Now Reading
Column: One with the gays

Column: One with the gays

MZ Akil

They have been present in my life since the time I could recall watching Roderick Paulate’s characters sashay and wriggle their hips on screen. Some of them have been behind my small breakthroughs and achievements. I say this without exaggeration.

When I was about five years old, there was a boy in my kindergarten class who was not like all the other boys: he wasn’t brusque, rowdy or troublesome. Rather, he was prim and proper, gentle and agreeable. In one class photo, when all the boys posed with their toughest expressions mimicking cartoon heroes, that boy stood out: sat in lotus position, with his head leaning to the right, and wearing a Mona Lisa smile. He was the sweetest little daughter a parent or teacher could ask for—except he wasn’t a girl.

Outside school, when we gathered to play, we used to segregate the boys from the girls during competitive sports (in our case, patintero and tumbang preso). “Girls here, boys there!” I shouted. Without any sense of hesitation, he joined our group of girls. He didn’t move when told to move to the boys’ group. Since then, us girls have adopted him. You could say he was an honorary member of the female gender. Before all the fuss and political correctness of pronouns, he already identified as something other than the gender he was born.

To me, they’re beautiful souls who are free of judgment, full of optimism, and bursting with encouragement and moral support. They’re more than just my brothers; they’re my sisters.

Growing up in a small provincial town, we were engrossed with beauty pageants as the rest of the country. I organized a mock beauty contest in our garage, using
the stairs of my grandmother’s ancestral house as the stage.

By then, the boy had become my friend. He didn’t have to be invited to join—he was an eager participant. Presented with my older cousins’ trophies which
I borrowed, he was declared the winner. The neighbors, watching from the gate of my grandmother’s house, laughed as he strutted and twirled while wearing a sash, my cousin’s heels, an oversized tank top and his underwear. I chuckled as I wrote this because that image reminded me of a line in the movie Titanic: “Wearing this… wearing only this.”

During my job search many moons ago, an HR assistant in a job fair beckoned me to submit the last copy of my CV to the publishing arm of a renowned broadcasting company. He said he loved my business outfit: a black knee-length pencil skirt and a mid-blue shirt with white collar and cuff (that was the fashion then, so don’t turn up your nose). The CV stack was sky-high. He placed my CV on top. I was offered my first publishing job as an editorial assistant within a few weeks. Had he not done one of the kindest gestures I’d ever encountered in my entire work life, I wouldn’t have had the chance.

As anyone who emigrated from the Philippines for reasons other than employment knows, it is a struggle to find work that’s at least related to what you’ve done back home. We need allies, supporters and cheerleaders. I wasn’t interested in luxury retail unless I was the customer, which had the likelihood of slim to nil. I had a better chance of assisting them. With the help of a manager, I broke into the industry and had my first taste of the luxury retail environment at Harrods evening wear department 16 years ago. From the moment he took me onboard to the time when he was at a loss as to how else he could help, knowing how unhappy I was on the shop floor, I felt a genuine care, and dare I say it, sisterhood.

See Also
alvin mahmudov BjEB9Lt0hhU unsplash

In almost two decades of living in the UK, I have made and lost friends but I’ve kept and been adopted, so to speak, by a group of Filipino nurses who I consider my inner circle. We talk about makeup, clothing, lingerie, intimate topics I find difficult to share with women, the more serious side of life, and above all we share a laugh— plenty of it. They don’t bother with pronouns or how they claim to identify themselves.

To me, they’re beautiful souls who are free of judgment, full of optimism, and bursting with encouragement and moral support. They’re more than just my brothers; they’re my sisters.

This is what I tell anyone who’s amused and fascinated by my close relationship with them: I’ll never be one of the boys, but I’ll always be one of the gays.

Oh, and the boy with the Mona Lisa smile? He’s become the town’s rich gay Auntie. We’re still friends. And he still makes me laugh.

What's Your Reaction?
In Love
Not Sure