Reclaiming the power of ‘Sirena’

In the symphony of social change, where artists craft melodies of empowerment for different communities, there exists a peculiar paradox: “Sirena,” a Filipino song standing at the crossroads of both celebration and controversy. 

Written by acclaimed rapper Gloc-9 in 2012, Sirena explores the narrative of a gay individual confronting societal norms. Since then, its message has resonated with countless listeners as a heartfelt anthem for the LGBTQ+ community.

Over a decade later, Gloc-9 revealed that what he wrote was not just reflective of queer experiences but also a gift to his “gay son.” Its lyrics explored themes of identity and acceptance while casting a spotlight on the harsh realities of discrimination and abuse. 

Some people, however, shared how this anthem of freedom was used against members of the LGBTQ+ community — the very people it was meant to empower.

Central to the song’s narrative is the portrayal of a homosexual individual embracing traditionally feminine interests and attire, such as applying lipstick and donning “girly” clothes. 

This depiction resonated deeply with 19-year-old transgender fluid writer Liam Boses, who grew up wearing her sister’s dresses and her mother’s skirts.

“Growing up, hindi ko pa naman alam ‘yung labels. But eventually, nagsink-in na sa’kin na, ‘ay ganito pala ako,’”  she said.

Still, as someone raised in a religious household, Liam faced significant challenges in expressing her true self. 

“It was really hard for me to even dye my hair or even wear foundation, even use skin care kasi may notion sila na … that’s a feminine thing to do,’” she shared.

When Sirena was released, Liam admitted it was difficult for her to listen to it as she was still “in denial” of her identity during her early high school years. However, as time went on, the song became more than just music for Liam.

“Eventually, this song has somehow helped me in processing my emotions and gathering my thoughts in terms of accepting who I am,” she said. “There’s this certain profound sense of collectiveness, na my struggle is shared with other people. And I find that to be very beautiful.”

On the other hand, members of the queer community also argued that Sirena exhibits social insensitivity, particularly in its portrayal of stereotypical gay characteristics. Liam delves into a stirring observation regarding a troubling line of the song: “Dahil kung minsan, mas lalaki pa sa lalaki ang bakla.”

“Lalaki ba ang standards? Hindi rin maganda na kinukulong ang kahit anumang persona to a specific notion. Why does strength have to be binary sa isang gender?” Liam said.

In local folklore, a “sirena” embodies the combination of human and animal characteristics, blurring the lines between two identities. This parallels the experience of gay individuals who may feel their selfhood stands at a crossroads between male and female attributes.

Moreover, the song implicitly conveys the notion that being queer is only tolerated within the confines of familial expectations. It suggests that individuals are only deemed worthy of approval if they adhere to conventions, thus perpetuating a cycle of conformity.

Gloc-9 has always been famous for his thought-provoking lyrics. But in a society dominated by machismo culture and traditional stereotypes, the very essence of Sirena was misconstrued. Its meaning was hijacked to fuel microaggressions and prejudice against the queer community. What was meant to inspire has inadvertently become a tool of mockery.

Many people had trouble fully grasping the true meaning of the track, including 19-year-old Josh Divina’s family members.

“May mga family members din kasi ako na homophobic. We all know na the song Sirena is based on the LGBTQ community, but for them kasi, it’s a catchy song. Hindi nila masyadong naiintindihan ‘yung pinanggagalingan ng song na ito,” he commented. 

In this generation, fortunately, Sirena is now being reclaimed as the song of empowerment it was always meant to be. 

Rather than simply being ahead of its time, Sirena also emerged as a product of its time, responding to the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community in an era marked by harshness and limited inclusivity. 

“I think importante na na-release ‘yung song na ito back then because it was a really big step in opening conversations about the LGBT community,” Josh declared.

Until now, the song serves as a timeless testament to the struggles and triumphs of the LGBTQ+ experience, offering a moving reflection of the journey towards equality and understanding.