I was eight years old when I first went on the internet. I had a Friendster account that was set up by my mother. Later on, Facebook. At the age of 10, I made a Twitter account. But I was 13 years old when I learned about the mysterious wonders of Tumblr.
At the time, Tumblr catered to young people dressed in black from head to toe, or tennis skirts and black boots to match "Bae" statement shirts. Everyone was into artists like The 1975, Arctic Monkeys, and Lorde. My feed was full of melancholic quotes stamped on grid backgrounds. I remember reblogging a post that said: "Why are we drifting away from things that we could save?" I'm certain I didn't know what it meant exactly, but I resonated with it.
I would be lying to myself if I said that I didn't enjoy the grunge aesthetic and teen-angst culture of the platform. But Tumblr, for me, was more than that. It was my safety blanket—a website that allowed me to be genuinely me.
As a boy studying in a Catholic high school rife with homophobia and bullying, I feared facing my sexuality. I convinced myself I wasn't gay— perhaps it was just a phase. I shrugged it off because I dreaded I might be unwelcome in my school, or in any place for that matter.
I needed a safe space, and I couldn't help but rely on the internet since I was still mustering up the courage to officially come out to my family and friends.
It was late one night, casually scrolling through Tumblr, that I stumbled upon Frank Ocean's letter about having a relationship with a man. At that time, I had no idea he was a singer and songwriter. All I knew was that he was queer, and that his letter mattered to me.
The website changed, and perhaps so did we. Still, I continue to look for another platform that makes me feel accepted and does not make me feel wrong.
I remember his exact words: "Whoever you are, wherever you are, I'm starting to think we're a lot alike," and "I don't have any secrets I need kept anymore." Ocean also thanks his mother in the latter part of his letter: "I know I'm only brave because you were first, so thank you." I felt comforted. It eased the pressure I had been carrying, knowing that my mother would definitely understand me for who I am.
My heart was beating fast and my hands were trembling seconds before I sent my coming-out message to my mother. I told myself this was my truth, and I needed to set myself free from fear. It was, of course, hard for my 13-year-old self to bear the challenge of coming out; still, it felt empowering. Even more, I found consolation in my mother's response. I did not need to prove that I was worthy of love and support.
To this day, Ocean's letter motivates me to brave the world despite its thousands of ambiguities. It keeps me excited for what's in store in the future because I know I'm not alone.
After a couple of months, I discovered that Tumblr is also a platform that dissects different social issues and allows mutual discourse. I came across a post about feminism, and I was admittedly clueless about it. While some issues were discussed in school, such as women’s suffrage and the gender pay gap, neither my teachers nor textbooks told me ways to help eradicate them.
Gladly, people on Tumblr teach and learn from one another. I learned about patriarchy and how it affects women and men. I learned that to diminish this system, men must hold themselves accountable and share feminism’s goal of justice and equality for all.
Of course, these things do not only happen on Tumblr, but I find myself returning to it. I can’t be as genuine on Facebook because I fear being called out by a Tita for having a different opinion about politics. I fear being called out as bakla in a derogatory manner by a Tito if I share anything about being queer.
I left the ruins of Tumblr in 2015, much like everyone else on the scene. The website changed, and perhaps so did we. Still, I continue to look for another platform that makes me feel accepted and does not make me feel wrong about being different—the feeling that Tumblr gave me.