Philippines: Bi visibility in focus

For Yffar Manalili Aquino, bi confusion is present even among LGBT advocates.  

When I was a kid, I had a crush on a pretty neighbor named Rose. I also had fantasies of Anna Larucea, the child star who played Trina in “Batang-X”; I hugged my pillow, thinking that it’s Anna.

I had my first girlfriend in high school. I remember waking up as early 3:00AM just to send her SMS. As any men are wont to do, I gave her flowers, and even dated her to the prom. She was, in fact, my first heartache, leaving me devastated when we parted ways.

I had other girlfriends after her. I even had sex with one of them; and I enjoyed it – a lot.

In college, I had an emotional feeling for one of my male classmates. I tried resisting it. I even kept hiding it. But I had sleepless nights thinking about him. I wanted to be with him all the time, but I couldn’t tell him about how I felt.

At that point in my life, I got confused about my sexuality.

So I began exploring as a man who has sex with other men (MSM), a term that is now widely used but I didn’t even know existed before. I had relationships with men, and sometimes met men just for casual sex. I joined chatrooms (e.g. Yahoo Messenger and mIRC) and had profiles in cruising sites (e.g. guys4men, fridae and lifeout) to hook up. I just got used to being MSM; it felt good.

When I had my first SOGIE seminar in one of the Catholic schools in Manila, one presentation piqued my interest – that of Fire Sia, who represented the “B” in the LGBT. Showing pictures of her ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends, she shared about her coming out story and how she became an LGBT advocate. I realized that there are others who are like me. That was when I decided to also become a bisexual advocate.

I eventually formed a support group called “Boys Legion”, aiming for this to be a bisexual support group intended exclusively for bisexual people. However, I realized that some people who joined the group weren’t bisexuals at all. So much confusion existed. For instance, there were times when I asked members if they had any attraction towards the opposite sex; and almost often, I was told that they had none. Yet they still claimed to be bisexual. One member explicitly told me that he’s a gay because he is a “bisexual bottom”. Identity, in this way, has become his way of hooking up. The group’s name was eventually changed to “Gays and Bisexuals Advocate for Youth (GABAY)” just to accommodate everyone.

But bi confusion is present even among LGBT advocates. I have joined numerous LGBT forums where bisexuals are not well represented, if at all. And – get this – every time I say that I am bisexual, there are people who doubt me, eyeing me with suspicion as if I’m lying about my sexual orientation. That the very concept of bisexuality is hard to accept by many is an issue that leads to bi invisibility.

Consider that we do not even have a Filipino word for “bisexual”. Silahis is the nearest Tagalog term, though it is often used in a derogatory manner to refer to “a man who claims to be heterosexual but is actually a genuine bisexual or can be a closeted homosexual” (“Philippine Gay Culture: Binabae to Bakla, Silahis to MSM”). Other people refer to us as “AC/DC”, “paminta”, “halfmoon”, “maya”, “double blade”, “hatsing”, and “doble kara”. Many of these terms are – similar to silahis – derogatory and discriminatory. Read more via Outrage