Jes Nortiga noted how, when the youngest of her two children was still in primary school, that child “used to play with a classmate’s hair; and when that classmate had her hair cut to don a short one, my child was so devastated and didn’t talk to that girl for a while,” she said with a laugh. That may have been an occurrence unrelated to sexual orientation, but – “Couple that with my child’s preference to play with dolls, the wanton swaying of the hips to mimic girls while walking,” she said – and Jes said she had an inkling as early as then that “my child’s special. A mother knows.”
And so when her child came out as a transwoman, “I was not mad nor was I too happy,” she said. “It just was. I learned to accept this just as a fact.”
In her own recollection, Jes’s trans daughter Amanda Vu said “I was still young when I came out as gay… maybe I was eight or nine (years old). My parents are open-minded and took it well.” She added that perhaps there was even no real need to come out since “it (my being gay then) already showed in how I acted.”
Amanda’s only elder brother is, by the way, bisexual [“Dalawa lang sila (magkakapatid), both (assigned boys at first) who happen to belong to the LGBT community,” Jes said]. He came out to their Mom much later than Amanda, but “in primary school and in high school, we talked about our crushes. He was the guy looking (at these crushes), and I was the girl looking,” Amanda laughed.
A parent ought to help their children find their happiness, Jes said. And on this, “I can’t give enough to make my children happy.”
Amanda believes that “family support is very vital as its leads you to the right path. (Your family is supposed to be) always there no matter what.” In her case, she said she knew “they may have had some reservations about me being trans, but they never stopped me from being me. What I remember is them saying that they support me… as long as I do well in the life I choose to live. And I’m good with that.”
Jes and her husband (Amanda’s father) separated, so it’s just the three of them living together now. And as a mother, Jes admitted having worries for her LGBT children.
For instance, “I worry if Amanda goes on dates baka mapahamak siya (maybe something bad will happen to her), similar to what we see on TV,” Jes said. “Kaya I told them to tell me where they are when they have a date para kapag may nangyari, alam.ko saan sila pupuntahan (so I’d know if something happened to them),” she said, adding with a laugh: “Kahit mag-motel pa sila (even if they go to motels).” To appease their mom, “they both do this.”
There are also worries about the LGBT children’s future (“Ayaw ko kasi sila masaktan [I don’t want for them to get hurt],” Je said). In Amanda’s case, “Ayaw kong i-underestimate siya sa work dahil trans siya (I don’t want for her to be underestimated because she’s trans).”
But Jes believes she raised her kids well enough for them to be able to look after themselves – largely helped by being part of each others’ lives. One time, Jes recalled going out on a dinner date, and – sans the knowledge of her date – Amanda was monitoring her mom at another table. “She had the chance to size him up,” Jes laughed, “and then texting me if she thinks he’s okay for me or not.”
Amanda believes one’s family can be a great source of support for LGBT people. “Just make sure that… you do well and never be a burden to them or to society. If ever they can’t accept you, don’t hate them. Understand why and prove to them that you chose a good path and that you are not a burden to anyone. Sure, they may have a lot of bad things to say (about you), but they can’t really do anything as it’s the path you choose for yourself. You have your own life. It’s the choice you made, make it work for you.”
Jes acknowledges that not everyone may agree with her parenting style, and even frown at her supporting her two LGBT children. In fact, there was a time in the past when “I worried how my friends, my colleagues looked at me as a mom; perhaps they’d judge me,” she said. “But having proudly introduced her kids to others and seeing their reactions, (many) end up appreciating how I raised my kids. Some LGBT co-workers even told me they wished I’m their mom. My openness about this has erased my worries about being judged.”
Her former husband actually still plays a role in their lives. When Amanda starred in a PSA for an HIV organization in Cebu City, “my dad was even ecstatic when I showed him my videos. He was like ‘Hala! Ka-lingaw nimo. I-copy sa akoang laptop kay akoang ipakita sa akoang mga officemates’ (You are so much fun. Save a copy in my laptop so I can show it to my officemates).’ That was so crazy and unexpected. He even waited until midnight just to watch my interview on TV.”
Amanda added: “It is such a great feeling knowing that your parents are happy for you and are proud of you.”
Jes said that some parents may feel that “nagkulang sila (they failed to do something)” if their kids turn out LGBT. But she said “all we can do is give them our all,” she said. And then “accept them and be happy with their choices. We may not be able to give them everything to make them happy (the way we believe they ought to be happy), but for as long as they live happy anyway, are safe and successful in their chosen fields, go lang. They are still your kids. Life is too short to hate and disown them.”