i dream of being possible

on the shadows of stonewall

I finally read “In the shadows of stonewall” by Martin F. Manalansan IV. I didn”t realize, but it is a section of what would become Global Divas.

There are certain parts of the paper that I find particularly interesting.

Although, one really needs to take his work with a salt mine. Because he focuses exclusively on an analysis of ‘bakla” that is about sexuality and sexuality only. Matters of gender are… well, basically ignored and bakla that ‘crossdress” or do ‘drag” are apparently never women… or it is unclear what, exactly, he would consider bakla who live full-time presenting as feminine or women.

This is definitely a major problem for his work because it invokes one of the things he actually criticizes:

Fleras”s nativist attempt to historicize the fight for gay and lesbian rights in the Philippines falls apart when he uses a Western model of gay identity (based on sexual object of choice) and repudiates an indigenous gender-based one, the bakla. (Manalansan 341)

I”m mega unclear as to how Manalansan”s narrow focus on bakla who explicitly identify as men or by translating their experiences as ‘gay” doesn”t end up doing the same thing, since he”ll recognize that there are differences between bakla and gay, and yet somehow these are still treated as ontologically equivalent categories or classes of people.

Anyway. What is interesting is the ways that he discusses the colonial aspirations of the gay and lesbian movement:

“People will celebrate the rebellion that transformed the existing Homophile Movement into our contemporary, global, Lesbian, Gay and Transgender Rights Movement. Our goal is to mobilize the largest human rights march and rally the world has ever seen. We have victories to be proud of and injustices to protest. With pride, we celebrate our courage and accomplishments from around the world. We will hear how the struggle for human rights is being waged in different lands and cultures. We will recawearn and teach our history. We see that we are fighting back and winning victories.” (New York Pride Guide, 1994)

Clearly, the textualization of Stonewall has changed-from localized descriptions of a police raid on a Greenwich Village bar to globalized descriptions of a revolutionary moment for gays and lesbians everywhere. This transformation has repercussions for the category “gay.” (manalansan 427)

There is something deeply and horrifyingly ironic about the NY pride guide finishing that ridiculous paragraph with ‘we will recall/learn and teach our history” while being simultaneously engaged in the active erasure of twoc history and pushing a colonial agenda designed to, again, erase twoc from existence.

“Gay” in this instance is synonymous with capitalist expansion. All same-sex phenomena are placed within a developmental and teleological matrix that ends with Western “gay” sexuality. Non-“gay” forms are seen as archeological artifacts to be reckoned with only when excavating the origins of pan-cultural/pan-global homosexuality. (manalansan 428)

Of course, his invocation of ‘same-sex phenomena” actually contributes to what he is describing, or at least prioritizes and reifies white supremacist notions of the body, gender, and sex.

The impact of the colonial expansion of the (white) LGBT movement is clearly shown in the ‘liberatory” writing he analysizes from writers in the PH:

Perez calls for the eradication of the stereotypical bakla-the lazy, bitchy, gossipy, and effeminate queen. Unless the “illusion” is destroyed and the “mistake” corrected, he writes, “gay” Filipinos can never attain their rights. Speaking as a self-conscious “gay liberationist ,” Perez sees bakla salvation as contingent upon an unquestioned set of universal values which Nicanor Tiongson, a Filipino cultural historian, emphasizes in the book’s foreword:

  1. The bakla needs to accept that he was born biologically male and that he should stop feminizing his features or behavior. (manalansan 430)

It is pretty clear, especially by the time 1994 had rolled around, that the white L&G movement had already done a really good job of enforcing transmisogyny as part of its play for respectability and assimilationist desires. Wherein what we call ‘homonationalism” must, as nationalism also function, be understood as ‘homo-imperialism”.

I really wish I could hear more about/from Mama Rene on his experience at the Stonewall Riots… not so much that, because he clearly doesn”t think it was that important, despite being arrested that night:

Rene just shrugged and said: “They say it is a historic event. I just thought it was funny. Do I feel like I made history? People always ask me that. I say no. I am a quiet man, just like how my mom raised me in the Philippines. With dignity.” (manalansan 433)

Unpacking what this all means is… complicated, since the other details about him in the paper make it clear that, at the time of the riot, Mama Rene was an undocumented immigrant. So. If he had been tried or charged with something at the riots, he most likely would have been deported. Still… something for me to meditate on. As is this comment about another bakla in the diaspora:

Ron answered, “I am an ordinary bakla. I have no anger. I have no special joys. Other gay men have so much anguish. I cam here to America to seek a new life. I havbe been successful. I don”t have too much ‘drama”.” (manalansan 434)

Just…. so fucking interesting to me.

“I have no anger. I have no special joys.”

Wow. Idk. Idk.

Note: he also does drag and presents as femme at least some of the time.

One thing that should also be clarified, is that this white colonial mobilization of transmisogyny is not new. This is simply a modern instantiation of a process that has been going on for hundreds of years.

These white queers want to save our souls just like the white missionaries do. Wherein in ‘save” stands for destroy.