As we have moved through readings and articles, we have learned of various relationships cultures share with the transgender community. Although the terms and definitions often times may overlap, they still maintain distinct details. In this way, we can look at what is regarded as filipino queerness, known as the “Bakla”. This term has particular perceived meanings, depending on what culture’s scope you are looking through. The term “Bakla” is born from the marriage of two Tagalog words. The first, “babae” translated to english as “woman”, joins together with “lakaki”, translated as “man” to create “Bakla”. Filipino lore claims a bakla is one who posses both a male body and female heart. There are similar categories bakla spreads through and slightly different definitions of the word like hermaphrodite, transvestite, and homosexual but at the center of each variation are feminine-characteristics within a male and cross-dressing. The word represents a social category for Filipino’s. At times, some have used “Bakla” to represent Filipino “queerness” and “gay” to represent white queerness but by translating to homosexual, we loose the social implications the word bakla forces upon those who fall into its category. By being a bakla, the filipino culture places you into a specific social and economic rankings. Baklas are perceived to desire the macho man, and to do whatever it takes to get the desired subject. In this way, they have predispositions placed upon them. Their desires are dictated to them by people around them, not realized by one’s self. The Philippines have a booming prostitution industry and it is estimated that 80 percent of the population of working and lower class men have participated in sexual acts with a bakla. This caters directly to the bakla, and as a result, the bakla will prosper economically above the majority who live in poverty. Manalansan suggests “This is the social script of the bakla. In order to fulfill his inscribed roll, a bakla has to slave away at work in order to survive and get what he is told he should desire- the ‘straight’ macho man.” (Manalansan, 26) He goes on to claim the bakla, being woman must suffer and “pseudo-woman”, their male identity, must pay.
The culture that is the bakla is just one of the many relationships a culture shares with their trans community. The bakla sheds light on a more public, yet less controversial trans community. In Manalansan’s article, he describes listening to a discussion between Ron and Rodel in which they make a point that I believe encompass’s the basis of the bakla. When Rodel asks Ron if he were going to attend the gay rights parade in New York, Ron simply replies “Why would I do that? Besides, why do people do that? What do they (these gay men) have to prove?” (Manalansan 31) The United States gay men are looked at as loud, obnoxious, referred to as a “carnival”. For the most part, the bakla community is more modest, they aren’t trying to “prove” anything. In the Philippines, they do not have to “come-out” to their friends and family as the queer community is accustomed to in the U.S. They refer to it more as an unveiling, they have been this way their whole life, they have known it, the people in their lives know it and for the most part accept it as well. Rather than feeling trapped until they voice exactly who they are, who they have been hiding they are in the United States, the bakla almost grows into their true selves. The lack of social criticism that is placed on being trans in the filipino culture emphasizes the way other cultures interact, respect and support the transgender population in their own cultures.
Fajardo’s essay further supports the acceptance and tolerance for transgender filipino’s. As she converses with male shipmates, she learns of their relationships with filipino “tomboys” and the love and respect the men feel for them. They were viewed simply as friends and loved ones, regardless of their trans identity. After reading these articles, I realized there are so many ways cultures deal with the population that lie outside of the “norm”,really any norm, whether it be gender, sexual orientation, or simply the way in which you decide to dress yourself, it fascinates me to see how one population can group people together and completely accept and respect them while another populations group the same people together and criticize their choices and preferences.