*This blog was originally published on May 8, 2013 in celebration of International Day Against Homophobia
This evening, I made a little confession to a friend. Although it did not concern me at all, I told him about our friend’s, well, real sexual preference. Good thing about my friend is he’s so open minded, and our other friend, being gay, is not a big deal to him. Well, to us. It really doesn’t matter. Then, the chat segued to another revelation and the reason why I told him that is because at some point, our friend and I kind of bullied someone on Facebook. Although it happened years ago, I just felt that I needed to tell him the truth because I knew all along that it wasn’t right. Yes, I told him that at that time I was battling with homophobia.
I had this experience when a student tried to invite me on FB and was asking questions that were kind of personal. At first I was trying to be amiable, and actually things went pretty well. I assumed that maybe he’s just trying to make friends with me and it’s fine. Things got a little suspicious when he began to text me and asked me questions like where am I? And he followed me during a theater event at school. The rest is history and I must say that it was really weird for a guy trying to follow another guy. And I barely knew him. In short, I had to end that friendship before it even started. It never had a closure nor it had been settled. I hurled hurtful words against him and things between us just died down. Although he insisted me to accept his friend request. But I didn’t. Only later on that my friend (the one who confessed he’s gay) revealed that my alleged “stalker” is gay. He fed me with information regarding this guy and I almost believed it. And I actually did. It dawned on me after that revelation everything that transpired when that supposed friendship attempted to develop. I cringed. At the same time thankful that it never went too far.
Lately, I have been bombarded with stories about homophobia. People hating guys to the point of bashing them. Attacking them in a mean way. Killing them. As a child, I was a victim of bullying just because other children thought of me as aloof, homey, and effeminate. They would shout at me and called me agi (Visayan word for gay). My childhood years were spent in a battlefield of confusion that molded me into a self-effacing, frightened kid whose thoughts lurked in the belief that being soft-spoken, playing with girls, and being creative were unacceptable if you are a boy. That being gay is wrong. A sin. I grew up believing that.
Talk about being a Catholic.
Kids labelled me with mean words that they could think of. And I straightened up for almost eighteen years. I lived in labels and it was a painful struggle. Despite receiving love from family and friends, I could not entirely grasp why there is a need to categorize people based on how they behave. At that point, I have not fully embraced what was needed to be embraced. My searched continued. That made it more chaotic. At that time, the only venue I thought of as a sanctuary for relief and enlightenment was the church. I decided to be a priest and almost entered the seminary. I wanted to be a saint probably. I must admit the level of my spirituality had almost reached its maturity, thanks to Taize prayer and other church activities that somehow embosomed me.
Despite that, I felt like there’s a hollow that needed to be filled. Still, I kind of hated myself for being who I am and for what other people thought about me. No, not really. It was more of a confusion. I could never grasp why it was so. I have been surrounded by women all my life and they have the greatest influence in my life. How can someone call a person gay when s/he is actually inundated with love by her or his family? But then, the enigma grew stronger and the acceptance from other people aside from the family weighed more.
When I took Literature in college, we had a subject on literature and gender where we closely analyze literary pieces and how the issue on feminism and LGBTQ+ plays a major role in prose and poetry that we discuss. Literature you know is a mirror of significant human experiences. I somehow found enlightenment in the discussion especially how gender hegemony developed and how society played an important part in “dictating” the roles each person has to perform. I was relieved. I told myself, I didn’t need to change after all.
I am pretty much normal.
By normal, I mean inclining myself to things that are closer to my heart: I found myself loving the arts. I felt an immeasurable freedom in every brushstroke that kisses the canvass , in every metaphor that caresses my journal, and in every song that soothes my spirit when I sing. There, I found myself. I learned to break the labels and understand my own uniqueness. In order to accept people, you need to accept yourself first. Of course, it’s not a new paradigm, but it holds true. No religion or belief can help you if you don’t, as Rainier Maria Rilke wrote, “look deep into your heart”. I guess, that’s how I fought–being a homophobe to myself. And it cleared away the confusion.
I don’t loathe religion. Yes, I continue to be Catholic. But that will never be a chain nor a muzzle that would thwart me from expressing myself. After all, loving the things that I love without being judged makes me feel…more human.