Out & Proud: Ryan
I came out when I was 17 years old. Born and raised in London, I was out and proud to everyone. My friends at college and university. Even my brother and sister.
… everyone except my Filipino religious Catholic strict parents.
I eventually came out to my parents when I was 32 years old.
This is my personal (gradual) out and proud story.
I knew I was gay when I was 16. I embraced it and accepted who I was. I was and have always been determined to be happy and to make the best life for myself. Being born and growing up in London, it was not so difficult to come out. It was definitely not as difficult compared to those who came out before me or as difficult for LGBTs currently in the Philippines who do not live in busy cities.
I joined an LGBT group at university, went to London Pride and discovered London’s active gay scene. I met my first boyfriend in Heaven (a club in London). I was 19 years old and he was tall, dark, handsome and Dutch. He was the reason why I left London and moved to the Netherlands after graduating from University. We were together for 14 years.
Before I tell you how I came out to my parents, let me tell you….
ABOUT MY FILIPINO PARENTS:
Both from Pampanga, they left the Philippines in the 1970s for London. They met in London and both worked in hotels. My mother was a chamber-maid cleaning rooms and my father was a hotel doorman for a London’s Kensington elite.
My mother was my hero; with her first pay cheque, she bought a type writer and taught herself to speed type, eventually getting a job as a receptionist in hotels. Before she retired she worked in the offices of the local council. My father liked being outdoors; so he was a happy postman until he retired.
They left the Philippines to seek for a ‘better life’ for themselves in London. They worked hard to provide for me and my brother and sister. Like most Filipinos, they are also devout Catholics. We prayed the rosary every night as a ‘family’.
My parents have had a prayer group since I was 9 years old, The Sacred Heart of Jesus Prayer group. For those who don’t know what a prayer group is: they (my parents and their friends) would meet weekly on Sundays for church mass, and then they would bring statues of Jesus and Mary to peoples’ homes. They would pray and eat together, then pick up the statues and bring them to another person’s home to be picked up again the following Sunday.
Every Sunday we would drive around London in my dad’s van visiting MANY (predominantly Filipino) homes for people who were recently bereaved or just thankful or wishful for blessings.
It was a strict religious upbringing, particularly because my parents are traditionalists which meant that we would attend (high) mass in Latin. The churches were more solemn than regular Catholic churches; the women are all veiled, their skirts covering their knees and the Eucharist is taken on the tongue whilst kneeling down.
Summer vacations consisted of two-week pilgrimages to holy sites around Europe. I could tell you more about how religious my parents are. Alternatively, here is a (current) photo of my parent’s living room in London.
This is how it happened…
MY COMING OUT:
At 32 years old, I was living in the Netherlands and was back in London for a quick visit to family and friends. I was there to plan a vacation with a London friend who shared the name of my boyfriend. I told my parents that my friend was coming over tonight to plan our vacation. They (incorrectly) assumed I was bringing my boyfriend to meet them.
I was at the family home with my parents when my mother and father asked to speak to me. I sat on the couch and this is what my mother said:
“Ryan, we don’t want to meet him. We don’t want to meet your “friend”. We don’t agree with your lifestyle and we don’t accept it. What you are doing is a sin and you’re going to hell. I would rather die than to have you like that. I would rather be run over by a bus right now. We are so embarrassed. Don’t you think about what the other people (the Filipino community and her religious friends) around here will think about you and us. We’re not proud of you. We are ashamed of you. We don’t want any part of this. Why can’t you just be like your brother and sister?”.
My parents were not proud of me, they were abandoning me, I had failed them.
I sat there with my phone in the hand, typing up everything she was saying… I waited till my mother had finished talking before I spoke. I had played this scenario thousands of times in my head, and this is what I said:
“May I speak now? Because this is what you just said to me, your son: ‘that I am going to hell. That you would rather die and be run over by a bus right now. That you’re embarrassed and not proud of me.”
“She told me of a boy in her school who was murdered by the kid’s father for being gay. I understood that a lot of her fear for me (being gay), was her fear that society would not accept me, that I would be hurt or end up unhappy.”
“Is this the Catholic way of speaking to your son? You say that you worry about what other people will think of me and us; I know that the Filipinos in the area know that am gay and do not have a problem with it. They know who I am, and they would all be proud to have me as their son. You guys don’t know me, you have never tried. You don’t know about my life or anything about it. I have been with the same guy for 14 years. Your daughter, my sister has been married for 12 years and they have 4 kids. Your other son, my brother has 3 kids and they have been together for 10 years. I have been in a relationship for 14 years. And you know nothing about it. I have a good life and more importantly I am happy. I thought that these were the most important things a parent would want for their children. I have a good job, live in a beautiful house, I travel often and I am a good person. So the fact that you say you’re not proud of me and you want no part of this; then it’s no problem because you never have been a part of it. So it is no new loss to me.”
My mother then got up and went to their bedroom and closed the door. I approached her room an hour later to try and speak to her but she kept the door closed and refused to speak to me. I left.
I flew back to the Netherlands feeling hurt but relieved. I was proud of myself and pleased that I was finally out. There was no more pretending. I said what I had wanted to say. It was all true and I did not say anything disrespectful that they could possibly use against me, like all good Filipino mothers do.
A week later I received a call from my brother in London to inform me that my parents wanted to surprise me for my birthday and visit me in Amsterdam. They had booked flights from London to Amsterdam and were flying over in two days! I hadn’t heard or spoken to them since our conversation in the living room. My initial reaction was: “Oh no they are not. They’re trying to ruin my birthday!
A week later they arrived at Schiphol airport. We took them to the city we lived in and they stayed in a hotel next door to the apartment. My dad came into the apartment and we opened a bottle of bubbles to celebrate my birthday. My mother stayed in the hotel room and did not enter the apartment, it was too much too soon. But I appreciate the effort she had made to visit and finally get to know me, properly. A blessing.
It has been six years since I came out. Things are better, not ideal, but better for which I am very grateful. Unfortunately my 14-year relationship ended. However, I talk to my mother if I have relationship issues nowadays, which is pretty remarkable. She comforts me and still hopes that I’ll meet a Filipino woman or that I’ll become a priest which annoys me but also makes me laugh.
And it is this reason why I am part of this foundation.
I am now out and proud, but there are many others in the Philippines or with religious backgrounds who find it difficult or impossible to come out. Our organization wants to support Filipinos at home and abroad and let them know that they are not alone. That we are your family and we are here for you when you feel like your family do not support you.
Please…. If you feel alone or want someone to speak to; reach out and communicate. Ryan@FilipinoLGBT.eu