i never felt discriminated against as a gay man. if anything, it somehow worked to my advantage.
in my experience, people expected a level of idiosyncrasy when you‘re gay that allows you to get away with things most people won’t. struggling as a young weird boy, i became ‘normal’ even ‘relatively behaved’ when i became gay. add to this, i never even felt the torturous sexual preference confusion nor did i experience the trepidation of ‘getting out of the closet’ in the transition. maybe because i am still attracted to the opposite sex (a ‘pansexual’ in a matter of speaking) that there is no feeling of once living in lies or betrayal but more opening up to all the other options available. most gay guys will smirk at the idea. i don’t care because i don’t refer to myself as such. for now i am gay because i am with a man. and it is a happy situation. so to me being gay was, well, gay.
that was until monday.
last sunday, my partner jp was admitted to a hospital for an initial diagnosis of dengue, amoebiasis and acute sinusitis. (three in one? trust him to go big time in everything.) at first, the nurses and doctors seem not to know what to make of me, so they ignored me. so i decided i will assert myself and just tell them that (in not so many words) – hey – i am his next of kin, we are a gay couple. while some were a bit embarrassed, most accepted it nonchalantly. mentally, i was already applauding my countrymen and women for being open-minded.
then monday happened.
a day of being plugged into a drip with nothing to do except to sleep and watch blockbuster re-runs on tv is making jp fidgety. osmosis of feelings that happens with couples started getting me restless. so i called for the doctor to find out why we haven’t heard what was the diagnosis.
after hours of waiting and many nervous nurses getting out of our room feeling totally helpless, the consultant for infectious disease arrived with the fellow – the doctor who i have been talking to – cowering behind her. (apparently, there is this very formal hierarchy among doctors: consultant, fellow, resident, intern. this heirarchy is not to be violated. in the hierarchy – the nurses can’t even discuss test results!) she could’ve been my grandmother. she sized me us from head to toe.
‘so what do you want to know?’
‘we’ve been here for more than a day and nobody has talked to us to confirm the initial diagnosis from the testing clinic or provide an alternative explanation.’
‘well, we are still testing for dengue and the tests are just part of the whole picture. we also try to observe the patient to come up with the final diagnosis,’ she looked back to the fellow to confirm,’where’s the spouse of this man, anyway?’
‘that would be me.’ i said, softly but firmly.
she looked at me smiled and with a raised eyebrow asked, ‘how long have you been together?’
‘eight years, po.’
‘are you not afraid that this is related to the disease... a relationship like yours are usually afraid of?’, she said slowly as if looking for the right words, but still smiling
immediately i knew she was referring to HIV&AIDS. i said, ‘jp was tested in november and he tested negative’ looking to jp to confirm, ‘but if you want to test again to rule out the possibility, please do so.’
we exchanged a few more words before she left, but throughout the conversation all i can hear over and over again in my head was this - the disease a relationship like yours are usually afraid of.
i told jp about this and he was calm at first and then later on felt angry he wanted to leave.
i told my friends about it and they were all asking me why i didn’t i say anything. having work as an HIV&AIDS professional in south africa (where the problem is incomparably bigger than in the philippines) for 5 years, they all knew i could have responded to her in kind in terms of epidemiology, health care ethics, rights – the works. i didn’t.
when i reflect about why, here is what i said, ‘my first reaction is to defend jp, to think of his welfare – i need his doctor to be on my side and i don’t want to antagonise the person who can possibly make him feel better’
i explained this to my friend id and she said with a knowing look, ‘you allowed yourself to be discriminated against because you feel you are lesser a person and in a lesser relationship because you are gay.’
it hurt but it also rang of the truth.
here i am mr. activist, mr. let’s advance-the-rights-of-everybody, mr. i’m-so-pretty-smart-cool-all that, and faced with discrimination i fold.
maybe if i re-examine my own assertion that i’ve never felt discriminated as a gay man i’ll have a better chance of understanding and dealing with discrimination when i experience it.
if i allowed myself less self-bullshit, maybe next time i’ll be prepared.