The transformation of hunky Rustom Padilla to the beautiful BB Gandanghari is one admirable thing deserving of praise. Finally, Rustom became true to himself about how he felt and became a she. (Too bad for Carmina.) I can imagine it was hard for Rustom to grow up in a homophobic environment, what with a commanding father and brusko brothers like Robin at his side. I guess living far away in the liberal parts of the United States did him good.
However, as admirable as Rustom’s coming out and subsequent reinvention into BB may be, I fear that this episode will only reinforce stereotypes about non-heterosexual guys and possibly strengthen the stigma and ridicule against non-effeminate gay guys.
Philippine society as a whole has quite a backward view on non-straight people. Most Filipinos view gay guys as men who feel that they are women trapped in a guy’s body. This is reinforced by the plenty of out gay guys in showbiz, the sashaying gays that populate beauty parlors and salons (hence "parlorista" gays), and the numerous gay beauty contests in every town in the Philippines (see the movie The Thank You Girls and even Sagwan for a representation of this propensity for gay beauty pageants). With another example in the form of Rustom Padilla, especially since Filipinos knew him before as this macho leading-man actor in plenty of action films, I can see his transsexual/transgendered state—the terms can be pretty bewildering—as further raising confusion in Philippine society regarding people who aren’t straight.
I think the root of the problem is that there is widespread misunderstanding regarding the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. The former is concerned with what gender you are sexually attracted to while the latter is about what gender you identify with. (Of course, it’s not as simple as this, but it suffices for the sake of discussion.) A man can still identify as a man and behave in a masculine manner but still be primarily attracted to other men. Sounds familiar?
So, I hate it when people automatically ascribe effeminate or female qualities to guys who just happen to be attracted to other guys. Just because the traditional role of females is to be attracted to males does not mean that men who are attracted to other men wants to become females or hope to take on feminine roles.
So what do you think? Do you agree with my observations? How do you think we can help Philippine society understand the colorful PLU world?