People Open up About What It's Like to Identify as LGBTQIA+ in the Philippines
As pride month comes to a close, Filipino members of the LGBTQIA+ community share their story and experiences about identifying as LGBTQIA+ in the Philippines. Happy pride month mga kasama!
Some of the people from this article have chosen to use an alias to maintain confidentiality.
Pinkie identifies as bisexual/genderqueer. She comes from a middle class upbringing, attended an international school and later on was one of the Top 3 on scholarship. Her extended family lives in the province, but she grew up in Manila.
Ron identifies as gay. He is 27 years old and works as a freelancer. He grew up in a province of the Philippines and often travels to other countries.
Neal initially identified himself as bisexual, however, now doesn't use a label as he says he doesn't know what label to use.
Sebastian identifies as gay.
What is your experience with identifying as LGBTQIA+ in the Philippines?
"It was hard. I got bullied in grade school for being feminine. My parents aren't thrilled with the idea of me being gay. I am also a member of a conservative Christian sect. Obviously, my church condemns homosexuality. Until college, it was difficult for me to come out and I suppressed the real me by denying that I was gay. I even looked down on myself and on the LGBTQIA+ community. " - Ron
It was difficult for me to come out and I suppressed the real me by denying that I was gay.
"I never experienced any violence about being gay. I'm thankful that my family supported me and never looked down on me." -Sebastian
"Actually, I started as straight. I had two girlfriends and then when I started to work I got into a relationship with someone that was gay, who is still my partner until today. At the start I identified myself as bisexual. Then now, I don’t know what label to use because I am now attracted to males and my attraction to females has reduced." - Neal (Translated from Tagalog)
"Well, the thing is, although I'm out to my friends and to my nuclear family, I don't think it's anyone's business who I'm having sex with, so it's not like I tell random strangers (or even extended family) that I'm bisexual... or that I'm even dating. I currently have a boyfriend, but when I was dating a girl, and when I was dating couples, I think people just thought that we were close friends. Honestly we weren't doing much different anyway, because I've been sharing a bed with friends in a non-sexual, non-romantic manner since pre-puberty. The nature of activities just occasionally changed was all." - Pinkie
Do you think being LGBTQIA+ in the Philippines provides a different experience to what you would have if you were in a western country?
"I think western culture is more open to this situation." - Sebastian
"It would be different but I don't think the experience would be completely discrimination-free. Wherever I am in the world, there will always be someone or a group of people that are raised in a conservative and religious upbringing, and they will always carry this prejudice towards me. This is a totally systemic problem combined with social constructs that people made." - Ron
"I can't speak for other people, but I don't think I'd have had a very different experience. Probably I would have started being sexually active much earlier (like a decade earlier than I actually did) and I wouldn't be so freaked out getting tested or buying contraception. But I wouldn't be changing my lifestyle or anything, because I've always been a very private person unless we're close or it's for a purpose. Then I can be very chatty and can share a lot. " - Pinkie
Are your family supportive?
"Not directly to me, because I don't announce it to them, but I do know that some of my extended fam is extremely homophobic. My extended fam is of the opinion, more or less, that being LGBTQIA+ is alright as long as you're discreet; I've an aunt who's had a long-time female partner, and nobody complains or says anything, but also, nobody calls her my aunt's girlfriend. They call her by name or 'the best friend of your aunt.' But I have one uncle who says nothing about lesbians but curses a blue streak if he even sees gays on TV, like Vice Ganda. I don't even know why he hates them because he's not religious, and he can't give any actual argument. He's also very much against transwomen and transmen, especially in sports." -Pinkie
"I wouldn't say they're the most supportive, but I don't think they have fully accepted it. My dad has a lot of homophobia in him, so he would be mocking my homosexuality in a funny way (which is not totally okay!). But he doesn't hurt me, at least, and we're kinda cool. My mom is more tolerant because she loves me so much, but she was brought up in a strict Catholic household, so I think she still has a bit of aversion towards the LGBTQIA+ community and would definitely prefer a straight Ron than a gay Ron.
My dad has a lot of homophobia in him, so he would be mocking my homosexuality in a funny way (which is not totally okay!).
Religion, culture, and social construct play a big role in the treatment of not just the LGBTQIA+, but also towards the minorities. Anywhere in the world. As for the portrayal of the community in the media here in the Philippines, gays, especially, are seen as comedians and the ideal best friend material. We're also portrayed as pedophiles and sex offenders. They would always put us in a box where we can't be portrayed as a proper human being." -Ron
"In the past I struggled to come out to my mom but that was because I assumed that she wouldn’t accept me. Of course she was used to me introducing girlfriends in the past. Anyways, the only reason why I had those assumptions was because she used to be very vocal about same sex relationships being unbiblical. She was very against it. The thing is, my mom was involved in a same sex relationship and that was why she adopted me because they couldn’t have children. However, her live-in partner that was lesbian passed away so we were left behind and it took a heavy toll on her. So my mama joined a Christian charismatic group and she became indoctrinated and was anti-homosexuality. She found out about my relationship because my current partner admitted it to my family. Then my mom confronted me and surprisingly she accepted me with open arms when I became honest with her. " - Neal (Translated from Tagalog).
Are you out? What is your coming out story?
"Yes, I am. Out and proud! It's not grand or anything. I didn't gather everyone and announced that I'm gay. I just slowly eased my way into coming out. I started telling everyone that I like boys and telling them about my male celebrity crushes and who I like at church, or school, or on social media. Something like that. They would just ask me, 'Are you gay? I thought you're not gay?' and I was simply like, 'I am.' That's it.
I used to identify as bisexual in the past but that was to hide that I was really full-blown gay. It was cooler to be bisexual, and there was still some internalized homophobia. I observed that there was a phase where other teenage boys here in the Philippines, where they would say they were 'bi' even though they were gay. Being bi was cool and more acceptable. They were more of a magnet for manly guys. Its just sad because it is unfair to real bisexuals. There are a lot of misconceptions. They are misunderstood and underrepresented." - Ron
I used to identify as bisexual in the past but that was to hide that I was really full-blown gay. It was cooler to be bisexual.
"There was this heavy feeling inside me that I needed to let go. I thought about it twice before i told my mom that I'm gay. It ended up well. We both cried, hugged each other.
After that incident. We never talked again about me being gay. Or having boyfriend. We are living a normal life like before I came out" - Sebastian
"I've always been genderqueer. My parents wanted a strong, masculine daughter, so they raised me to be loud and confident. Didn't really work, physically speaking, because I turned out to be small, prone to illness, and with definite curves above and below. But it worked well enough mentally and socially. I was always more comfortable hanging out with boys than with girls, as a child. My preferences were more similar to my brother's and my male cousins', than my female cousins'. The only time I ever wore skirts was for school. I had short hair and a naked face because I couldn't (still can't) be fussed with hair products... and makeup... and moisturizer... and sometimes even deodorant. I was confident, even pushy, and very competitive. I remember as a child looking down at myself - I was rather flat until I was almost 18 (after which I rapidly curved out) - and wondering if my clitoris would ever grow into a penis, since I apparently wasn't growing any boobs.
But with regard to being bisexual, it's something that I only tell people when it's relevant. I'm of the belief that one's sexuality (or even gender) is only of importance to someone else, if that someone else is interested in possibly being a sexual partner; and then, only inasmuch as there is a possibility of such partnership happening. Obviously if I were in love with a gay man and wanted to have sex with him, it would be relevant for me to know that he wouldn't want a partner with the set of equipment I carry. But once I know that, it's none of my business who or what he does. --- So, since I don't really plan on having sex with anyone other than a carefully-selected partner, I don't really trumpet my sexual preferences around. My friends know, but that's because at one point or another most of my close friends group has considered having sex with each other.
There's no story. In my family, I just said it - 'I'm bisexual' - one day over breakfast. My mother shrugged, my brother said 'I'm surprised, I thought you were lesbian' and that was it. With my friends too, I just mentioned it. 'I'm bisexual' - 'Oh that's nice' - and then the conversation carried on. It's pretty much like that in my friends group. 'You know I'm gay, right?' - 'Yeah of course.' No fuss honestly!" - Pinkie
"I am out to the colleagues that I worked with back in the corporate world. However, I didn’t come out straight away that I was in a relationship with someone gay, so they all thought I was straight and was full man. All of my friends in the office were all guys, and that was what I was used to. Then one time, someone asked if I had a love life, so I admitted that I was in a relationship with someone gay. I thought at the time that everything will change, but they didn’t become awkward towards me or anything. They are so comfortable with me. So I find that very respectful and accepting on their part. I am out to my mom because my current partner admitted it to my family." - Neal (translated from Tagalog)
Are you ashamed of your sexuality? If you had a choice would you like to be straight?
"I enjoy being bi. Part of it is that my boyfriend is genderqueer too, and we both enjoy men and women. I honestly don't think there's much difference between being bi and back when I thought I was straight, except now I'm having more sex." - Pinkie
"I sometimes hate myself but not because of my sexuality. I'm proud to be gay, and I can't imagine being straight... If I were to be born again, I'd definitely prefer to be gay again, but in a different world where everyone is accepting. " - Ron
"Course not. I'm proud of who I am. It makes me feel like I'm free." - Sebastian
What supports or resources do you have that helps you in identifying as LGBTQIA?
"Supportive friends. My other friends are also gay" - Sebastian
"A lot of people from the shows that I watch and on social media have inspired me with their coming out stories, and I think that was what motivated me to finally show who I really am. " - Ron
"My friends and my nuclear fam have been absolutely lovely. There has hardly been any negativity, ever." -Pinkie
What is your advice for younger people who may be confused or not out yet?
"...You won't know until you try? Don't knock it 'til you've tried it? Well, honestly, there's a whole spectrum of gender. There's actually a gender spectrum, a sexuality spectrum, and at least two other spectra that I can't remember right now. There's one for romance and another for social manifestation IIRC. I'm sure you can find yourself somewhere. Or if not, who needs the labels? Who you are is nobody's business but your own. You just go be you, as long as 'being you' does not include actual perversions like pedophilia, zoophilia, or necrophilia.
When trying to find yourself, please don't do anything that will land you in jail. Or pregnant. Be you, but be smart, and be safe, ayt?" - Pinkie
I'm sure you can find yourself somewhere. Or if not, who needs the labels? Who you are is nobody's business but your own.
"Take it easy. You don't need to pressure yourself. When the time comes and you feel like you are ready then don't hesitate to do it. Love yourself. Do what you love. Express yourself. Don't mind what other people say. Besides you don't need their approval. All the love <3" - Sebastian
"For those who are confused, take your time. Don't be afraid to explore your sexuality and gender. There will always be a place for you in the community. For those who haven't come out yet, take your time. If you don't feel like coming out yet, then don't. It's never too late to come out. Don't be pressured. Do things at your own pace. Wherever you are, there will always be someone, even if it's just one person, who will love who you are. And that is more than enough! Stay gold! Stay rainbow! Happy Pride!" - Ron