Vibal Foundation recently launched More Tomboy, More Bakla Than We Admit: Insights into Sexual and Gender Diversity in Philippine Culture, History, and Politics—a collection of essays that explore the diversity of sexual and gender identities within Philippine culture and history, and the unique circumstances that LGBTQIA+ individuals experience.
More Tomboy, More Bakla Than We Admit is the latest addition to Academica Filipina, Vibal Foundation’s imprint that pushes the boundaries of scholarly publishing with smart, literate, and thought-provoking works exploring the Philippine past, present, and future.
Edited by Dr. Mark Blasius and Dr. Richard Chu, the featured 15 essays were written by Filipino scholars studying sexual and gender identities, such as J. Neil C. Garcia, Raquel A. G. Reyes, and Rolando B. Tolentino. The book editors made sure that the anthology contained an essay to represent each letter of the LGBTQIA+ community. Dr. Blasius is a Professor Emeritus at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York while Dr. Chu is an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Looking through the eyes of the LGBT community
In the Philippines today, LGBTQIA+ people and the issues they face have become more prominent in the mainstream public consciousness. Despite the prominence of Catholic cultural practices and values due to more than three centuries under Spanish rule, it is assumed that tolerance and acceptance of sexual and gender diversity is the result of more modern American cultural influence on the country. This assumption does not take into account the fact that sexually diverse and gender-non-normative individuals have been part of Philippine history—not just for the past two or three decades, but for centuries, even during precolonial times.
More Tomboy, More Bakla than We Admit centers its essays on the questions “what does it really mean to be a tomboy or a bakla?” “What are the lived experiences of the Filipino lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person?” “How do they fit in and stand out within the colorful tapestry of Philippine life?” “The different views of the writers in this anthology attempt to answer these questions through research and personal experiences which add a more realistic persona to the book.
The book takes a look at the lives of LGBT people from various periods of time in the Philippines as well as by taking a deep dive into different factors such as culture, psychology, politics, and religion. There are essays which focus on political, cultural, and historical developments in the LGBT community during the precolonial times. There is also an essay which explores how the psychological profession in the Philippines has sought to address LGBT-specific issues over the years. There are also essays that present the situation of the gay Filipinos in present times such as gay men using the term “bi” and the term “lesbian” being often used by, or associated with, those from a middle-class background, while “tomboy” is more often associated with those from the working class or the urban poor, similar to “bakla.”
More Tomboy, More Bakla than We Admit
The book unravels how the identity of the LGBT community has changed and maintained its colorful roots in different aspects in the Philippines. While heteronormative values and institutions continue to be prevalent in the Philippines and have undeniable impact, LGBTQIA+ Filipinos nonetheless manage to carve out spaces to express, define, and exist as themselves within society.
The picture of the Pinoy LGBT experience is never complete, because it is always growing in richness and complexity, as part of the shifting multichromatic canvas of Philippine history and the Filipino experience.
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