“Coming Out” vs. “Feeling Out”

One big difference between the bakla and gay identity that Manalansan explores is “coming out” vs. “feeling out.”

For most gay men in the United States and the rest of the Global North, the coming out process is important to their identity as an individual and a gay man. Manalansan describes it as, “a liberation from the closet… separate from familial and kin bonds and obligations.” This idea fits right in with American society’s focus on individualism, separation, and leaving home. Coming out has been described as a rebirth and transformation and is associated with publicly and verbally identifying as a gay man.

Some Filipino men have come out to their families and had positive reactions, although many others didn’t feel they needed to. One of Manalansan’s informants said he thought it was necessary for his mother to talk about his homosexuality in order to show that she thinks it’s okay, and her silence makes him feel she has not accepted it. Another said the silence was a sign of neither denial nor complete acceptance and is, “indicative of a kind of dignified acquiescence.”

Many Filipino men have an issue with the notion of coming out. One of Manalansan’s informants said, talking about the Americans, “Coming out is their drama.” Informants said that they felt their families knew without having to be told and that, “the ‘feeling out’… of situations and truths is very important.” Quite dignity is valued in the Philippines and therefore many Filipino homosexual men prefer not to verbally express pride or distinctiveness. When discussing the Gay Pride parades in New York City, one of Manalansan’s informants said, “Too many people and quite chaotic.” He said that he wasn’t an activist like many of the white gay men he knew and that he was not particularly interested in speaking to the public. Two other informants say they would not participate in the parade either. One says that, “It isn’t the drag part that is awful, it is the spectacle.” He says there’s a difference between going to the clubs in drag and parading downtown for an audience. He said, “You lose your mystique, you mystery.”

These homosexual Filipino men, even though they are living in NYC, feel that coming out is foreign to them and an American thing. The quiet dignity that Filipino men speak of is part of their Filipino culture but also associated with their status as immigrants. Before the late 1980s, being openly gay could pose an issue for being accepted into the United States. Because of this, many gay men continued to be wary about expressing a public gay identity years later. For these men, having success living in the US was more important than coming out. Although in the US we may define these Filipino men as “gay” because they are men having sex with men, this label leaves out their cultural differences in behavior and way of defining their own sexual and gender identities.

 

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