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.”
At around the age of 12, Paula Adviento “had this feeling that I also want to be with another female,” she recalled. But – now 21 years old, and living in Quezon City – “I had to suppress it because I wasn’t ready to embrace it. I wasn’t ready for such thoughts because of my environment, my family values.”
Looking back, she said she “totally embraced” herself as a lesbian when she was 16 years old, “when I was in college already.”
In Paula’s family, she is the only child.
And her struggle in that context… persists.
“I came out through a Facebook post. I didn’t talk to my parents directly about this. When I graduated, I posted a graduation photo, and in the caption, I put my partner’s name and my dedication to her. Because of that Facebook post, my parents read (and discovered I’m a lesbian). That’s the time they reacted about my sexuality,” she said.
Sadly, “at first – after they knew of my orientation, my preference – they were really angry. Anger. Extremely disappointed. My Mom even cried. I think they felt all their efforts in raising me were wasted. Because of my preference, all their dreams for me were set aside. Also despite all my achievements in life.”
Even now, Paula said, she’s still trying to negotiate for her parents to accept her as a lesbian; just as even now they’re trying to change her orientation (and preference to live as a lesbian). “And even now they talk to me about switching back to being heterosexual like them.”
Looking back, Paula said that even when she was young, “when I realized I’m a lesbian, it already occurred to to me that I have to be independent, I have to be successful, I have to be financially independent from my parents because the time will come when they won’t be able to accept my preference. I also thought that to compensate for my being a lesbian, I should have many achievements, I should be presentable. This way they’d be proud of me somehow. Or that way, they’d accept me as a lesbian.”
As a femme lesbian, “I did not experience discrimination or being belittled by my friends in my community. Maybe from other people, like the family of my partner now. We’re both femme, and they say that one should use the color pink, one should use blue. That one should be masculine; both shouldn’t be femme. People’s way of seeing is still anchored on the heteronormative even if we have a same-sex relationship,” Paula said.
The first time she encountered discrimination being in a femme-to-femme relationship, Paula admitted she got annoyed and even angry.
“I told them: ‘What a stupid question! It’s same-sex!’ But as I grew up, I matured a little. I learned that we have to educate people that there is no need to strictly stick to the heteronormative form of relationship where one has to be masculine and the other feminine,” Paula said.
EYEING TO HELP
Last July 2021, Paula graduated from the University of the Philippines Diliman with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Social Work.
“I took this degree because I believe a lot of things have to be fixed; there are many things we have to fight for, particularly in our country,” she said. “I grew up having the heart and the passion to help the needy, the poor, and those who can’t get justice.”
LOVE IS LOVE
Paula met her partner through a dating app; they matched because they’re in the same school.
“Of course having a relationship made me really happy, made me more resilient in my coming out process,” she said, adding that “of course coming out wasn’t easy; the process was very shaky.”
For Paula, having a partner to support you in various aspects (e.g. emotionally, socially, financially) is truly helpful.
“You have a partner in life; someone there when you need shelter, you need embrace. It’s a big help if there’s such a person in your life,” she said.
For Paula, having an organization, media or platform for LGBTQIA people is important. Because of this, the different realities of the LGBTQIA people are shown; and from there, “we can advocate, we can push for equal and better treatment of LGBTQIA community members.”
But Paula also thinks the struggle for social justice should be broad… and inclusive.
“I believe we shouldn’t only fight for our personal rights. We should join the fight of other minority sectors, like Indigenous People, persons with disability, and those not properly represented in society,” she said. “We have a similar experience of being belittled by society. We should not only tackle our personal issues.”
As a woman, an issue that Paula said needs focus is the violence committed against women.
“We may be lesbians, but we’re also women. And every day, women experience abuses – verbally, physically and mentally. Abuses are done not just by strangers. Abuses also happen inside homes. Abuses may be done by siblings, parents, mothers and other relatives,” she said.
Paula noted that the lesbian community in the Philippines is so diverse.
“The LGBTQIA community is already diverse; but within the lesbian community, there’s even more diversity. You may have heard that there’s a spectrum from femme to masculine. When speaking of the masculine, we have the ‘stone butch’ to ‘soft butch’. Within the masculine community, there also exist heteronormative thoughts and ideologies, and way of living,” she said. “But at the end of the day, I believe that whatever you believe in, whatever your practices may be as a lesbian in the Philippines, we should unite in calling for a fair, just and equal treatment of all lesbians.”
Paula added: “But the fight doesn’t end with the call for the right treatment and respect of lesbians. At the end of the day, we also have to advance our democratic rights. Not just the rights of lesbians; but basic human rights.”
WORDS TO LIVE BY
To younger lesbians who may be confused if being a lesbian is right or wrong, “there is no need to rush yourselves,” Paula said. “Take your time. It’s a process. Just explore as long as you don’t hurt yourself or put yourself in danger. Never stop growing. Never stop learning from experiences. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, step on other people’s toes, or are rude to other people.”
Leaning from elders is an advice from Paula, too.
“Also ask older lesbians on what made them strong, or what made them stand for what they believe in or what they choose,” she said.
Growing up, Paula said “parents always guide us. They always want what’s best for us. They want for their ideals to be our ideals, too.”
Sadly, though, “that made me unhappy. I grew up unhappy. I have lots of regrets just because I wanted to please my parents.”
And now, “since we’re growing older already, we now choose things for ourselves. And choosing ourselves is not selfish. It’s a form of self-care. It’s a form of standing for our rights. How can you help others stand up for their rights if you can’t fight for your own rights, if you can’t defend your own rights?”
To all parents who can’t accept their LGBTQIA child, “no matter what your child does, he/she/they are still your child,” Paula said. “The fact that they’re your kids won’t vanish no matter the conflicts that happened in the family.”
In the end, “your kids love you; we love you. Your kids love you even if you think we’re a disappointment, or you think we don’t do what you want, or you think we disrespect your choices. But the truth is, this is our choice. We made this not because we were influenced by whoever. No matter who we love or who we choose to live with forever; no matter how we dress ourselves; how we talk; how we act, our adoration, respect and love for our parents do not disappear.”
Parents need to know that “your children will never forget all the sacrifices you made. All the efforts you made to make sure they have food to eat, they are sheltered, they can go to school. No matter what happens, they will be always grateful to you. And if you have questions, if you have clarifications, don’t be shy and ask your children,” Paula said.
Because for Paula, in the end: “Even if we say that Filipinos already tolerate or are accepting of members of the LGBTQIA community, it’s not enough for society to just tolerate them, or let them express themselves. One of the things the LGBTQIA community is fighting for is the right treatment, the respect of people’s preferences. We also want to be treated as human. We also want to be treated in a way where our personal choices matter. That our preferences matter. Just like other people.”