Coming out is not one of those beautiful things that people get to experience in their lives. It’s not like a rollercoaster ride where adrenaline rushes to your whole body and you get to laugh it off afterwards. Even if you plan it thoroughly, it will be the most nerve wracking thing you’ll ever have to prepare for. It’s not a school report where you can control the outcome if you only did your research right and showed off confidence. If you were forced and dragged out of the closet, it might as well be your funeral. No matter how cool your parents or family might be, it will not be beautiful.
How I came out
I came out to my mom and family at least four times in my life. The first time was when I was 11 years old and in the fifth grade in an all-girls school in Manila. I went home from school on Monday, my mom was cleaning my room, which was very odd as I just cleaned it the weekend prior. She was by the door holding a bunch of paper. I recognized it right away, they were letters that I stuffed inside a pillow. They weren’t even love letters or anything like that, but they were gossip notes wherein my friends from school passed on to each other which contained names of our girl crushes. I just got my first boy haircut that month. I think that was the dead giveaway. I remember the slap on my face and the pulling of my new revealed sideburns. My sister just watched during the whole time. My relationship with my entire family became more distant than ever. For years after that, I became my mom’s favorite target. Every mistake I made was accounted for as rebellion and an act of treason in our family’s name.
The second time I was forced to come out was just months after my father died. To be honest I wished it was me in my father’s casket. My father was a sensible man, caring and very accepting. His death meant that I was alone amongst enemy territories. This was the beginning of my blackout episodes and autopilot moments. This coming out was a blurry one and almost turned violent. I can’t remember if it was in our home or my aunt’s house. All I can remember was we were sitting at a dining table and my brother, who was 15 years older than me suddenly blurted out screaming, “Tomboy ka ba? Tibo ka ba?” (Are you a tomboy? Are you a lesbian?) I remember him tugging so hard on my shirt that it was ruined. I didn’t say a word but just cried. It went on for days. He didn’t live with us, but had to move back when my dad died. My brother was my best friend when I was young and idolized him so much. I wasn’t prepared to turn him into an enemy.
The third time, my girlfriend in college visited me at home. I was not in class for a whole week, because I was down with something. She came by with a basket of fruits. She stayed with me the whole day and left very late at night. It screamed lesbian, I guess, because after she left my mother went down to the living room to have “the talk” with me. “The talk” in the LGBTQ community is not about the birds and the trees, it’s about WTF you’re doing with your life-talk.
I was already 19 years old at this time and graduating. I was ready if she would tell me to pack and leave. I had everything planned out on how I would live my life if it happened. But somehow, the talk still got me. We were in the living room for probably 5 hours, which really felt longer. It was the longest cry I’ve ever had in a day. It was longer than my cry when my father died. I was crying, because my mom was crying. I was crying, because I know that I’m still the same person but nobody can see it. I was crying, because it meant I had to grow up within that day. I was crying, because I didn’t want to hurt anybody for who I am. I didn’t want to be the reason why any human being would doubt who they are, especially in parenting. I remember my mom asking me the most dreadful thing any child would have to hear, “Anong pagkakamali ko sa pagpapalaki sa’yo?” (What mistake did I do in taking care of you?).
Little do they know I never associated myself with the term lesbian.
Fast forward to 2016, I was already identifying as transgender male at this point. For two years, I hid it from my family but was open to everyone else on my friends list on Facebook. I didn’t think that I had to come out again to my family. It was something I didn’t want to go through all over again, well-planned or not. I was part of a transgender-male focused organization and I had to go to Malaysia. I was chosen to be part of an exchange leadership program. I lived in Kuala Lumpur for two months. Before I left, I told my mother the reason why I was chosen for that program. It was because I was a member of the LGBTQ community, I was part of a transgender-male organization, PioneerFTM and I’m transgender male. But also because I was a writer, photographer, and had knowledge in social media managing. She didn’t really understand what it was completely, but she didn’t ask me to elaborate. I felt that she was proud, because she helped me prepare for my trip. I was already 32 years old. In the years I was alive after coming out, it was the first time that I felt I was supported by her. She even picked me up from the airport. She had to meet my trans-woman leadership buddy. She and my sister respected my trans-woman friend and called her with the right pronouns. She had Adobo waiting for me at home. I don’t know exactly what happened, maybe it was because I was chosen for something great as me, in my gender and my skills. Perhaps, it just gets easy as time goes by. I don’t really question it that much. I’m just glad that now she has accepted my gender.
What parents need to know
I think parents just need to know that we are okay. People do and say a lot of hurtful things because they want to protect us from life. They don’t necessarily want to hurt us, but they want us not to be hurt by other people. Fear of the unknown can make us all crazy. Dear parents, I suggest you let your children come out in their own terms. In the words of Simon Spier in the movie Love, Simon, “I’m supposed to decide when and where and who knows and how I want to say it.” Let them decide.
Did I turn out to be okay after being forced to come out? I don’t know. One thing I do know is I still have nightmares. I never got to plan a coming out party or any coming out where my terms were followed. Sometimes, I still question myself if I’m actually the person I wanted to be (whether I’m transgender male or not) or my did my will to survive alone molded my choices to where I am now.
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