The Tagalog word Bakla is an expression used to refer to a man who behaves, dresses and speaks in a feminine way, so we could translate it into the English language as an effeminate man or a feminine man.
However, it is an expression that originates from the words babae and lalake that mean respectively woman and man, expressing a mixture of both, so this slang sometimes is defined as “a man with a woman’s heart”. We see, therefore, that the term bakla mixes sexual orientation, identity, and gender expression. Some dictionaries also define Bakla as a hermaphrodite, probably because they don’t know what they are talking about, and they mix everything.
Some homosexual men reject this term when is referring to them, and some men have sex and even long relationships with Bakla men and who do not consider themselves homosexual. From the 19th century, as a result of the publication of the novel Florante at Laura, this slang also acquires the nuances of undecided, undefined or ambiguous, so much so, that sometimes, to refer to a bakla man, people use the expression Alanganin, translating into English as uncertainty or doubt.
With the Bakla people, it seems that we are facing a similar case, after all, to the Leitis of Tonga, because under the umbrella of Bakla, there are many different situations, including those related to sexual orientation and gender identity. There are homosexual men self identify as Bakla and not, and also, transgender women. Bearing in mind that this kind of people already existed before the West contact (as the Leitis of Tonga and the Māhū of Tahiti), also playing an important social role, because of its relationship with the spiritual world.
So, if sometimes this slang comes to your life, don’t forget to ask what they are referring to.