“Just don’t be obvious,” my mother said as she hung up the phone in what I think was the last time I had a long phone conversation with her. That was the time I decided to tell her about me. There really isn’t a rite of coming out in Filipino culture, you just sort of become “obvious” just like what my mother said; or get married, raise a family and keep it on the down low, or stifle it forever.
About eight years ago, I felt the need to let my parents know of my true self. I needed to be honest to the people I love in order to be fully comfortable with myself. Being far away from home, it was important for me that my parents and family knew their real son and brother, in case something happens to me.
It has been both an exciting and revealing journey. From the very first Pride Parade I’ve attended where I bumped into a co-worker, outing myself; falling in love again for the first time, like an adolescent; partying like there’s no tomorrow, and still making it to work and being at my best; from getting to know some of the most welcoming and comforting people; to losing old friends, distancing themselves when they found out; deactivating and reactivating my social media accounts hoping to be private about it; compartmentalizing friends and sharing only a small part of me; to my parents still asking me about when I’m bringing home a wife.
There comes a point when you put everyone else’s concerns, feelings, and attitudes on the back burner. And there also comes a point when all your life experiences and the lessons you’ve learned come together to form a whole, unified story. We oftentimes think so much about how we are perceived and accepted (or not) when we tell that story that we lose sight of the precious days and years in front of us. Times that are better spent being happy and at peace, comfortable and proud.
In light of what’s happening around the world, from hate crimes to bigotry and homophobia, it is important to be seen and be heard. I think about my aunts and uncles who did not live their truths; relatives who passed away not fully embracing their realities; kids and teens who get bullied for being themselves; and the countless men and women who put their true core secondary to what their families and society expect of them.
People have difficulty understanding and accepting until it hits closer to home. Struggles and triumphs, depressions and happiness only become real when we attach them with familiar faces and names. After all, we are your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters, your friends and co-workers, your neighbors and classmates. Beyond the facade and the obvious, we have stories to tell.