Sunday, February 17, 2008

Getting Ready for Oz 3

It is a tradition in the Philippines to give money to children in December. It was the first day of the year and I was only a teenager. One of my cousins (20 years older) dangled some money infront of my face. He said, "There is no gay in our family." I snatched the bills from his hand and retorted "There is one now!" I immediately ran away laughing.

It is not perfectly OK to be gay in Manila but one does not get hurt by strangers by being so. I have kissed my wheelchair-bound ex in the middle of Megamall (one of the biggest malls in the country). I have held hands with my dates. I have even done things in public I shouldn't. But no harm has come to me.

I do the same things here in Bangkok. The only difference is people do not stare here whereas in Manila, people look at gay people like how they look at Siamese twins walking on a tightrope while balancing 10-foot swords on the tip of their tongues. But in both cities, people do not approach me, verbally abuse me or beat me up.

It has always been natural for me to show my affection in public. I am very proud of being gay and I have always answered "yes" whenever I am asked "Are you gay?"

Problem is more and more people are warning me about Australia. They say that I cannot even hold hands with a man in public. They say that if I wink at the wrong person, I will end up in hospital. One of them even warned me about gay bashings happening around the Sydney Mardi Gras.

I have always imagined Australia as a country where diversity is celebrated. Some people say that it is the diversity that should be blamed--that Middle Eastern men have made being publicly gay dangerous. A close friend of mine even say that policemen patrol the bushes not to catch gay men having sex in public but to protect gay men from getting bashed. It is comforting to know that policemen are on our side but it is also scary to know that gay men are actually harmed in public.

In a few days, I will know if I can walk away from homophobic people in Australia while laughing.

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