Teaching Philippine Queer Literature
About this teacher training seminar
An Online Specialist Class On GlobalGRACE’s Work Package 4:
Making Life Loveable: Digital and Literary Productions of Cultures of Equality Among LGTBQ Young People in the Philippines
Funded by the UKRI and administered through Goldsmiths University of London, GlobalGRACE is a four-year program (2018-2021) of research and capacity strengthening that employs arts-based practices and multi-sensory research to investigate the production of cultures of equality and enable gender positive approaches to wellbeing internationally. GlobalGRACE brings together researchers and project partners from Bangladesh, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa and the United Kingdom to work collaboratively on six interlinked projects. These projects range from writing workshops with aspiring LGBTQ writers in the Philippines, to participatory film making with female construction workers in Bangladesh, to artistic residencies in Brazil focused on challenging forms of hegemonic masculinity. GlobalGRACE seeks to investigate the variety of ways that people’s creative practices challenge systems of privilege and engender new possibilities for more equitable ways of living together.
The title of the Philippine Work Package of GlobalGRACE is Making Life Loveable. It aims to support and guide aspiring young LGBTQ+ writers in their journeys into their chosen crafts, through which they may come to embrace and affirm themselves, discover and experience life as loveable, and grow and thrive therein. We provided that support through a series of national and community-based writing workshops, held at the University of the Philippines Diliman and at the YMCA in San Pablo, Laguna, respectively, for aspiring and entry-level writers.
However, we recognize as a clear dilemma the absence of an institutional structure, in the Philippines’s national education system, to present and properly teach queer texts in the senior high school and early tertiary levels, in which such texts are mostly missing. It is in these formative levels of General Education in the Philippines where queer cultural productions are most crucially needed. Moreover, in the typical Philippine humanities or literature classroom, the
default interpretive position in making sense of representations of relationships, domesticity, desire, even nature and life itself, is heteronormative. The prevailing humanist perspective in the reading—and the creation—of the arts in the typical Filipino school room dismisses the difference that the question of queer desires and identifications makes to the creative process and output. Such a perspective either vilifies queer desires and subjectivities outright, or ignores and subsumes them into an oppressive ideology of universalist sameness, which deceitfully privileges the hegemonic model of cis-gender embodiment and the heterosexual matrix that it conceptually and ethically enables.
Affirming queer life as it is being lived by queer people is one thing, and is truly important. However, we also understand that dignifying and sustaining this life in the world in which it must assert itself to exist is another thing altogether, and that task is just as vital. Our creative writing workshops themselves were designed as occasions of pedagogical intervention and repair. That is to say, by enabling and recognising queer lives and identifications within and through the in-depth exegeses and discussions of creative texts, workshop fellows and participating panelists were able to challenge, supplant, and transform the prevalent heteronormative literary, ethical, and political educations that they had previously received and been subjected to. Rather than relegating to the backdrop the experiential life-ground, the workshops centralized and dignified it. As such, they enabled the holistic, as opposed to strictly formalist, appreciation of creative texts, and provided a nurturing, rather than constraining and oppressive, artistic environment for aspiring LGBTQ+ writers (and readers).
As our culminating activity, and in partnership with the Likhaan: UP Institute of Creative Writing, GlobalGRACE is sponsoring this Teaching Training Seminar—a webinar titled “Teaching Philippine Queer Literature”—in recognition of the fact that the kind of educative environment and safe space that our workshops have offered, is not shared by the vast majority of Philippine classrooms, in which formally attuned, respectful, and context-sensitive close readings of queer work are simply not to be found. While we offer, as open access, our archive of queer literary materials, a queer-affirmative pedagogical approach needs to be utilized in the classroom for these materials to be properly understood and aesthetically appreciated, especially by the senior high school and early tertiary student. As exemplified by the various workshop sessions we have conducted, a queer-affirmative pedagogical approach is one that recognises and enables, rather than elides or stigmatizes, the diversity of desires and the plurality of subject positions among both writers and readers.
The seminar, to be held online on December 9 and 10, is addressed to literature educators in the senior high school and early tertiary levels in the Philippines, who wish to make use of the online archive of LGBTQ literary texts produced by the Philippine Work Package of GlobalGRACE. This archive may be accessed freely at www.pinoylgbtq.com
The modules that comprise this seminar will utilize the idea of intersectionalities—the complex and mutually implicating layers of realities and circumstances, the complexity, that necessarily attends the truth of LGBTQ life. Because the oppression suffered by LGBTQ individuals is multiple and intersecting, so are the resources of LGBTQ agency, so are LGBTQ lives. It is the intention of these modules to suggest—and not exhaust—pedagogical possibilities in the teaching of these fictional, nonfictional, and poetic texts, written by young Filipino queers. Facilitating, explaining, and demonstrating the teaching of these modules will be a panel of senior Filipino LGBTQ literature professors, who have had extensive experience in the fields of (queer) creative writing and literary pedagogy and tutelage.
The modules’ interpretive approach will be broadly thematic, tackling the texts through their representational content, as embodied in characters and plots, personae and dramatic situations, although formal qualities will also now and then be flagged, particularly as they may enrich the textual analysis. Queerness will form the central thematic, and it will be fleshed out and appreciated as being always already implicated in—that is, intersectional with—the sociocultural determinations in and through which queer lives must assert themselves, fecundate, and exist.