My mother looked at me with a kind and gentle smile on her face.
“It’s okay. Tell me,”  my mother said.
“Ma I think I’m gay,” I confessed looking in her eyes.

Her smile slowly disappeared and her eyes widened in shock.

Discovering yourself is an ongoing process,  it’s normal and no one ever really stops. But when it comes to sexuality and sexual orientation, things get a bit more complicated – that people won’t always be so kind.

At LoveYourself Welcome in Sampaloc, Manila, Mark de Castro the community center coordinator organized “Welcome Cafe, Coming Out Stories Night”, an open forum where volunteers and clients could openly share their stories and thoughts about coming out. The following are reflections of what transpired throughout the session.

My coming out story

Three years ago I remember feeling like I was living a double life. I was Hannah Monatana here in Manila, where I study and in Laguna, my province I was Miley Stewart who just like any other teenager, had something to hide.

When I first came out to my friends they were all very supportive and some even said “yeah, we know” which was annoying to me, but made my coming out easier.

My life took a 180° from there. I would date guys, introduce them to my friends, and I felt more confident about myself because I’ve finally accepted the part of me which I’ve tried to hide all my life. And the best thing was I didn’t care anymore about what others might think. But all of that only happened in Manila.

Whenever I’m back in Laguna I go back in the closet as well. I was hesitant to come out to my parents because I was afraid it might affect my studies. To make things worse my parents are separated so I had to come out to my mother and father separately.

I didn’t like living a double life. It felt like I was flying high but there were chains pulling me down. I was dead set on coming out to my parents because I didn’t want to hide for anyone, even for my parents. One night I finally told my mother.

“Ma (mother) I think I’m gay” I confessed.
“Job (my nickname) are you sure” she asked with a heavy disappointed face. “Yes” I assured. I remember the exact words she said to me after.
“If you’re going to continue being like that you’re gonna have to stop recognizing me as your mother” she warned.

Living in the province and being conservative Christians I’ve always known my family, except my sister, wouldn’t accept  me. And my mother didn’t, she went on about how gays will go to hell and how she’s about what our relatives will say.

My father was even worse. “If I ever see you with your boyfriend I will beat the both of you up.” my father threatened.

It hurt for sure but what can I do? I just conceded to the fact that they were a lost cause and I’ll just have to live with it somehow. Actually, I still consider myself lucky because there are those had it harder than me. My parents still provide me with what I need and as long we don’t talk about my sexuality we’re at peace.

The most important thing was finally I attained the freedom that I wanted and I can say that I accept myself.

Acceptance, tolerance, and it’s just normal

Most of the time it’s our family we’re most scared to come out to. Others fear they will be disowned for some they are afraid of potentially changing their relationship with family members. But there are those whom when they came out their worst fears didn’t come true.

De Castro described his coming out as “Para lang akong nag pabili ng suka sa nanay ko” because of how casual his mother’s reaction.

“Ma bading ako (Mother I’m gay)” de Castro texted his mother. Then his mother replied “sino nag sabi? (Says who?)” along with another text about an errand.  “Ako (Me)” de Castro replied and his mother didn’t. It was as if his mother just forgot to send him a message. It was through his brother, whom he also came out to and accepted him, that de Castro found out that their mother accepted him.

Another happy ending story was that of Jonathan. March 4, 2011 Jonathan remembers that day vividly. It was the morning after his mother saw him and his friends hanging out in their house being loud and gay as he described. A friend of Jonathan texted him convincing him to come out because he could tell that his mother knew they were all gay.

Jonathan prepared himself to finally confess to his mother “Ma may sasabihin ako sayo (Mother I’m going to tell you something)” Jonathan Said. And before he could even tell it to her his mother said to him “bakla ka? Alam ko na yan (You’re gay? I know that already”
His mother continued on to say that she’s not going to stop him from living his “lifestyle” but still hopes that he marries a woman and have children.

The Unspoken truth setting

At first I thought all gay people went through the same thing I did. But during the open forum I heard the stories that are so different or even the opposite of mine.

Micheal (not his real name) is in his thirties shared that up until now he’s not out to his family. He describes his situation as an “unspoken truth”, stating that he knows that his family knows but they just don’t talk about it and says that he doesn’t plan to come out.

“You don’t have to come out. All you have to do is to come out to yourself,” he said.

Not having to come out was the most dominant thought during the open forum. How self-acceptance is all that you need in order to be free and you don’t have to hide. There were many people that shared his opinion and his situation.

Warren (not his real name) who’s in his early twenties also believes that coming out is not necessary. He himself is someone that is very open about his sexuality to his friends, acquaintances, people he works with. But when it comes to his family he’s in the same situation as Micheal. He doesn’t see the need to come out to them too.

The closet presented itself different to everyone in the group. One can only ponder how many other ways people have dealt with it. Coming out is never a requirement, and is not the epitome of being gay it’s just one of the many paths you can take to live the life you want. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter if you’re in or out of the closet, or maybe somewhere in between what matters the most is that you accept and love yourself.

Text by Jacob Lazaro