A friend of mine recently (just last week, actually) questioned whether it was at all proper for me to be featuring queer characters center-stage in my fiction when I’m a hundred-eighty-degree straight myself. Those who’ve been around during my early starts at publishing know that my very first published story, How My Brother Leon Brought Home A Husband (Philippines Graphic, 2016) is quite unabashedly a story of gay love, and oh boy the questions that it spurred from my relatives, not the least my dad.
I have heaps of respect for my friend and know that her question was out of pure intentions. There is, after all, the question of whether historically privileged members of society are at all qualified to voice the narratives of the oppressed – be it men writing women, straight writing queer, or white writing colored. And personally I am all for letting people take charge of their own narratives, being myself, in certain discourses, part of an oppressed nation whose history and literature have for so long been defined by our white conquistadors.
But with that having said, I still believe in the currency of poetic license. I think, while we should let those who have historically been denied of their voices speak their own narratives, there should be nothing preventing an artist – literary or otherwise – from taking inspiration in their struggles – in joining the cause, if I may say – so long as one does it sensitively, correctly, and keeping all sense of privilege and entitlement in check. I have read numerous attempts of male writers trying on the guise of a “feminist” by writing female characters, only to end up sexualizing them anyway, or revealing a horrible – often humorous – misunderstanding of their humanity (thus the strong women trope).
My short story, The Girl In The Ticket Booth, is published this week in the Philippines Graphic magazine. The magazine is distributed in print nationwide here in the Philippines, but those overseas interested in reading may check out the online version here. Tonally, the story was inspired by a Haruki Murakami (himself often problematic in his portrayals of women) piece that lends its title to my favorite of his collections, Blind Willow, Sleeping Women. The image of a couple riding on a motorcycle to the countryside that features in Ticket Booth comes from this story. I like to believe that the portrayal of discrimination experienced by the characters of Dani and Desiree has been, to the extent that I was able to synthesize from my own observations of the real-life events that gave birth to the story, sensitive and respectful to the real people who lived and continue to live through this narrative. But the story, it should be made clear, is no claim to the narrative.
Almost concurrent with Ticket Booth is another new story, A Flowchart For The Queen, published with the acclaimed Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, whose short fiction category is edited by no less than the great Yeow Kai Chai. Mr. Yeow e-mailed me last week informing me of my story’s inclusion in the journal, while I was deployed on field work in Ilocos Sur, and the explosive mix of excitement and honor almost exploded through the walls of my hotel room. The story features quirky coworkers, and a flowchart resembling the map in that Borgesian fable. On a humorous note, the story was in fact written during a particularly long and tedious meeting – so tedious that my brain out of sheer desperation shifted gears into creative mode that by the time I left the meeting room I had a complete first draft on the back of my planner.
Quite happy with the start of the year’s fourth quarter. Wishing everyone a happy holidays, and happy reading.