Is PH ready for lesbian TV?

Iza Larize
'Misrepresentation and marginalization are the main reasons why gay women are underrepresented, not just in the media but in general'

“Heterosexuality is not normal. It’s just common.” – Dorothy Parker

A celebrated humorist and author whose words are as brave as a person taking a giant leap from the cliff of society’s norms, the late and great Dorothy Parker would probably turn in her grave if she finds out that being gay is still taboo.

Yes, we’re already in the 21st century. Babies are growing up fast, and the young are getting old. Times are indeed changing, but being gay is still a controversial subject. The mere thought of homosexuality still intimidates some, mainly those people whose idea of love is restricted to gender, religion, and tradition.

Love is love

Love is an indiscriminating force in this world. It knows no race, religion, tradition, and gender. Love sees beyond the earthly, it goes deep within one’s soul. Love is neither gay nor straight. It just is.

Although homosexuality is still a sensitive issue in this day and age, there has been a significant change of attitude towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community; such flux is reflected upon television.

Just like any other art medium, television aims to represent society and its people — gay or otherwise. There has been an enormous plethora of LGBT-themed shows over the last 15 years, mostly representing gay men.

And then came “The L Word,” Showtime’s hit TV series about a group of gay women in Los Angeles. “The L Word” became a turning point in lesbian media. The show ran for 6 seasons, igniting an explosion of other lesbian-themed shows: fellow Americans “Pretty Little Liars” and “Orange is the New Black,” Canada’s “Lost Girl,” and UK’s “Lip Service.”

LGBT in Philippine media

Of course the Philippines wouldn’t want to be left behind in the worldwide race towards love equality. 

As a member of the LGBT community, I am grateful because Philippine TV is finally acknowledging gay people, taking an insightful look at the hearts of human beings who fall in love with each other, regardless of their gender.

Despite being a nation often bound by religious and traditional restrictions, the Philippines is starting to open its heart and mind to the LGBT community. Finally.

GMA 7 has been particularly bold in representing the LGBT community. After the enormous success of “My Husband’s Lover,” now comes “The Rich Man’s Daughter.”

Starring Rhian Ramos and Glaiza de Castro, “The Rich Man’s Daughter” puts the spotlight on lesbian love, at the same time breaking down the stereotypes associated with lesbians by veering more towards the notion of lipstick lesbian. (Because not all tomboys are lesbian, and not all lesbians are tomboy.)

In the show, Jade (Ramos) finds herself falling in love with out and proud Althea (de Castro). “The Rich Man’s Daughter” is based on the true story of Gigi Chao, a Hong Kong lesbian whose wealthy father offered a large amount of money to any man than can turn his daughter straight.

As mentioned a while ago, television – specifically Philippine television – represents gay men more often than their female counterpart. Here, there, and everywhere, gay men are almost omnipresent on TV – whether as a jolly BFF of the leading lady, or as a guy who looks like he has been spending his entire life in the gym.

But what about the ladies? Where have all the gay ladies gone? In the closet? Perhaps underrepresented.

The misrepresentation of gay women

Misrepresentation and marginalization are the main reasons why gay women are underrepresented, not just in the media, but in general.

Gay women may not be condemned as much as gay men, but they also aren’t taken as seriously as gay men and straight people.

Ladies who love ladies are mostly objectified, often seen as mere sex objects only there for perverse gratification. Type the word “lesbian” on Google, and you’ll see that most of the results are from porn sites.

This objectification of lesbians is one of the main reasons why gay ladies are underrepresented and misrepresented.

Just like any other relationship, lesbian relationships are mostly based on love, not sex. That’s why the unjust misrepresentation of gay women needs to stop.

The housewife syndrome

The other reason why gay ladies are often disregarded for what they really are is the housewife syndrome. Our culture cloisters women and puts them inside the box of “get-married-and-make-babies” mentality.

Traces of old and (sometimes) misogynistic tradition are still haunting us to this day. There are still some Filipinos who see women as God’s gift to men and men only. They refuse to accept the fact that women can fall in love with each other.

Graphics from Shutterstock

This is why I think GMA is making a bold move with “The Rich Man’s Daughter.” No major Philippine TV network has discussed lesbianism yet, so their new primetime show can be considered an innovation, hopefully paving the way to appropriately represent gay ladies more often.

Filipino audiences might not respond to TV series the way they did with “My Husband’s Lover.” The new show is something they haven’t seen before. Filipinos are yet to warm up to shows like “The Rich Man’s Daughter.”

Would they buy it? Maybe. Would they take it seriously? Not sure. Is the Philippines ready for lesbian TV? I hope so. –

Iza Larize is a copywriter by profession, and a storyteller by passion. She writes about LGBT media on her film blog. She also moonlights as a unicorn sprinkling rainbows all over the place when situation calls for it.