January 19, 2007

Gay and loving it


Something Like Life
Jan. 19, 2007

WHAT do you do when you feel like you've been living a lie all these years? Or that you've been leading two different lives...a public persona for everyone to enjoy or for the sake of good relations with your family and friends whom you think will not understand you; and a private one which you personally delight in, making you breathe easier, but at the same time leaves you looking over your shoulder, scared of being found out by people you care about?

For many of my gay friends, "coming out" was not the proverbial walk in the park. In fact, a few of them still struggle to this day to actually reveal themselves, afraid of the social repercussions of their homosexuality. They are anxious that other people will think they are less intelligent, less sincere, even, dare I say it? "abnormal" because they are gay. They fear that people, even those who don't really matter to their existence, will not comprehend why they "chose" that way of life. As if being gay was really a matter of choice. It just isn't a lifestyle one can select, like slipping on a glittering pair of stiletto boots, or be discarded like a filthy old jersey sweatshirt.

My gay friends have always told me that they knew, one as early as three years old, that they were "different". As young boys they loved playing dress up in their mom's clothes, one liked cutting the hair of his sister's dollies. Another was so enamored with his mother's dancing, she being a divine ballerina in her heyday.

I've had friends who were army brats, and one was frequently beaten up by his dad, an army captain, whenever he was found out doing "female" things, like wearing a dress. This friend told me that he would just quietly cry in his room ("ala Nora Aunor in Sidhi") after the beatings. His mom did not even try to get between him and his dad to stop her husband�s violence. Neither did she try to comfort him in his tears.

And if it was bad at home, sometimes it was worse at school. Some of them studied in exclusive Catholic schools for men, where being gay in their day was almost equivalent to a public hanging. If not beaten up by bullies, there were frequent teasing and taunts. As I size up my gay buddies who grew up in such an oppressive environment, either of two things happened. Either they withdrew, some hitting the books like mad, and are now a delight to converse with on most subjects; or they adopted outrageous personalities, became outgoing and hysterically funny perhaps, to entertain their classmates as a way to escape their fists.

I have a friend who has gay brothers, and I know one famous gay personality whose father was also gay. (I don't know if he ever knew that his dad was gay, though his dad's sexual proclivities were quite known among his colleagues in their day.) This, of course, strongly suggests, and as some scientific studies may have already shown, that one can be genetically predisposed to homosexuality, as opposed to some psychologists' continuing belief that one is a product of one's environment. (For example: you grow up with a ballerina mom and her gay dancer friends, you will probably end up being gay yourself.)

While genetic scientists are still trying to find the "homosexual gene", they have already narrowed it down to a certain region or genetic sequence in the X chromosome. (The studies are focused on male homosexuality so far.) Some of the studies also support the theory that the gene markers are almost always passed on by mothers. Good grief! I can just hear mothers everywhere groan, "And yet another thing we're going to be blamed for!" Hang that, witch!

When you have gay friends who are a delight to be with – the perfect shopping companion, relationship bridge, chismis buddies – and you revel in their amusing anecdotes, it is easy to forget that a number of them have led very difficult lives. Some of them may have been scorned by their fathers and brothers, a handful perhaps doted on by their mothers and understanding siblings. In fact, I only have one gay friend whose father accepted him unconditionally, leaving him free to be his own person. It is a love my friend is only too willing to reciprocate, taking good care of his folks in their retirement now that he is financially well-off.

At an opposite end, one whose father and brothers have shunned him became engaged in destructive behavior, sinking into a drug-filled lifestyle, with a string of lovers maintained by a crack addiction. It is a pity that at his age, he is hard-pressed to keep a good job, and has a severe lack of confidence despite his intelligence, wit and a college degree.

OK, this isn't a time to blame mothers or fathers; however, family acceptance really does play a key role in the formation of an upright gay citizen. It is bad enough to feel different or unusual, but to have people you care about and look up to treating you like a freak, it can be devastating. While gays are now well accepted by most of society, some still want to keep their sexuality a secret from their families. Or if they have told their families the truth, the latter just can't deal with it.

A number of my gay friends have managed to shake off such feelings of abandonment, rising above their tragedies, and becoming successes in their fields. In their minds, they feel lucky as they know they are surrounded by friends who love them and understand them. Yet in their hearts, they still fervently pray to be accepted completely by their folks. No matter how successful one becomes, family approval is still a prize all of us, gay or straight, try to secure. But as one gay friend told me, he can't wait forever for his father to finally come around. And sometimes the best thing for one's psyche is to learn to just let go, and move on.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror.)

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