I was on the MRT on rush hour, and this guy to my right accused me of touching his butt. This, after the back of my hand accidentally brushed against his ass when I stuffed my pockets with my hands to keep safe my billfold and cell-phone, which I always do when riding a train. In a desperate attempt to save face, I wanted to explain that it was, indeed, an accident, but, in the nick of time, I started to panic as I was overwhelmed by a copious amount of equally accusing stares. “Bakla ka!” their eyes seemed to say.
This was the men’s section, rather than the women’s, which means those excruciating stares could result to me being mugged. The guy was burly, and looked as if he could twist my arm with one hand. But this was the MRT, where, at peak hours, it’s too tight to take a swing at someone when he gets into your nerves. And then again, this is the MRT, where, with passengers packed with nary a square inch of space to spare, it’s so easy to get into someone’s nerves.
It was surprising how some men’s borderline homophobic attitude can make them so sensitive as to irrationally react with aversion to a potential harassment. At my old apartment, I had a friend who, after he took a shower and came out only with a towel wrapped around his body from the waist down, refused to begin to dress up in the presence of another friend, whom he seemed to refer to when he said “Sandali, may bakla.”
Beyond old wives’ tales and hearsays across the school dormitory or the boys’ locker rooms, I have heard of stories of pedophilia in the Church and guys being raped or pimped or coaxed to macho dance, and they sometimes make it to primetime news. But news material or not, I maintained that there was no way I would want to touch his boo boo.
The guy didn’t say it, but I thought he thought, and so might also others with us on that car, that I was better off relegated to the women’s section, where I also once have been on a rush hour. Being on the women’s section when you’re obviously not a woman feels like being a male in a female washroom: You have to constantly, and convincingly, explain to everybody who enters the room why you’re there. “I’m just checking the view,” for instance. Or “My girlfriend is drunk and she is in that cubicle.” With the MRT being “gender-responsive,” me finding myself on the women’s section posed a serious challenge, and I alternated between “Nice bag,” and latching on to someone as if she was a companion.
This, of course, would not sit well with everybody. Take this surly woman behind me; the way her eyebrows met seemed to say she wanted me out of there. She looked at my way as if I were a sex offender, and, hands stuffed in my pockets as I would always do when riding a train, I looked at her way as if she was planning to steal all of my belongings.
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