Cebu City-based Harissa was in Grade 2 when “I started feeling that I like other girls,” she said in the vernacular. At that time, I had a crush with a classmate.” After that, “ma-o to, padayon na (from then on, it persisted).”
Harissa was in Grade 5 when her mother asked her about her sexual orientation. “‘Unsa ka?’, nangutana ako mama (‘What are you?’ was my mom’s question),” she said. “I just said, ‘Bayot ko (I’m gay).”
To her surprise – and happiness – “they said kung asa ko happy, didto pud sila (what makes me happy, they’d support).”
Now 20 years old, Harissa have had five “serious” girlfriends.
The first and second GFs, “mga schoolmates,” she laughed. The third is a friend of a friend. The fourth was when she was in college. And the fifth, “gikan (from) FB.”
At times she heads back to her hometown, Liloan, located north of Cebu. And she’s happy to say “it’s not hard for me to be me when I’m home.” Her “ig-agaw (cousins)” would teasingly call her “tomboy – I just laugh it off.”
Interestingly, though, “dili nila dawaton nga mu-uyab ko (they don’t accept my having GFs).”
But on this, Harissa doesn’t pay much attention. “Kung unsa ila opinyon, bahala sila (Whatever their opinions are, I let them be),” she said. “Basta totoo ako sa aking sarili (So long as I’m true to myself).”
Harissa, who is now studying Mass Communications (in her third year), said that because she is somewhat tomboyish, people erroneously assume she’s a transman. She just shrugs this off. “Basta lipay ka sa kaugalingon nimo (As long as you’re happy with yourself),” she said.
It helps, of course, that she’s been exposed to lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE) via Cebu City-based Visayan LGBT organization Bisdak Pride. But this, too, is where she draws her drive to help members of the LGBT community. “If I know nga makatabang ta, angay nga mutabang ta. Daghan pud mahimo sa LGBT community, so kita jud mutabang sa atong mga igsoong LGBT (If I know I can help, I’d help. We can do a lot for the LGBT community, and we all should help our fellow LGBT community members).”