Let’s Recount a Tale: No Homo.

disclaimer: It’s rare that I ever feel victimized for who I am. For that, I am grateful and privileged. Every day people are judged and persecuted for actively portraying to the real world who they are and that’s a terrible injustice. I felt like it was just to recognize this fact before I go into this nonsensical anecdote because not everyone has it so easy.

It was the night of my cousin’s birthday party; with music resonating and wine in abundance, the night was set to be one that we’d probably remember. But first, a little lesson on what kind of party this was. It was one of those special birthday parties, not unlike a cotillion or a quinceañera. In the Filipino tradition, when a young woman turns eighteen it’s called a debut. When a Filipina decides to have a debut, they typically have what’s called a ‘court.’ A set of nine couples (totaling eighteen) to be her posse, and a set of eighteen ‘candles’ (close female-identifying friends and family members who recount stories of the celebrant) and ‘roses’ (close male-identifying friends and family members who dance with the celebrant). I was one of her roses.

Lesson over, back to the story.

The night goes off without a hitch. The wine had hit me in the right spot and I’m about as loose as I chose to be (it was my cousin’s birthday after all, so I didn’t want to unleash anything I’d regret the next morning. I know how to keep myself tamed). The roses all go up one at a time and dance with her. The music choices switch with every other dancer to keep the audience interested and I am about as nervous as all hell for a reason I can’t seem to remember. Regardless, my dance with my cousin isn’t the main plot of the story, just the foundation. Sorry I couldn’t tell you all of a terrible incident wherein I step on her dress and send her careening into the three-tier cake. I’m a pretty decent dancer and that would never happen on my watch.

I dance with her for a few seconds, wow the audience with an unexpected twirl of my cousin, and walk off to where the rest of the men are standing. Now we are getting somewhere. The last man makes his way to the hoard of men awkwardly canoodling at the end of the dance floor and the photographer asks for a group shot. Not uncommon. As we scoot together to fit in the frame of the camera, one of my cousin’s friends (I assume) puts his arm around me and promptly says, “No homo, bro. No homo.”

Naturally, this wouldn’t and doesn’t offend me. It’s essentially harmless. But with the wine flowing and my mind racing, I was able to trace this thing all the way out into a full tirade in my head.

“Excuse me, person who I don’t even know, but that’s pretty regressive. ‘No Homo?’ Right, because your armpit in such close proximity to my shoulder would release a secret homosexualizing pheromone that (unless neutralized by the phrase ‘No Homo’) would make you irresistible to me. Let’s not even acknowledge the fact that I do identify as a gay man, because I was gay before I met you and your arm isn’t what ‘turned me’ if that’s what you think you’re capable of. In your saying this phrase, it makes me think that you’re trying to repel me like I’m a case of the cooties. ‘Circle, Circle, Dot, Dot, now you have a lot of explaining to do cause I queer, I’m here and I’ll fight you if I have to.’ Furthermore, be inclusive. Who cares if you’re being chummy with another guy, it’s essentially what you all do in a locker room together when you’re doing sports things. It’s a picture, shut up, smile, and move on with your life…You’re not even that cute, so there. And don’t bro me, if you don’t know me.”

Let’s note that this rant lasted the entirety of the picture taking process, which was much longer than it should’ve been and I never saw him again.

Moral of the story is: Words may not hold the intention of hurting someone, but they can still hold weight that can trigger something in someone. Watch what you say and let ‘No Homo’ die. It’s not manly or cool, it’s just sad.

Let’s Listen: Music & Lyrics.

It never ceases to amaze me how much wroth and meaning we can pull out of music. The depths it can take us, the scenery it can create, and the emotion it can provoke; it’s wondrous and frightening and insane. As a routine, to keep my sanity in check and my emotions in balance, I listen to music every night before I drift off into reverie. I lie there, headphones in, lights off and I stare at the ceiling. Not because I have glow in the dark stars plastered across it (although, I should), but because it’s the closest thing I have to a blank canvas.

I stare at the same spot in the ceiling, only visible through my depleting vision (I would have taken my glasses off already) and the street lamps casting what little orange light they can through the slits of my blinds, and I paint a picture of my life that is tune to the song.

One moment, it’s like ballet, precise and gentle. A memory of me people watching at the mall; the chaos of people, the cacophony of children screaming, and the mundanity of such a trivial chore go quiet and all I focus on is me and how I implant stories and lives to these temporary people walking by. People I’ll never see again. People I’ll never bother to wish “Happy Birthday” or want to grab coffee with. Then the song changes and the canvas is blank once more.

The rhythm is upbeat, but the lyrics hold something deeper. A daydream of me and him finally meeting at the airport. A heavy heart, a piercing look, a hopeful smile. Beyond the canvas, I can feel my left arm tingling, I’m about to cry. Tonight, I don’t want to cry so I hit skip before I could give it the chance to bring up any unwanted tears.

The bass bangs my eardrums and I’m almost instantly on my feet and still in my underwear. Blinded by the lack of corrective lenses and shrouded by the dark of night, I start dancing in the small area around my bed. My phone that is in my hand is no longer a phone, but my guitar pick. I rock along as hard as I can and without care because no one can see me. The canvas takes a break because for once, I feel like I’m living in the moment. What matters is me, the music, and my killer guitar solo.

Music can do so much and yet we so often mindlessly bob to the rhythm in the driver’s seat without giving any regard to the lyrics themselves; the messages embedded so deep within the music sheets are almost always looked over. Let’s stop that.

Homework assignment: Look up the lyrics to the last five songs you listened to and see if they resonate with you. I have a feeling they do.

With music, what draws you in is the melody, but what should keep you there are the lyrics.