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.”
Jose Francisco Ortalla, 44, identifies himself as gender fluid. But looking back, “at first I thought (my identification) is gay,” he said. “But then again during the ‘90s, the gender identification was quite limited to (just) being gay (or) bisexual. There were only certain categories during that time. So people (only) considered themselves (either) bisexual or gay. (Only) two or three years ago, that’s when I realized I may fit into this new category.”
For Jose Francisco, the coming out process happened naturally.
“The ‘tendencies’ were there,” he said – i.e. meaning family members always sensed he was “different”. “But we had to talk about it at a certain point (in my) life. So yes I had to come out; perhaps when I was around 19 years old.”
His father – who’s traditional – had a different reaction. “He had these expectations of what guys should do, what women should do.”
Also, Jose Francisco has five siblings; he’s the youngest. And the gap between him and the sibling before him is 10 years, and “I think that was one of the contributing factors as well (why Dad didn’t immediately accept me).”
But in hindsight, “I just had to prove to him that I (am) able to stand up on my own. (And that I can take ownership of) my decisions in life.”
Over a period of time, “he was able to embrace the fact that this (is) my chosen identity.”
Since his family is – generally – supportive, “I think I’m kinda lucky about (this),” he said. This is because for him, “the support and acceptance of the parents are important to make us feel we are a part of the family as well.”
In retrospect, “for the parents (of LGBTQIA people), it’s important to talk to their children. Allow them to express themselves, express their thoughts. Welcome their inner thoughts. It may take (you) time to process the possibility that the children are part of the LGBTQIA community. But always remember that as parents, your children also need your support. Without your support, we who are part of the LGBTQIA community will also be lost in our journey,” Jose Francisco said.
Jose Francisco first studied B.S. Accountancy in the University of Saint La Salle (USLS) for one year and a half. Then he started working on the first semester of his second year. When he went back to school, he shifted to Mass Communication. And then he went back to the workforce again. When he studied – again – it was in another school (Colegio de San Agustin Bacolod), where he, finally, finished B.S. Marketing in 2001.
His second degree, B.A. Psychology, was finished in 2019.
And now, he is taking a Masters degree in Psychology at the USLS.
“Being part of the LGBTQIA community, you exert a lot of effort because you have to prove a lot to people. It’s like saying, ‘These are the things that we can do’, ‘These are our achievements’, ‘These are our credentials’,” Jose Francisco said. “You know that feeling of dedicating our time and lives in building (these) credentials just to be accepted. It is not really fair. Because – Hey! – we all studied; we all exerted efforts.”
LGBTQIA IN BACOLOD
In Bacolod, the acceptance for LGBTQIA people “is very welcoming and already very warm,” he said, though he admitted that “most probably there are still a few people who are still going through a certain level of… you know, name-calling or most probably bullying.”
For Jose Francisco, the change is because “now more aware of our rights. That’s why the community members are more empowered. (Particularly when) compared to when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s.”
He can recall bullying in elementary and high schools.
“I never thought it was bullying. I thought they were just kidding… our classmates or other people. But what could we do? We just had to accept what other people were saying instead of fighting back. That feeling of being helpless… it was there in the past,” he said.
There was also an experience at work that he can’t forget.
“I started working when I was 18. Since I worked in radio, in broadcasting, I had to project (that) I’m a man, I’m masculine. Nobody should know that you’re like this (i.e. gay),” he said.
Over a period of time, these things already changed.
“Even in radio, the DJs can (now) just be themselves,” Jose Francisco said. “Nowadays, the level of awareness and the information dissemination about the LGBTQIA community is very widespread. So people have understanding, and they are more welcoming.”
IN FOCUS: RELATIONSHIPS
Right now, Jose Francisco works online, doing life and relationship coaching (at www.modernlove.life). In his line of work, “being part of the LGBTQIA community is something that I am thankful and grateful for. Because one way or another, I (am) really able to explore the different areas of being human.”
Meaning: “Regardless of gender, or sex, or even age. (Being LGBTQIA) allows me to explore the totality and the behavior of a human being.”
He is currently single, and “it’s my personal choice.”
This is also even if the dating scenes in Bacolod are “very active,” he said. Besides, “I prefer not having a partner from Bacolod. That’s why my ex-BF is from Cebu. And I was able to manage (to be in that) relationship for three years. Somehow we were able to work it out until the pandemic came in.”
With relationships, “don’t just try to settle on what is available. But try to settle because when there’s someone and being in a relationship is something that would bring out the best in you.”
To parents of LGBTQIA people, Jose Francisco said they should “really listen to their children.”
“We understand that it takes time for parents to accept and fully grasp the idea of their children being part of the LGBTQIA community. But one way or another, we have to understand that your children are still human beings. They have their own feelings and emotions. Allow them to grow. Allow them to explore who they are. And allow them to be the persons they want to be. (This) is important. Because to be a successful person, we should be connected to who we are inside and outside,” he said.
Jose Francisco added: “Because if we’re disconnected to what we really feel, and we are just trying to (satisfy) the expectations of other people around us, that is where the disconnect would come in. And it blocks our ability to really grow as person, and to really succeed with our choices in life.”
But the “duty” also lies with LGBTQIA people.
“In order for other people to accept the LGBTQIA community, within the community itself, there should be a level of acceptance,” Jose Francisco said. “We have to avoid any form of discrimination and judgment. Because (all) of us are unique individuals.”
One lesson that he wants younger LGBTQIA people to remember is “we should avoid feeling entitled.”
Meaning, “sometimes we just have to have an open mind; let’s broaden our minds. There are still people who’d (try to) adjust to the LGBTQIA community. It doesn’t mean they are trying to judge us, or trying to discriminate against us in a certain level. I say that if we remove that level of entitlement (we’d see) we’re all just human beings. The more we’d be able to come to a common ground, and so we reach our common goal in society. (This is to better) the level of acceptance, and level of support. Also so we’d be able to live harmoniously with one another,” Jose Francisco ended.