My childhood was not the most enjoyable one, with it being filled with insults that target my sexuality.
In school, most of the boys liked to assert their masculine dominance over frail and soft-spoken kids like me. Every time I showed the slightest bit of "unmanly" qualities, they would start to yell that insufferable chant "bakla! bakla! bakla!". Because of this, I instead chose to rub elbows with the girls.
The thing is, all of it was true. I am a bona fide homosexual man who has never once felt a single attraction towards girls.
But it took no less than eighteen years for me to come out of the closet, for me to fully accept my sexuality.
Growing up in the closet
Looking back, I think that I had always been like this even before I knew what the word “bakla” meant and what it meant for me.
I remember how, when I was about four or five years old, I would often go to my aunts’ room and walk around the house in her high-heeled shoes, but that stopped because I was told that boys shouldn't be wearing those.
My fondness for womanly accessories was merely the spark in my journey towards self-discovery. Later on, I became conscious of how I felt about those of the same sex.
In grade school, I was introduced to this superhero cartoon called Teen Titans. Robin, the leader of the heroic group, was the one who caught my eye the most. Everything—from his black and white domino mask to his spiky black hair to his stoic and brooding personality—were all so very alluring to me. I felt an attraction to him that was… different… from what I felt with the two boys from my toddler years.
This attraction to fictional characters eventually was replaced by actual people, but by then, it was clear to me by the constant verbal torment from my classmates that this desire I have for the same sex is not welcomed for some.
All of this can be traumatizing for a child who is still beginning his difficult, confusing, and vulnerable journey to discovering who he is and who he wants to be. And so for the rest of my elementary years, I denied it. Everything–from liking girly accessories to being attracted to boys–I denied everything that could possibly associate me with homosexuality.
I tried convincing myself that I was merely a late bloomer in seeing the appeal of the opposite sex, that I would one day meet a girl who I could start a family with.
Realizing the undeniable truth
As I grew older and became increasingly curious about matters of sex, I had fallen further into these vulgar desires for the same gender. I was exposed to NSFW websites quite early on and began to indulge myself in watching videos of heterosexual couples.
When I discovered porn sites, I indulged myself in videos of heterosexual couples, thinking that if I were exposed to the bare bodies of women, it would eventually set me on the right path. Sadly, it did not.
By the time I finally accepted these desires of mine, it was too late. I had built a stable image that I was straight, and I couldn’t just break that like some fragile vase. I couldn’t just walk up to everyone I know–my friends, and most importantly, my family–and blurt out that I was gay after persistently refuting that I was. If I did, their entire perception of me would certainly change, and I was scared of that.
It was my dad who I was scared of telling my true self the most, and the fact that he is a stereotypical “manly” dad doesn’t help my case either.
Because of our conflicting interests, I was never truly close with him as I did with my mom. We never conversed with one another for more than thirty minutes and even if we do talk, our dialogue is stiff and terse, like we don’t even know what to say to each other. I fear that this fragile string that connects the two of us would be easily severed by my revelation.
Opening the closet
I started to feel hopeless that I was going to remain like this forever. Masked, unhappy, and suffocated. But everything changed in August of my last year in high school.
I came out.
I told my secret to one of my closest and dearest friends. It was as anti-climactic as a message on Facebook, but it was one of the most stomach-churning moments in my life.
I knew that if I told her, there was no going back. I knew her for three years, and in that relatively short period of time, we had many moments where she shared with me the vulnerable side of herself, and I guess this was what spurred me to show her mine too before college life would pull us apart.
For the first time, I was finally able to be true to myself after years of hiding behind the mask of heterosexuality. I was finally free to exhale this breath that I’ve been holding for a very long time.
As I let more people see what’s behind my mask, two of them confessed that they were also part of the LGBTQ community and that they too, couldn’t reveal their true selves.
Finding out that I wasn’t alone in this helped me enormously. We found solace with one another, sensing a layer of connection between us that could only be understood by members of the same community.
But my coming out wasn’t always a voluntary act. One of my worst fears had come to pass—I was forced to unmask myself to my own mother.
We had a horrible argument that day as a result of an awful insult I said to her. The problem was rooted from my desire to grow out my hair, to which my mom persistently disapproved. I probably wouldn’t have reacted in such a violent way had she not ruthlessly interrogated me on my sexuality, because according to her, I was a boy and it was unsightly for boys to have long hair.
The two of us began to talk, and I unleashed everything from the deepest recesses of my fragile being—my fear of being a disappointment, of my family looking at me with disgust, of mom being uncomfortable with me, and of dad saying that he doesn’t want a gay man as his son.
And then she said the words that I wanted to hear from her for a long time: "Huwag ka na umiyak, tanggap kita."
Having the person who you were so scared of disappointing your whole life actually say that there was nothing wrong with who you came to be was the single most emotionally relieving thing you could hear.
The start of my coming out journey
As my last year of high school ended and I ascended to college, I decided tell my friends. I had become more and more like myself than I have been during the fifteen years since I realized that I was gay.
I grew to love and embrace my effeminate voice that had brought me so much suffering in the past, I learned to get over my insecurities when I hang out with a group of girls, and I became more comfortable with the things I’m interested in, whether or not they are appropriate for my sex.
Of course, I could never fully abolish the fear. I still can’t bring myself to tell the rest of my family because I feel that they aren’t ready yet for what I’m about to tell them.
But that's okay. Coming out of the closet doesn't need to be a one-time grand gesture. It's a journey that you can take for as long as you are comfortable with. Don't be guilty that you're choosing who to trust with your true self because that decision to reveal your sexuality is yours and yours alone and no one else has the right to take that away from you.
My coming out journey still isn't over, but my fears no longer overwhelmed me like it used to. They no longer had the power to smother me into ceaseless silence. I was finally in control of it all–my choices, my feelings, my everything.
It may be a little late, but it feels like my life is finally just beginning, and this wouldn’t be possible had I not taken the courageous leap to come out to my friend.
I realize now that this is all it really takes. To have a spark of courage. The desire to change the course of your life and the determination to do it.
I hope that one day, I’ll get to sit down with my dad, perhaps in a fancy restaurant with a breathless view of the city, and tell him with proud eyes and valiant smile everything about me, but what matters at the moment is that I did it and I’m now on my way to breathe in new experiences and memories with my true self.