Friday, October 22, 2010

A Gay Kid in the 90s

Seeing a gay kid pretend he isn’t gay amusingly reminds me of my own childhood. Not that I celebrate in someone else’s misery but it’s just nostalgic. I also tried to deny the irrevocable truth, so I understand how difficult it is. And it took quite a long time before I hit my head and realized I was fighting a losing battle. But I was in denial not merely for the sake of conformity but for fear of the unknown. Back then, I had no idea what it meant to be gay. But I do know what I enjoyed.

Volleyball. Surprisingly, basketball was my first sport. I remember enjoying the feeling of getting the ball through the hoop, until I played with three other kids—a 2-on-2 game. While people would think gays enjoy basketball because you get the ‘chance’ to brush up on a baller’s.. well.. physique, that's not the case for me, honestly (cue scowls and doubts ‘weh ‘di nga?!?). I didn’t like it because of the sweat. Your shirtless opponent is practically drying himself on your shirt. I felt like a towel, and remember going straight to the shower after that game. I was an idiot for not knowing what ‘contact’ sport means. And I remember having the ring stripped down from the coconut tree—permanently. So I shifted to Volleyball, which is less of a contact sport than Basketball.

The Unicorn Club. It was around the same time when bikes and rollerblades were popular in our village when I became a member of the Unicorn Club. I never had rollerblades, but I did own a red bike (yes red, not pink). And we would sort of patrol the village, all members of the said club, in single file. Most readers around early twenties, would know or have read the Sweet Valley High (SVH) series by Francine Pascal. The twins, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield of SVH, are members of The Unicorn Club and we decided to bring it out of the book’s pages. Each of us also owned a Coca-Cola card signifying our membership.

This is exactly the star shaped
Polly Pocket I used to borrow
Polly Pocket. Barbie is a staple toy for most girls. I never shared the fanaticism. I liked Ken more. But I never played with a Ken, maybe because my ‘gaydar’ was already up and running in its early stages. Ken is so gay. I mean, no straight guy would have such a collection of outrageous clothes, not to mention his freaking hairdo. I played Polly Pocket instead. I go to a friend’s house every afternoon to play with her Polly Pockets. She has enough to share. Not that I can’t buy one, but I didn’t dare ask, come on (what a scene that would be?!). She would always lend me her star-shaped Polly Pocket, then we would set up other Polly Pockets with our other friends, usually her cousin and another neighbor. And tada we have a Polly Pocket village. But don't get me wrong, my favorite toy would still be, forevermore, Lego.

Ten-Twenty and Chinese Garter. I excelled in the Tinikling stage of Ten-Twenty, and occasional winner in Chinese Garter. Every girl my age would own a garter, looped and ready for street garter action. Yes, I also had one, but I rarely use it. My garter was a backup. Sure I also played other street games like Agawan Base, Tag, or Bente-Uno, which is a modified version of Tag, I was a favorite teammate for Patintero, and the famous Langit-Lupa (I still remember the lyrics to its chant). But nothing beats playing Ten-Twenty because it gives you a sense of completion when you reach the latter stages—that only the best of the best competes in (ehem!).

From Left to Right. Sporty Spice, Ginger Spice, Posh Spice, Baby Spice and Scary Spice 
The Spice Girls. The Spice Up Your Life album is my first album purchase. CDs were still considered high end then, but was gaining popularity fast, and cassette tapes were standard. I still remember the dance steps to Stop’s chorus, and I know I’m not alone in this. My favorite Spice Girls song is Wannabe, next is Mama, Viva Forever, Goodbye My Friend, and the carrier single Spice Up Your Life. I think I’ve spilled enough to depict how devastated I was when the group split up. Still, we had Steps and their boot scootin’ songs to dance to, and eventually the boy bands and Britney Spears.

Mara Clara. Who doesn’t know Mara and Clara? I believe Mara Clara is the prototype of most Philippine drama series. Judy Ann Santos played Mara who is the ultimate protagonist in the Filipino sense, Mara has no bad side and angelic in every way. Gladys Reyes’ portrayal of the ultimate antagonist Clara, is commendable. I really hated her before. Mara Clara can be summed up with, ‘Ang bida mabait, ang kontrabida masama’ (The protagonist is good, the antagonist is evil), period. Then, Marimar led the Mexican invasion of Philippine TV.

Sailormoon. Yes I am Sailor Mars, Rei in the famous animation that every girl and gay kid loved at the time. It aired in ABC5 and I remember hurrying home to catch each episode. And yes I had a short crush on Tuxedo Mask, Mamuro. Well, there’s no other guy in the series, except for the other Alibaba-inspired version of Tuxedo Mask.  I forgot who he is or if he is also Mamuro in a different costume. Anyway, I stopped watching the series after Sailor Jupiter joined. If anything else, Sailormoon did inspire me to study the Milky Way Galaxy in Science class (not my best subject).

The Bullying. Most, if not all, gay kids would’ve experienced bullying at some degree. I was asked, “What are you?” numerous times, and, like a moron, I answered 'kalahati' (half-boy, half-girl) to others' enjoyment. With mature hindsight, laughing at my own idiocy, I realized how much of a laughingstock I made myself of. Regardless, I do remember how the perception affected me. I was always guarded, scared to let anyone get too close enough to inflict serious damage to my self-esteem. But I took it all in positively. I was the gay kid determined to prove himself in everything he does, mainly to avoid ridicule, and eventually to gain respect.

Being a gay kid is usually tougher than being a typical boy or girl. I do not mean to minimize the struggles of others, but any bullying in childhood, can make or break any kid. So that goes for all. And let’s not mention puberty..(whew!)

But all I’m saying is, gay kids are usually easy targets, maybe because of our awkwardness in trying to reconcile the two sides of our persona, and when bullies try to reconcile two sides of their persona; what society thinks as acceptable and what they personally believe as acceptable.

I think I'm going to listen to Spice Up Your Life now. 


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