her. There is little or no room for transcendental discourse due to Filipino socio-cultural normatives based upon fatalistic tendencies. These fatalistic tendencies towards structured social identities are rooted in a cyclical oppression/suppression relationship. Initially, the oppressors were that of the West- either Spanish or American. Today in the Philippines, the oppressors and the oppressed are within the same culture, repeating the all too familiar cycle of oppression by the power holder, repression and fatalistic acceptance by the oppressed. Part Four: The Bakla and the Backlash The perpetuation of cyclical destructive relationships is not uncommon within the world of Marxist criticism and postcolonial theory. In the book entitled Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the author goes into explicit detail relating how once an oppressed group gains freedom, the leaders of that said group have an opportunity to retain an authoritative and commanding position. If a leader chooses to acquiesce to that position, motivated by either greed or ignorance, then they run a large risk of reinstating an oppressed condition for the people the leader is meant to serve. As a new oppressor, the leader may be equally as formidable as his foreign predecessor and perhaps even more so, depending upon the strength of the power struggle within the various factions produced by revolutionary ideologies. This oppression/suppression cycle within a post- colonized culture is arguably based on the idea that once subservience is instilled in the mind of the oppressed—usually from an outside force—it takes a great deal of will to gain agency and autonomous thought. The Philippines is an emblematic demonstration of this complex struggle for individuation, given its former obsequious position to Spain, the Roman Catholic Church,
  13. 13. Browne 13 and more recently, the United States and western consumerism. The Bakla, and the perpetuation of his/her role in the Filipino culture, in many various ways, is a reaction to all of these former external oppressive forces. S/he is a result of hundreds of years of oppression and self-repression as defined by the reciprocity of tolerance within the extraordinarily heteronormative and conservative confines of Filipino culture. Because the Bakla is an identity engendered by Filipino reactions to external forces, it remains unique to the Philippines; however, that does not necessarily imply that the Bakla has autonomy. Filipinos have never had the opportunity until recently to construct particular identities within their social sphere; hence, the Bakla is a recent social phenomenon. Yet the construction and perpetuation of the Bakla identity is but a dissembled form of neo self-colonialism. Traditional Filipinos have replaced the role of the Spanish, while the Baklas have assumed the role of the accepting oppressed Filipino, diaphanously shrouded by a veil of entertainment—the jester of the Philippines. The jester—an absurdly dressed caricature within the court, whose sole obligation is to amuse the king and his stately companions. His performance, aside for some exceptional political intrigue, requires little depth, though the jester works diligently on his social savoir- faire. Humor is the bread and butter of the jester character, and he will go the most extreme of measures to glean a chuckle from his audience. The medieval court’s jester, with his bell-tipped hat and foolish grin, has disappeared with the advent of human rights’ development and technologically advanced amusement. However, vestiges of this imperialized social enslavement still exist in the Bakla. The Spanish, the Americans and the Roman Catholic Church all had a viable part in the creation of the Bakla and his/her current standing in the Philippines. Spain, and the Spanish conquistadors, conquered the Philippine archipelago in the year 1521. When they left in 1898, their remaining impressions were so deep that a Filipino is only
  14. 14. Browne 14 distinguishable by appearance. Names of people and places and religious beliefs are tantamount to what exists in South and Central America. One of the primary constituents to colonization is a belief by the colonizer that those who are colonized are of a lesser quality of man. Many colonizers have justified years of rule by designating their oppressed peoples as ignorant barbarians, heathens, and otherwise in need of civilized culture. In addition to the vitiation through exoticizing and heathenizing the oppressed, the power dynamic of the colonized and the colonizer results in the feminization of the former. The power holders are the dominant and decidedly masculine possessors of the submissive colonized. The oppressed peoples accept their role of the obedient more effeminate possessed, obligated to serve the master of the colonial household. The Filipino has been the “feminized possessed” for such an extended amount of time, that once freed from compulsion, there was still a need for that role to be present within the culture. A theoretical proposition would conclude that the Bakla answers the socio-cultural need for the feminized possessed. Years of oppressed and symbolic emasculation of a colonized culture results in a symbolically emasculated Filipino male. The Bakla, through this series of cause and effect, would then be an obvious but indirect response to Spanish influence. Indirect, in the sense that Filipinos did not ostentatiously backlash against Spanish rule, using the Bakla as the tool of repercussion, but a more subtle “trickle-down effect” of oppression/suppression occurred. Because the Bakla is a symbolic response to a Filipino cultural need, s/he is inherently a uniquely Filipino identity, discordant from the heavily influenced western male and female gender identities found in the country. Spain was not the only Western culture of influence that led to the manifestation of the Bakla role. The influence of the United States and its imperial consumerist nature also facilitated the construction of the subverted, but internally fashioned Bakla identity. Through American
  15. 15. Browne 15 military occupation, an onslaught of sex tourism began in the Philippines, and an emasculated and entertaining Filipino had a chance at earning a wage for his femininity. The Philippine sex tourism ring remains, to this day, a part of the grotesque underbelly of the country, a remnant of American prurient strives for corporeal instant gratification. The term “G.R.O.” or “Guest Relation Officer,” is frequently heard in tourist-tracked cities, referring to the title of female prostitutes soliciting their bodies. The “callboy” is the male prostitute, typically highly feminized, and submissive to the requests of his/her usually paler patron. Though the G.R.O.s outnumber the callboys ten to one, the Bakla sex worker is the second most prevalent in the country. American and European perpetuation of the Bakla identity through lascivious purchasing hinders progression of the latter by maintaining two things. Firstly, the Bakla remains emasculated, obsequious and entertaining. Secondly, the Bakla remains stigmatized and immoral in the eyes of Roman Catholic Church, a still highly authoritative presence in the Philippines. Institutionalized and socialized religion has brought a great deal of good to humankind. Through religion, populations of people have a prescribed to a guideline for tolerance, love, kindness, and generosity toward a fellow man. Also, there are guidelines for moral conduct, and for those who do not rigorously ascribe to these tenets, many religious beliefs systems, including the governing Roman Catholic Church, will marginalize and condemn them for their deviant mannerisms. One of these tenets is that of Judeo-Christian aversion toward male homosexuality. “A man shall not lie down with another man,” resounds in the ears of the faithful devotee when the taboo topic of homosexuality is discussed. The Philippines is the only Christian country in Southeast Asia, and as such, highly traditional in their demonstration of faith. A figure, such as the Bakla, was designed to be socially gimmicked, displaced and mocked, as everything that the Bakla represents goes against traditional Filipino custom. The Bakla is a gender-bender and
  16. 16. Browne 16 devout only in her/his demonstration of obscenity and discord against the Church, as socially determined by the Filipino media and mindset. Essentially, the Bakla rebels against the heteronormal dichotomy of established gender roles posited by the Roman Catholic Church. Had the Church been more accepting of homosexuality and of the gender-bending nature of the Bakla, then a response to the puritanical regulations of the Church would be illustrated through some other means of expression. It would appear that the Bakla backlash against the Church would be a revolutionary secularization to Filipino social construct. Yet, with traditional Filipino marginalization and Church condemnation, the “revolutionary” quality to the Bakla’s social emersion is negated. Along with the Spanish and American regimes, the Roman Catholic Church led to the Filipino conceptualization of the Bakla identity, securing its role as the oppressed. The Filipino culture is still young in its search for national identity and agency. The incarnation of the Bakla gender role is an example of this culture in inchoate transformation— transitioning from a time of antiquated Imperialism to a self-imposed casting system. Though the Western world views social casting and ostracizing as barbarically cruel, in fact, it was Western dominance over this eastern country that facilitated the mindset of valuing one class of individual over another. The Bakla has been relegated to the role of the grotesque entertainer, a socially created, gender-bending curiosity amongst an audience of strictly defined men and women. The Bakla is a unique figure, hanging in the balance of what is tolerated and what is disdained, as the traditional Filipino audience watches and judges every move made. Though a difficult position to be in, there is compensation. For every laugh produced at self-denigration, for every dollar given for services rendered, for every comment made about the short shorts or the long hair, the Bakla receives attention, and is set aside as unique. In an overly populated and severely homogenized
  17. 17. Browne 17 country like the Philippines, feeling unique is a difficult task. Therefore, the reciprocity of tolerance will continue, although for how much longer is uncertain. What is certain is that the Bakla, the socially generated “third gender” of the Philippine archipelago, is a definitive character of the present, and will likely remain for many years to come.
  18. 18. Browne 18 Works Cited Agrawal, Anuja (1997). Gendered Bodies: The Case of the ‘Third Gender’ in India, Contributions to Indian Sociology, n.s., 31 (1997): 273–97 (Accessed Sept 15 2010) <> Fernando, King Mark. Student, Exequiel R. Lina High School. Personal Interview.14 Sept. 2010. Tacad, Jonas. Student, Exequiel R. Lina High School. Personal Interview. 14 Sept 2010. References Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 2006. Print Fry, Paul H. “Queer Theory and Gender Performativity.” Audio Lecture. Yale University. Open Yale University Course via Itunes. accessed Sept. 22 2010.