As a queer Filipino, he never saw himself reflected in the works of art he immershed himself in. (Facebook)

Vancouver, B.C.

First update: May 25, 2019, 12:43 PM

Author finds himself “erased” as a Filipino queer person

By Ted Alcuitas

“The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

—Steve Biko

The author of just-released ‘Double Melancholy’ never saw himself or his  romantic aspirations reflected in real life, so he resorted to cultural artefacts to model his “behaviour and acquire paradigms of loving and romance.”

But though these artefacts were queer, they were all ‘white’, laments C.E. ‘Chris’ Gatchalian in his first non-fiction book , Melancholy, to be launched in Vancouver on May 30. 

As a queer Filipino, he never saw himself reflected in those works of art he immershed himself in, “erasing” him as a person of colour, in this case, as a brown person.

 “Growing up, I think I pretty much thought of myself as white,” says the author of several books and plays. 

His works include Falling In Time, Broken, Motifs & Repetitions and People Like Vince., works that  have appeared on stages nationally and internationally, as well as on radio and television. The winner of two Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards and a two-time finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, he was the 2013 recipient of the Dayne Ogilvie Prize, awarded annually by The Writers’ Trust of Canada to a Canadian LGBT author of merit.

 His work has been produced on stages in Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg and New Zealand, as well as radio (CBC) and television (the Bravo! Channel).

He was Artistic Producer for  frank theatre, Western Canada’s professional queer theatre from 2011 – 2017.

Raised by a single mother and his lola, Gatchalian grew up in Vancouver’s westend, knowing little of his Filipino culture.

As a gifted child, he went to Eric Humber Secondary and went on to obtain a Bachelors and later, Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia where he now teaches as an adjunct professor.

Double Melancholy is part-memoir, part cultural commentary and is about “striving caused by double melancholy: the melancholy of being queer, the melancholy of being brown.”

He wonders where melancholy resides in this age of greater acceptance: “Is speaking of melancholy as a creative catalyst mere nostalgia, a contrivance to keep homosexuals a romantically oppressed minority”?” 

 In a wide-ranging interview with Joseph Planta of www.thecommentary.ca, the outspoken author talks about his childhood and his growth into manhood.

Asked by Planta why he appears to be a snob, Gatchalian explains that his ‘snobbery’ was a reaction to the “hurts” he suffered, a result of being wounded, the prejudice and bigotry he experienced growing up.

“It was my way of compensating, but the older we are,we  develop more empathy as a human being,” adding that the  school of hard knocks taught him to be more “compassionate”.

On his use of the word ‘Filpinx’: “Filipinx is a personal decision. Filipino/a is a remnant of Spanish colonization and I choose not to engage in that anymore. It is a challenge to colonization.”

‘Queer’: “it is a gay distinction, but in casual conversations with friends, I identify myself as gay. Queer profoundly denotes more than sexual- it encompasses a political dimension in every area of my life.”

He claims he is still carrying the trauma of colonization.  “I have barely scratched the surface,” he says. “The process of decolonization continues and doesn’t end with this book.”

Gathalian’s book is not the first to question the place of Filipino manhood in a white society.

Alex Tizon.(Photo: Daniel D. Morrison)

In 2014, the late Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Alex Tizon came out with his memoir, “Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self.” 

Tizon found that the “Asian male has been made to feel inferior, both sexually and morally. Sexual repression breeds self-loathing, which, in turn, boils itself down into unctuous, violent anger.”

Both these authors have opened up a hitherto taboo topic for Filipinos in the diaspora that will hopefully embolden others to venture beyond and examine our place in society.

Gatchalian has toured New York, Toronto and Calgary to promote the book.

The Vancouver launch of Melancholy will be at Pumpjack Pub, 1167 Davie St., Vancouver on Thursday, May 30 at 7:00  PM.

Valerie Sing Turner

It will be hosted by theatre artist Valerie Sing Turner. She will be joined by Davey Samuel Calderon and Carmela Sison (Mela Mia) reading excerpts from the book.

It will be an evening of all-Filipinx entertainment and art,with special performances by Filipinx singer/songwriter Kimmortal.

Kathara Pilipino Indigenous Arts Collective Society  and VACT (Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre) are among the sponsors of the event.

Kimmortal (Facebook)

It is a free event and books will be available for purchase and signing by the author.

For more information, see the Facebook event page.

Info: Cynara Geissler (778) 840-7132, [email protected], cegatchalian.com, [email protected]