Out & Proud: Brian
Growing up in Davao City, Philippines, I knew as a small boy that I was different. I did not like playing with robots and I preferred playing ‘bahay-bahayan’ (building a house and cooking) with my siblings and cousins. I also had one ‘typical gay’ habit: Re-enacting pageant contests with my girl cousins which I was fond of and being interested in games mostly played by girls like Chinese garter, jackstone, volleyball, trading stationaries, etc.
My life before coming out
Growing up in the Philippines in a macho society, where boys are expected to play basketball, it was a struggle to fit in with the expectations of the society. It came to a point where I was questioning my existence and if it was a curse to be born different, to be born gay.
However, despite the struggles, I focused my energy on activities that would give me the reason to exist and feel fulfilled. I was active as peer counsellor volunteer in grade school and in high school, I was active in cheer leading and became the president of the student council. These activities allowed me to make friends, who were accepting, and also helped me become the person I am today. After high school, I was also into volunteering and through these experiences I realized that I was still very blessed. Despite being different, I realized that I can influence and affect change which gave me the strength to carry on.
When and how did I come out
While in university in 1999, I was working part-time as a student assistant in the university library. This was the time when internet was introduced in the Philippines and my work entailed administering the usage of computers used by students to access the internet. Because of this, I also had unlimited access to the internet which allowed me to communicate with other gay people around the world. I started chatting with an American guy from Georgia and we fell in love. We wanted to meet and he invited me to come to the US. But as I just turned 18 that time, I consulted my cousin, who was a nurse based in California and she told me that before she would help me come to the US, we will have to tell my father what the real score is. So, on the agreed day and time, she called home, I answered the call and gave the phone to my father and the rest was history. My cousin outed me to my father. I was 18 and my father was 42.
“I learned to accept and embrace my uniqueness, which is the most liberating and biggest favour I ever gave to myself. Living in truth did set me free.”
My life after coming out
I was afraid my father would hit me after the phone call with my cousin. Fortunately, this did not happen. My father just started crying and told me he was disappointed with me. However, he also told me he was ready to accept me as long as I behave, stay proper and respectable. So why did he say this?
The younger brother of my father, my uncle, is also gay. In the 80’s and 90’s, he lived the typical gay lifestyle and checked all the boxes of what a typical gay man would be at that time. My uncle was a hairdresser. He was cross-dressing, he was flamboyant, fun, loud but also controversial and had a straight guy as boyfriend, whom he was supporting. I saw all of this while growing up especially when my parents would deposit me at my uncle’s hair saloon from time to time when no one at home would look after me. Hence, I totally understood what my father meant when he said that I have to be proper and respectable in order not to disappoint him.
Shortly after coming out, my father started losing weight and when people asked him the reason for his weight loss, he would always refer to my coming out. It was tough. I felt I was causing pain to my father. I felt I was a burden to the family. It turned out he had a health issue and I was not the cause of his weight loss. After getting treatment, he fortunately recovered.
At the end, it turned out I was not issued a visa to travel to the US despite a number of tries. I was very frustrated because I really wanted to meet this guy in the US. Instead we decided to have a long-distance relationship as I continued my studies in the university in the Philippines.
During that time, the windows chat function mIRC (Internet Relay Chat) was really popular way to connect with people around the world but also with local guys. As it was tedious to send pictures through the chat room because of the slow speed of the internet, a local guy I hooked-up with told me to create a page in Facelink, a predecessor of Facebook, where I could upload a picture of myself. In the end, he created my page which contained my face picture, my full name, my email address and my location which is Davao City, Philippines. This was around June 2000.
To my surprise a handsome guy out of nowhere emailed me and asked me if he could link his Facelink page with my page. Because I fancied him, I said yes 😉 We exchanged emails and I learned he was from Germany. At that time, I was applying to do an internship in the UK so I told him that I might travel to London at the end of August 2000. After that, we did not have any communication.
Note: Photo I used on Facelink
Fast forward, I was issued a visa and travelled to London at the end of August 2000. Soon after I arrived there, I got an email from this handsome guy from Germany and he asked if I made it to London. I replied and told him that I made it, and he asked if he could visit me. I said yes. He travelled all the way from Germany to England by train, and on September 16, 2000, we first met and the 24 hours we spent together were really special time for both of us. I felt very sad when I brought him the next day to Waterloo station and we had our first farewell. It was clear for us to become boyfriends, and we still met twice more until November 2000, before I travelled back to the Philippines. It was very exciting for us as we were each other’s first real boyfriend.
“Being out and proud is your individual journey and I believe that each person should come out at a time when he or she feels ready.
As members of the LGBTQ family, it is also our responsibility to support everyone who is ready to take this step. “
As we were 10000 km separated, we made plans to meet again as soon as possible. As it has always been my dream to study abroad, I applied and got the opportunity to restart my Bachelor studies in Germany. In February 2001, I came to Germany for the first time where my boyfriend picked me up at the airport. Finally, we could spend more time together again, and during my studies we could meet every other weekend as the distance between us was now only 300 kilometres. We also managed to see each other regularly and being together always compensated for the sacrifices being separated because I was studying and he was working during the week.
After finishing my Bachelor studies in 2005, I pursued my Master studies in Copenhagen while we were still maintaining a long-distance relationship. Even after I finished my studies in 2007 and started working for an investment bank, due to the fact that my boyfriend was sent to Japan for 3 years, we only saw each other every 2-3 months, which was a really challenging time. Fortunately, in 2010, we were both given the chance to relocate back to Frankfurt and start living together. That was also very challenging as we were in a long-distance relationship for 10 years. However, in 2015, five year after living together and fifteen years after we have first met, we were lucky to have the chance to tie the knot in front of our families and friends.
And you will ask me, what happened to my US boyfriend after I moved to Germany in 2001? Glen and I stayed in touch. I told him that I met someone and he was very happy for me, but I also promised that I will visit him the moment I get my US visa. A year after I started working full time, I was issued a US visa and could visit him together with my partner in Atlanta. Glen was very happy that we could finally meet but he passed away four months after we met. It was unfortunate that our first meeting was also our last meeting.
The positive message I would like to share to inspire others to be brave, out and proud
After I came out and while still living in the Philippines, I always questioned my self-worth and I always had the fear ending up like my gay uncle and disappointing my father. Hence, I was not ready to accept myself.
One day, while I was riding the jeepney to my university, I asked why I hated myself when I could just start accepting and loving myself. I also realized that even though I am gay like my uncle, we are all different and there are different forms of being gay and that it is ok to be flamboyant or feminine like my uncle.
My uncle accepted himself and embraced his uniqueness despite all the hindrances he faced and that is the reason why he could live his life out and proud in the 80’s and 90’s. To me, he was fearless and an inspiration for being true to himself.
Once I started to believe and accept this notion, I learned to accept and embrace my uniqueness, which is the most liberating and biggest favour I ever gave to myself. Living in truth did set me free.
Similar to my journey in the jeepney to reach my university, it is not only the destination and the goal but also the discoveries we make about ourselves while going through a coming out journey that makes the process worthwhile and worth fighting for. As we discover and learn more about ourselves, we become braver in accepting and loving ourselves.
Being out and proud is your individual journey and I believe that each person should come out at a time when he or she feels ready. As members of the LGBTQ family, it is also our responsibility to support everyone who is ready to take this step. The process of accepting and loving oneself is already an act of bravery. It is indeed a process, which takes time and requires courage, but it is also your first step to being out and proud.