Queer Diasporic Filipino-Catholicism’s Transnational Movements through Joella Cabalu’s “It Runs in the Family”

Cecilia Federizon, University of Toronto


Nation, Ethnicity, Intimacy, and Sexuality


This paper traces the transnational movements of Filipino Catholicism in the Filipino diasporic community in Canada, focusing on the ongoing negotiations and resistance of Filipinos’ genders and sexualities. Religion is a marker of “Filipinoness” for diasporic subjects and enables queer diasporic communities to make sense of their situation (Manalansan 2003). Through an examination of Filipino-Canadian diasporic artist Joella Cabalu’s 2015 documentary, “It Runs in the Family,” I hope to trace Catholicism’s movements with the Filipino diaspora and the ways in which its meanings are constantly changing with movement. I hope to examine religion, not merely as a nationalist ideology, but as an object in which diasporic Filipinos relate with to understand and negotiate notions of love, “family,” and “home.” “It Runs in the Family” follows Joella’s gay younger brother Jay, as he travels from Vancouver to the United States and the Philippines to meet with other queer family members and to understand a supposed family curse that “made” them queer. The documentary enables a queer reading of religion that centres the contradictory affectual connections of queer Filipinx experiences with the Catholic Church’s (homophobic) teachings. Following Eng’s (2010) queer diasporic approach, I explore the valences of diasporic Filipino Catholic intimations “through the lens of queerness, affiliation, and social contingency” in addressing the “nostalgic demands of diaspora” (p. 13). Catholicism, I argue, is not a stable institution but a malleable religion that creates a connection back to “home”’ and “family.”

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