Gays in the Philippines

In the past, only “flamboyant” homosexuals were recognized as being gay in the Philippines; they were called bakla.

Stereotyped bakla homosexuals openly work in beauty parlors and in the creative industries of fashion and entertainment, such as as talk show hosts, female impersonators, writers, directors and comedians. Easily recognized by their use of makeup and cross-dressing, they have long been part of the Filipino cultural landscape; everyone knows of at least a few bakla people.

In recent years has there been some understanding that there also exist outwardly straight-looking men who have a preference for same-sex relationships. Previously, straight men in homosexual relationships were not called bakla and were assumed to be with their bakla partner solely because of financial reasons.

With greater political self-awareness, the widely used term bakla has developed slightly derogatory connotations for a few. A somewhat milder, slang term for bakla is bading.

Effeminate men and homosexuals in general are called binabae (“of a womanly sort”), from the Tagalog word babae, which means “woman.” Coming out of the closet is paglaladlad ng kapa (unfurling the cape).

Lesbians are called tomboy and are usually referred to as such only if they are obviously butch. The lesbian counterpart of binabae is binalaki (“of a manly sort”), from the Tagalog word lalaki, meaning “man.”