I have nothing but love for Charice. No, I am no fan really, but I find it infinitely interesting when popular culture icons give their mass audience the unexpected or taboo, or something difficult to talk about, something against what we know to be proper or consider as important.
Or beautiful. This is why I appreciate that Sharon Cuneta is Sharon Cunetain all in her full glory, doing advertisements for television and on billboards, reminding us all that weight shouldn’t matter more than everything else – unless we are talking about health of course. This is why I am such a fan of Judy Ann Santos, who lived through being called too plump for TV and too un-pretty for the movies, and yet has refused to change the way she looks and sell any form of fakery. Instead she has gracefully aged before her audience, now even daring to show her laugh lines and crow’s feet, something few other celebrity dares do.
Charice walked this path to international stardom with almost no one paying her enough attention in this country. She had joined a singing contest and lost to a boy who the TV network would take on as its own star. She would prove, meanwhile, that once again local TV and showbusinessis far from being all about who is talented. Instead it’s about how one looks, and Charice was far from the stereotype that the beauty industry and the local celebrity industry had created for girls such as her.
Surprisingly, even when she kicked off a career in the US, and had no less than Oprah Winfrey as manager, and Ellen Degeneres as fan, Charice was still far from being treated as reason for national pride. As judge on a reality singing contest, how she looked would be made fun of, what she said criticized. It didn’t even matter that in the end the contestant she mentored actually won; social media could only really focus on Charice’s changing look, one that was about coloured and shortened hair, and outfits that were far farfrom what we imagine Pinay teenagers would wear. Suffice it to say that there was a lot of leather, shoulder pads, bling. And a boyishness. She also kicked it off with a tattoo. This was in 2012.
How wonderful that in June 2013, Charice is back and telling us all to take a hike. Because she’s come out of the closet and telling closet conservative Philippines she is lesbian.
Deal with it.
Ah, but the Catholic Bishops Conferenceof the Philippines (CBCP), via Fr. Melvin Castro who is executive secretary of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, is far from knowing how to deal. In fact, they are revealing once again how messed up they are about the truth of homosexuality, but even more so about concepts of love and caring and compassion that are fundamental to any relationship.
So Castro dismisses Charice’s coming out as a matter of “identity crisis” and says that all she needs are “people out there that will help guide her with her sexual orientation called same sex attraction.” And yet he adds that for the Pinoy Church this is not about homosexuality per se, but about the homosexual act, where apparently having “same sex attraction does not mean that she has to engage in a homosexual relationship.” We are also told that what Charice needs is an intervention in this “journey of same sex attraction.”
It would be funny were this not also painfully true about Catholicism and conservatism in this country: this will be used against Charice. You can almost hear the Sunday sermons in Churches big and small across the country talking about this girl’s coming out as a lesbian. You can hear those who discriminated against Charice from the beginning laughing even louder now: look at that little girl turned lesbian! We were right about her all along.
And yet what sounds absolutely wrong is the idea that we might be attracted to someone, but cannot act on it. What sounds unreasonable is to insist that you might be homosexual, but do not engage in sexual acts, because that is what is sinful. Never mind that these acts might also be about loveand romance, companionship and commitment.Never mind that the sexual act can be about all the things that Catholicism teaches us about being good compassionate people.
Never mind that in the day and age of virtual selves and superficiality it is nothing but fantastic that someone like Charice proves there is a sense of identity that might be captured still. Where the Pinoy Church bemoans the immoralities that it presumes is in these social media times, they fail to see how this is a most powerful assertion of individuality, of love and compassion for an other, of truthfulness and honesty.
Imagine being of Charice’s generation, imagine being her fan, and then realize how wonderful it must be to find that she has survived the bullying online, the meanness about her looks, and has come out of it braver, even. At least brave enough to talk about how she has found freedom, how she has found love.
The power of her articulation is of course also in this fact: she is one of the few full-blooded and homegrown Filipinas who in fact has an international career. This makes her difficult to ignore, doesn’tit? It also makes her even more important to us, here at home, who must watch in awe at her evolution, if not her daring.
And seriously, CBCP, we take time to talk about Charice’s lesbianism? Why, what of noontime TV’s most famous homosexual talking about the fictional gang rape of a real woman and totally failing to apologize properly for the mistake?
But of course you had nothing to say about that. Because apparently in the hierarchy of who you care for, the women in factare at the bottom of that list, Charice and Jessica Soho, and real rape victims, included.
If this isn’t hell, I don’t know what is.