Légomai Eleuthérios

It was the day before Poppy Day when the son, brother, and friend known as Aldrin, author of this lazy arse blog, fucked up big time. Sinking into a pool of shame, guilt, and sadness, he descended into the abyss of his own making, and perished.

Just kidding. He isn’t dead–not literally, at least–but he is trying to resurrect himself from a figurative death as we speak.

Half a month after shutting people out from his then-dismal existence–on Lebanon’s independence day, no less–Aldrin decided to reconnect, taking the name of Eleutherios (ancient or modern pronunciation, doesn’t matter).

I am now Eleutherios.

Born again, through the fires of freedom and truth, though not in any evangelical or new-agey way. Halleloo.

Now, you can still call me by my old name, no problem, but it wouldn’t hurt if you called me Eleutherios, too.

The reason I decided to change my name is because it’s symbolic of what I’m going through right now. Nothing overly dramatic, but still signifies a death and rebirth of some sort. It’s a powerful act, taking back control.

I’m turning 30 next year and I feel like I need a radical change in my life. One that has just been waiting to happen, apparently.

It won’t be easy and it will be painful, but I’m willing to go through it if that’s what it takes. Truly, this year has been transformative. Painfully transformative. This is what you get when you delay the necessary.

I’m not a major mess. Heck, I’m relatively lucky in terms of the support that I’ve got and the lot I’ve been given. That being said, I still fucked some things up, hurt important people in my life, and I’m just taking ownership.

I’ve broken some hearts, but I broke mine, too. So help me me, I will fix this shit and un-horcrux my soul.

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Image via sunsetinn.com

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An idiot’s guide to treating your LGBTQ co-worker as a human being (part 1?)

To celebrate LGBT Pride Month and the Philippines’ 117th Independence Day (from Spain, at least), BuzzFeed Philippines asked around 20 LGBT Filipinos an interesting question: “As part of the LGBT community, what does freedom mean to you?

Now, I’m usually very thankful that I live in a country where it’s illegal and deplorable to execute someone for the silliest things (you know, like sexual orientation–hello, Iran), but every now and then, I find myself sickened, angry even, that I can’t enjoy the fullness of my liberties because I’m surrounded by idiots.

The ratio of people who would care to lift a finger for the freedoms mentioned above against those who would only feel 10 seconds of empathy is alarming. 3:10? 2:10? 1:10 even? I don’t have the exact numbers, but based on experience, very few people would give a fuck.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that bad living here. Big cities have LGBT discrimination laws, food is cheap, Internet isn’t the best but isn’t the worst either (or is it?), and I can write this entry without fear of being flogged for it.

But, can we not have more? Can we not have the rest of the package?

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An LGBTQ-aware archipelago? You wish.

This post could be the first of many–as we do have loads to consider–so, I’ll start with being a mostly-gay, mostly-cisgender man (click if unfamiliar with terms) in a corporate setting.

Now, this may not be a matter as “great” as marriage equality or the legalisation of homosexuality (hello to you, too, Saudi Arabia), but it’s still an important thing to consider. Like I said, we deserve the full package, and that includes being respected for who we are.

Thus, below is an idiot’s guide (quite literally) in treating your gay co-worker as a human being:

Introduce them as your colleagues, not your “gay” colleagues. You don’t do that for your straight colleagues; why should you do it for the gay ones?

Don’t assume that your gay colleagues want to be excluded from other men (yes, it is a thing to confuse gay with transgender here, even within gay circles).

In other words: don’t introduce them as women. If they’re transgender or gender-fluid, they’ll let you know (or if they don’t, leave it). A gay man does not lose his right to “manliness” by being gay, and a straight guy doesn’t need to be all masculine, either. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not the same thing. Learn the difference.

Obviously, don’t refer to them using feminine language (unless they ask you to). Don’t assume that your gay colleague is your gurl, sister, auntie, or amiga, or that you can refer to them as “she”. And even if the ones you know are clearly “flamboyant”, that doesn’t necessarily mean they identify as female.

Don’t introduce them as “third sex”. Heaven knows how outdated and offensive that term is. Your gay colleagues probably do not have different genitalia than your straight ones, so they’re not a separate sex.

Don’t be a nosy prick: you don’t need to know if your new colleague is “gay” or whatever. Unless, you want to date them, does it really matter? And if it doesn’t matter, why do you even need to know?

If your gay colleague is partnered, don’t ask who the “woman” is in the relationship. It’s misogynistic and heteronormative. A hundred percent of the time, because they’re gay men, neither is a woman; they’re both dudes.

If you’re one of those straight guys who think every gay guy is dying to get into your pants, don’t flatter yourself. Chances are, your gay colleague may not even like you in that way.

Say your gay colleague does have a crush on you, that doesn’t mean he wants to get you into bed right away. If you’re getting signals, ask, don’t assume.

Feel free to crack LGBTQ jokes if and only if you understand the context: nobody likes an ignorant twat trying to be funny.

I’m sure there’s more, but, of course, I speak only for myself. Cha Roque did so as a lesbian mother, and you should, too, in your own way.

Point is, we all need to know better and we should never be silent about these things. Being non-straight in the office doesn’t have to be so hard (especially in 21st century urban Manila, Jesus H. Christ). And whilst I understand that this may be new for many Filipinos, if you’re going to throw around words like gay and lesbian every now and then, you better know how to use them and why. And, hopefully, you do want to be thoughtful and sensitive and educated. Right?

PS: If you’re lesbian, trans, bi, queer, or whatever, hit me up with your list.

Happy Irish Dancing Day!

Five years ago, I was supposed to go to Hong Kong to watch my most favourite show in the world: Riverdance. I was 11 or 12 when I first promised to see them live, but never got the chance. Five years ago, they were in Hong Kong for the first time, the nearest they could ever get to Manila, and I missed it. Life happened, dad passed away, and I was broke.

Fortunately, exactly 3 months ago today, I finally made my way to Hong Kong to see them on their second trip to the city. Best bloody plane ticket I had ever bought. Seeing the guys live for the very first time was amazing beyond my wildest dreams. I cried at the beginning, I cried at the middle, and I sure cried at the end. Three months later, I can still picture everything in my head and it still brings tears to my eyes. One life goal accomplished and I will remember it for ever.

As if the Fates had not already blessed me enough that day (and thank you ever so much, ladies, for doing so), I also got to meet John McColgan by chance right after the show. Wow. Of all places to be in that night, he was there in the same one I was in. BLEW MY MIND TO BITS. We had a chat, he signed my ticket, and he forgot to give back my pen. I was screaming for hours after; I just couldn’t believe it. He also shook my hand so tight that I had to take a picture for posterity:

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I also got to talk to one of the dancers, Tom Brosnan — a handsome, talented chap — who was ever so kind to entertain my wide-eyed geekery:

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Coincidentally — and I just realised this now — it also happens to be Riverdance’s 21st anniversary today:

Riverdance was first performed during the 7-minute interval of the Eurovision Song Contest 1994 at the Point Theatre, Dublin on 30 April 1994. It received a standing ovation. Later that year, the BBC commissioned a repeat performance of the act for the 1994 Royal Variety Show, when it was introduced on stage by Sir Terry Wogan. At Congratulations: 50 Years of the Eurovision Song Contest and Eurovision Song Contest’s Greatest Hits events, it was named as one of the most popular interval acts in the history of the contest.

Here’s to twenty more years, Riverdance! Do wait until I get my hands on actual hard shoes, so I can audition! (Why was I ever born in a country where Irish dancing shoes aren’t available?!)

Notes on anger, reason, and drama

I wrote this about a year (or two?) ago when I was really frustrated over something. Fortunately, I no longer remember the reason why I was so angry, but I still remember how I repeatedly tried to hurt myself to calm myself down.

I don’t know if I’ve ever told you folks before, but I used to be so much worse when dealing with anger. I’ve always considered myself to be a mostly rational person, but when I get angry, I get really angry; growling, scratching, and all. And whilst I’ve never hurt a fly–much more a person I cared for–in my inglorious fits of wolf-rage, I had always found it strangely helpful to hurt myself. Perhaps the outer pain distracted me from the inner pain?

Below are a few notes I shared (and deleted) on Facebook after I had calmed the fuck down from my unfortunate breakdown:

Do not get in the way of someone who’s angry. (The irony? Avoiding them could be just as bad, too. Sometimes, there’s nowhere else to go. Deal with it.)

Do not argue when a person is taking a crap. Makes things shittier. Remember: shitting is stressful as it is. Do not make things worse by banging your head on the door. That’s going to hurt.

Don’t compare; it isn’t fair. Each person, each moment is different. When you’re older, don’t go, “Well, I never did that to my father”. Obviously, you’re not your child and you’re not your father. Be fair.

Life is not a contest of who’s been more patient with who. For all we know, we’ve each been fighting the same battle at just about the same rate. Know when to call it quits.

Never, ever attempt emotional blackmail on someone you love. It’s cruel.

We each have a right to be angry–and perhaps, also a good reason to be!–but, we have a responsibility to keep our reactions as rational as possible.

You don’t have to be perfect to give advice, but make sure to take your own advice.

As tempting as it sounds, don’t get angry at people who have nothing to do with why you got angry in the first place. They don’t deserve it.

Life is too short for drama. Just because you feel it, no matter how intense, doesn’t make it true. You sometimes feel unwanted, ugly, and useless, but that doesn’t make it true. You sometimes feel people are jerks, doesn’t mean they really are. Again, function as rationally as you can.

Forgiveness isn’t an easy thing and it shouldn’t be forced on anyone. But, trust me when I say forgiving pushes us forward. Forgive, forget, and move on a better person.

Fortunately, I’ve reduced the instances where I go hit-myself-for-being-a-jerk kind of crazy. I guess I figured that it probably wasn’t healthy, so I eventually stopped. Forgiveness is key; starting with oneself.

Peaceful image of the Buddha courtesy of Google Image Search, bless googling.

Peaceful image of the Buddha courtesy of Google Image Search, bless googling.

Turning three decades

Thanks, Google!

Thanks, Google!

It’s my last year in my 20’s, and for some strange reason, I feel really excited. I’m literally at the edge of a new era.

The past year up to now has been truly transformative for me, and I mean that in a good way. I feel so different from who I was a year ago and it feels strangely liberating.

I’d like to personally(?) thank those around me — and even you, my two or three readers — for staying with me as I moulted and transformed. If you remember, 2013 was a little rough on me, but 2014 made up for it real good. I’m only hoping 2015 finishes it right before I finally turn 30.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to get back on some resolutions I made last year.

#1: Plan. Plans don’t always work, but planning gets your head straight for the important stuff. Also, don’t just have one; have several of them. Life is rarely linear, and following a single path can sometimes lead to a dead-end.

Plans have been a little slow, but they’re still there, and, at least, they’re moving. I’ve still got my eyes on Canada, despite some distractions and the financial challenges involved. Alternatives are also in place.

#2: Never lose sight of your goals. If and when you do, pause to realign. Even if it takes you half a year’s time; you need to realign.

There are days when I doubt what I’m doing or where I’m going, but generally, my goals have become more solid.

My linguistic goals have certainly moved forward and my other scholastic oaths to Athênê have been kept. I’ve been keeping a diary of things I’ve learnt, brushed up on my Korean and Spanish, and even started learning Irish. I did pretty well on my DELF and IELTS, too.

#3: Question and examine your goals as you go along. They change as you change, too.

Yessir, I have. I’m pretty sure I still want to emigrate, but it’s very important to know (and remember) why I’m doing it and what for.

#4: Each day, be more “you” and who you want to be. Your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you’ll ever have. Don’t let yourself down for anyone else.

Oh, man. I cannot stress how important this is to me now and how I’ve learnt how to love myself more these past few months.

I am reminded of Eartha Kitt’s words on love and compromise:

I fall in love with myself, and I want someone to share it with me. I want someone to share me, with me.

Damned straight, Eartha.

#5: Let your hair down more often. Let it go. Even if you have to tell this to yourself in 25 languages.

When I said that I’d let it go, some people thought I’d become more of free-spirited Anna (or perhaps be more like who they think I should be). What I actually meant was, speak my mind more often and more openly.

And I have. I’ve never been prouder of the things I’ve said to people’s faces. I still think cunning diplomacy is the way to go for me, but I realise that there will be days when I’ll have to tell people to just fuck off.

#6: Smile more. You might feel just as happy whether you smile or not (because you’re Ti like that), but smiling changes the people around you, too. I’m sure you’d be happier to know that they’re happy.

Following up on acting more ‘me’, I have decided to smile when I feel like it. A good friend of mine told me that, “the closer you get to Dionysos, the harder a time you’ll have trying to hide your authentic self”. See #5.

#7: Do not be discouraged by failure. I know you’re an incredibly brutal perfectionist, but you need to learn to let these feelings go. Advance through trial and error. Mistakes are best avoided by precaution, but if it’s the fear of making them that’s preventing you from exploring and expanding your comfort zone, to hell with that! Just do it.

Well, I’m still an incredibly brutal perfectionist, but I think I’m a lot more forgiving now? At least, I’d like to think so. I don’t need to convince myself that “everything happens for a reason” to forgive myself and move forward. Shit happens all the time, so just keep on walking.

#8: Talk to people. Please. You need to get out there and meet new people. You can keep your small circle of trusted souls, but expand your network. Expand your horizon.

I’m quite proud to say that I’ve done a pretty good job in this aspect. In addition to building a more solid network of friends, allies, and kindred spirits, I’ve also talked to several strangers randomly. Twice in French, and in a particular instance, with no less than the French ambassador!

Keep ’em coming, Hermês.

#9: Love yourself a little more. Self-pity isn’t going to get you anywhere good or far. A lot of people probably love you more than you know. Do them and yourself a favour by loving yourself more.

I’ve still got some old issues hanging about, but I’d like to think that I’m loving myself a lot more. See #4. It’s truly important to know your self-worth.

I’m really, really excited for this year.

Sometimes we forget

This meme is especially popular during Christmas time when people look up to heaven to say grace, but forget to look back down on earth.

When people look up to heaven to say grace, but forget to look back down on earth, there’s something missing, and it’s certainly not #hashtagblessed.

As we leave the old year behind, thanking our gods, stars, ideas, gods and whatnot, let us not forget to thank the people around us. Everything that we have, we have through others, whether it’s that factory worker who packed your macaroni, the grocery boy who worked until late in the evening so you could do your last minute shopping, the dairy farmer who milked several cows for your cream, the fruit picker, the street vendors, or whoever does your cooking for you. Even the food itself–that animal died for you. Nothing is truly ours and ours only, and we are never truly alone. Share and give thanks where it is due.

There’s nothing wrong with thanking the great powers for the things we receive, but thank our peers, too. Sometimes, we look too far back or ahead that we miss what’s happening here and now. May we never forget.

Happy New Year and a joyous Kalends of January! Bienvenue + bienvenida MMXV!

Pater dimitte illis, non enim sciunt, quid faciunt (Or you can also smite them, Lord)

All decent folk know about the ignorance, irrationality, and general arseholery surrounding LGBTQ-phobia. Whether it’s homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia, we’ve seen it, we’ve heard about it, and we might’ve experienced it ourselves.

In the United States, champions of LGBTQ-phobia are usually from the Christian Right. They’re loud, they’re rabid, and they’re really stupid. (As the popular adage goes, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups”.)

Fortunately, we have countless friends who tirelessly fight this sort of unnatural and unintelligent bigotry every day.

BuzzFeed has done a superb job in creating entertaining ways to educate the ‘Great Unwashed’. Here are some of the really good ones:

HRC has also continuously updated us on the rapid progression of marriage equality in the United States:

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I know Uncle Sam and I haven’t always got(en) along very well, but I’m really happy with how things are unfolding. There’s still a lot more to be done, sure, but the progress is so encouraging, I could shit daisies.

It’s not just the activists, it’s also (and, perhaps, more importantly) the ‘regular’ people out there who’ve stood their ground when it mattered the most. Thank you from the bottom of my mongrel heart.

Unfortunately, at least in terms of LGBTQ awareness, I live in a much sadder place. Whilst more than half of the United States are enjoying marriage equality, a great majority of my countrymen are on the fence whether transgender murder victim, Jennifer Laude, should be treated like a human being or not. They refuse to talk about it, and those who do open their mouths are often much, much worse. Dustin writes:

Many of these comments express disgust and indignation, not because a person was brutally murdered, but because “a tranny tried to have sex with a straight man” …

Many comments expressed satisfaction that karmic justice was served, not because a murderer was caught, but because “a sinner was punished” …

Some comments even suggested that it was funny, and it was Jennifer’s fault that she was murdered because she was “pretending to be a woman”.

Any decent society would be enraged, but the one I live in I have to put up with, apparently, isn’t decent enough. This, despite the claimed “godliness” of this little archipelago republic.

Dustin continues to write:

It should be no surprise that hate crimes against the LGBT community are tolerated in a country where majority of the people identify as Catholics, Christians, or Muslims; all of them, religions that hate homosexuality.

I can provide a litany of research proving how those who believe themselves to be the holiest of the holy, the most righteous of the righteous, the most faithful of the faithful, the most religious of the religious, the closest to God, are the most determined advocates of hate and bigotry. The most fervent believers of homophobic religious doctrine inevitably become the most homophobic people. When a person is indoctrinated and trained from childhood to hate homosexuality, it’s rather difficult to unlearn it as an adult.

In the words of Jennifer’s fiancé, “No wonder the monster soldier did think he would get away with it. You show him that every day. Your society does. How should a foreigner respect people like Jennifer if your own society doesn’t?

We ought to be ashamed of ourselves, for fucking serious. Dare we even say we’re one of the most “gay-friendly” in the world? Condescension and conditional tolerance don’t count, you shits. We can’t even care to learn the difference between a gay man and a transwoman and a cross-dresser. Even if we have to type it for them, again and again and again.

Protesters, mostly supporters of LGBT (Lesbians Gays Bisexuals and Transgenders) hold lighted candles and display messages to demand justice in the killing of a Filipino transgender Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude, with a U.S. Marine as a possible suspect Tuesday, Oct.14, 2014 in Manila, Philippines. The activists demanded that Washington hand over to the Philippines a Marine implicated in the killing of a transgender identified as Jerry Laude also known as "Jennifer" which the demonstrators labeled a hate crime. In a US Embassy statement issued Monday, it said "The United States Embassy in Manila expresses its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jeffrey Laude, who was found dead in Olongapo city on October 11. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Protesters, mostly supporters of LGBT (Lesbians Gays Bisexuals and Transgenders) hold lighted candles and display messages to demand justice in the killing of a Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, with a U.S. Marine as a possible suspect Tuesday, Oct.14, 2014 in Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

I know we have some of the bravest people fighting for acceptance and awareness around here, but the vast swathes of sad fucks still dominate this country, and it makes me want to vomit.

You don’t deserve this. We don’t deserve this.

It will get better, but not until we join the rest of the modern world.