January 17, 2015

Nephew's Baklâ Joke

During a conversation I was having with my partner, Michael, today over lunch, I remembered a joke our nephew made during a camping trip a year ago.  I want to recount it here so I don't forget it.

At the time our nephew was 8-years-old, and I had just taken him to the campsite restroom.  As we returned to the tents, he said to me, "When I go with my mom to the restroom, she takes me into the women's restroom.  But what if I went in there alone?  What would all the women in there think?  I could tell them, 'Don't worry.  I'm baklâ.'" We both then laughed.

For anyone who doesn't know what baklâ is, it's the Filipino (Tagalog) word for "gay" or more specifically, "effeminate gay man," but this does not fully capture the meaning of the word.  In that instance, I realized that (1) he was connecting with me as an uncle in a relationship with his other uncle (such a joke would've unlikely been uttered to his parents), but then (2) as a Filipino born in the US with multiple gay uncles, he is growing up with quite complex views on gender...more complex than what is captured in the categories "Hetero vs. LGBT."

Then and now he's doing all the sports-stuff that boys often do (plays basketball, soccer and football), and spends hours upon hours in Minecraft.  Somehow I doubt he'll take on the identity baklâ, but his momentary identification that day I remember with a smile.

(For more information, see Martin F. Manalansan, Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora,  Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003.)