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Open Access Publications from the University of California

“That’s My Tomboy”: Queer Filipinx Diasporic Transmasculinities

  • Author(s): Velasco, Gina
  • et al.

This essay explores the circulation of the figure of the tomboy within queer Filipinx diasporic culture. In particular, I examine “That’s My Tomboy!” a segment of the popular Philippine variety show, It’s Showtime, an ABS-CBN show filmed in front of a live audience in Quezon City, Philippines. Circulated globally on the international cable channel, The Filipino Channel (TFC), It’s Showtime, stars the hugely popular bakla performer, Vice Ganda. As a vignette on the show, “That’s My Tomboy” is a talent competition in which tomboys compete for cash prizes through modelling and singing. This essay uses an interdisciplinary approach that integrates personal narrative and analysis of television and social media to analyze the queer diasporic figure of the tomboy. Beginning with an autoethnographic vignette, I describe my experience, as a queer diasporic Filipina American femme woman, with the term “tomboy.” In particular, I describe the experience of bringing my masculine-presenting, nonbinary partner to meet my family in Dallas, Texas, for the first time. Upon meeting my partner, my Filipino father immediately asked her if she had seen, “That’s My Tomboy.” In this encounter, my partner was immediately recognizable to my immigrant father as a tomboy, both from his personal experiences with Filipinx female masculinity, but more importantly, through his engagement with Filipinx diasporic popular culture. My father’s familiarity with the figure of the tomboy – mediated through his consumption of Philippine popular culture through The Filipino Channel – reflects the circulation of this figure within the Filipinx diaspora. Drawing on this initial theorization of the figure of the tomboy within Filipinx diasporic culture, I then analyze the emergence of other tomboy figures, such as Jake Zyrus and Ice Seguerra, within both television and social media that circulate throughout the diaspora. Ultimately, I argue that social media representations of tomboys create possibilities for queer pleasure and spectatorship, contributing to a broader Filipinx queer diasporic mediascape.

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