I sat on the brown leather couch in the living room. My eyes were dry, and I felt the snot dripping down my nose. My mom was on my left, my siblings were sitting around me. Nobody wanted to be there. I’ve never wanted to be more invisible. I tugged at my shirt to let some cool air in.
I don’t want to lie anymore.
Whatever happens, I’ll understand Lord.
I’m gay and You think that’s bad, but please God, don’t let my dad hate me.
Suddenly, my dad came in through the front door. I saw the nervous look on my older sister’s face. As dad walked past us towards the kitchen, I stood up and walked towards the hallway.
“Dad,” I said, “can we talk in my room, please?”
I walked into my room and waited for him to follow.
ACT I — Babae o Lalaki
My mom said that as early as three years old, I was always silly and loved to sing. Whenever I could, I’d belt out the song “Colors of the Wind” from my favourite movie, Pocahontas. I honestly can’t tell you why I loved that movie so much, but I do know that I’m still fascinated by long hair. I loved it so much that I would grab a dark green bath towel from the closet and place it on my head to look like hair. Balancing on the armrest of our textured brown couch, I would pretend to jump off as if I was Pocahontas jumping into the river. I didn’t know it then, but I loved the idea of having long hair and acting like a Disney princess. Thinking about it makes me happy.
For a while it was funny, but as I got older, acting like a princess was no longer a laughing matter.
Babae o lalaki?
Are you a boy or a girl?
Be a man.
My dad went through these phrases every time I did something he didn’t like. Not things like skipping class or doing drugs — I was a good boy.
Babae o lalaki?
Are you a boy or a girl?
Be a man.
He said this to me when my hips swayed as I walked or whenever my voice sounded “like a girl.” He told me once that he pointed these things out because he wanted me to fix them so nobody at school would bully me about it. I’m happy he got his wish.
Nobody at school bullied me about it.
Just him. Just my dad.
I still wonder if other people grew up anxious about their parents’ opinions. As a kid, when I felt sad about these comments, I’d say I was going to take a nap and then cry alone in my room. When I asked my family if they remembered, my mom said she never noticed, but my sister said she knew every time.
“I knew it hurt your feelings,” she said, “but I didn’t know any better back then.”
None of them did. Nobody checked on me or cared to ask if I was okay. Why would they? They were just trying to make sure I wouldn’t be bullied at school.
Babae o lalaki?
Are you a boy or a girl?
Be a man.
I hated those phrases. I hated myself even more because I was the reason he said it.
I grew up doing as much as I could to make my parents proud of me.
I played the piano.
I joined an all-boys choir.
I brought home good grades.
No matter what I did, they didn’t make up for the fact I “acted like a girl.”
I never meant to act that way — I just wanted to be myself.
ACT II — Praying in the Closet
Six months after I came out to my family, I told my mom how much our family’s words hurt me. It wasn’t just my dad who made me feel ashamed of myself. My siblings did it too. Sometimes even her.
While she said sorry for letting me endure that pain on my own, she was more grateful my faith in God was strong enough to keep me safe. I used to see stories about kids running away from home because their families couldn’t accept them.
Had I not known how to pray, maybe I would’ve been just like them.
My parents raised my siblings and me to be faithful Roman Catholics. As a child, going to church was the best because the scent of the wooden pews and the sound of meaningful silence meant I could nap pretty comfortably — I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still do that sometimes.
At the age of seven, my parents forced me to be an altar server with my sister. I hated it. It wasn’t because I hated being at the front of the church, in fact I loved that, but I sweat a lot as a child and the thick polyester robes didn’t do me any favours.
Nonetheless, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t enamored by God.
I remember my family and I would pray together in my parents’ room right before going to bed, and instead of praying “Our Father,” we would sing it the way we would in church. The priest always had a small solo towards the end of the prayer, and every time we prayed it at home, I always insisted on singing it.
Deliver us Lord
From every evil
Grant us peace
In our days
In your mercy
Keep us free from sin
And protect us from all anxiety
As we wait in joyful hope
For the coming of Jesus Christ
Many people still ask me how I can worship a God that would damn me one day, but He was the only God I ever knew.
My whole life I believed there was something wrong with me because I wanted to have long hair. I believed there was something wrong with me because while my brother liked playing with cars, I wanted to sing Disney songs. I believed there was something wrong with me because I was gay — gay people are sinners, and sinners go to hell.
As I grew up, I began serving the church in the youth ministry, and then as a psalmist in the choir. My parents smiled when they saw me approach the altar. I was happy to make them happy. I was happy because serving God took my “gay guilt” away.
Looking back, I can’t remember if anybody ever told me being gay was bad, but I do remember hearing some of my friends from youth ministry say “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” whenever the topic came up.
I did my best to follow this teaching. I suppressed my gayness, and if I ever slipped, my family reminded me I had to work harder.
Babae o lalaki?
Are you a boy or a girl?
Be a man.
Thank you for giving me the life I have. Thank you for bringing my family to Canada and for taking care of us always. Thank you for the food, the shelter, and the life I have here. Most of all, thank you for my family — not everyone has a healthy and loving family and I thank you for blessing me with them, especially my mom and dad.
Lord God, I believe you created everything in this world, but something isn’t clear to me. If you hate gay people, why did you make me this way?
ACT III — Mew and Tong
The first time I knew I was gay was when I was 13 and watched my first gay-romance movie — The Love of Siam. It was a Thai movie about two childhood friends named Mew and Tong. Their story was infatuating, and I wanted to find a love like theirs.
While they didn’t end up together at the end of the movie, their story taught me something about falling in love: you can be with someone you don’t truly love, and you can love someone deeply and not be with them at all.
For a long time, I believed that was the ending I was meant to have in my life — loving only from far away. I was happy with that because I knew I wouldn’t ever disappoint my parents that way, but that was easier to believe at 13 than it is now at 21.
If you’ve ever watched a rom-com without being in a relationship, you know how I felt watching couples at school. It wasn’t exactly jealousy, but I constantly asked God when it was my turn to fall in love.
God works in mysterious ways, and no other event in my life was more mysterious than meeting him.
Four months before I came out to my parents, I started dating him.
He was an international student from Vietnam with thick hair he constantly pushed back. His small hands fit comfortably in mine. When I think about him, I remember the taste of mouthwash on his slightly dry lips, and the scent of his Burberry cologne sprayed all over his indigo blazer.
He was my Tong.
Even though our love story was short, it made me realize how much I loved being in love with someone who loved me back.
This is what love is, and I’m allowed to feel this way about a boy.
Since both of us hadn’t come out to our families yet, we had to be creative with our little love story. I would lie to my parents about my work schedule and tell them I worked two hours earlier than my actual shift just so I could see him. We’d get cheese foam tea and park behind my work or a few houses down from his. All we really did was hold hands and listen to music, but I promise you we were in love.
Now that we’re not together, my heart aches whenever I drive by those places. I still wonder how we would’ve been if we didn’t have to worry about what our families thought of us. I wonder if we stood a chance at all.
Just like Mew and Tong, our love was true, but it wasn’t enough to keep us together.
ACT IV — Dad, I Have to Tell You Something
How do you tell your Roman Catholic family that you’ve been lying to them for months about having a boyfriend and have been gay all your life?
Do you write a letter and hide in your room? Do you text them while you’re at school?
How do you tell your family who you are?
You do it by keeping your love for them in everything you say and expect them not to do the same.
I came out to my sisters first. My older sister was excited and said she knew this day would come. My younger sister shrugged and said she didn’t really care about it. I loved that about her. My younger brother was the same, but unlike my sister, he hugged me. I loved my siblings a little more that night.
When I told my mom, I could tell she was scared. Not because I was gay, but because she didn’t know how to be a mother to a gay son. She told me she prayed to God and asked Him to guide her to do the right thing by me. I don’t remember everything she told me when I came out, but I remember us both crying at a McDonald’s when it happened. I don’t recommend coming out there.
My dad was the last family member I came out to.
He didn’t come to my room that night. I knew he didn’t want to have this conversation. After a few seconds of waiting, I heard voices in the living room.
Your son wants to talk to you about this…
Just because he’s gay, it doesn’t mean he’s not a bad person…
Will anything I say change what he is?!
My palms were sweating, but I wasn’t crying when I walked back into the living room.
When I saw my dad’s face, I knew he couldn’t handle what I wanted to tell him. His eyes were bright red with tears running down his face. His hands gripped the side of the table as if to help him stand. I felt terrible. I shattered him.
“Do whatever you want Patrick, but don’t expect me to accept this right now,” he said.
“If this is where we are right now dad, okay. I understand. I love you dad.”
I didn’t tell him how much he hurt my feelings as a child, or how much his approval meant to me. I didn’t tell him that I was dating a boy and kept it a secret from him. I didn’t tell him that I worked hard to make him proud of me. That I wanted to surround myself with so many accomplishments that even if he hated that I was gay, that he’d still be proud of me.
I didn’t tell him any of those things, but I felt lighter when I walked back to my room.
Even if he didn’t accept me, I knew he loved me very much.
I wish I could tell you that he accepted me the next day, and we were able to move on with our lives just like that, but I’d be lying. The house was quiet for a bit whenever my dad and I were in the same room. We eventually found some normalcy together, but we didn’t talk about what happened that night.
I missed him very much during this time. Even if we constantly saw each other, I knew things were different. Looking back at it now, I realized that he never hated me at all in this time, but just like my mom — he didn’t know how to be a father to a gay son.
I truly believed my dad would kick me out of the house tonight. I believed I could no longer be in this family, but that wasn’t Your plan for me. Thank you for keeping my family together — even if my dad can’t accept me today. Gay or straight, you’ve never forsaken me Lord God, thank you.
A few weeks after coming out, I prepared to move to the US for a 4-month internship. It was the first time I’ve ever been that far away from my family for that long. My parents came with me to help me move in, and during the last hour before they flew home, my dad pressed his hand on mine and smiled.
It’s okay. You’re a good boy, you’ll always be my best buddy.
ACT V — Will God Still Love Me Tomorrow?
I can’t recall a time when a priest said God hated gay people. When I asked my mom, my dad, my sister, and my friends from youth ministry who taught them to look down on gay people, they all said they didn’t know.
Who told you God hated gay people?
What do they teach you about gay people in the seminary?
Where did you learn to make me feel so bad about myself?
My sister told me since the Philippines is such a religious country, it’s possible people don’t like gays because they’re different from other people. She added that it’s been this way for so long that people find it “almost natural” to look down on gay people. My mom and dad kind of said the same thing, except my dad used the word “weird” instead of “different.”
Even though my dad accepts me now, he told me there’s still a part of him that prays to God for me to be straight. I realized coming out doesn’t stop when you tell your family — it’s an inevitable conversation you’ll have with everyone you allow into your life.
I wasn’t angry when my dad said that, but I cried a bit in my room that night.
I think part of me is still the same way. I don’t pray to God to make me straight, but whenever I tell people I’m gay, I can hear a bit of shame in my voice.
As much as my parents didn’t know how to care for a gay son, I don’t think I know how to be a gay person.
When I told my mom how much I tried to surround myself with achievements to make them proud of me, she told me she loved me no matter what.
When I asked a friend from youth ministry if being gay was a sin, she told me gay people challenge “natural law.” God created men and women to be together to reproduce and the love between two men or two women can’t do that. She added that no sin is greater than another and living in hope was the truest way to get to heaven.
For so long, I believed that heaven was a paradise a person could achieve by accumulating a series of good deeds and accomplishments and by avoiding as many sins as you could. I believed that there was a hierarchy among Roman Catholic people, and that being gay put me at the bottom.
I don’t think God sees us that way; it’s people who create that narrative on their own — whether it benefits them or not. If God did, then I don’t think He would’ve guided me to this point in my life.
I believe God doesn’t hate gay people – therefore, gay people don’t necessarily have to hate God. I believe God is love, and by choosing to live in love, I choose to live in God — regardless of who I love. I don’t believe God creates people just so they can go to hell.
God has a plan for us all, and He works in mysterious ways.
I read a study about religion and homosexuality that says a person’s “coming out” experience is defined by the stigma created by homophobia in society.
I often wonder how different my life would’ve been if I had grown up in the Philippines.
My coming out story was the result of years of brave individuals coming out, living their truths, and showing the world that love is love.
I hope my story does the same, so no child is ever asked babae o lalaki?
This worship song was written by a few friends of mine when we used to be very active in our church youth group. It’s about having hope in times of hopelessness. Thank you for reading my story, and I wish you the best with yours.
Lord It’s You Written by: Roshelle Raquin, Jiselle Ariola, and Kristin Manibo Music by: Kristin Manibo