Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Coming out and its many layers

I used to be content that only my friends knew.

I wasn't your stereotypical son, though.  In the early years, my parents saw me as the strange and irritating child who loved to be loud and act crazy.  I always made faces in family pictures.  I always indulged in horror movies while the rest of the family found them disturbing.  I hated sports.  Though I was active in running, then later tennis, and even much later, swimming, I was the kid who could score a three-point shot while running around the basketball court screaming, "I HATE THIS GAME!"

Yep, stepping out of the closet required image here. 
And I loved Halloween.

Every year I'd host these huge parties, dressing up the separate house where we used to hold the parties with artwork and decor that I'd come up with through the creative use of newspapers, latex paint, crepe paper and  foil.  My Halloween parties were legendary (at least among my friends) and so were my costumes.  From Freddy Kreuger to Giger's Alien, I dressed up in many disturbing costumes and usually even had my own tiny act to accompany it.

My first crush was a girl.  She had the sweetest smile and the deepest blue eyes.  I met her in Bukidnon and I found myself wondering if I'd ever see her again.

But the first person I fell in love with was my best friend.  He and I used to hang out nightly either at the nearby alleyway or at the village park, to stare at the stars, to smoke cigarettes, and to talk about life.  We would talk about our hopes, dreams and fears and we would only stop talking when we felt the dawn creeping close.

My high school years were horrible.  I was starting to realize my sexuality then, after a horrifying moment in gym class when a boner sprung out unexpectedly on me while the rest of my classmates were getting dressed to take a swim.  I locked myself in a dressing chamber and prayed for it to fade away.  The years to follow were filled with me being insulting and cruel to the evidently gay classmates we had.  It wasn't because I was envious of their freedom, as many writers would try to claim.  For me, it was because I could not stomach I was "one of them."

I tried to kill myself a few times after.  Being from a religious family, I didn't want this horrible secret to leak out and taint the family name.   It took three attempts to lash myself, and three "coincidences" happening to stop me for me to wake up to the truth that I wasn't meant to do that.  The last one had a classmate calling me out of nowhere at 3a.m. to tell me he had a dream demanding I needed his help.  That classmate saved my life and even now, I doubt he remembers it ever happened.

Eventually, I told my best friend.  One night on the way home from our usual talks, I threw out the question, "What would you do if I was gay?"  He laughed at the question and though it was absurd.  Before he headed home, I threw out a, "By the way, that question earlier?  I am."  And didn't hear from him for the next day.   The following day, however, he showed up and we were just as we always were.  He told me, "I realized you were still you.  So it shouldn't be a problem."

We're still friends.  He's married and with kids.  But we aren't as much in touch as before anymore.

In college, it was easier to find others to talk to about myself.   But it was harder to make sense of things.  Unlike many who abuse the term, I was an honest-to-goodness bisexual who loved and passionately made love to people, regardless if they were men or women.  In college, there were the loud gays and the quiet secretive ones.  I decided I was more like the quiet ones.

Friends new.  Teachers new.  A fellow student even had me in a documentary (which I believe is still in DLSU's archives) on me talking about threesome relationships and why mine worked (for only 9 months though, after which all the lies were revealed and I had to start over).  But family, no they never knew.

I first came out to my brother.   One night he dragged me out with him to a fastfood chain to talk to me about something that was greatly worrying him.  As it turned out, he and his girlfriend were getting serious and he wasn't sure how to break the news to our parents.  I told him, "You have it easy.  Trust me.  Guess what my problem is?"  And when I told him, he agreed.  I was gonna have it tough.

A few years later, I came out to my mother's eldest brother.  He was in the theater industry and was for certain much more open-minded about these things.  He consoled me and congratulated me on my bravery and admitted that my mom would probably find it hard to just accept things.  "Give it time," he reminded me, "But tell her when you are sure it is time."
"Huli ka!"
During all these passing years, I had relationships.  Guys.  Girls.  My parents knew all my girlfriends.  Some they loved.  Others they hated.  My parents met all my boyfriends.  They were all my "new bestfriends" in their eyes.  Deep down I suspected they already knew.  There was that NewYorker skirt my mom gave me one Christmas supposedly, "In case you needed a skirt for a theater play."   There were the gay porn magazines I once found suddenly neatly arranged (by date!) in their hiding place.  There was also that time I was having sex and left the phone off the cradle, only to have my dad buzz my room asking me to put it down.  Oh and there was that one time I was giving someone head when someone tapped at my window.  But I guess it was safe to say they didn't see anything. Hear though, I feared they had.  The guy was moaning pretty loud.
Yep, not all bisexuals are just guys afraid to admit they're gay.
My girlfriends all knew I was bisexual.  I always told them this fact before things got serious.  All admitted they were okay with it, but later would admit it wasn't the easiest thing to be okay with.  Many friends still feel I let "the right one go".  Personally, I think regardless of how things went, me and they all left with something new learned in their hearts and minds.

I had gotten so used to living between words and hiding relationships between definitions that I didn't think I'd ever need to come out.  So what if they always thought I had a best friend over?  So what if they never knew I loved him more than I thought I could ever love anyone else?

Then he came.  How the relationship started is an epic tale in itself - and yes it involves Transformers, dragons, songs, wavelengths, and tears, but that's a story for another day.  What it did bring was a sudden desire once again to be recognized.   To have our relationship recognized.   To be proudly able to say, "I am with him."

It took me a year to get ready.  It took me a year to weigh the odds:  Would I be thrown out of the house?  Can I survive without my parents being part of my life?  Am I really ready to do this?  Within that year, I took steps that prepared me for the final leap.  My partner and I marched on Gay Pride (which so many ignore and instead focus solely on the White Party) and I felt the anger and sadness for the people who were there to tell me I was evil and should not exist.  I heard the protesters rage about how I was bringing the end of the world.  I realized I needed to speak up.  I wanted to show we weren't the horrors they all thought.  I found strength in what my partner Rocky told me:  "Coming out is always a personal choice."  Part of me knew he was instrumental in this resurgence of wanting to be recognized, but he was right.  If I were to come out, it had to be because I wanted to.  Not because I was doing it for him.   Not because I had to.

And I realized, yes I wanted to.

Given all the cons of coming out, the pain and the possibilities of being disowned, I realized I wanted to be recognized as me.  I wanted to be honest about who I was.  I didn't want to be hidden between the lines anymore.  At least not to my parents.  Every year, my birthday was a day I'd get depressed seeing it as another year my parents did not know their own son.

I wanted them to know me.

And so I did.  One night, I told my parents I needed to talk to them.  April 21st.  It was the point of no return.    And finally, when we spoke, it was a moment I will always remember.  There were tears.  There were painful moments.  But there was also an unmistakable aura of love and strength.  My parents were finding it hard to accept, and much to my surprise never thought I was gay.  I didn't want to clarify that I was bisexual at first to make it easier for them, but when they asked about my girlfriends it didn't feel right for them to think they were all just foils to hide the truth.  But I came out, and in the end, they admitted that nothing will ever change the fact they love me and want me to be happy.

Now my parents know the whole story.
Breaking out at last!
They know about the fact I am living a happily geeky gay life with my partner and while they admit they aren't ready to see him yet or have me too openly talking about him, I feel overjoyed to know they know my life and  not just the lie I used to keep surrounding them.

They asked me to give them time, and I realize I at least will give them that.  I have yet to proclaim myself to the rest of the family that I am gay, but then again I don't really see the need to.  After all, I'm not hiding.  My blog and facebook profile openly speaks of my relationship and status.  My life openly reflects my lifestyle.   I have had some net savvy extended family members contact me and offer words of support.  But I've also had others who haven't heard the "chismis" and are still left in the dark.  My Lola recently asked me if I was still single.  I replied, "Tell you more about it next time Lola.  Best siguro ask my Mom.  But I want you to know I am very very happy and very very well cared for."
The Many Layers of Inception.
Pwedeng analogy to the many layers of the closet!
I like this feeling of being honest with myself and to others.
I understand that coming out has its layers.  Sometimes you can't quite come out completely in one go.  Some have the choice stripped from them.  Others choose to limit the circle of knowledge to what's convenient or comfortable for them.  But ultimately, coming out empowers.  And is a personal reminder to yourself that yes you can be who you are and not be afraid.

My name is Tobie Abad and I am proud to say I've come out.
I am proudly living with my partner, Rocky, and you can read about his coming out story here.
I hope others in time find the right moment for them to choose to do the same.
There will always be excuses and reasons not to.
But the choice to do so will always be yours unless you wait for the time it will be taken from you.


Twelth Curators

Your coming out's an adventure in many layers, just like inception. Nice one.

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