[Academic Paper] Tweeting from the closet: (Re)defining the Filipino queer woman via microblogging

Hello! So I’m back here to fulfill a promise to myself: to blog more! Again! So let’s try it!

In line with an online magazine’s interview about queer life online, I’m posting my 2012 paper here, for scholars who would find this useful. Please feel free to reference, not plagiarize, okay?

This academic paper was written in 2012, polished in 2013, and presented at the 2013 ICSPS or International Conference on Social and Political Sciences with the theme “Media and Globalization: Utopian and Dystopian Views” held at the very Ateneo-looking campus of Universitas Pelita Harapan (or UPH or as the Indonesians call it, “Upeha”) in Tangerang, like a province away from Jakarta. Man, that was such as fun experience, presenting this paper there. I also learned many things about our Indonesian neighbors, especially how oppressive the media situation is in neighboring countries, and also I made new friends in the media teaching world in the region. That was sweet.

The conference proceedings published all of our papers in book format, and no online source of that exists. So I decided to upload this here, in the hopes that more studies like these will happen. I’m presenting it like how academic journal submissions would look like, and how this will look like when published in one. I just updated it to reflect my 2017 professional details.

Thanks, and enjoy!

Tweeting from the closet: (Re)defining the Filipino queer woman via microblogging
By Prof. Libay Linsangan Cantor
Media Educator

About the Contributor:
Cantor holds a BA degree in Film and Audiovisual Communication and an MA degree in English Studies: Creative Writing from the University of the Philippines Diliman. A feminist/queer advocate based in Manila, she is an award-winning fictionist, a former scriptwriter-director of children’s TV programs, a freelance lifestyle/entertainment journalist, and a former assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Film Institute. She currently holds media-related freelance consultancies with international and local organizations in the development sector and the academe, such as UN Women Philippines Project Office, the Dep-Ed attached agency called National Council for Children’s Television (NCCT), and the Thailand-based Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD).

Abstract:
The proverbial homosexual closet still exists in the digital age and takes on newer forms, especially within various online social networking platforms. This paper would like to do an analysis of one particular “closet” that women-loving-women – however they identify (lesbian, bisexual, queer, etc.) – are utilizing via the microblogging site Twitter.

In a published report, there are about 9.5 million Twitter users in the Philippines as of August 2012, ranking it in the 10th position of the countries that use this microblogging site the most. As a social networking medium, Twitter has contributed to the ongoing democratization of the “publish yourself” platform where traditional media gatekeepers’ heavy-handed participation has lessened dramatically, freeing marginalized netizens to occupy their own respective spaces in the information superhighway. But just how free and democratic could these platforms serve women if they are still being utilized by closeted individuals? Or is the usage of this social media tool redefining the concept of the closet as we know it?

This paper will examine how Twitter is becoming a venue of interaction among lesbians who aren’t out offline but who are tweeting as out and proud netizens online. Using the framework of queer feminist identity politics, it will try to investigate how such interactions happen, what identities are popularly using the platform, and how the woman-loving-woman is being constructed as an entity and identity in such spaces. In particular, lesbian-identified accounts will be followed and examined to trace patterns of interactions among its owners and followers, in the process reexamining how a closet could be used to propagate empowerment in identity-neutral internet spaces while formulating the types of women-loving-women identities being formed and propagated by such interactions.

Tweeting from the closet:
(Re)defining the Filipino queer woman via microblogging
By Prof. Libay Linsangan Cantor
 
Introduction

With the information superhighway expanding to accommodate many global netizens on a daily basis, it is a curiosity to see just how different sets of people utilize different online platforms for their personal communication and self-expression needs. Particularly, with the anonymity that the internet provides users, it is even a bigger curiosity to examine how marginalized individuals who have been kept out of the limelight of traditional communication platforms take charge of this new online realm to their advantage.

It is therefore the purpose of this paper to decipher how a specific population of the marginalized sector of Philippine society utilizes part of the internet for their communication and self-expression needs. Particularly, the paper will focus on self-identified queer women (within the identities of the lesbian, bisexual and non-labeling woman-loving-woman) who use a particular online platform – Twitter.Com. The objective of the study is to see how current users of this platform present themselves as queer women and what kinds of queer women identities are being created online. The rationale of looking at the kinds of identities point to the goal of learning whether Filipino queer women on Twitter are reflecting advocacies that promote queer human rights (particularly of a lesbian feminist strand) or whether the identities being formed and the conversations being made still reflect decades-old struggles around lesbian feminist emancipation from heterosexist societal structures.

The study will focus on the year 2012 when the dominant lesbian Twitter accounts started appearing and gaining popularity. The paper will trace the beginnings of these accounts within the context of other gendered accounts. It will then focus on analyzing posts or tweets and conversations exchanged by the account owners and their followers. Conclusions will be drawn upon the analysis of this information.

The general Filipino internet experience

Different types of social media studies that have been conducted and published from 2010 onwards have always mentioned the Philippines as the “social media capital” of the world (Russell, 2011). Even if there is still a great digital divide in the country – particularly evident in the rural areas and other immediate areas outside of metropolitan city centers – populated by 80 million citizens, about an estimated 29 percent (Montecillo, 2012) of that population still find ways and means to go online and make their presence felt, making Filipinos count as viable drivers and pedestrians in this information superhighway.

Filipinos still access the internet mostly though their own personal computers at home or their office computers at work. Students also take advantage of free Wi-Fi services or free internet in their school libraries’ computers. Tablets like the famous Ipad are also becoming must-have gadgets for many middle and upper class citizens, making mobile access more possible. The less fortunate or less equipped of the lot still rely on a per-hour computer rental in their neighborhood internet cafés for their online surfing needs. The recognized and most favored means of mobile communication of the country – the cellular phone – is also helping the average Filipino find more online time since the cellphone is already a fixture of life for most Filipinos who are so adept at SMS texting and now, web surfing via their prepaid or postpaid mobile internet smartphone subscriptions. Different telecommunications companies have all offered various ways of making unlimited SMS texting and mobile internet surfing affordable for many Filipinos.

Regardless of how Filipinos access the internet, many who go online still share a common purpose: to keep abreast of the latest news (Santos, 2012) and entertainment/pop culture offerings as a form of informing one’s self, to log into their social networking accounts in order to keep in touch with their friends and family in the country or those living or working abroad, and to socialize and share personal information in platforms like the old Friendster, the newer site Facebook and similar platforms.

Indeed, many types of Filipinos subscribe to the internet, follow certain websites and post information that they deem relevant to their own selves according to their various identities. Thus, we see many politically-laden blogs, Facebook pages addressing particular types of communities and sub-communities, and social networking accounts shared by like-minded individuals and groups with common interests and goals.

It is therefore no surprise that the social networking microblogging site Twitter.com will also become one of the favorite platforms of Filipinos to express themselves, to keep in touch with personal and professional people in their circles, and follow certain accounts that they read for entertainment or other personal gratification purposes.

Twitter encapsulated

With the advent of early social networking platforms in 2000, many internet users found different ways to express themselves online. The popularity of the blog further enhanced this form of self-expression as people could now publish themselves online without the typical media gatekeepers present in traditional publishing platforms. With the combination of the blog and social networking, sites that offered this combination became popular in the early 2000s like Friendster (founded in 2002), MySpace (founded in 2003) and Multiply.Com (founded in 2004). Aside from the usual text posts, photos and other audiovisual materials could also be shared in these spaces by people to their followers, subscribers or those people who opted to follow their accounts.

Yet with these information-heavy platforms, perhaps people also found it refreshing to hold accounts in simpler social networking platforms that could still do this information sharing without the complications of maintaining accounts with cumbersome designs. Thus, the microblogging phenomenon erupted, and Twitter (founded in 2006) now leads this short information-sharing phenomenon. Other sites like Tumblr (founded in 2007) and Plurk (founded in 2008) are also considered as microblogging sites – with Plurk mostly resembling Twitter while Tumblr still has a feel of being a blog – while Facebook’s status updates could also be considered as microblogs with its limited character posts. But the most popular of the lot still remains to be Twitter.

With its 140 character-post limit, Twitter was established for the purpose of posting short live updates. Initially designed as a social networking tool to connect a person to his or her immediate circle of friends and family, each post or tweet could be informative or just plain nonsensical, and anything in between. Just like in any social networking platform, anybody could create multiple accounts on Twitter. They can then follow accounts of people in their immediate circles, subscribe to accounts of different establishments they patronize, follow product brands or stores that have Twitter accounts for marketing and promotional purposes, follow famous personalities who tweet personal thoughts on their accounts, and also subscribe to various media outlets that tweet headlines and links to online news pages.

Regardless of how people use and perceive Twitter, the site is still one of the most popular microblogging social networking sites online, especially since reaching half a billion accounts (“Twitter reaches half a billion,” 2012). And with the Filipino’s penchant for trying social networking platforms, it was revealed in a mid-2012 survey that around 9.5 million Filipinos have Twitter accounts, making the Philippines the 10th country in the world to popularly use this social networking platform according to the June 2012 study by Semiocast, the French company that specializes in social media research and data intelligence studies. But a January 2013 update of the study now revealed that the Philippines is in number eight on this list, now surpassing Canada (formerly 8th now 10th) and Spain (still on 9th). Other Asian countries on the top ten list are Japan (3rd), Indonesia (5th) and India (6th) while U.S. (1st), Brazil (2nd) and Mexico (7th) complete the list in their non-changing spots. However, oddly enough, the Philippine capital city of Manila is nowhere on the Semiocast parallel study of the top 20 cities by the number of posted tweets in 2012. Most of the identified cities on this list are from the countries identified in the top 10 list, with Jakarta heading this top 20 cities list.

From this 2012 data alone, one could wonder just how people actually use and integrate Twitter in their daily lives. More importantly, it is also interesting to find out what kinds of sub-populations and sub-cultures are actively being reflected and promoted online in this space. And since social media is a platform of how previously voiceless populations could use the space to air out their issues and concerns, it is but natural perhaps that often marginalized and voiceless citizens of a given population will eventually take to these platforms in order to finally have a voice in some form of media.

One of these previously voiceless people from the margins is queer women.

The humor-based gendered Twitter accounts

Filipinos laugh a lot, and subscribe to humor a lot. This is why social networking sites in the Philippines also reflect this Filipino trait or personality.

In the Philippines, many blogs and online platforms are used as providers of humor. Satirical and humorous blog writers or account holders could already be popular figures in the local entertainment or pop culture scene while some are anonymously-maintained accounts that usually provide sarcastic humor or satirical comedic posts to its followers or subscribers. In Twitter, there are similar accounts that are maintained and followed by many. The accounts could actually pertain to real people but are merely mock accounts. Or some accounts are fictional in nature wherein popular fictional pop culture characters tweet information according to that particular character’s behavior and personality. There are even humorous Twitter accounts of famous people in Philippine history who are obviously dead already, as their account holders tweet tongue-in-cheek observations and humorous or sarcastic commentary on current events that happen in the country, still according to the personality and character of that specific historical figure should he or she be alive today.

Yet these kinds of humorous approaches were not popularized on Twitter first but on Facebook. When Filipinos actively took to Facebook (founded in 2004) by the late 2000s, these kinds of humorous posts and exchanges populated the social networking site and circulated among Filipinos. Several examples could be seen in many western-originated memes that reflected the notion of “if there was Facebook during the time of certain historical events” and the local meme counterparts that also mimicked this humor.

These types of humor were then reflected from Facebook to Twitter. With the penchant for using sarcasm and caustic one-liners in such humorous accounts and posts, there were several Twitter accounts that became popular in 2012 that carried this kind of posts, perhaps starting out as Twitter memes that eventually had a life of its own. There was a particular trend that was also gender-related and humor-laced. In a still predominantly Catholic country which is seemingly always on the cusp of modernity and conservatism, gender roles and gender biases still exist in the predominantly patriarchal country. However, since the exposure to globalization, times are changing quite a bit and that is being reflected slowly in popular culture and mass media. Plus of course it is also still the subject of endless criticism, self-reflection, and humor.

All of these things were reflected in the gendered humorous Twitter accounts that were popular in 2012. Particularly, these gendered humorous accounts – maintained anonymously by obviously witty, learned and intelligent persons based on their kinds of tweets – provided many of its followers the typical Filipino humor that combines self-mocking, mocking others and being lighthearted while critiquing heavy issues. It is thus no wonder that most of these accounts carried the famous Filipino shortened cussword of “tangina” which is derived from “putangina” or loosely translated could either mean “son of a bitch” or “your mother is a whore” or even something close to the American pejorative “motherfucker.” As a shortened version, “tangina” also became a cussword that is nonchalantly spoken by someone who experienced a sudden surge of emotion whether of a negative or positive kind, making it a common interjection of Filipino people of different ages and sexes.

This trend of having cussword-named gendered humor accounts began with the popularity of two particular accounts that primarily poke fun at being a Filipino male or a Filipino female. Sarcastic observations about anything under the sun regarding Philippine society were tweeted to followers of said accounts, of course tailored to fit the embodied person of a specific account. Some tweets sting, some poke fun at being Filipino, and most of the posts are tongue-in-cheek humorous.

Originally, there were two gender-specific accounts that deal with gender-specific thoughts. The two famous accounts are Tangina Mars (@TanginaMars) and Tangina Bro (@TanginaBro). Tangina Mars is a combination of the shortened “tangina” Filipino cussword with the informal term of “mars” included in it. “Mars” pertains to how women call each other as friends, stemming from the word “kumare” which originally pertains to how two female friends could become closely attached like relatives by being the godmothers of one of the women’s child during the child’s Christian/Catholic baptism. The male counterpart of this “kumare” or “mars” term is supposedly “kumpare” or “pars” for short, but the Twitter counterpart of Tangina Mars do not reflect this “pars” term. Instead, its counterpart of Tangina Bro used the term “bro” or short for “brother” which is an American-originated slang term to pertain to a male close friend. “Bro” as an informal slang term for male friends is also popular in middle class university-educated people in the Philippines. It was even made more popular in 2009-2010 by a local television drama series that pertained to a boy calling a Jesus figure as “bro” (Mayol, 2010).

Often, the holders of such accounts also poke fun at the stereotypes identified with their gender identity. This is more evident in Tangina Bro as the tweets often reflect self-criticisms of Filipino machismo, or the macho-laden tweets are being posted by someone who is obviously aware that he is being sexist in nature, making it even funnier and self-deprecating at times. Tangina Bro is the heterosexual male representation in this case. Tangina Mars, meanwhile, pokes fun at the things that supposedly preoccupy heterosexual women, mostly coming from the vantage point of a single urban-dwelling woman always looking for love. Sometimes we hear thoughts and frustrations of being a single Filipina and all things connected with that concern, from finding a date, dealing with family who pressure single women to get married, gushing about male crushes and infatuations, and being snide or catty about criticisms regarding fashion or pop culture. If Tangina Bro is the heterosexual male representation, then Tangina Mars is the heterosexual female representation counterpart.

Again, it’s important to note that all of these accounts have one overt objective: to provide humor. However, as with things in Filipino culture, reality sometimes bites, and the Filipino sense of humor reflects these stings, making it even funnier, as people laugh at themselves and laugh at the society that encases these realities. This is why these types of satirical and sarcastic Twitter accounts are very popular within the Filipino Twitter universe, immediately gathering many followers at the beginning of their creation (see Table 1).

Not to be outdone, the Philippine lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) Twitter universe also got into the picture of these satirical gendered accounts. The local LGBTQ Twitter universe became more colorful in 2012 with the creation of several identity-specific accounts that also provided equally witty, sarcastic, downright silly and explicitly engaging tweets pertaining to the local LGBTQ communities where the account holders supposedly belong.

For the gay counterpart following the “tangina” cussword vein, there were about two accounts that started representing a gay man persona in the form of Tangina Beki (@Tanginabeki) and Shutangina Becks (@ShutanginaBecks). “Shutangina” is the gay lingo version of the “tangina” word while “beki” and “becks” are shortened terms that refer to the latest gay lingo term for the Filipino word for “gay” which is “bakla.” However, both these accounts were very short-lived; Tangina Beki’s last tweet was July 24, 2012 while Shutangina Becks’ last tweet was on June 20, 2012.

However, another account emerged during that time which became the most popular of these queered “tangina” accounts, and it also came by the name of Shutangina Beks (@ShutangInaBeks) using “beks” as another variation of the “becks” term. The persona behind this account uses a lot of local slang gay lingo which is predominantly a mixture of the Filipino language, some English words and the current gay lingo version of some Filipino terms or words. This is why followers might not immediately understand the nuances of this fun sub-language, unless one is based in Metro Manila or is exposed to Manila-produced pop culture happenings via mainstream media. This is because this kind of gay lingo is very popular within the entertainment industry (film, television, radio, online sites) and is becoming more familiar to media consumers.

The gay-identifying account holder of Shutangina Beks is very much ensconced in Metro Manila and as a pop culture media consumer via the tweets he posts, even though these posts are about gay observations as seen from a fun gay man’s point of view such as observations from riding jeepneys, comments about the fashion sense of people around, and of course happiness about crushes and frustrations about a hopeful or lost love life or romantic and sexual inclinations. But instead of being alienating, the use of gay lingo actually enhances the humor more and makes the account followers more engaged in it.

Shortly after Shutangina Beks became popular, the lesbian counterpart of this phenomenon was the Tangina Tibs (@TanginaTibs) account, with “tangina” still carrying the same meaning and “tibs” is used as a shortened term for “tibô” or a sometimes pejorative-implied colloquial term for lesbian. Tangina Tibs gained a lot of followers not by also being overtly stand-up comedy-humorous in its posts or tweets like Shutangina Beks but by tweeting specific aspects of lesbian thoughts that one would have to read between the lines if you’re not “in the know” about lesbian life. Like the other “tangina” accounts, most of these double entendre type of tweets pertain to sex but there are also sentimental tweets about love, infatuation and the never-ending struggles that come with finding love, losing love or rebuilding one’s self after the loss of love.

These gendered Twitter accounts were all created since January and/or February 2012. After these four major “tangina” gendered accounts became popular among Filipino Twitter users by the first and second quarter of 2012, other similar gendered accounts not previously represented by the gay spectrum and the lesbian spectrum came out. To represent the bisexual – particularly the bisexual woman – there was a Tangina Silahis (@TanginaSilahis) account, carrying the “tangina” line of humor again and using the old Filipino term for bisexual which is “silahis.” The account holder is obviously female since it creates many allusions to a bisexual woman’s lifestyle and even directly engages the Tangina Tibs account in some posts.

A counterpart bisexual male persona is reflected in another bisexual account in the form of Tangina Confused (@TanginaConfused). Still continuing the “tangina” line of humor, the bisexual male tweets pertain mostly to the state of being bisexual but in that often joked about “confused identity” way, meaning the bisexual person is perceived to be confused in his identity whether he is gay or straight. But like with the self-awareness of the machismo strategy of Tangina Bro, Tangina Confused also carries this underlying self-awareness of this usual “confused bisexual” stereotype.

Account name Date of creation No. of followers

(as of January 2013)

No. of tweets-retweets

(as of January 2013)

Tangina Bro January 17, 2012 170,734 1,093
Tangina Mars January 24, 2012 18,575 3,214
Shutangina Becks January 27, 2012 1,026 481
Tangina Beki January 30, 2012 182 175
Shutangina Beks February 5, 2012 79,104 9,886
Tangina Tibs February 7, 2012 2,838 4,180
Tangina Silahis February 9, 2012 33 12
Tangina Confused February 13, 2012 107 186

Table 1. List of “tangina” gendered accounts and number of followers.

All of the gendered “tangina” accounts are still open and existing as of this writing (January 2013) but both the bisexual accounts mentioned are not active with new posts any longer. Tangina Silahis’ posts actually lasted for two days only, right after its creation on February 9, 2012. Tangina Confused’s last post was April 2012. While there are times that the other four major “tangina” accounts occasionally wane a bit in its maintenance (meaning there are no multiple posts or tweets in a given day, and there are several consecutive days that there are no posts) – probably due to the personal lives of the account holders affecting their social media engagements – their existence still provides the wit and humor that they all maintained from the beginning. Plus their followers are still there.

It is also important to note that these gendered accounts are maintained by people who want to remain anonymous. Sometimes, there are calls from their respective followers to “out” themselves and present who they are. Sometimes the account holders tease their followers by giving clues to their personalities. But all of the accounts have remained true to their anonymous states except Tangina Tibs who actively meets her followers once in a while, prompting her to reveal her true identity to some of them.

The Twitter lesbian representation

Immediately after Tangina Tibs became popular among Filipino lesbian and bisexual women, other lesbian representations came out and opened accounts not within the “tangina” vein but within the vein of being a Filipino woman-loving-woman. And the accounts also pertain to specific nuances of the Filipino woman-loving-woman’s persona of representation that fall within the traditional split identity of the butch and femme lesbian, with the butch persona carrying the more macho identity while the femme persona carrying the more feminine identity – still the predominant identity politics in the Filipino lesbian community (Cantor, 2012). Alongside the masculine-feminine self-expression, the traditional man-woman heterocentric gender roles are also reflected in these butch-femme relationships.

For example, one of these earlier active accounts was called OMG Tomboy (@OMGTomboy) which was handled by a butch persona, with the OMG pertaining to the slang acronym for “Oh my God!” But instead of being anonymous, she actually outed herself one time by showing her picture and her real account, and she encouraged her followers to follow her real account. Most of the tweets and retweets in OMGTomboy’s account always pertain to lesbians grieving about lost loves, or hanging on to love or regretting losing a love, and other things related to matters of the sensitive heart. However, after being obviously active in its first two to three months of existence, the account is no longer active and has already been deleted.

Meanwhile, the Filipino tomboyZ (@ProudtomboyZ) account is another account that came out after the Tangina Tibs explosion. The tweets in this account pertain mostly to lesbian affirmations and other positive posts to uplift the Filipino lesbian spirit, especially those who have been downtrodden by love. Like OMG Tomboy, the nuances of the account owner’s persona, as reflected in her tweets, also pertain to a butch identity. This is also evident in the kinds of conversations the account owner tries to start, with the purpose of engaging the femme followers.

More butch-identified accounts were created but they carried varied tones. One of the most active during this time was Butch Kasi Eh (@ButchKasiEh), with “butch kasi, eh” loosely translated as “hey, it’s butch” or “because it’s butch” which is somehow pertaining to an answer of a question that could be formulated as “Why is the situation/habit/personality/ person like that?” This account waned in its activity and its last post was made on December 23, 2012. Another butch-made account was Sweet Na Tibs (@SweetNaTibs) which carried the premise that only positive-affirming lovelorn-type of tweets will be posted here to reflect the sweetness of lesbians, hence the name “sweet na tibs” or “sweet lesbian.” The account holder is not anonymous as she regularly posts her personal account (and her photo) in the hopes of inviting new followers to subscribe to her. The account was short-lived though, and its last post was made on October 11, 2012.

To add to the mix, a young college-age bisexual girl started the Grabe Bisexual (@GrabeBisexual) account with “grabe” being a Filipino term similar to “gosh” or “grand” depending on the context of its usage, but still pertaining to something spectacular or big. In this case, “grabe” was meant to be used in the similar vein of using the popular slang interjection of “OMG!” or “Oh my gosh!” or “Oh my God!” The account still exists as of this writing, but no new posts have been put out since May 25, 2012.

Other accounts that originally reflected a more genderqueer woman persona (meaning not strictly identifying within the butch and femme dichotomy) are Tomboy Tips (@TomboyTips) and Lez Confessions (@LezConfessions). While the former’s tweets are a random mixture of tips for queer women to cope with their daily life, homophobia or love life, the latter is more of an erotic-laden account that invites its followers to share their “lesbian confessions” meaning their sensual or erotic adventures, activities and fantasies. This account borders on being titillating and teasing but sometimes it also posts tender and romantic tweets about lesbian love. Both are still active as of this writing.

Within the vein of the erotic lesbian persona, a more sexually-direct account was created within the time these accounts also appeared on Twitter. Originally called Sex of Tibs (@SEXofTIBS), this account was very active in its engagement of its followers and tweeted sexually explicit posts in the Filipino language. However, during the last quarter of 2012, it became dormant for a while until its account name was eventually changed. It is now known as Someone To Talk, stripping away all of the queer identification it earlier carried. But with its reincarnation, the account still remained inactive and its last post was made on December 5, 2012.

Other short-lived but notable accounts that came right after the popularity of the gendered Twitter accounts – especially spawned due to Tangina Tibs’ popularity – are Ideal Tomboy (@IdealTomboy, the last post was made on July 5, 2012), Team Tibs (@TeamTibs, the last post was made on April 28, 2012) and Ang Tunay Na Tibo (@Angtunaynatibo) or translated as “The Real Lesbian” (the last post was made on April 13, 2012). They are considered as notable because they were able to carry out engaging posts and hold interesting conversations with their followers during their initially active days.

Account name Date of creation No. of followers

(as of January 2013)

No. of tweets-retweets

(as of January 2013)

ProudTomboyZ January 31, 2012 487 4,093
OMGTomboy February 2012 562 1,105 (as of March 2012)
Ideal Tomboy February 13, 2012 44 63
GrabeBisexual February 25, 2012 505 2,365
Team Tibs March 9, 2012 146 163
TomboyTips March 20, 2012 587 2,044
Ang Tunay Na Tibo March 30, 2012 68 63
SweetNaTibs March 31, 2012 83 346
ButchKasiEh April 4,2012 405 3,843
LezConfessions April 11, 2012 531 3,088
SEXofTIBS/

Someone to talk

May 10, 2012 169 942

Table 2. List of queer women-identified accounts and number of followers.

It is important to note that these accounts also engage with each other as the account owners follow each other, too, creating dialogues and conversations with each other and with the other accounts’ followers as well, creating a dynamic and vibrant queer women transaction and Twitter conversations online. It is also no surprise that many of the followers of these accounts subscribe to these queer women-specific Twitter accounts because they are searching for girlfriends or partners. Some have actually been successful in this endeavor.

It is very interesting to notice that Filipino women-loving-women had this kind of activity on Twitter during this particular timeframe. However, it should be noted that queer women have been active online even before Twitter was created. Filipino queer women, in particular, have been socializing online through various ways and within various platforms.

Filipino Lesbian presence on the internet

Lesbians have always claimed the internet as a viable space to present themselves in a way traditional media often cannot do. While there are several mainstream films and television shows in the country that present women-loving-women storylines, their characterization leaves much to be desired for they are always on the negative and destructive side. The internet, meanwhile, with its freedom to have the world as your audience and to have the freedom to present yourself as you are — without judgments or prejudice — became a space where queer women dialogues happened.

During the late 1990s, gender-specific chat rooms came about in different identity-specific websites that started these online conversations which also transferred offline. A primary example of this is the Gay.Com website (founded in 1997) where LGBTQs signed up for an account so they can access the chat rooms inside. One of the primary chat rooms during that time was the Filipino Lesbian Online or FLO which became popular by 1998 and lasted up to the early 2000s. Chatters soon found another venue to virtually socialize and circulate in when Downelink.Com was created in 2003. A precursor of social networking sites like Friendster and Facebook, Downelink became a very active space for Filipino lesbians to meet other lesbians online and then offline. As the site progressed over time, chat rooms were soon added and the space became more active in creating venues for women-loving-women.

As for reading about Filipino lesbian lives, there were many blogs that began in 2001 and 2002, some of which are still active to this day. Most of these blogs are personal in nature as the owners post details of their life as queer women. Sometimes, there are posts that also pertain to being queer in general, and another kind of dialogue ensued with this type of interaction among the blog owners and readers. The blogs also sometimes become a venue for having lesbians meet each other when the blog owners meet up with the readers (or as popularly called in chat lingo, have “eyeballs” or EBs), and the readers eventually meet each other.

A primary example of such a blog that served that purpose is <firewomyn.blogspot.com> which is maintained by a closeted lesbian corporate worker. Meanwhile, this author’s own personal LGBTQ-specific blog, <leaflens.blogspot.com>, also serves this purpose sometimes but this blog is mostly personal in its narration of Filipino lesbian/queer lives while Firewomyn’s blog makes a very conscious effort of blogging about lesbian-specific happenings, developments and pop culture tidbits in between posting about her personal life as well. Both blogs were created in the early 2000s (Firewomyn’s unmoving blog platform started in 2002 while Leaflens migrated to at least three different platforms from 2001-2004 before resettling back to Blogger.Com in 2005) and are still active these days. Other lesbian bloggers have also appeared online but their content wanes.

Filipinos also love to read, and the obviously middle class queer women have always been hungry to read about queer storylines in any kind of media. There are several lesbian-themed short stories and poetry that have been ingrained in Philippine literature over the decades but they still come few and far between. Online is the next best avenue after literary book anthologies when it comes to finding lesbian-specific print material.

Aside from the personal blogs, there have been several attempts to create queer or lesbian-specific websites full of pop culture, entertainment and lifestyle content that pertains to the Filipino LGBTQ community. One such project was called Weeqender which was started by an openly out twentysomething lesbian advocate to become a travel and lifestyle online magazine. It somehow began during 2009 and was a bit active until 2010 but it was very short-lived and it has since disappeared. Another site named Sapphic Lounge <www.sapphiclounge.com>, meanwhile, tries to become the first online resource of queer-women specific pop culture information online and it came out on November 2011. But majority of Sapphic Lounge’s contents are mainly recaps, reposts or redirections to mostly foreign/American originated pop culture content, with a few local data rehashed and reposted in there as well. The only original articles and writings that it contains are mostly blog-like posts and essays from the site’s owner, who is obviously a closeted young professional lesbian based on her own stories from her posts.

A more formidable source of online queer content is Outrage <www.outragemag.com>, an online magazine spearheaded by an openly out gay man. The magazine features predominantly Filipino content with news items, photos, videos and feature articles and essays pertaining to LGBTQ lives. Unlike Sapphic Lounge, the content of this online magazine are all original writings and photos. It has been up since April 2007. Another website with predominantly queer Filipino-oriented content is the Pinoy LGBT channel of the Philippine Online Chronicles <www.thepoc.net> news and information portal. POC is owned and maintained by Vibal Publishing, a longtime publisher of Filipino textbooks and other educational reading materials. POC was launched in June 2010 and is still very active these days, with the Pinoy LGBT channel producing all-original news items, essays and photos on the Filipino queer life. The channel is managed by an openly out lesbian advocate section editor.

With the typical Filipino queer woman now exposed to such venues and avenues of expression, it is a curiosity as to how they present themselves in terms of identity structure and societal status presentation.

The Filipino queer woman-loving-woman on Twitter

Narrowing down the queer women-specific accounts according to the popularity of their creation and their very active online presence (based on the active tweets of the account owners and the conversations they had with their followers) in the beginning of their creation, this analysis will look at how five accounts – Tangina Tibs, OMG Tomboy, Grabe Bisexual, Tomboy Tips and Lez Confessions – present and construct the Filipino woman-loving-woman identity on Twitter.

Tangina Tibs (@TanginaTibs)

Originally an anonymous account that always teases followers to guess who she is, the Tangina Tibs account started as a fun and humor-laden account that always tweets humorous one-liners pertaining to the lesbian community. Written predominantly in clear, intelligent and wittily structured Filipino or a combination of the colloquial “Taglish” (Tagalog and English, with Tagalog being the basis of the main Filipino language), the posts appear to be created to present fleeting thoughts about women who could be “suspected” or “detected” as lesbians and also tweeted thoughts about how good it is to see many openly out lesbians around. It also tweeted many lesbian-affirming simple observations of a pedestrian nature, as it appears to be an observer of society and then posts thoughts about being lesbian in this midst.

The fun and lively banter in this account began when followers started to engage the account owner and made many types of erotic innuendos and double entendre interjections, making the account holder appear flirtatious but still carrying that wit. Then it also tweeted many posts pertaining to lesbian love, particularly, trying to find a partner. Sometimes the account even gamely “pimped” or promoted some lesbians when their pictures were tweeted with captions saying these women are “single and looking for love” and other similar wordings. All of these were still done in the spirit of humor and fun, making Tangina Tibs more endearing to many of its followers.

Looking closely at the tweets, one would gather that the account owner is a college-educated young lesbian in her late 20s or early 30s. The tone and manner of the tweets reflect a person highly engaged in the local and international (mainly Hollywood/American) pop culture and is an avid media consumer who also tries to find lesbian-specific pop culture tidbits and posts them as well. Sometimes she also tweets university-based thoughts that pertain to the kinds of subcultures reflective of specific lesbians that attend or went to a specific college or university in Metro Manila. For example, there are still female-only secondary and tertiary schools in the Philippines such as Miriam College, St. Scholastica’s College and St. Paul University, mainly private Catholic-run exclusive-for-girls schools. And in these schools, lesbians and bisexual women could be found, and sometimes the students of each school claim to have their own subcultures of lesbianism or bisexuality. These kinds of exchanges are also evident in Tangina Tibs’ posts as she herself confessed that she graduated from one of these schools. This information makes one conclude that the account owner is obviously from Manila’s middle to upper middle class society based on her education, her command of the language, observations about places and areas in Metro Manila, and her general knowledge of media and pop culture information.

Yet by being middle class and college-educated, there is an observation that Tangina Tibs is also advocacy-aware, especially when it came to lesbian feminism, since in a predominantly women-only university, feminism is taught in college courses. Beyond that, young women who came from the aforementioned exclusive schools for girls are also encouraged to become more involved in social issues that concern them, be it environmental issues or women’s rights. This is why there are also very meaningful tweets by Tangina Tibs that critique the lesbian community, specifically criticizing how some lesbians – particularly the macho butch ones – are merely women-crazy or girl-crazy that their mere existence centers solely on finding a girlfriend who will take care of them no matter what. Sometimes, there are also debates when an obviously butch follower replies with sexist implications or espouses patriarchal framings of a girlfriend or a relationship. This is where the different divides in the various identity politics arises, as Tangina Tibs engages some of her followers whenever they espouse these highly sexist macho-laden comments or reactions. The conversation threads usually trail off when the butch stops replying.

Then there are also conversations with other followers where they are trying to decipher whether Tangina Tibs is a butch lesbian or a femme lesbian. But since she is advocacy-aware, this kind of heterosexual butch-femme mimicry is always decried (or downplayed in a kind way) because the butch-femme dichotomy prevalent in Philippine society also carries with it the traditionally oppressive gender roles of the patriarchal man-woman/husband-wife structure that it so emulates. Thus, the account holder and some of her followers also try to express their disdain over such patriarchal leanings and try to espouse a butch-femme dichotomy that is based on gender presentation only, not gender identity, meaning lesbians could dress masculine or feminine because that is their confortable style of fashion and manner of self-presentation, not because they subscribe to the heterocentric man-woman structure. Many of Tangina Tibs’ followers, herself included, subscribe to this kind of specific gender presentation (hers is on the feminine/femme side) while affirming her identity as a lesbian. Then, there are also many who are rather genderqueer whose gender expression could be considered as “in between” the masculine and the feminine, and also identify themselves as lesbian.

Often, the debates in this account reflect social issues pertaining to the LGBTQ community as well, and there are times that the patriarchal butch-femme subscribers would comment on posts that counter homophobia or self-loathing. A particular example is when a butch subscriber mentioned that it is better for her girlfriend to leave her for a man since she cannot compete with that and that lesbians (pertaining to butches) should always expect their girlfriends to eventually leave them anyway since they will “always” look for a man in the end. The butch finds it more “comforting” to be left for a man than to be left for another butch, and in that sense, a kind of competition ensues. Many of Tangina Tibs’ followers, herself included, berated this kind of patriarchal backward thinking and tried to enlighten the butch speaker of the nuances of why her statement is wrong or unacceptable in many counts because of its non-affirmative stance on being a butch or being a lesbian in general.

Thus, from her engagement with her account followers and with the way she uses her language, the identity that Tangina Tibs presents is that of a queer rights-affirmative and intelligent feminine/femme-presenting persona. It is also a valid observation, based on the tweets and self-presentation of her followers, that there is a heavier mix of lesbians who do not subscribe to the patriarchal butch-femme dichotomy but only self-label as lesbians while being comfortable in their way of self-presentation that may sometimes reflect a masculine nature, a feminine nature, or somewhere in between.

OMG Tomboy (@OMGTomboy)

At the other end of the lesbian spectrum opposite Tangina Tibs is the OMG Tomboy account. Ran by a butch persona, hers is of the typical patriarchal-subscribing persona that often reflects a kind of underdog lovelorn persona who is dramatically willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of a woman’s love, yet at the same time acknowledging that her persona of being a butch still pales in comparison with what a “real woman” supposedly wants when it comes to relationships and love – which is a “real man” or, more precisely, a heterosexual man.

In some of her tweets, she even tries to start conversations along this vein, asking her followers – who are also obviously within the butch spectrum like her based on their profile pictures and tweets – whether they still plan to marry a man eventually, obviously hoping to elicit reactions from the femme followers who also subscribe to the patriarchal gender roles affixed to the butch-femme mimicry. There are also many tweets that enumerate the “real behavior/attitude” of women and are framed as a kind of tip or advice similar to how heterosexual men are advised by fellow heterosexual men (colloquially known as “guy’s talk”) on how to understand women based on the premise that men and women are from “different sides of the coin” so to speak – in the process the butch persona identifying with the heterosexual man within this context of framing.

From the way the language of the tweets (predominantly street-slang colloquial Filipino) are presented down to the discussions that are always posted in the account (primarily conversations typical of a group of friends who gather and have drinking sessions, especially the kind of discussions they have when they are heartbroken), the clues lead to a persona of a lower to middle middle class person who sometimes mention that she circulates in the university belt of downtown old Manila where predominantly lower to middle class students study, and where she supposedly studied as well. Here, it is also evident that, unlike the Tangina Tibs tweets and followers, the account holder and its followers are not that caustically or wittily engaging. Their scope and knowledge of lesbian or queer-specific pop culture information are also limited to the local spectrum and not on a foreign or international scale.

However, what it has going for it is the deep honesty reflected in their tweets especially when they tweet deeply angsty and highly personal thoughts about love or being in love. Like with the Twitter community in TanginaTibs’ account, the community here is also of a reaffirming and supportive stance as they try to comfort those who are heartbroken, sad or downtrodden as a result of a failed relationship with a woman. Also, like the Tangina Tibs account, OMG Tomboy’s account also became a venue of flirting. While there are no specific gender expression dominant in the Tangina Tibs flirting sessions, OMGTomboy’s reflect this more since the flirtations happen between butches and femmes.

Grabe Bisexual (@GrabeBisexual)

From the language used in the tweets and the similar flirty beginnings of this account, Grabe Bisexual is obviously trying to become a kind of younger version of the Tangina Tibs account. It is obviously younger because interspersed within her tweets about being a somewhat genderqueer-presented bisexual woman, the account owner always pertains to having schoolwork or going to class in college and also still being “underage” (meaning she’s under 21 years old). While it also maintained anonymity at the beginning, many of the flirtatious exchanges within this account actually led to teasing for the account holder to come out and post her picture, which she eventually did, making it a highlight in her account and her followers. Before and after this revelation, though, there have been many flirtatious exchanges that were blatantly carried out between the account holder and the predominantly female audience of followers, majority of whom identify as bisexual themselves and are more feminine in their self-presentation based on the photos they tweet and their profile pictures.

It is thus safe to conclude that this account holder, while identifying as bisexual, leans more towards having relationships with fellow women. Perhaps on the account of the age or the personality of the account holder, a somewhat problematic notion of bisexuality is obvious in this account as well. This is because the tweets often reflect a somewhat misinformed notion of what bisexuality actually is, as it maintains that bisexuals are generally confused or they are people promiscuously jumping from boys to girls and vice versa. There were even posts that reflect this notion, especially in the beginning where a lot of “confused” posts about wanting a boy but liking a girl at the same time or wanting to break up with a boyfriend because she met this awesome girl peppered the timeline. The tweets also lead readers to the conclusion that bisexual girls are really lesbian girls who actually prefer girls over boys but they merely use boys as their boyfriends to mask their lesbianism or to retain their access to heterosexuality to hide their Sapphic tendencies and preferences. And these kinds of posts are not obviously self-mocking or being self-aware in a critical way like how the other gendered “tangina” accounts are self-reflexive and self-conscious of their critical posts, but Grabe Bisexual’s posts are presented as plain honest-to-goodness daily observations.

While its loquaciousness and youthful banter made it popular in the beginning among lesbians and bisexual women in different age ranges, the Grabe Bisexual account quickly dissipated from being active in expressing random bisexual thoughts since its followers – among them the other gendered accounts like Tangina Tibs and her followers – always countered Grabe Bisexual’s posts because of their problematic nature of representing bisexuality. One obvious instance of this encounter is when Grabe Bisexual tweeted about being confused because she both likes a girl and a boy at the same time, and she was leaning on having a relationship with the both of them at the same time. When a follower replied that bisexuality is not about having both relationships at the same time, Tangina Tibs also replied and agreed with this observation. Many other similar conversations happened during that time.

Eventually, as the months passed, the Grabe Bisexual account holder refrained from posting these kinds of bisexual-information thoughts. But she continued on with her conversations with some of her account holders that still continued to engage her or flirt with her. Eventually, it then became more of a platform for teen and college-age bisexual girls to flirt with each other until it became totally inactive.

Tomboy Tips (@TomboyTips) and Lez Confessions (@Lez Confessions)

Joining the foray of women-loving-women conversations on Twitter, both the account owners of Tomboy Tips and Lez Confessions remained anonymous in the beginning. Eventually, they also introduced themselves and a more genderqueer persona was revealed to be behind each account. While their manner of self-presentation defies being overtly categorized within the butch or the femme spectrum, their androgynous presentation – even if they sometimes cross the border and get near the butch spectrum – was neither a hindrance nor an influence in tweeting messages that could be useful and entertaining to both sides of the spectrum. More so, the tweets were actually general or universal enough that any woman-loving-woman – no matter their sub-identities – could eventually relate to them without being alienating on the account of subscribing to the traditional butch and femme dichotomy.

Another Filipino characteristic of the traditional butch and femme dichotomy is its subscribing to their patriarchal gender roles even in the sexual aspect of the relationship. This means that butch lesbians are “one way” only and they abhor being the recipient of sexual pleasure, just the giver. On the other hand, the femme lesbian is perceived to be merely the receiver of pleasure and she cannot reciprocate this “one way” sexual encounter because her butch lover does not want to be touched in her private parts. Yet many lesbians in the Philippines are already veering away from this “one way” top/bottom-only type of sexual encounter as couples both want to be sexually satisfied. Some lesbians who are butch or femme only in self-presentation do not subscribe to this “one way” transaction as well, as with many genderqueer-presented lesbians and bisexual women.

This latter notion is also evident in the way Tomboy Tips and especially Lez Confessions present their sexual or erotic tweets, leading one to conclude that even though the butch-bordering androgynous personas are behind the accounts, they advocate for equality in sexual encounters by posting two-way sex-related tweets. Most of their tweets get retweeted by their account followers and while they sometimes invite conversations to happen among their followers (by asking them to post their specific tips on specific facets of lesbian lives or to post answers to specific sexual or erotic questions, and the followers’ answers get retweeted in their respective accounts).

The genderqueer persona of these two accounts was evident in the beginning since they both tweeted their photos and outed themselves as androgynous-looking. And while their initial posts and conversations reflected a more equitable view of sexual relations, the tone of the tweets somewhat changed during the last quarter of 2012. Tomboy Tips’ more recent tweets now reflect a more butch personality and its tweets are reflecting a throwback to the traditional masculine butch persona. In some instances, the account owner also mentioned the thought of undergoing a female-to-male (FTM) transition and engaged her followers in conversations about the topic. Lez Confessions also varied in the tone of its posts as a second account moderator outed herself as being femme, thus referring to the previous account moderator as butch. But between the two, Lez Confessions’s tweets somewhat remain a bit closer to its original intention than Tomboy Tips.

Tweet analysis and implications

Based on the kinds of account holders, account followers, kinds of posts and the Twitter conversations happening in these accounts, several observations could be made on how they present or represent part of the identity of a Filipino woman-loving-woman online. Regardless of their educational background and social status, there are also commonalities observed as to how these Filipino queer women understand and process certain issues pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in general.

Lesbians are still divided according to the kind of personas they carry. In the Twitter world, as presented within this particular timeframe of the study, the Filipino lesbian community is obviously populated and categorized – often by each other – by different personas that make the lesbian identity diverse in the manner of their self-presentation. Three predominant images appear: the very feminine lesbians, the very masculine lesbians, and the androgynous-looking lesbians in between. The people who are aware of such divides in the personas are mostly from more affluent sections of society who had the privilege of experiencing a higher quality of education and exposure to more foreign pop culture influences and queer rights advocacy.

The butch-femme dichotomy based on a heterosexual patriarchal mimicry is still very much alive. While there is still a section of the lesbian population that subscribe to the patriarchal-oriented butch-femme dichotomy, there is also a section of the population that openly self-identify as lesbian but they do not follow the patriarchal butch-femme kind of thinking. Often, the patriarchal butch and femme people (while college-educated in schools that are not considered as stellar or of high quality in Philippine society) also circulate within communities that have similar kinds of patriarchal queer personas. While some of the members of these communities usually have lesser exposure to foreign queer pop culture influences and queer rights advocacy, they still uphold and defend the notion of being a lesbian even if they are quite unconscious that they are already doing a kind of “the personal is political” feminist stance. Yet ironically, while they are unconsciously having this political stance in defending their presence in the margins, they still consciously prefer to remain within their patriarchal butch-femme frameworks.

Bisexuality is still an overlooked and/or misunderstood issue within the LGBTQ community. Even within the lesbian-specific accounts like Tangina Tibs, the issue of a lesbian partnering with a bisexual woman is seen as suspect since self-identifying lesbians often share stories of being “traumatized” by having a relationship with a bisexual woman who eventually left them and paired up with a man. Of course the qualification of trauma differs from one lesbian to another, but the comment stems from a longtime observation (shared by many Filipino lesbians both offline and online) that lesbians prefer to build relationships with fellow women who are sure that these women also prefer women only, that there will be no perceived conflict in the future that will be connected with a man. There are also stories about bisexual women having relationships with lesbians on the side or in secret while their official relationships are with men. In Philippine society, there are indeed bisexual women who marry men but still retain lesbian lovers on the side. These longtime observations and prejudices within the LGBTQ community are obviously reflected in these newer queer-run social networking platforms.

Both concepts of the lesbian as an absolute identity and as a fleeting identity are still very present. Regardless of the advancements of the very active women’s feminist movements in the Philippines for more than 20 years and even with the LGBTQ advocacy movement being slowly visible in mainstream media and pop culture within the last five years (whose queer advocacy roots somewhat parallel that of the women’s movement in terms of decades, perhaps give a year or two in terms of lateness in development), the notion that a lesbian is a valid identity exists in many circles alongside the other notion that lesbianism is merely a phase for some women who will eventually leave their female lovers and end up with men. In effect, both these notions affect the way queer women negotiate relationships with each other. Hence the existence of the lesbians who do not prefer to have relationships with bisexual women and the existence of the patriarchal butch persona reluctantly accepting being abandoned by her female lover for a heterosexual male lover.

Lesbians – regardless of age or generation – are not afraid to claim their stake in newer forms of media. While it has been very difficult to assert a more queer-positive presence of marginalized identities within the Filipino mainstream media, the internet now provides a more democratic platform of representation, even if it entails self-presentation and without the benefit of “quality control” moderation by the usual media gatekeepers – which is sometimes even better since it is more democratic in nature to be self-governed. Plus with the way lesbians engage with each other and do self-checks on themselves and others who “err” in their views, the voice of the lesbian population is doing a kind of self-moderating within their ranks.

Conclusions and recommendations

From these observations, it is safe to conclude that the women-loving-women in Twitter still reflect the issues and concerns that they encounter offline. Yet the most glaring difference is that with the discussions happening online, it is also very refreshing to see that many self-identifying lesbians who do not even declare themselves as feminist, queer rights advocates or human rights activists actually carry queer feminist-type of lenses when framing issues and concerns of the queer community. Perhaps the immediacy and the “anonymity” or the virtual distance that these non-advocates are enjoying from the patriarchal-oriented lesbians is an advantage as the platform gives them a voice to air their opinions and point out homophobia and discrimination within the lesbian community. Without being feminists, perhaps they are not aware that by making a firm stand or tweeting queer-positive affirmations about what a lesbian ought to be or how lesbians ought to be properly treated, they are already being queer feminist in their thought and behavior.

Thus, what Twitter is also doing to help bring the “queer revolution” to a wider audience is giving reluctant or hesitant feminists/queer advocates a space to “practice” their brand of advocacy – by being an active and visible part of online society while affirming and being unapologetic and celebratory of their identities as lesbians in a still predominantly patriarchal society. These account holders – all of them, regardless of their patriarchal leanings or otherwise – should also be commended for bravely putting out these initially anonymous accounts where like-minded individuals could gather together and follow a sub-community of their own liking. It lessens the usual feelings of being alienated and alone as most lesbians who are just coming to terms with their sexual orientation or gender identity are prone to these kinds of self-destructive thoughts.

Furthermore, aside from providing a virtual community, the followers could also slowly engage by briefly replying to tweets (with the very limited 148 character count requirement lessening the pressure of being eloquent or revealing too much information about themselves), retweeting tweets or directly engaging the account holders in private conversations about being queer. And as mentioned beforehand, these virtual anonymous communities could be transformed into offline gatherings that could make self-conscious closeted lesbians feel more confident about having communities of their own. Plus of course there is the obvious option of hopefully finding a romantic partner or girlfriend within these sub-communities.

While it may take the Filipino women’s and queer rights movements and advocates another 20 years of eradicating SOGI-based discrimination and homophobia in society in general, it should be reassuring for them to know that these advocacies are being demonstrated online by an “unlikely or unusual” source of advocates. More importantly, these online “accidental advocates” are trying to smash closets within the community by “monitoring” each other and trying to look out for each other within the woman-loving-woman online community, with the aim of eradicating SOGI-based discrimination and homophobia within their ranks/community first, first and foremost, which then contributes to the overall objectives of the larger queer rights movement.

Thus, instead of formally delineating non-advocates and advocates within society, it is highly recommended that any kind of advocacy being done – consciously or unconsciously – by people within the LGBTQ community should always be welcomed and supported. Another recommendation is not to view these online kind of exchanges as merely an “armchair activist” approach to advocacy since, in informally informing each other and checking each other’s prejudices, women-loving-women on Twitter are trying to deconstruct the closet anew by starting conversations among each other. And it is always an encouraging fact that “revolutions” always start with like-minded individuals coming together via conversations in the hopes of working out differences and advancing positivity.

Seeing how these Twitter conversations start online and get transferred offline eventually, perhaps the Filipino queer woman is on her way of redefining the way queer presence is also being made in society in general. And those kinds of definitions and redefinitions should always be welcomed and supported.  //

REFERENCE LIST

Cantor, O. L. (2012). To Conform or Not To Conform, That is the Genderqueer Question: Re-examining the Lesbian Identity in Bernal’s Manila By Night. Kritika Kultura. No. 19, 93-95.Retrieved from http://kritikakultura.ateneo.net/images/pdf/kk19/genderqueer.pdf.

Mayol, A.V. (2010, January 11). Children told to praise ‘Bro’ through baptism. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from http://globalnation.inquirer.net

Montecillo, P. (2012, August 9). Philippines has 9.5M Twitter users, ranks 10thPhilippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from http://technology.inquirer.net

Montecillo, P. (2012, September 24). Only 3 out of 10 Filipinos have access to Internet—report. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from http://technology.inquirer.net

Russell, J. (2011, May 15). Philippines named social networking capital of the world

Asian Correspondent. Retrieved from http://asiancorrespondent.com

Santos, M. (2012, January 31). More Filipinos now using Internet for news, information–study. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from http://technology.inquirer.net

Twitter reaches half a billion accounts. (2012). Retrieved January 5, 2013, from

http://semiocast.com/publications/2012_07_30_Twitter_reaches_half_a_billion_accounts_140m_in_the_US

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~ by leaflens on August 8, 2017.

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