Brian, in his own words: “Being gay means never to apologize for being my true self. That you respect my truths and I shall respect yours as well.
I had to continually fight for my place, the recognition of peers, and constantly remind people that hard work, not faking it matters.
[My coming out] is not as dramatic as how I would imagine.. but I fully came out after my parents have died. First mostly to friends then family. Actually a lot of my relatives might not still know it but I decided it wasn’t important to come out to them.
[The gay community in Manila] has its up and downs. We Filipinos are resilient, optimistic and caring. But like probably any gay community, there are cliques within cliques, with a bit of internal homophobia going around.. but we do rally around a cause when needed.
I should’ve told my younger self, to ‘dare more’. Maybe I was afraid to try a lot of newer things back then. One of them was I should’ve become a DJ earlier.
I put up my own theater company in 2013. It was the natural evolution after all my years in the theater. Although success has come in critical acclaim, the challenge for any local theater company that only does ‘straight’ plays (non-musical), is profit.
There was no drama or fanfare (to my coming out). There was a struggle of course, when I was younger. The coming out was something that just happened naturally. Friends and family just accepted it.
(The gay community in Manila is) Alive and kicking. Fabulous.
(Advice to my younger self) Be brave. Take more risks.”
Syd, in his own words:“In my opinion it’s not that hard to be gay here (Manila) I think people are more accepting now. I work in advertising so people don’t care really if you’re gay or not. To date here is easy, I think, with Grindr and Tinder and Facebook. People just add each other on Facebook and start talking. But in a way that makes it more difficult because I think in the back of people’s minds they have too many options so it’s hard to choose. I think that’s a problem now. Technology and social networking, there’s so many options so people can’t settle with one.”
Sanchus, in his own words:“Through the years, being gay for me has evolved into different ways of how I view the world. When I was younger, I thought of it as a vile secret that I have to keep if I didn’t want to live with shame. It ran the gamut of definitions from mundane to philosophical. I feel that being gay now doesn’t equate to being totally different from other people, it doesn’t separate us from the rest of the population. It’s like any other fact of life – everyone has to keep jobs, fight for what they think is right, and struggle. I personally think it’s a healthy way of looking at things.
After my studies, I always had a nagging question about where I should work so I can be myself and be comfortable. That was one of my last adolescent struggles, I believe. Real life, of course, presents more questions than that. When I joined the firm I currently work for, the first thing I wanted to know was if there was an LGBT support system in place. As luck would have it, I came in at a time when the Manila office was just about to form one. Being upfront and talking too much, funnily, led to me being assigned to lead that group for three years, and I still serve in a leadership capacity until now. It’s fulfilling to give back to the LGBT community at work, especially when there’s such a huge support coming from the bosses. We started with 8 individuals who were looking for the same thing, in less than a year we’ve had membership grow to nearly 1,500 (the biggest global chapter in the firm). We’ve joined Pride parades, sponsored HIV symposia, networking activities for LGBT members who want to further their careers and many other things. Collectively, one of our biggest successes before I stepped down from being the head of the group is, finally, getting the approval for domestic partnership benefits for LGBT employees. Considering where we are, I’d say what we were able to do was a good thing.
My coming out story isn’t filled with stuff made for movies. In college, I spent most of my days with 6 lesbian couples. I had an idea about where my preferences lie, but I’ve never acted on it, so I never identified with being gay until I was 16 or 17. These set of friends were the first ones to know, they were very respectful to inquire about what they should say if anyone asked if I were gay. I found that very sweet. I told them that I was ok with other people knowing. Apparently, not a lot of people cared if I was gay or not. I guess, coming out to my family had the same tone. I told my younger sister that the guy always sleeping over at the house was my boyfriend at that time, her only question was “Who’s top?” My parents just acknowledged things in an offhand manner – in the middle of a crying fit after breaking up with a partner of 8 years, I was just asked “The guy you’re sharing your home with has left and broken your heart, eh? You’ll survive; don’t bawl your eyes out! Want us to pay for next month’s rent?”
The gay community in, predominantly Catholic, Manila has always been small. Because of this, the degrees of separation between social groups in the community would be very minimal. Present in the city are the usual suspects found in the gay spectrum – we have our millennials (all fashion and tech-savvy), the aesthetically-focused boys, the individualists, the meek, the rebels, those who are socially aware, the career-oriented corporate titans, the fashionistas, the models, the artists, etc. The influence of social media and Western TV has brought about open-mindedness to the gay community in Manila. Where you used to find an elite group of intellectuals who never hung out with the rowdy club kids back in the 70s to the 90s, now you’ll slowly find groups of friends who have healthy mixtures of individuals. In my opinion, the Manila community still has a long way to go. We still have to develop an appreciation for bears, we still have to improve our views regarding our transgender sisters, we still have to acknowledge that people can be bisexual or queer; we still need to respect the decision of other guys not to be out. Manila’s gay community is a work in progress, who knows what it will be like in a few years?
If I were to give any sane advice to my younger self, it would be: “Most of the drama at your age is all just hormones. Don’t panic now; things will all mellow as you get older.” I guess, I’ll say that to save my younger self from all the worries and fears I had while growing up. Oh, also, I’ll tell my younger self to accept my father’s offer to go to a boarding school somewhere in Europe, had I known I’d develop a penchant for blonds I would have taken it without batting an eyelash!”
Chris, in his own words:“For me, being gay means being part of a wonderful and diverse community that seeks love and equality above all. It means being given a path of unique struggles that not only sharpens myself, but those that share the journey with me as well. To me, being gay means that I get to see the strength of my parents love for me in the midst of an unforgiving society. To me, being gay means that I get to look in the mirror and know, I am who I am because of what God has created and not by what society has chosen for me.
The biggest challenge was learning to accept myself. My greatest success has been overcoming it. Although I struggled with my sexuality while in the Marine Corps and my ministry in church, it all came secondary to the fact that I felt like I didn’t even know who I was as an individual.
I realized one day, as I watched advocates fighting for my right to be married at the time, that I wanted to be part of the fight. I muscled up the strength to contact my family via phone conversations and skype to tell them that I was gay. Everyone took it ok except for my dad. He didn’t speak to me for about a year afterwards. After I told my folks, I recorded a youtube video, in my military uniform, telling the rest of my friends, relatives, and ultimately the rest of the world, that I was gay. I did this because I didn’t want there to be any rumors to spread that I was gay. I wanted to control the conversation.My whole family now accepts me and even gave their blessings in my recent engagement.
I’m from the U.S. and only visiting (Manila). But from my observation, the gay community is still trying to find it’s identity as mainstream media has tried to define it for them already. Gay guys that are “out” are often dubbed as the flamboyant, comedic, and drag queen individuals of the community- even though that may not be necessarily true. And “discreet” guys are considered to be the masculine guys. There isn’t an equal representation of the diversity of the community in the public eye. There’s a lot of progress that needs to be done here in regards to lifting stereotypes and stigmas. The gay community seems to be accepted here, but only within a certain capacity. Be flamboyant and comedic and the Philippines will accept you. If you are masculine or want to get married, the Philippine society doesn’t know what to do with you and will most likely be met with resistance.
I would just tell (my younger self) what I tell myself today, just keep moving forward. I wouldn’t want to take away the struggles I went through in the past as I know I’m a stronger person today, for it.”
Evan, in his own words:“Being gay just means being attracted to people of the same sex. That’s it. Everything else — the circles we’re in, the places we go to, the products and services we use, the people we support — these are just incidental things that do not define the LGBT community. My personal journey though as part of the community has exposed me to the unique challenges here in the Philippines. Being gay drives me to shatter stereotypes and fight for rights that we deserve as citizens of the country.
Experiencing discrimination and not enjoying the same rights as straight people do is one of the big challenges I face as a gay man. Like getting married for example. Or being told that I’m bad.
Professionally, I am lucky to have a respectable position in a multinational tech company that supports equality and provides equal opportunities to the LGBT community.
At first I refused to identify as gay, partly because I found the whole label limiting. I had a long coming-out process as I struggled with feelings that I did not fully understand. I was scared to be pigeonholed and stereotyped. Eventually I started telling my friends about being gay. It became an open secret until it wasn’t much of a secret anymore.
Last year was a big breakthrough as a big brand here in the Philippines interviewed Filipino LGBT people, and I got to be part of it. I guess I could say that there was no way to hide it anymore. And it felt good that people treated me the same way after. My coming out fears, it turned out, were all in my head.
There’s still a struggle for acceptance and it drives a lot of people to fear identifying as LGBT. It’s a crazy catch-22 situation: people don’t identify as gay or lesbian or trans or bisexual because they don’t want to be discriminated and stereotyped, but LGBT people continue to be discriminated and stereotyped because we don’t see a lot of diversity. Different LGBT people remain invisible.
That’s changing though. We’re becoming more open and people are shattering misconceptions slowly. We’re fighting against the system, the false images painted by the media. Straight people are starting to realize we’re just like everyone else, that we have the same dreams, aspirations, wishes, and fears as everyone else. We just really want to be loved and to love.
(Advice I’d give my younger self) Believe in the love that people give you. Trust that those who truly love you will love you for being who you are and for being honest with your self. Be kinder and gentler to your self. You don’t have to fit in the images being projected on you. You can be who you are, and yeah, that’s awesome.”