This is part of #KaraniwangLGBTQIA, which Outrage Magazine officially launched on July 26, 2015 to offer vignettes of LGBT people/living, particularly in the Philippines, to give so-called “everyday people” – in this case, the common LGBTQIA people – that chance to share their stories.
As Outrage Magazine editor Michael David C. Tan says: “All our stories are valid – not just the stories of the ‘big shots’. And it’s high time we start telling all our stories.”
Conrad Kim De Jesus – 44 from San Piro, Balayan, Batangas – knew he’s gay in his 4th year in high school, when “I just noticed I am attracted to men,” he said, “so I knew I’m gay.”
The eldest of six siblings (after the eldest died; making him – the second child – now the eldest), he admitted not being immediately accepted by his family. “Of course it can’t be avoided that your family don’t accept you at first.” But he said that “perhaps they’ve (eventually) accepted me because they haven’t said anything bad. As long as I do good. And they said I know what’s right from wrong.”
Kim is now the secretary of Barangay San Piro in Balayan, Batangas. San Piro – a barangay in the municipality of Balayan, province of Batangas – has approximately 3,700 residents.
“I used to be a barangay employee, working as a health worker,” he recalled. But when the former secretary resigned, “I replaced her; I applied for her post.”
The community has, generally, been accepting.
“I am happy here. I never experienced being judged by my workmates because of my gender identity. I do my job to the best of my ability,” he said.
As the barangay secretary, “I have lots of tasks. First, I organize the records of the barangay. And I know everything that happens here, and I report to the barangay captain. People here respect me because they know I am a barangay official. Until now, I’ve never encountered being ridiculed by people here.”
In hindsight, Kim said LGBTQIA people are – sort of – expected to “overcompensate”. But he looks at this in a positive way – i.e. “That’s our nature; people think LGBTQIA people are good workers. We need to prove that this is right. Let’s do everything to show them that we’re really good workers.”
DEALING WITH DISCRIMINATION
Life, Kim admitted, wasn’t always rosy.
“The first time I experienced discrimination was while applying for work. They asked me about my gender identity; I told them I’m gay. They said to me, ‘Sorry, we don’t hire gay people’,” Kim said.
Experiences like this, he said, are bound to happen. In response, “I just show these people that being gay is not a hindrance to you achieving your dreams in life.”
Completing Bachelor of Science in Commerce, major in Management, Kim actually has his own salon now.
“Actually, my original course was Bachelor of Science in Accountancy,” he said. But when he couldn’t finish this, he shifted to Management, “which I found useful anyway. I have my own salon now, and what I learned on how to put up a business, I apply now.”
He has been in this industry for around 10 years now, even if his own salon has only been operational for around two years.
“I used to work in Manila. But the wages were low then; I wasn’t receiving enough. I looked for other sources of income. I attended seminars on hair cutting until I learned. When I resigned from my job, I opened my own salon,” he said.
A challenge for a newbie businessman like him, he said, was “in the beginning it was hard because clients don’t trust you. They ask: ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’ That’s what I noticed when I started; people test you first.”
But he earns “okay” now.
ON CARING BEYOND ONESELF
From what he earns, Kim helps out in his family’s expenses.
Yes, he knows that there’s this “pressure” for LGBTQIA people to end up supporting their families. But he doesn’t think it’s unfair that he has to help out his family (even if the same is not expected from many heterosexual children). “It’s in the nature of LGBTQIA people to help. No one will also help us but them. We just give back what’s rightfully for our family,” he said.
Kim is single now, saying that “people frown upon gay people with partners. We can’t ignore what people say, that perhaps you just had a partner because they’ll just get money from you.”
But he hopes for people to be more accepting.
“My message to people of Batangas who still do not accept LGBTQIA people is to just accept us. There’s nothing you can do; we exist. We’re not bad; we’re also humans. If you accept this fact, I assure you that you’ll love us and we’ll make you happy,” he said.
WANTED: LGBTQIA UNITY
Having an LGBTQIA organization is important because no one else will help us but ourselves.
There are still issues for the LGBTQIA community, according to Kim.
For one, “even now, some LGBTQIA people still encounter discrimination.”
Secondly, “LGBTQIA people in Balayan are not very united. To each his/her own.” So for Kim, “we should focus on this because when we say LGBTQIA, it means all of us. And we should unite; we should work together.”
WORDS OF ADVICE
To LGBTQIA people who are having a hard time being themselves, “follow your heart as long as you’re happy with what you’re doing,” Kim said. “As long as you don’t pester others, or step on other people. Continue living as you. Because I believe there’s nothing wrong with being gay.”
But Kim said he knows there are families who still do not fully accept LGBTQIA family members.
“Know that it’s not our fault we’re like this,” he said, adding that “we just want to be accepted because we’re also human. Humans who get hurt; who have hearts. And we’re still your family. We just want you to support us. Because when you do that, we’ll support each other. There’s nothing wrong with us, and we’ll do everything in our capacity for our families without stepping on other people.”