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Genderphobia in Southeast Asian Cinema

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Mikee Nunez-Inton

on 12 July 2014

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Transcript of Genderphobia in Southeast Asian Cinema

Genderphobia in Southeast Asian Cinema

I. Gender Discourse
II. The Philippines
III. Thailand
IV. Indonesia
VI. References

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Frameworks and Methods
The Philippines
Gender Discourse
This paper looks at the cinematic portrayals of queerness in gay-themed films from the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia. All three contexts have a similar long history of gender-bending and gender-crossing traditions, which still exist in contemporary forms today: the bakla from the Philippines, the kathoey of Thailand, and the waria of Indonesia. The study will take on the framework of gender performativity in attempting to inter-reference these gender performances with each other, as well as methods of textual analysis in articulating how concepts of genderphobia and homophobia operate within cinematic discourses from across this region. Key interviews with film directors and producers will be conducted to learn more about the creative and artistic considerations involved in the production of queer films. Finally, focus group discussions and focus interviews with transgender groups will also be conducted to explore issues of discrimination and genderphobia experienced by transgender people from across the region.
Research Questions
Western models of gender do not match ways of thinking and doing gender and sexuality in non-Western Contexts
A note on Language:
Local terms cannot be translated into English terms

A certain amount of disentangling meanings is necessary --> New terminologies?
The Bakla, the Kathoey, the Waria
1. What are the social, cultural, and political forces that shape, and continue to shape,
discourses of gender and sexuality in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia?

2. How are genderphobia and homophobia operationalized in queer-themed films from these

3. To what extent do queer-themed films help the bakla, kathoey, and waria negotiate issues of
genderphobia and homophobia?

Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (2007)
Sexual orientation
: “each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional, and sexual attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender or the same gender more than one gender”
Gender Identity
: “each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms”
Southeast Asian Region
Jenis Kelamin
“incorporates sexual difference (male vs. female), gender difference (masculine vs. feminine), and sexuality (heterosexual vs. homosexual) into a single discursive regime” (Jackson and Sullivan, 1999, p. 5)
Theoretical Framework
Gender Performativity (Butler)
Textual Analysis
Linguistic-Sonic Mode
Visual Mode
Performative Mode
Reception and Spectatorship
Focus Interviews with filmmakers, writers, and producers
Focus interviews and Focus Group Discussions with bakla, kathoey, and waria people and groups
Historical Context
Genderphobia and Homophobia
Transphobia Scale
Combined model:
*Genderphobia: Transphobia and Effeminophobia
: “negative evaluation of gender non-conformity or an incongruence between sex and gender” (Hill and Willoughby, 2005, p. 534)
“the feeling of revulsion to masculine women, feminine men, cross-dressers, transgenderists, and/or transsexuals” (Hill and Willoughby, 2005, p. 533)
physical or verbal assault or harassment directed at people who do not conform to gender stereotypes (Hill and Willoughby, 2005, p. 534)
: the belief that heteronormative models should govern all identities
Sexual Stigma
: social stigma against people based on their non-heterosexual behaviors, identities, relationships, or community
Antigay behavior
: stigma against others because of their perceived or actual sexual orientations manifested in verbal or physical violence
Gregory Herek (2004)
Ideological level
Individual level
Interpersonal level
Gender Stigma
Sexual Stigma
Antigay behavior
Contemporary Context
The Bakla in Philippine Cinema
Proposed Films for Study
The bakla has roots in the gender-crossing
of pre-colonial Philippines, who acted as spiritual and social leaders in ancient times and embodied both male and female spirits (Garcia, 2009).

Genital males would be allowed to perform the babaylan function provided they took on the garb and mannerisms of women (Garcia, 2009, p. 163).The babaylan, however, did not merely cross-dress but took on the “social and symbolic role of the other, complementary… sex” (Garcia, 2009, p. 165).
Gender as occupation
Christianity and morality
Psychology and Mental Illness
Political-Legal Context
The bakla’s desire must be directed toward the lalake; it is often considered incestuous when one bakla has sexual relations with another bakla, since all baklas are supposed to be ‘sisters’.

“Bakla connotes a certain comportment in the same-sexual act which differentiates [her] from [her] masculine partner who is not considered bakla precisely, while homosexual connotes a certain form of orientation, preference, or desire which both parties in the same-sexual experience engender and share” (Garcia, 2009, p. xxi-xxii).
No laws making it legal, or illegal
From Babaylan to Parlorista and Fashion Designer:
From bakla to gay: “the struggle of gay men in Manila has been cast in terms of finding ways to perform homosexuality without being coded as bakla” (Benedicto, 2008, p. 323).
Transpinays: Unlike the terms gay or bakla, transpinay does not connote sexual orientation but gender identity; nor does it connote surgical status (in that transpinays can be non-operative, pre-operative, or post-operative transsexuals) (Sassot, 2011, p. 13).
The Comic Bakla
The Martial Law Bakla
Indie Films
The Vice Ganda Bakla
Quick Change
Directed by Eduardo Roy, Jr.


Manila's Cinemalaya Film Fest
Berlin Film Fest
Remington and the Curse of the Zombadings
Directed by Jade Castro


Manila's Cinemalaya Film Fest
Seattle International Film Fest
SF Indie Fest (Another Hole in the Head - Genre Fest)
Historical Context
Contemporary Context
The Kathoey in Thai Cinema
Proposed Films for Study
The drive to modernize was initiated by the Royals.

Central Thai (spoken); Royal Thai (Latin alphabet)
Thailand was never colonized by European Imperialists
Buddhism and Karma
Political-Legal Context
No laws making it legal, or illegal
Spectacle and Stage Performance
Sex Work and dreams of the 'West'
The Tragic Kathoey
Comedy and Subversion
Lady-boy Films
Thai "Gay" Films
Love Next Door
Directed by Thitipan Raksasat
HK Lesbian and Gay Film Fest
Insects in the Backyard
Directed by Tanwarin Sukkhapisit


Banned in Thailand
Vancouver International Film Fest
Bangkok World Film Festival
Academics coined terms for homosexual (
, same-phet love) and heterosexual (
; other-phet love)
"A panoply of roles"
The kathoey and her partner:
Kathoey sexuality is directed toward gender-normative masculine men. Kathoey connotes a form of male-to-female transgenderism and the male partners of the kathoey enjoy non-reproductive intercourse in the context of heterosexual sexuality in a homosocial environment (Brummelhuis, 1999, p. 129

The kathoey is not a homosexual man because their preferred sexual partners are not other homosexual men, but gender normative males instead (Jackson and Sullivan,1999, p. 4; Brummelhuis, 1999, p. 129)
Kathoeys like to think of themselves as phu-ying praphet sorng, a second kind of woman (Brummelhuis, 1999, p. 123).
seua bai
photo by Gerry Yaum
Pleng soot-tai (1985)
Phisan Akraseranee
(remade in 2006)
The Adventure of Iron Pussy (2003)
Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Iron Ladies (2001)
Youngyooth Thongkothun
Beautiful Boxer (2003)
Ekachai Uekrongtham
Me... Myself (2007)
Pongpat Wachirabunjong
Bangkok Love Story (2007)
Poj Arnon
Love of Siam (2007)
Chookiat Sakveerakul
Facifica Falayfay (1969)
Luciano B. Carlos
Petrang Kabayo at ang Pilyang Kuting (1988)
Luciano B. Carlos
Manila in the Claws of Light (1975)
Lino Brocka
The Gilt (1970)
Lino Brocka
My Father, My Mother (1978)
Lino Brocka
Macho Dancer Trilogy
Chito Rono
Sibak (1994)
Burlesk King (1999)
Twilight Dancers (2006)
The Man in the Lighthouse (2007)
Joselito Altarejos
The blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (2005)
Aureaus Solito
all directed by Wenn V. Deremas
Historical Context
Contemporary Context
The Waria in Indonesian Cinema
Proposed Films for Study
Dutch colonization
Shariah Law: The case of Aceh
Political-Legal Context
Islamizing the Nation
Homosocial Environments
Films in the New Order
The Comic Waria Stereotype
"Gay" Films
Reformasi Films
Reality, Love, and Rock and Roll
Directed by Upi Avianto
Raja Copet (1977)
Benyamin S.
Palace of Beauty (1988)
Wahyu Sihombing
Youth at the Stop Light (1979) Syamsul Fuad
The Gathering (2003)
Nia Dinata
Dead Time (2007)
Joko Anwar
Traditional Bugis Society
Calabai (False Woman)
5 genders
Gender as Performance:
Traditional Javanese Reog Dance-dramas
Waroks are associated with masculine aggression and superior strength – mythical powers they obtain by avoiding sex with women (Boelstorff, 2005 p. 41) Reog dramas
Gemblak: a young boy aged between eight and sixteen, who would then serve as the warok’s understudy and domestic partner
Bahasa bencong (Bahasa Binan)
Humour and the Public Spehere
LGBT Rights and the Yogyakarta Principles
Sex work, the Beauty Industry, and Entertainment
Sukarno, 1945 - 1967
Suharto's New Order Regime, 1968 - 1998
Post-Suharto Reformasi (1997 - present)
I am Vivian: The man who became a woman (1978)
M. Endraatmadja
Betty: The Scatty Bencong (1979)
Benyamin S.
Madame X
Directed by Lucy Kuswandi
Boellstorff, T. (2005). The gay archipelago: Sexuality and nation in Indonesia. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble. New York: Routledge.

Garcia, J.N. (2009). Philippine gay culture: The last thirty years. From binabae to silahis, silahis to MSM, 2nd edition. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Jackson, P.A. (Ed.). (2011). Queer Bangkok: 21st century markets, media, and rights. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Jackson, P.A. and Sullivan, G. (Eds.). (1999). Lady boys, tom boys, rent boys: Male and female homosexualities in Contemporary Thailand. New York: Haworth Press, Inc.

Murtagh, B. (2013). Genders and sexualities in Indonesian Cinema: Constructing gay, lesbi, and waria identities on screen. New York: Routledge.

Richardson, N. (2009). Effeminophobia, misogyny, and queer friendship: The cultural themes of Channel 4’s Playing It Straight. Sexualities, 12(4). Retrieved on January 11, 2010, from http://sexualities.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/12/4/525

Tolentino, R.B. (2000). Transvestites and transgressions: Panggagaya in Philippine gay cinema. Journal of Homosexuality, 39(3/4), 325-337.

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