the gapanese invasion is nigh!

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

outcast: the gay experience in "gypsy song"

DM Reyes’ “Gypsy Song” is an evocation of the opposing pain and glory of always having to move along. By virtue of its inclusion in Ladlad: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Writing, the poem may be given a homosexual reading.
Gypsies strike the imagination as a group of nomadic people who never quite belong to any community they visit as of the moment. In the same vein, gay people are also ostracized from the societies they are in because the world is ideologically custom-built for heterosexuals. They are banished to the peripheries because they are unfairly considered deviant, powerless, and liabilities to the community. Like the gypsies, gays always have to go on to the margins in which society designates them.
The beginning line gives both minorities their social characteristic: “strange”—the gypsies for their “colored beads and scarves” (line 2) and the accompanying lifestyle running parallel to such coloration while the gays for their non-heterosexuality. For their oddity, they are less understood and so, they “are shunned/or turned away” (lines 6-7). Whereas this is the case, the gypsies and the gays share the common dream “of home on streets” (line 5) where they intend to stay despite the society’s objections. They need to belong no matter how many times they get driven off.
The second stanza confirms the similarity of gypsies’ and gays’ lives because the addressee’s “life’s the [metaphorical] journey” (line 9) of the ethnic nomads. Such a journey is necessarily aimless, for the path taken is “winding in the wild grass:” (line 11) nowhere is the path straight, for the very person braving the journey is not straight, to begin with. Unlike the path of someone going straight—certain in some aspects like growing up, studying, landing a job, marrying off and raising a family—a gay’s life is just as nomadic as a gypsy’s: lucky to grow up, study and get a job but already uncertain about settling down to become a family man. The “wild grass” (line 11) is unpaved because it is a path less taken and because the life of a minority is not likely to be taken, if choices were many.
The distance referred to by the persona (line 11) is “shade[d] in rustling shadows” (line 13) because that place is covered in darkness, in the unknown. The patriarchal society does not care to know what scandalous or shadowy activities gay people do in the dim recesses of the margins. When it happens to be aware of these, it is expected that the society will unleash its “anger” (line 14) and will give a “fierce stare” (line 15) because homosexual activities are deemed abnormal to the society. The society is “still too harsh to understand” (line 16) the homosexual condition even as in its humanity, that condition—the acts of desiring, of loving, of living—is the very condition by which heterosexuals exist.
More than the phallic symbol they represent, the “rice birds” (line 20) leading double lives are there for the persona to share his plight. Hidden in “a bush/or behind summer’s garlands” (line 17-18) for fear of exposing their double-bladed identity, they comfort the overt minority (lines 21-22) because secret as their lives are, these “friends” are conscious of the hardness of dealing with one’s marginality in a macho world since they struggle to effect a semblance of equilibrium between their heterosexual externality and their homosexual internality.
The addressee is advised to “go slowly” (line 25) on the journey because his crystal of a self is too fragile: if he so much as haste in life just to avoid the pains that come along with it, he also misses the opportunities to become stronger than what does not kill him. It is but natural—normal—for people like him to be broken like “beads” (line 27) because only “God” (line 28) is perfect and a gay’s imperfections, or any other human being’s for that matter, are the vulnerabilities that make him perfectly human. He is portrayed as a child “briefly lost [in]/His way” (lines 29-30) because whatever flaws he incurs along the journey, he remains innocent unless and until he grows up and learns from these shortcomings, such as his socially constructed identity.
In the end, a motif was stated: “leaving’s another name/for love” (lines 32-33) because the sacrifices gypsies make in leaving their every home, and the sacrifices gays make in leaving whatever of value to them—their never-to-be social belongness, their unrequited passion—are sacrifices that are done out of love. If only for that, these minorities are admirable because they can muster enough courage to let go of the very things that make up what they are.

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