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Contemplating family as a gay man in Las Piñas

Bryan Ramos Bustillo’s father didn’t immediately accept him as #gay, even if his mother – Elvira – saw him as a fruit of her wish for a girl child. This helped shape the way Bryan views #LGBTQIA people’s families, which he said should be “more open to accepting.”

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.”

Bryan Ramos Bustillo, 32, knew as long as he can remember that he’s gay. “When I was six or seven, I started playing with paper dolls with my cousins. Even then I felt I had a feminine side. Eventually, this was magnified as I grew older,” he said.

Bryan’s Mom, Elvira, said she always wanted to have a girl for a child. “I envied mothers with girls for kids since they could dress them up, fix their hair… While pregnant with Bryan, I wished I’d have a girl. Then, ultrasound was uncommon, so I didn’t know the baby’s sex. Childbirth was suspenseful. People then told me, ‘You wished for a girl, so you got an effeminate child.’ I told them, ‘That’s okay!’.

In fact, Elvira recalled, “when he was young, before we slept, he took the blanket and wrapped it around himself, turning it into a gown. He also had an aunt who always called him, asking him to comb her hair, or remove lice from her head. We already noticed those things.”

Fortunately, Bryan said, “with my Mom, I didn’t have any issue as a gay man.”

It so happened that “my Dad didn’t agree (with me as gay). There were times when he told me to act masculine, he called out the way I talked,” Bryan said.

“He was a drunkard; maybe he wanted for his son to be one too,” Elvira recalled. “But he couldn’t do a lot because I immediately contradicted him.”

In his father’s side, he had an uncle – a former newspaper writer – who’s gay. There are others in the US. “I said, ‘Where else will he inherit being gay?’ At my side of the family, males are drunks. LGBTQIA people are in his side of the family. So I told him, ‘Why are you angry when you have LGBTQIA family members?’,” Elvira said.

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Elvira feels very protective of Bryan – and LGBTQIA family members, for that matter.

She said that sometimes, “when we’re outside, people yell ‘Gay!’ at him. I answer back: ‘What’s your issue with gay people?’. ‘What do gay people do to you?’, I ask. It’s like I fight back for him.”

Even with Bryan, “I never asked him why he’s gay. Because for me, this is not an issue.” In fact, “if I am made to choose if I want to have a heterosexual or gay child, I prefer Bryan. Instead of having heterosexual men who are sources of problems to parents.”

Bryan’s father passed away in 2012. 

“I can say that before he died, he was able to accept me,” Bryan said. “I think when he got sick, it made him accept what I am, and what the set-up of our family was. He knew he wouldn’t have a long span of life anymore. So even if we weren’t close in the past, before he died, while he was at home, I somehow looked after him.”

When he was bullied, “I went to my Mom first to tell her what happened. She always said, ‘Let them be. Don’t pick fights with them.’”

DEALING WITH DISCRIMINATION

Even if families can be pro-LGBTQIA, the community – as a whole – may not be as accepting.

“In elementary and high school, I experienced lots of discrimination. When going to the toilet, for example, I go to men’s room. I remember one time, when I went to the toilet, the other men in the toilet left; my schoolmates, they went out of the toilet. I don’t know why. Maybe because they knew I’m gay, and they thought I’d take a peek at them there,” Bryan recalled. 

Then in high school, “there were times when I used the toilet, some guys called out, saying ‘Faggot! Faggot!’. When I was a teenager, I thought it’s not safe to use the toilet, so I didn’t use the toilet. I just used the toilet at home; or if I see a toilet outside the school. Those are instances I still remember when I experienced discrimination while schooling, or outside of home.”

When he was bullied, “I went to my Mom first to tell her what happened. She always said, ‘Let them be. Don’t pick fights with them.’”

But in the past, Bryan was active in church activities. And so when he still felt burdened, “I prayed. I used to pray a lot.”

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Elvira said that sometimes, “when we’re outside, people yell ‘Gay!’ at him. I answer back: ‘What’s your issue with gay people?’. ‘What do gay people do to you?’, I ask. It’s like I fight back for him.”

CAREER CHOICE

Bryan didn’t finish college. “I was taking up Hotel and Restaurant Management then. But I wasn’t able to finish it because of our financial situation.”

Now, he works as a call center agent (for almost 10 years now). 

“I love to talk. I’m used to talking, and I enjoy talking with people. And this industry (business process outsourcing) is very stable,” he said, adding that “I think LGBTQIA people shared a lot to the BPO industry. I feel I shared a lot to my company by just going to work, attending to my responsibilities as an agent, and helping in our campaigns.”

That this is a financially stable source of income is also a plus.

“This is also what supports me and my family, paying for our needs,” Bryan said.

And helping his family is something Bryan said he desires to do.

At least for Elvira, LGBTQIA people help out, more than other heterosexuals.

”A lot of people envy me. Like at work… Bryan takes me to work on Tuesdays, his day off. Then he sends me text messages. People at work envy me. They say, ‘Your child’s a better one. He thinks of you.’ Compared to their children, who don’t even say ‘Hi’ through text messages,” she said. “I also don’t have to worry about our rent, and the water and electric bills. So they tell me I’m lucky with my son.”

For Bryan, “whoever has capacity to help their family should do so. It so happens that LGBTQIA people are more focused on helping out. We give more attention, more financial support to our families. I think this is also expected from LGBTQIA people. I just hope that everyone – even if you’re not LGBTQIA – if you can support your family in the best way possible, then give support.”

“When you’re openly gay, there’s stigma. (People think) men will just extort money from you, they’ll just use you. Those are what people think; and I also experienced those,” Bryan said.

LOOKING FOR LOVE

Bryan is single right now. And for him, finding love as a gay man in Las Piñas isn’t necessarily easy.

“When you’re openly gay, there’s stigma. (People think) men will just extort money from you, they’ll just use you. Those are what people think; and I also experienced those,” he said.

Bryan’s mother hopes for her son to have his own family… somehow.

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“For me, I want him to have a family. If that’s possible,” she said. “This way, when I am gone, he’d have a family who’d look after him.”

One time, Elvira recalled, Bryan told her he wants to adopt. But “I don’t want him to adopt. I want him to have his own biological child. He refuses to answer when I broach this topic. I think he’s already happy with his kind of life. But that’s my wish for him… though it doesn’t seem like it would happen.”

WANTED: LGBTQIA COMMUNITY

For Bryan, “it’s very important that we have a community wherever we may be. A small or big community. As long as it’s a community you can turn to when you need to talk to someone.”

For him, there are three issues the LGBTQIA community should focus on: HIV, helping people to come out, and have projects for older gays.

“Why HIV? Because I personally know many people who test HIV-positive.We need to put spotlight on this; we have to look after each other particularly because the number of HIV cases is growing,” he said.

On helping people to come out, “I know someone, some people who have difficulty coming out.” He added that “coming out is important because you have to be yourself. We have a saying that no secret stays hidden. Eventually your personality will come out. And it will be hurtful if you will be outed by others.”

On supporting elders, “they need someone who will really care for them,” Bryan said.

There are some life lessons he hopes younger LGBTQIA people learn.

“Finish your schooling,” he said. “It may be hard, yes, but you have to finish schooling because at the end of the day, it will be what will save you.”

Second, “be yourself. We know it’s not necessarily easy to be yourself, but eventually, if you know yourself, and if you’re true to yourself, have no pretensions, if you just live gay, I can assure you that someone out there will accept you and will just be with you.”

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Third, “you should save. This is not something I did when I was younger; but we need to save lots of money because we need it. Not because we need it to spend on men or whatever, but because that money will be your treasure. That’s what you’ll also use when you have emergencies.”

And lastly, “be healthy. Don’t engage in any sexual activities that are not safe.”

For Bryan, “it’s very important that we have a community wherever we may be. A small or big community. As long as it’s a community you can turn to when you need to talk to someone.”

STOP THE HATE

He knows there are families that still do not accept LGBTQIA members.

“I hope for you to find it in your heart to be accepting. There is a reason why they are part of your family. That person who can’t come out struggles every day hiding who they are in order to please all of you,” he said. “I just hope, I pray that you find space in your heart to accept them no matter their SOGIESC. Because even them, who may not be out because they’re afraid, accept and love you as family.”

Elvira agreed.

“For me, I wish they just accept their LGBTQIA children; like I accept mine,” Elvira said. “They should have more open minds.”

In the end, “stop the stigma for the LGBTQIA community. You may have been harassed by someone before. You may have been harassed by a gay man or a lesbian. Someone was perhaps rude to you. Always remember that at some point in your life, you also did the same to a member of the LGBTQIA community. So I hope you can find acceptance and forgiveness in your heart; to accept the colorful world that we have. Because we have a lot to offer to all of you. Not just our talents, not just our time, but we can offer ourselves to help the community to bring out the best in our community. Because we are, and will still be part of the community for the rest of our lives,” Bryan ended.

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