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Finding my religion…

Meet Krishtianne Lineses, a staunch believer that even LGBT people could continue practicing their religious faith so long as they are sticklers to contextual self-expression. “You should not fear going to church. All of us, God made us; he did not favor only some of us,” he says.

Krishtianne Lineses – called Mama Krish or just MMK by many – sees the disconnect in belonging to a religious order that may not necessarily approve of what he is (i.e. a gay man). But he says he is not looking at it that way; instead, he is looking at parts of his life (including being gay, and then being religious) as parts of a whole, with each having a place of its own.

Hindi dapat katakutan ang pagpunta sa simbahan. Tayo, nilikha ng Diyos lahat; wala siyang hinihiwayalay, lahat nilihka Niya kaya lahat tinatanggap (You should not fear going to church. All of us, God made us; he did not favor only some of us, but He created all of us so he accepts all of us),” said Krish, seriously. Then, with a wan smile: “Siguro, bilang tao lang, kailangan ‘yung reverence sa church, kahit ikaw ay bading, ipakita mo ‘yun. Kung jolly ka sa labas dapat, nasa lugar din kung nasa simbahan ka na. Basta huwag ka matakot sa faith mo (Maybe it’s with people; you need to show your reverence to your church even if you’re gay. If you are jolly outside the church, you need not be so but understand the context when you’re in church. In the end, do not fear your faith).”

With this way of looking, Krish said that for him, there is no conflict; instead, there is order – or at least some semblance of order to his life.

Mama Krish

GROWING UP QUEER

With his parents already dead, Krish grew up under the care of his grandparents in Balintawak in Metro Manila. His family’s roots, he said, could be traced to the brave Katipuneros who fought the Spaniards that stayed in this country for over 330 years. Because of this link with the insurgents against the colonizing Spaniards, Krish’s family belongs to the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI).  Better known as the Aglipayan, IFI is a Christian denomination that split from the Roman Catholic Church in 1902 because of the alleged mistreatment of Filipinos by Spanish priests, and the execution of nationalist José Rizal under Spanish colonial rule.

Sa church ako lumaki (I grew up a church-goer),” Krish said. “Conservative kasi sila lolo at lola. Nakita na nila na may potential ka maging bading, ginawa nila, pinaiwas nila na makipag-usap ka sa mga guys (My grandparents were conservative. When they saw I had the ‘potential’ to be gay, what they did was prevent me from mingling with boys).”

Khris said that he – and everyone around him – always knew he’s “bading (gay).”

When she was still alive, his mother told Krish that “every time may binibigay sa akin ang godparents ko, marunong na ako tumingin ng color ng gifts. Umiiyak daw ako kung panlalaki ang binibigay sa akin (everytime my godparents gave me gifts, I knew how to choose the colors of the gifts I wanted. She said I cried when the gifts given me were for boys),” Krish said. “Tapos kung ginugupitan ako ng buhok, ganun din. And then when I was three, nakikipagpalit ako ng gift sa sumunod sa akin; baril ang binibigay sa akin, lutuan ang sa kanya, kaya palit kami. Naging cars din ang sa kanya, akin naman ang dolls (When they cut my hair, it was the same. And then when I was three, I would exchange the gifts I receive with my sister; if I get a gun and she got a cookware, we would swap. So she ended up getting the cars, while I got the dolls).”

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Krish, however, was not shunned.

“Even early on, my mom accepted me,” he said.

This may be because Krish is not the first “bading” in the family.

“In my family, I was the 23rd gay guy,” he said. After him, “marami nang bata (there were many younger ones who came out gay).” The “eldest gay guy in the family” was his grandparents’ brother who worked as a hairdresser after the war. “Sikat ‘yun (He was popular),” Krish said. “He owned Benny’s Beauty Parlor in Manila; he was the hairdresser for the stars of Sampaguita Films.”

Krish finds it funny, in fact, that “when we have family reunions, “pagalingan ng matatandang bading (the older gay guys try to outdo each other).”

Krish’s childhood was spent “at school, playing the piano at home house, and then lock myself up in the room – ‘yun lang (that was it),” he said. “Hindi puwede lumabas. Puwede lang magsimba kasama nila (I wasn’t allowed out. I was only allowed to attend church; and only with them).”

Somewhat interestingly, Krish’s grandparents’ being conservative can be credited for his gender expression.

“My grandparents were very particular with clothes,” he recalled. “Bawal mag-shorts (They did not allow wearing of short pants).”

And so, Krish was always wearing long pants. And then he started wearing long skirts. “Pinapayagan nila ako kasi mahaba naman daw (They allowed me to wear skirts, so long as they are long).” And so, “nasanay na ako (I got used to it).”

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FINDING PURPOSE IN HIS FAITH

Krish may be reflective of being gay in the “golden olden times,” he laughed, when the sexual orientation of non-heterosexual people were simplistically divided only into either “bakla/bading” (in the older days, believed to be a man who wants to be a woman) and “tomboy” (or a woman who wants to be a man). As such, Krish acknowledged that he is a “bading (gay)” who likes cross-dressing to feel “babaeng-babae (like a real woman).” In fact, as he joked, “there are six of us in the family – 2 ½ are girls, and 3 ½ are boys. I am the half and half.” Admittedly, Krish is not that well-versed with the concept of transgenderism.

Krish inherited his lola’s (grandmother’s) devotion.

In fact, in his family, he may be the only one to do so.

“Ako lang ang involved sa community work, sa social service (I am the only one involved in community work, in social service),” he said. “Kaya galit sila sa akin kasi ako ang poorita galore (That’s why they are angry with me because I am the poorest one).”

It is in offering himself to service as part of his faith that Krish finds happiness, however. “Masaya naman ako. Masaya sa buhay. Masaya ang buhay (I am happy. Happy in life. Happy with life),” he said.

At 28, Krish now works for the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).

ELUSIVE LOVE

Krish’s once had love. And then he lost it.

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In high school, he was “forced” to have a boyfriend.

Kasi nga lumaki sa lola, bawal makipag-usap sa boys. And so I had very strong self-control – hindi basta humahanga (Because I grew up under my grandmother, I was not allowed to even speak with boys. And so I had very strong self-control – I did not just admire boys),” Krish said.

At that time, Krish was also part of a group of girls called “We Hate Men”. “We believed that guys take advantage of girls, so we avoid them,” Krish said. “Tingin ko sa sarili ko at that time, part na ako ng girls (I viewed myself as one of the girls even then).”

In his sophomore year, a schoolmate named Lawrence – the Mr. Intramurals of his school at that time – wagered with his friends that none of them can win Krish over. So he tried winning Krish over, only to be repeatedly rebuffed.

Eventually burned from Krish’s rejection, Lawrence – who, like Krish, was also being raised by his grandparents – stopped going to school. When the school administrators spoke with Lawrence’s grandmother, she told them that her grandson refused to go to school because of a classmate that was unkind to him. To resolve the issue, Krish was not only asked to be nicer to Lawrence, but to serve as his tutor.

“That’s where the companionship started,” Krish said.

This companionship did not sit well with many.

It is in offering himself to service as part of his faith that Krish finds happiness, however. “Masaya naman ako. Masaya sa buhay. Masaya ang buhay (I am happy. Happy in life. Happy with life),” he said

It is in offering himself to service as part of his faith that Krish finds happiness, however. “Masaya naman ako. Masaya sa buhay. Masaya ang buhay (I am happy. Happy in life. Happy with life),” he said.

Lawrence’s girlfriend then picked a fight with Krish. Krish’s girl friends told him to stop leading Lawrence on. And – worse – when Lawrence’s parents arrived from working overseas, Krish overheard Lawrence’s father tell him to stop what they have. “I overheard his dad say to him, ‘Sa dinami-dami ng puwede, sa bakla pa (Of all the people, you choose a faggot).’ Nanliit ako (I was so humiliated).”

Surprisingly, Lawrence’s grandmother defended Krish, telling Lawrence’s parents how their son changed for the better because of Krish, and how Krish is doing the things that Lawrence’s parents should have been doing in the first place, from tutoring Lawrence, babysitting Lawrence’s sister, et cetera.

They eventually accepted Krish, making sure “imbitado ako sa lahat ng events (that I was invited in all their family events),” Krish said. Larence even introduced Krish as “‘yung kinakasama ng anak ko (my son’s partner).”

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But life played a cruel trick on Krish.

They were in their senior year in high school when Lawrence had an accident that took his life.

Halos one year ako hindi nagsalita, nakakausap (For almost a year, I didn’t talk, no one could speak with me),” Krish said.

After that, “hindi na ako nag-try ulit magka-partner (I didn’t try having a partner again). I got involved in civic works.”

Now, years and years later, Krish could still recall with fondness what he shared with Lawrence.

One time, “nag-away kami (we had a fight),” he recalled, eyes misty. “We were praying novena then, hinawakan niya kamay ko kaya nagalit ako (he held my hand and I got angry).”

And then, with a sigh: “Ang pag-ibig (That’s love)!”

RE-CONSIDERING ACTS OF DISCRIMINATION

Krish looks at what can be acts of discrimination in a different way.

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“Sometimes, when I get invited as a speaker, tinatago ako ng nag-invite as a speaker. Kasi ang mga susunod na speakers sa akin, moralista (the people who invite me to speak hide me. This is because sometimes, the one who speaks after me are moralists),” Krish said. “Ginagawa nila, ililipat nila ang speaking slot ko, o ipapasyal nila ako. Kung umalis na ‘yung moralista, saka nila ako ibabalik (What they do is change my speaking slot or tour me away from where the moralists are. When the moralists have gone, then they bring me back to the venue).”

No, Krish said he never felt insulted. In fact, more than anything, he said he felt pity. Pity for the close-minded moralists; and then pity at the people who invite him because they will surely be reprimanded for inviting someone like Krish.

But experiences like this never drove Krish to change himself.

“The more you hate me, the more ako haharap sa iyo (I’ll be in your face),” he said.

Krish said “people sense when you don’t accept yourself.”

Ako halimbawa, eversince, ‘di ako nag-CR sa boys. Tapos uniform ko sa Citizens Army Training (CAT) ay for girls (Like me, for instance, I never used the boys’ toilet. And the uniform I used for CAT was for the girls),” he said.

In practicing his faith, “nakikita ng pari namin na nagdadamit babae ako, at hindi rin siya nagalit (our priest saw me cross-dressing, and he didn’t get angry with me).” In fact, their late bishop even frequently used Krish as an example of how women should dress up properly, considering he would wear the terno during special occasions.

Krish is aware that in his church (IFI), homosexuality is still not accepted per se, but it is not something that it openly discussed either. Not surprisingly, he said, he knows of “many LGBT people who are out but not out.” He looks at this as a somewhat small step to being there.

Ang mahalaga kasi, kahit bakla ka, makita nila sa iyo ‘yung (It’s important that even if you’re gay, people still see in you a) Christ-like image – caring, loving, understanding, just, peaceful… Kung strong ang pagkatakot mo, ma-ko-kontrol mo na hindi ka mahulog sa hindi magandang gawain (If your personality is strong, you’d be able to make sure you don’t fall into disrepute),” Krish said.

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Often teased that – since he never had a boyfriend after Lawrence – he would die “na dilat ang mata, na nakangaga (with my eyes wide open, and my mouth open),” Krish remains open. “Hindi ko sinasabi na ang sex ay hindi magandang gawain, pero there’s a time for that. Hindi ka naman nagmamadali eh (I’m not saying that sex is bad, but there’s time for that. I’m not rushing, anyway).”

And if there’s a lesson he can share to other people like him, he again stressed the need to honor context. Then, half-jokingly: “Sabi nila, tayong mga bading, di tanggap sa langit kasi makasalanan. Hindi rin tanggap sa lupa kasi mali. At hindi rin tanggap sa impiyerno kasi magagalit ang demonyo. So saan tayo? Sa rainbow na lang tayo (They say that gay people are not acceptable in heaven because we’re sinful. We’re not wanted on earth because we do wrong. We’re not wanted in hell, too, because even the demon doesn’t desire us. So where do we go? We head to the rainbow).” And then, seriously: “This is why we find strength in supporting each other. Kaya nga dapat parating may (This is why there should always be) rainbow coalition.”

For now, Krish said he has found his calling. And that is anchored in him finding his religion.

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