He tried to run away from his real self. He used to spend his days living a kind of life that will satisfy the norms of society. He never thought of himself as a defender of LGBTQIA rights.
But then everything changed.
One day, he met this “beautiful and special woman”. He fell in love with her. And in no time, they got married.
The love they shared brought to the world “three beautiful princesses”. The eldest is already in 3rd year in college, followed by a high school student, and the youngest is a 5th grader.
“There came a time na pakiramdam ko nasasakal na ako sa pagiging closeta (I felt stifled hiding in the closet). I was so afraid to come out before,” Emerson recalled.
He used to teach in one of the schools in the Cordillera region. The pressure Emerson felt during that time didn’t help the anxiety he had when he was battling with himself on whether to come out of the closet or continuing to pretend and lie about his true gender identity.
But Emerson then took a big risk.
“I came out to my officemates and sinabi ko na (I told them) I’m like this. ‘Yung takot noon na kapag nalaman nila kung ano talaga ako, hindi naman talaga ganoon nangyari (The fear I had in the past if they found out my real identity, well, that’s not what transpired). It was a positive response,” he said.
Aside from the feeling of being free, Emerson was also pleased to discover that his friends and community have accepted him for who he really was, and nothing has changed after he came out.
His family, the children in particular, learned about his true sexuality in an unexpected situation.
“During the Pride celebration last year, an AM radio station invited me and another transgender activist to talk on their show. We were asked about the LGBTQIA movement, what it’s like to love a gay person, among other things,” Emerson recalled. “Pero ang hindi ko alam, nakikinig rin pala ‘yung family members ko sa radio station na ‘yun (What I didn’t know was my entire family was also listening to the radio station). And they heard the whole interview.”
Emerson paused, took a deep breath, and smiled. “Naka–off ‘yung cellphone ko (My mobile phone was turned off) that time because I was in an interview. When I switched it back on after the program, the messages started coming in. I opened it one by one. I was smiling and teary-eyed at the same time as I read the messages. ‘Yung mga anak ko ‘yung nag-text. Sabi nila, tanggap nila kung ano talaga ako, at mahal na mahal nila ako (My children sent text messages. They said they accept me, and that they really, really love me).”
Emerson paused for a few seconds again, this time, a bit teary-eyed. “They accepted me for who I really am. And said that they love me,” he repeated.
“Lahat ng ginagawa ko at mga paghihirapan ko, para lahat ‘yun sa mga mga anak ko (Everything I do and work hard for, it’s all for my children),” Emerson added.
Since then, a lot of things have changed.
He is now more active in various LGBTQIA events. The wariness he felt before, every time he speaks in front of the crowd, is no longer there.
“Ever since I came out, I feel so much free. Kahit sa Facebook, ‘yung mga friends ng mga anak ko (Even in Facebook, the friends of my children),they are all friendly. They don’t find being gay negative, they don’t have the concept that being gay is negative, that it is only limited to cross-dressing. They tell me that I am a positive influence to them, because I did what is right,” Emerson added.
Aside from being a human rights activist, Emerson spends his spare time making artworks and exhibiting them.
“My job, being an activist, medyo palaging nagkukulang ako pagdating sa (often, I run out of) allowance. My skill in the arts has helped me gain extra income,” he said.
Emerson is currently commissioned by the Ecological Sanctuary of Baguio to design the walls of “Earth House”, a structure completely made of clay and stones.
He is able to express his emotions through his artworks. “Sometimes, ‘yung depression na nararamdaman ko (the depression I feel), you will see them in my works. It’s a great avenue for me to express what I really feel.”
Emerson’s message to those who are not yet out?
“Kung gaano niyo kamahal ang inyong pamilya, ganoon din ang ibabalik sa inyo. Kung gaano niyo sila nirerespeto, ganoon din ang ibabalik sa inyo. My advice is, pakiramdaman niyo muna ang kapaligiran niyo, malalaman niyo naman kung tama na ang panahon. Kasi mahirap pilitin ang isang environment na tanggapin ang isang bagay na hindi nila nakasanayan (The love you give your family, that’s the love they give to you. The respect you give them, is the respect they will give to you. My advice is, get a sense if it’s the right time to come out. Because it’s hard to forcefully come out in an environment that is not yet ready).”