Manny Pacquiao, Filipino Masculinity, and Homophobia

In the matter of two days, Manny Pacquiao has managed to alienate himself from significant parts of his fan base by stating some rather eyebrow-raising opinions about queer men and same-sex marriage. Firstly, he criticized President Obama’s beliefs about same-sex marriage. Next, it’s now been reported by the LA Weekly that he believes queer men should be put to death.

The responses I’ve seen have gone along the lines of “Pacquiao should just stick to boxing and keep his nose out of other people’s business–particularly if his own marriage could use some work.” Honestly though, it feels a little too easy to put Pacquiao on the whipping stand. It feels like this is a golden opportunity for Filipino and Filipino American LGBTs to expose the homophobia, transphobia and sexism that is in our cultures and educate our communities.

For many Filipinos and Filipino Americans, it’s easy to box us LGBTs into neat little boxes that go along the stereotypes: the effeminate male hairdressers, the butch women who insist on being called “pare” (or brother), etc. I struggled with my sexual identity within this cultural context. I wasn’t fem enough for my family to be comfortable with my sexual identity; I had no desires to be a hairdresser either. At the same time, I bristled against the homophobic, transphobic and heterosexist ramblings done by my male relatives whenever queer men were seen on popular Filipino TV shows and movies. Queer men and women in Filipino TV shows and movies are often seen as predatory, incapable of maintaining healthy relationships with their partners, and are just used for comic relief. Very few representations exist where we are seen through a more human lens.

When I was coming out 20 years ago, I thought that there really was no one like me, Filipino American, queer and comfortable with my masculinity. I often thought of suicide growing up because I didn’t want to burden my family with the stigma of me being gay; never mind that I’m one of the more successful people in my generation now.

Partly because of that reason, this feels like it’s an opportunity for my fellow Filipino and Filipino American LGBTs to not only put Pacquiao to task–but our cultures as well. We have to stop turning the other way when we see homophobic, transphobic and heterosexist representations of ourselves in the media. We need to start showing our side of the story; how we’ve struggled to fight through these stereotypes and be who we are, and proud of who we are.

Yes, what Pacquiao said is extremely fucked up. But his opinions are the product of a culture that promotes this homophobia and transphobia. We need to educate ourselves and those in our community that this is something that will no longer be tolerated.