Part 5: We Are Family (or Dealing With Our Givens)
Ah family! We can choose our friends but we can’t choose who we’re born into.
Sadly that’s what I grew up with. I don’t remember my parents being vocally against homosexuals. But their behavior towards them spoke volumes, how easily they dismissed them, and how they turn their noses up against the homosexuals in our neighborhood. My parents were outwardly friendly to the baklang mananahi named Jamie, or to the baklita who watched over the sari-sari store in front of our house. But they were still bayot, and as far as my parents were concerned, they did not measure up to being a man.
Thank god my parents sent me to a particular Jesuit institution, and thank god for the pasaway Jesuits and their pasaway teachers who taught me to think for myself. I really understood the value of questioning what was taught to you back when you were helpless to resist.
Another difficulty for those growing up in the closet is the idea of coming out to one’s own family. There’s this pressure for full disclosure to the people you love; the idea being, if you love someone then you should be completely honest with them. After all, coming out is a sign of trust, right?
Sadly, it’s a lot more complicated than that when it comes to blood relations. Family dynamics are like snowflakes; no two are exactly alike. And for every “painless” coming out story, there’s an opposite story that shows the sad truth of parents not being able to understand and accept their gay son or daughter. And what makes it different from partners and friends is that you do not choose your family. Even if you decide to completely cut ties with them (or vise versa), the the fact remains that there is a biological connection. Perhaps that fact will eventually become inconsequential; or sadly, it may become a source of contention and friction later on in life (for example, if there are inheritance issues).
At first I too thought, “Oh no, one day I should come out to my parents. They deserve to know who I really am.” But I kept pushing it off, waiting for the “right” time. Then my dad died, so I thought, hey, it’ll be easier to tell my mom. But I still kept putting it off. Then one day it dawned on me: I am not defined by my sexuality. I am more than just what I do in the privacy of my bedroom. And adults understand that it’s okay if some things are better left unsaid. I mean, do I really wanna know the sexual activities and proclivities of my mom?!
So now I have a relaxed attitude towards my family with regards to coming out. If they ask me, I won’t lie. But if they don’t ask me, I won’t volunteer.
Every gay guy who’s still struggling with the idea of coming out to their family should be assured that you do not have to come out, especially if they don’t feel compelled to do it. And no one has the right to compel you. Coming out to the family is an individual decision, and as I said, individuals are as different as snowflakes. You are as dazzling as a snowflake, whether you are out to your family or not.
(Up next, Part 6: Alone)