As someone who’s lived in the United States and in the Philippines, I can’t really say I’ve been discriminated against for my sexual orientation. When I realized I liked men and women equally in fifth grade, I lived in the sunny state of California, and while it was a confusing, awkward and painful ordeal for me, I’ve been blessed enough to make it through my formative years without going through anything remotely traumatic.
To skip out on middle school, I convinced my family to move us back to the Philippines, where at the time, you went straight to high school after sixth grade. I spent my first two years at a Catholic high school, so religious that the administrator would invite priests to our school just to hold confessionals in our chapel sometimes (though this may have been a common thing since the country is a Catholic majority).
13-year-old me wanted to test the waters one day and told the priest I liked girls just to hear what he would say. “He’s going to tell me to go to hell,” I thought. To my surprise, he told me God would accept me for who I am, before ushering me to pray five Hail Mary’s.
I was already out by that point, and I remember coming out by writing something corny on a wristband and anxiously making sure everyone saw it. Just like my experience in California, nothing really significant happened to me. I was one of the two other out girls in my high school, and they both happened to be in my class. Unsurprisingly, I had a crush on both of them at separate times at some point.
While I am in California again and a little older than I was since high school, I knew my attraction to women wasn’t something that I could “grow” out of. When I fall for a woman, my feelings are real and makes me feel fuller as a person, so when I was scrolling through headlines on Monday and read about Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte saying he was gay before being “cured” when he met his then wife, I felt disgusted and repulsed.
While I am in California again and a little older than I was since high school, I knew my attraction to women wasn’t something that I could “grow” out of. When I fall for a woman, my feelings are real and makes me feel fuller as a person.
Duterte has a long history of publicly supporting LGBT-related issues before backpedaling on his stances. Philippine news organization Rappler reported that Duterte said that he “initially appeared to have liberal views on homosexuality” when he was campaigning for president back in 2016 but has gone back and forth on issues such as same-sex marriage.
Internalized homophobia in Filipino culture has always existed despite the allusion that the Philippines is a liberal country when it comes to being inclusive to the LGBT community. Like Duterte, some believe in stereotypes and misconceptions about us, one being that heterosexual relationships will stop a person from batting for the other side. (I mean, have you seen “My Husband’s Lover” and “The Rich Man’s Daughter?”) Believing in such falsehoods only interferes with our progress and hinders our ability to grow out of the images that we’re forced to be upheld to.
I am attracted to men, women and people who don’t fall in between, and I’m comfortable enough in my skin to admit that and fully embrace what that means to me both as a Filipino and as an American. I am a woman no matter who I fall in love with, so sorry, Mr. President, that I don’t share the same thoughts.