Tuesday, August 29, 2006
REDENTOR “RED” GALURA:
UCSD Student Comes to Terms with His Bisexuality
interview by MARK GABRISH CONLAN
Copyright © 2006 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
Redentor “Red” Galura is a slim, dark-haired, outgoing, energetic UCSD student who knew there was something different about his sexual orientation even before his family moved here from his native Philippines when he was 15. “I always knew I wasn’t straight, but I couldn’t quite put what it was, because back in the Philippines we didn’t have a term for bisexuality,” Galura said. “It was just you’re either Gay, Lesbian or straight.”
Despite the ostentatious project over the last decade or so of renaming the Queer community itself and virtually every organization in it with the unlovely acronym “LGBT” — for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender” — all too many Queer folk still divide humanity into “Gay, Lesbian or straight.” Too often Bisexual people like Galura are still called “fence-sitters” and even nastier epithets by people who’ve worked their way into an exclusively homosexual identity and have a veiled — and sometimes not-so-veiled — contempt for those who can’t or won’t restrict their sexual interests, attractions, desires and acts to only one gender.
In addition to majoring in physiology and neuroscience at UCSD and pursuing a career goal to work with animals, Galura is also heavily involved with the UCSD LGBT Resource Center, where he will be one of eight student interns this school year. Zenger’s caught up with him one August afternoon after a summer-school midterm and he discussed his experiences as a student, a Resource Center volunteer and a budding Bisexual with a desire to find a nice boy or girl and settle down.
Zenger’s: I just wanted to get some of your background and how you came to an awareness of your own sexuality.
Redentor “Red” Galura: I’m a student at UCSD, going into my third year. Before that, I originally came here from the Philippines when I was 15 years old and lived in Daly City, which is right next to San Francisco. Growing up, I always knew I wasn’t straight, but I couldn’t quite put what it was, because back in the Philippines we didn’t have a term for bisexuality. It was just you’re either Gay, Lesbian or straight. So when I had these attractions to males and females, I was very confused. When I came to UCSD and visited their LGBT Resource Center, I found out about the LGBT community and put a term onto what I was.
Zenger’s: What’s your involvement with the LGBT Resource Center?
Galura: For the past year I was just involved in all the various clubs and student-run organizations that we have. I was a newbie to the community, so I came to the Resource Center to learn about all the other stuff I could get involved with, LGBT-wise. They gave me a list of all the orgs. I joined a bunch of them and found which ones I liked and which ones I didn’t, and stuck with the ones I liked.
At our Resource Center we have so-called student interns, and there’s about eight of them. I applied for one of the internships, and so for school year 2006-2007 I’m going to be the Speakers’ Bureau intern. Basically what we do is gather a few LGBT-identified students on campus, and basically we come into classes or RA’s, residential advisors’ events for their dorms or whatnot, and just speak about our lives, our experiences. We hope that through that we raise awareness and acceptance in the community.
Zenger’s: Could you tell me a little about the new facility at UCSD?
Galura: I like it. Compared to our old Resource Center, it’s a mansion, about six times as big as the last one. From what I hear, it’s the largest LGBT resource center in a public institution of higher education. Our Resource Center is a really important facility for everyone on our campus, LGBT-wise. It’s a place for us to hang out between classes or just relax. It gives a safe and secure environment for LGBT-identified students to just come and be themselves; for student orgs to meet. It’s especially important for our coming-out groups, male and female alike, as like I said, it provides this really safe and secure space where hopefully they feel welcome enough to come in so we can help them out.
I remember the grand opening. It was early, on a Saturday morning, and it was at the very end of what we call at UCSD our “Out and Proud Week,” a full week where we dedicate ourselves to being visible. I remember the chancellor was there, and various LGBT-identified faculty and staff were there, some of whom I’d never met before. It was quite surprising to see that many, because I’d never seen them at the Resource Center before. Students were there. It was just a great time. I guess. Everyone was waiting for the new one to open up since the old one was closed for a while and there wasn’t really any space to go to, so I guess, yeah, that showed how important it was to us, I guess.
Zenger’s: How do UCSD’s non-LGBT-identified students react to all of this?
Galura: I remember there was an article in the Guardian, which is the UCSD student paper. I remember at first there was just a picture, and I was actually in the picture on the front page of the paper. A week after that, my roommate wrote an article for the Guardian on the grand opening, so everybody heard about it. I haven’t really heard direct reactions to the new LGBT Resource Center opening. Nothing negative or positive from my non-LGBT-identified friends or whatnot.
Zenger’s: I was thinking of the horror stories that I’ve heard from the students at San Diego State, where they had their rainbow flag stolen. At their LGBT Visibility Week they’ve been hassled and confronted. I was wondering if anything like that was happening on UCSD as well.
Galura: At our Resource Center we have this historical binder that I read over. I don’t exactly remember the details, but occurrences of harassment have occurred in the past, but not lately. I haven’t really heard any outright or blatant attacks on LGBT students whatsoever, so I would guess the UCSD campus is relatively pretty open.
During the school year I had my own rainbow flag out in the balcony of our apartment. When I was first thinking about putting it up there I talked to my straight apartment-mates first because I guess I was just being pessimistic about hate crimes and such. I was just being careful, not wanting them to be affected by my decision to be out and proud. But they were fine with it, and my flag was never taken down or ripped off. Our apartment was never egged, or anything like that.
I lived in the single room, which is right next to the main walk that sees our balcony, and I never heard any negative remarks about the flag. Although Once there was this lady who came to our apartment to talk to me, because she saw the flag and apparently she thought, since I had that flag, that would be supportive of this project she had to try to get President Bush out of office. I don’t know why. But that’s the only reaction I’ve got to it so far.
Zenger’s: How did you decide to identify as Bisexual rather than Gay?
Galura: That was during the last two years of high school, I guess. I always knew I liked guys, but I liked girls as well. I couldn’t really explain why that was until I moved here and learned about the term. I came out to myself in the senior year of high school, but didn’t really come out to anyone until towards the end of my senior year in high school. Ironically enough, I came out to a girl I had a crush on back then, and she was fine with it.
Zenger’s: How did you come out to your parents, and how did they respond?
Galura: I came out to my parents last Thanksgiving, 2005. It was really scary at first. I was sort of expecting that if I came out as Bisexual, my parents would ask me, “Why don’t you just choose girls over guys, then?” or something like that. My parents were really religious, Catholic, and that’s how I was brought up, so I was sort of expecting that reaction from them. But it turned out that was very wrong.
I sat my parents down at the table a few hours before I drove back down to San Diego, and I told them, “Mom, dad, I’m Bisexual.” There was just silence at first, and then my mom turned to my dad and asked him what “Bisexual” meant. There was a little chuckle from both of them, and then my dad explained what Bisexual meant to my mom, and she just ent, “O.K.” Then my dad turned to me and asked me why I came out to them. Was it because I needed help, or because I just needed them to know? I told them it was just for their own information. He was fine with it, and he just started asking me about other stuff.
I told a Gay friend of mine about it on the drive back to San Diego. He told me his own experience, where at first his parents were very open to it, but then in the following months they just started acting weird. He told me to give it six months, to see how they reacted long-term. They haven’t really changed their views or treated me any differently. I think we’re even closer now, because I can openly tell them about my involvement at the Resource Center and all the other extracurricular stuff I do besides school — and I can tell them about my crushes.
Zenger’s: How have the other people at the Resource Center responded to you? Have they been supportive? Have you gotten any of the “fence-sitter” epithets?
Galura: The majority of the community has been very supportive, because we do have a number of Bisexual students as well. I’ve only experienced these stigmas from one Gay student. I remember it was at our “Non-Sexist Dance,” where it’s not supposed to matter what sex you dance with. and his partner noticed that for the whole night I was mostly dancing with girls. At the end of the night he asked me why was that, and I told them it just happened that way. I wasn’t really looking for anyone or anything that night. I just wanted to have fun.
Then his partner asked me, “You identify as Bisexual, right?” I said yes, and the partner said, “Oh, Red, don’t play that card with me.” I asked him, “What card?” He said, “Oh, you know. I had a friend back in Ventura who identified as Bi at first, but then he was only attracted to guys. He was one of those ‘Bi now, Gay later’ people.” That really hurt, especially coming from someone I thought was a friend. It felt like he was making me deny a part of me that was attracted to girls, but what am I supposed to do with that? It is there, and it’s not going to go away.
Zenger’s: If you had a chance to have a rational conversation with that person, what would you want to say to him?
Galura: He was really drunk at the time, so I just sort of dismissed it, but it didn’t hurt any less. But if I were to talk to him again, I’d tell him I actually believe that everyone’s inherently Bisexual to some degree. Some people are more towards heterosexual attractions and some people are more towards same-sex attractions, but I think everyone has that capability to be Bisexual. What I’ve learned from our Resource Center is that your sexual attractions now aren’t necessarily going to stay the same as you grow up. They might be the same, but sometimes they will change, and that they will change again. Sexuality is just very fluid that way.
Zenger’s: It’s occurred to me that if we could break down all the homophobia, all the anti-Queer prejudices, we probably wouldn’t have that many more Gay or Lesbian people, but we’d have a lot more Bi people.
Galura: That’s what I think, too.
Zenger’s: Based on people you’ve known and talked to, do you think that women accept bisexuality more readily than men do, especially the potential of their own bisexuality?
Galura: I would say for the time being that’s true. Right now in our society, our American culture, one of a straight guy’s fantasies is to see two women going at it. You see that represented in commercials, in movies, especially in porn. I don’t really know why. I guess it’s just part of that whole homophobia, where it’s O.K. for women to do that but for males, you always have to keep this front of being masculine and strong. Stereotypically speaking, Gay men are seen as feminine or whatnot, and when even like just one same-sex encounter happens, a man will see that as a sign of their masculinity being less or something like that. Unfortunately, our society is still very patriarchal, and any sign of weakness in a male is seen as bad.
Zenger’s: That’s what the late Albert Bell was getting at when he said, “Homophobia is misplaced sexism” — that a society that looks down on women, and looks down even more on men who “take the role of women” by being Gay, by having sex with men.
Galura: That’s interesting, because last week I sat in at one of the psychology classes on human sexuality, and the topic was on sexual orientation. One of the things the professor said was that the struggle LGBT rights is really tightly interconnected with other civil rights movements, especially issues of gender. She said that sexuality and gender are intricately connected; our society has this idea of what’s “male” and what’s “female,” and it automatically assumes that if you’re not one, you’re the other, when that’s not necessarily true. I guess that translates to being straight and being Gay. If you’re a “man” you’re supposed to just like women, and the stereotype is that if you’re male and you like men, you must be a “woman.” It doesn’t really add up.
Zenger’s: Apropos of that comment that the struggle for LGBT rights is interconnected with other civil-rights struggles, one of the obstacles our community is running into is that a lot of people of color, who have gone through their civil rights movements, are also socially conservative and therefore come out as anti-Gay. People of color, for example, have been more likely than whites to vote against same-sex marriage when those initiatives come up, and we’ve had a lot of groups, for example the African-American churches, mobilizing very heavily to oppose Queer rights. I was wondering, as a person of color, do you find any of this in your own community, any social conservatism that gets in the way of their being able to accept LGBT folk and the idea that LGBT folk should have rights?
Galura: In the Filipino community, you mean? When I was growing up in the Philippines, relatively speaking it was pretty open. We had Gay celebrities and Gay TV hosts, and there’s not really that big an opposition against being Gay. But since it’s a primarily Catholic country it’s still looked down upon by some people. Hate crimes do still happen, though I guess not on a grander scale than here in the U.S. Same-sex couples still can’t marry back there.
At the UCSD Resource Center we actually have a group for Queer People of Color formed recently, around 2000 or 2001. We call it “Q-POC,” and it’s a place where our intersecting identities, whether it be our sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality or religious affiliation, no matter what, we know that those identities might conflict with each other, but we try to intersect them anyway. It’s one of the more activist groups out of the ones at UCSD.