Because living out one’s truth is a long winding road
Abnormal, bading, bakla, bayut, homo, lesbo, magic, silahis, tomboy, third sex, tibo.
These were some of the words—derogatory in itself or in the manner in which it is said—associated with gay people. Bading instantly takes me to a small town parlor (say it in Tagalog for full effect) that my Tita Beth used to own. The b word was flung at the gay hairdressers in a way that doesn’t sound endearing. Abnormal brings to mind two high school classmates (both girls) who got caught “having lesbian sex” in one of the bathroom stalls at school; they and their act were immediately labeled as such, and one of them eventually had to leave our alma mater. Meanwhile magic, they say (they, meaning people I heard it from), is a term for the gays and bisexuals coined in the 80s. It’s used to describe a person’s ability to switch preferences in partners permanently or temporarily.
It’s never been easy for anyone to come out and proclaim his or her truth regardless of the decade one is born into. Sure, it seems easier in modern times, with brands and the general public through social media broadcasting themselves as allies. But covert (socially acceptable) homophobia is alive and well (read: in it for the optics, but not the long haul) and so are many of the words I listed down at the beginning of this article.
I’m not saying don’t or that there’s a right way or you have to do it (because it ultimately depends on you if and when you want to do so). But here’s what I learned from my own experiences and from the people like me I met along the way. It’s not exactly sage advice, but a way for you to manage your own expectations of the world and sometimes, those closest to you.
Some people have the most magical coming out stories. I’ve heard of families growing closer than ever because of such revelations. Tears of joy and acceptance shared at the dining table. Parents holding their children’s hands through their transition. A few others didn’t even have to come out; family just knew and that was that.
His father believed he could beat the man out of him
But for the rest, the journey towards the truth was painful. One particular story that stayed with me all these years is that of a friend’s, whose truth was met with violence at the hands of his own father. I would see him after school at the town cafe, his face brushed heavily with foundation and concealer. Up close, if you looked long and hard, you could still see the bruises. His father believed he could beat the man out of him. So he ran away shortly after and I never heard from him again.
There are friends who will ride or die with you, those that won’t and those who might change their mind because of various factors, like age, religion, circumstances, etc. In many cases, in the stories of others that I know of, their straight peers are usually supportive of their “just-outed” or openly gay friends. As to what degree, (you know, if they support your rights) I don’t really know.
In my case, however, I lost friends. The first time I tried to come out in high school, they said, “it’s a phase” or simply, “don’t do that.” But college life (and the more gay people I was exposed to) opened my eyes to who I really am; I became sure AF that my gayness wasn’t for a spell. So I confessed a second time through text and it was radio silence; they just stopped talking to me.
But life goes on, you win some, you lose some, yadda yadda yadda. It will hurt but you’ll get over it and build new relationships in the process.
This acquaintance of mine from college, she’s lesbian and is very masculine in appearance. I’d say, she looks and dresses better than some of the guys I know. She prefers boy clothes over girl’s, keeps a shaved head and is into male-dominated sports. Never have I asked her why and she’s never had to explain herself until she started working.
Her expression of her sexuality, as well as her preferences confused people at the workplace to the point of concern. One day, management asked her to make adjustments to her corporate wear and “maybe even grow her hair out” to appease disapproving eyes.
Eventually, she quit her job to pursue a career in sports and fitness. Judgy onlookers be damned, but she still wears a suit when the occasion calls for it.
It is a process for them, as it is for you
Coming out to live your truth isn’t easy. Be kind, to yourself and to others because it is a process for them, as it is for you. Sometimes, they just don’t know any better; they’ll say things that will hurt you or quote a verse from the Bible. But if there’s one thing you should never let people do, it’s to allow them to invalidate who you are, and make you apologize for it and make you feel alone.
Because as long as you and I, and individuals like us exist, you will never be alone.
Art Alexandra Lara