By Joyce Reyes-Aguila
A few weeks ago, a commercial from a locally established retail brand went viral. It depicted a teenage son who, after being dropped off at school by his dad,would splash copious amounts of presumably feminine cologne on himself in an attempt to get the attention of a boy he liked. The “clueless” dad was portrayed to have assumed that his son was probably getting close to a girl. The teenager would just humor him in a “manly” way.
One day, the son ran out of perfume – the same day he had his heartbroken by the sight of his crush with a girl. He went home, and his dad chided him that he didn’t have his usual scent. Not wanting to share what was wrong, the son went straight to his room.
On his dresser was a surprise. It was his favorite perfume – with a note confirming that his dad knew about his secret all along.
The ad sparked conversations about the members of the LGBT community and their experiences when it comes to “coming out” to their families. A conservative and religious society like the Philippines is only beginning to increase its awareness, sensitivity, and acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender sector.The journey to acceptance runs two ways – with a member of the family discovering that he or she is a part of the LGBT community, and his or her family accepting that.
Each family embarks on the journey in its own way, and often need to be informed about the kind of support their LGBT relatives need. We asked some members of the LGBT community about their experiences with “coming out” to their families. Here are some learnings that affirm just how valuable the support and unconditional love they get from the people who matter to them the most.
1.Sometimes they already know.
“When I came out to my family, they had this look like I was crazy,” shares Anna Molina, a Filipina based in the United States.“They said they knew all along that I was gay, and they could not understand why I had to declare my sexual identity to them. Looking back, I realized that their love and support is as unwavering now as it was then.”
2.They will accept you for who you are.
Celebrity makeup artist Erwin “Kleng” Oning is grateful to have a family with an open mind and heart. “They accept me for who I am,” he says. “I have never felt different.” In one of the guides shared by the Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays on the Irish website, lgbt.ie, parents are “totally unprepared for this development in their child.” They also feel shock, confusion, and fear and can sometimes tell their child that they have accepted them even if they have not fully come to terms with what is happening. The organization suggests finding experts or support groups that can provide information and support to “lessen the burden” and “reduce the risk of confrontation in the family.”
3.Know what homosexuality is not.
“It is neither imposed on us, nor do we acquire it like an illness,” says Jane, a gay makeup artist who do not want to reveal his real name. “I believe I was born into this world a homosexual.My life was quite difficult as a child because my father would physically discipline me because of my sexuality. He would repeatedly hit me on my back with a belt.I had to sleep with my stomach down because of the pain.”
4.Someone in your family will begin the love.
Jane shares that his mother would tell him he was ugly because he’s gay. “It was my grandmother who taught me who to love. Thanks to her, I never keep grudges and now only have love for my parents. Now, I have proven to them that I am responsible for myself and that I am able to care for them as well.”The acceptance of an LGBT member by his or her family does not always begin with a parent. In some cases, a sibling, cousin, grandparent, or even a distant relative can begin the conversation or be the guiding light an LGBT member needs within the family.
5.Never underestimate yourself or your parents.
“I always thought coming out to my parents would be a major drama,” shares Benny Alibasa. “But when I did so six years ago, it turned out to be fairly smooth– no melodrama, no histrionics. There was a bit of concern, but I was accepted wholeheartedly. In the end, I realized that the biggest hurdle to coming out was me and how I underestimated my parents’ love for me.” The corporate investigations specialist and writer has learned to embrace his identity from experience. “It is only when we learn to accept our identity that others would accept us for who we are,” he adds.
6.It starts with one person.
“I grew up in a big family with an aunt who is a lesbian,” says Chrissie (not her real name). “But nobody had to tell me that she was one or that there was something wrong or different with her. My mother says we should thank my grandfather for this. He accepted her early on and because of this, she was able to thrive in her career and personal life. It helped me to appreciate lesbians and gays as well. I love having them as friends. Having a person like my grandpa in the family allowed me even at a young age to love my aunt like all my other aunts.”