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Bakla in a Jam.

PLAZA DE ARMAS in Cuzco, Peru, heart of the ancient Incan empire. I'm inundated with costumed locals hawking craftwork and a shoeshine boy who, upon hearing I'm Canadian, flawlessly recites our prime ministers in reverse order dating back to Kim Campbell. He's fifteen and so cinematic (Sciuscia 1946, De Sica), his apple cheeks and perfect dialogue conjure the peasant boy in Buneul's Los Olvidados (1950) if it were in Technicolor and directed by Vincent Minnelli. And me, in full Gringo-mode, acquiescing to his services, explaining that in Canada school is free, no shoe shining required to pay for classes. Sensing the hustler pull inherent to the shoeshine, I casually slip in the non sequitur that in Canada men can get married, delineating our interpersonal politic--me and the shoeshine boy. This incident puts me in mind of Jammy Reyes, a dear hustler friend I met in Winnipeg years ago, who's shortly to be deported unless our gay marriage laws intervene and he can wed himself out of his troubles. Let's back up ...

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Jammy was born in the Philippines in 1985, his father an infamous male prostitute, his mother from a middleclass family. Raised in the barrios of Manila's Quezon City by his father's people, at an early age grandma taught him the art of massage, and Jammy would relieve his elder's aching joints. By eleven, he was working in porn theatres, turning tricks with tourists and hiding out from school. The great gay director Lino Brocka (1939-1991), father of the Filipino national cinema, could easily have scripted Jammy's life. The recent movie Serbis (2008, Brilliante Mendoza) investigates Manila's mom-and-pop porn theatre racket, sans child prostitution. By the time he was thirteen, Jammy and his biological sister were sent to live with a distant relative in Winnipeg, a single woman from the burgeoning Pinoy community in Manitoba. Lifted out of the slums of Manila and dropped into the ghettos of our inner city, Jammy thrived as a queer youth, picking up the language and, by the time he was fifteen, working as a hustler on the boy track along Assiniboine Avenue, the original site of Lower Fort Garry.

Due to a clerical error or misunderstanding, his adoptive mother failed to submit the paperwork for Jammy's citizenship, and as he began living the fast life, slipping money from his auntie's purse to pay for drugs, Jammy was treated as a criminal alien and sent to prison. For most people the prospect of incarceration at the Headingly Provincial Jail is unpleasant, but Jammy emerged from the experience with tales of wonderment: the inmates scooping water out of their cell toilets, draining the plumbing to turn the pipes into an elaborate telephone system; and the quotidian midnight circle jerks with Native gangsters. Jammy assisted me in researching scripts by providing my number as a friendly third-party willing to instigate three-way calls with Indian Posse inmates whose partners were on the "no call" list.

I attended one of Jammy's trials, for unlawful use of a John's credit card, watching from the downtown courthouse on closed circuit television, Jammy testifying from Headlingly. When the judge asked him: "How do you plead?" Jammy answered: "Guilty or innocent?" Euegene Ionesco could have written dialogue as absurd as that. And the circumstances of Jammy's legal imbroglios were absurd. His foster mom and Johns shouldn't have resorted to the law for what were youthful indiscretions, not the acts of a dangerous criminal. Jammy was becoming a superstar on X-Tube, an online website for escorts performing on video, earning good money and securing international clients, when the Canadian Immigration authorities discovered the wrinkle in his paperwork, that he was not a bona fide citizen, his rap sheet long enough to bounce him out of the country. Ironically, the same long-term client whose credit card fraud alerted authorities is now contemplating marriage to Jammy to keep him in the country. Theirs is a very modern relationship; the John is really more of a life partner, a piano teacher with a condo in Vancouver who turns a pained blind eye to Jammy's supplemental income.

The piano teacher hired a lawyer for immigration court, but to no avail in this, our tough-on-crime era. Jammy was becoming accustomed to the idea of returning to his homeland. He'd been in touch with his father, who was keen on the two of them starting a father-son sex business. This idea appealed to Jammy, who harbors fond memories of his father and uncles' strong physiques. Bad news came from the old country as Jammy was working underground during the Vancouver Winter Olympics. His father accidentally over-dosed and the dream of their father-son show collapsed.

His future is uncertain: to stay in this country with it's track record of official uptightness, wedding the piano teacher and stretching the notion of queer marriage; or deportation and an unclear future in Manila where an uncontrollable fire recently ripped through Quezon City; or skipping out all together and heading down the Pacific coast to the States. Canada will be very unlucky to lose Jammy Reyes. Although he is precisely the demographic that the Conservative Immigration hierarchy hope to expel--queer, coloured, exciting, desirable--it is for exactly these reasons and more that I hope he'll stay. He remained graceful under tremendous pressure, is generous and warm, in the way that Canada teaches it's own kind not to be. Jammy Reyes is a good soul caught up in a web of bureaucracy and moral judgment. Wherever he ends up, they'll be lucky to have him.

* URBAN DICTIONARY

Homosexual in the Filipino language Tagalog
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Title Annotation:Focus; Jammy Reyes is a good soul caught up in a web of bureaucracy and moral judgment
Author:Gonick, Noam
Publication:Canadian Dimension
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jul 1, 2010
Words:929
Previous Article:36D-26-40: Nina Arsenault: living-as-art.
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