Unfamiliar to some, there exist some nuances spanning the wide LGBTQIA+ spectrum that could prove uncomfortable to those familiar from the receiving end. Common case in point among lesbians—being judged just by being femme or butch. This apparently is tantamount to whether gay men were "masc" or "femme," inevitably leading to preconceived, unsolicited opinions of their personality and, alas, worth.
This culture is unfortunate, renowned photographer BJ Pascual could attest. At the launch of #LetsTalkOnBluedPH—an online series of informative discussions held by top social gay app Blued to create dialogue on Filipino LGBTQIA+ inclusivity, BJ opened up about his experiences with femme-shaming and masc-shaming.
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The bullying started on Instagram, he said, where netizens who had nary an idea about his personality would shame him for "having a gay voice." "When they see me talk, may video, parang nagugulat sila na yung itsura ko, ganyan, then yung boses ko, ganyan.” This femme-shaming behavior carried over even to his photos, he added. “Thirst accounts would report my photos tapos magko-comment yung mga tao na, ‘Malambot naman ‘yan in real life,’” he recalled. “Paano ba dapat mag-pose? Kapag nakahubad ako, dapat nakakembot din ako, ganyan?”
This affected BJ so much he decided to stop posting videos of himself online, lest his followers reacted the same way.
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Not only has BJ been femme-shamed, however. He got masc-shamed, too—and very recently, at that. "Syempre, nakapambahay lang naman ako all the time, or sa mga Instagram Stories, palagi lang akong naka-gym outfits. I got a tweet na basically masc shaming, parang ‘Masc masc ka ngayon, kinakahiya mo na yung pagiging effeminate,’” he recalled. “Hindi naman! Wala lang akong mapag-outfit-an ngayon, wala akong ma-aura-han ngayon, nakapambahay lang ako. I still have my heels and nakakapag-makeup pa din ako every time kailangan.”
Whatever he chooses to wear or however he wants to look like ("Kung ano lang yung feel ko”) shouldn't be anyone's bother at all, BJ declared. “You don’t have to feel pressured by anyone to feel a certain way—yun yung natutunan ko. Whatever that makes you feel comfortable, dun ka.” While it sounds cliché, it’s something he couldn’t stress enough. “It’s really a journey to self-acceptance. Maraming stages yan, eh.”
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BJ then implored others, even those belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community, to be more open and accepting of however members would want to present themselves. “Yung mga nag-pe-perpetuate ng ganitong notion, tayo-tayo lang din minsan. Yung iba, di-ne-deadma ko na lang, but I choose my battles,” he shared. Yet, it's a fight he said he will never get tired of fronting through information and education. “It’s important to realize that we have to have those hard conversations especially with family and friends. Who cares if we’re masculine, feminine, or both?” he said.
Coming out is just a part of the already harrowing journey, BJ added; being loved for who you truly are is another. “For me, when I came out, super out ko agad. I was super proud of it,” he mused. “But then, I got comments na masyado akong ‘out there’ so at some point, nag-hold back din ako. It took a while for me to realize it doesn’t matter what other people think.”
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Photographs taken from BJ Pascual's Instagram account