Thursday, February 4, 2010

maybe next time

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.


Kane said...


Hey, don't be too hard on yourself. You were distraught and worried and you don't have to bear the responsibility of "defender of gay rights" all the time.

There are times when we are vulnerable, when we aren't as strong or as brave. it's okay.



kawadjan said...

OMG, pasabog ito after a long hiautus ha.

A few notes:

(1) Taray ng header! Is that a pour or is that a pout?

(2) "people expected a level of idiosyncrasy when you‘re gay that allows you to get away with things most people won’t"... Agree!

(3) Kalowka this episode ha.

How's JP doing now?

Take care, hun.

fuchsiaboy said...

yeah, don't be too hard on yourself. ;)

kiel estrella said...

@ kane - did i sound self flagellating? i was aiming for deeply introspective. hahaha.

@ kawadjan - smile po yun hinde 'pout' anukavah? as a sufer mowdel i have more range than that. i can also sneer and open my mouth in mock surprise. are you impressed?

@ fuschiaboie - sige i'll be hard on you na lang. chos.

line of flight said...

i wouldn't be too hard on yourself. of course, the doctor/nurse must have been out of her mind withthe wholly unintelligible phrase: "a relationship like yours are usually afraid of".

id said...


Menthos said...

I feel offended as well by the medical "professionals" you spoke with. They demean the profession.

If you wouldn't mind, I would like to know the name of the clinic/hospital. They should be dealt with.

mel beckham said...

Ate Kiel, you were just caught off guard by that bitch doctor. Isa pa you just reacted very professionally by addressing what's more important at the moment rather than lecturing that bitch with the knowledge that should've been slapped to her face.

I think you were graceful under pressure. Hehehe. Smile ka na lang. May araw din ang bruhang yun. =)

blagadag said...

this is a wake up call. so many things are left undone. we need to bind ourselves together and share our part in educating the people of the philippines including professionals that have twisted thoughts about HIV/AIDS, as well as informing them of our gay rights.

kiel estrella said...

@ lof - hindi na nga. that wasn't what the intention talaga. but i guess it sounded like that kasi marami na kayong nagsabi eh.

@ id - kala mo di ko naalala ano? sabi sa iyo nakikinig ako sa iyo, eh.

@ menthos - wag na. ok na yun sa akin. ayaw ko ng gulo. writing about it is enough. to be able to make some people aware that we need to be vigilant still about some people's prejudice - bonus na yun. sana you understand.

@ mel - i'm smiling. tama ka, i believe in karma.

@ blagadag - thanks. tuloy ang laban (?!)

jericho said...

hey kiel, i hope jp is okay.

i know jp will get well. as to the disease that plagues that doctor .. it is another matter. :)

line of flight said...

yeah. it seemed as though she was internally hysterical so she was just shooting off strings of loosely related phrases in english... making the only apparent intelligible moment her hysteria in the face of your suffering.

kiel estrella said...

@ echo - jp's better now, thanks for asking. talagang my friends enemy is my enemy ha?! touch naman ako.

@ lof - to set records straight she said it in tagalog - but my blog is in english kaya i translated. what she actually said was 'di kaya yan eh yung sakit na kinakatakutan ng mga relasyong tulad ng inyo?'i know. i sounds so much worse in tagalog.

Menthos said...

It's OK, I respect your decision. Maybe next time they will be lucky and it will be me who they will encounter. Hahaha thinking about it makes my blood rush to my head :-)

Yeah mas matindi kapag tagalog. I'm so hoping that And Ladlad will be accredited as party list once the dust settled. TRO lang kasi nilabas ng Supreme Court, hindi pa final decision.

BTW, I added your link under my Recommend Reads. I hope you don't mind.



cherry said...

And now you know better.

Manech said...

I take it that you showed something that doctor wasn't able to: composure and respect.

And I give you props for that.

kiel estrella said...

@ chers - i know!

@ manech - thanks. what's props?

Regular Readers