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.”
Axl Türk Modesto – 28, from Bacolod City in Negros Occidental – actually felt he’s gay when he was in elementary school. “But I didn’t come to terms with it then,” he said, recalling that it was only in college when “I accepted that I have feelings for guys. And (at that time) I tried not to hide it anymore. Before then, I just pushed it back, telling myself ‘No, no, no; be straight. I think you’re just going through a phase.’”
It may have been at the latter time when he met a lot of people who “were very comfortable with them being them. With them being gay. And I said, ‘Why the hell not? I could be happier!’. So I embraced my sexuality and identity.”
But knowing he’s… different while growing up was challenging for Axl Türk xl.
“There are six of us, and I’m the youngest. Actually, my siblings, they kinda know about it but they don’t want to talk about it because there’s nothing to talk about; that’s just me. It’s my identity; that’s how I see myself; that’s how I project myself.”
Instead, there were two sources of “pressure” to be heteronormative.
On one hand, “my mother and my aunts, who are my maternal figures, still have this conservative mindset.” And so Axl Türk have yet to come out to them (even now), since “I just don’t want to put this up for discussion. I feel that they know but… I just don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to open that can of worms,” he said.
On the other hand, “I had to live up to my father’s machismo, (his) reputation. And me being his only son with my mom, and being the most good-looking one among the male offsprings of my mother, I had a certain reputation to live up to. Especially since my Dad was, like, the badass in the neighborhood,” Axl Türk said.
Knowing that many LGBTQIA people suffer when they’re still young because of unwelcoming environments (including at home), Axl Türk said: “My message to parents who have LGBTQIA kids and they are not accepting, that’s actually shame on you. You have this obligation to provide for them, to provide them love, and you shun them just because they’re gay? We didn’t get to choose our parents, and you don’t get to choose your child. Just because he’s gay doesn’t mean you can’t love him. I don’t see the relevance (of that) right now. I don’t see the relevance of that mindset.”
DEALING WITH DISCRIMINATION
Yes, Axl Türk experienced discrimination, “some came from the family, some from my friends, some from strangers, and some from my teachers.”
From peers, “I was made fun of because I’m gay. I was still trying to explore who I am back then, during the early years of college. I was experimenting with my hair, with the way I looked. And it kinda came out awkward and weird, and people liked to make fun of that.”
From famil he was teased for being “softer” than others. “I was being called out for (being different), for not living up to this Filipino male ‘standard’.”
But eventually, as time went on and as Axl Türk became more confident with what he am, “they kinda – like – stopped.”
Still, looking back, “the coping mechanism that I really tried to do was to dissociate (myself). I skipped school for some time. I went to Internet cafés to play games. It was (some) sort of escapism… I guess.”
Axl Türk thinks it’s really difficult to grow up as LGBTQIA in Bacolod because it is really conservative there.
“(People here) are very religious, very dogmatic. You can’t go out in the streets being gay or whatever without these old (people) looking at you strangely, looking at you from head to toe, without any judgment, without being catcalled by loiterers or whatever. So yeah, it’s pretty frustrating to grow up gay in Bacolod City,” he said.
Yes, he’s starting to see some changes right now. “But this city still has a long way to go.”
ALL IN A DAY’S WORK
Axl Türk actually wanted to become a teacher (among others), but “I finished college with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Office Administration.” The decision to finish this, at first, was “forced upon” him, since he used to skip school a lot, disqualifying him for the teaching program of his school. “Ultimately, I just said, ‘You know what, I just want to get my education. I want to get a degree.’ And so I enrolled in this program,” he said.
Fortunately, “I was happy there. It was a very nice environment for me to grow in.”
Axl Türk now works as a court stenographer.
“I had a teacher who’s also a court employee, and this person told me that the courts are always in need of stenographers. So I applied here,” he said.
Looking back, being toughened by his experience as a gay person helped him clinch the job.
“The values I (developed) as a confident gay person, I channeled it there. And it got me where I am right now,” he said.
FINDING LOVE IN BACOLOD
Right now Axl Türk doesn’t have a partner, though he thinks “it isn’t hard for LGBTQIA people to find love in Bacolod. But I think I’m just particularly picky. I’m picky with my choices.
There are still issues that Axl thinks the LGBTQIA community should still focus on.
Number one for him is LGBTQIA human rights since “we’re being harassed left and right.”
We don’t know where to assert, when to assert (our rights). This is why these offenders get away (unpunished), without any legal repercussions. Because we don’t know what cases to file against them, and what damages we’re entitled to as people.
Number two, “there’s also the issue about gay unity because sometimes we exhibit crab mentality within our community. Instead of lifting up, celebrating each other, we tend to drag each other down. That’s really not a win for our community.”
And number three, “we need to talk more to normalize talking about HIV and AIDS. There’s still stigma, and within our community, we should do away with that.”
Axl Türk added: “For me, having an LGBTQIA community or organizations in Bacolod is important because right now, we don’t really know the state of the community. Or there’s no, like, support group if ever something happens within the community. I’m just glad that such a community, and such organizations exist in Bacolod.”
The organization he is part of is called the Bagani Community Center. Located at 3/F NEDF Bldg, 6th Street, Barangay 7, Bacolod City, the NGO focuses on HIV and AIDS advocacy.
HIV, said Axl, is a growing issue in Bacolod now, with their NGO registering from three to 10 HIV-positive cases in a month. And so “we conduct free (HIV) screenings, and we do education about HIV (via lectures we call) HIV 101.”
The NGO also has a charitable arm that focuses on giving the needs of indigent LGBTQIA community members; as well as provide a safe space for LGBTQIA people to get condoms and lubricants.
“Perhaps a struggle when we conduct HIV outreach programs or educational drives is how some people don’t take it as seriously as they should. Especially within the queer community,” Axl Türk noted. And so “how do we deal with stigma? Don’t talk about it in hushed tones. We normalize talking about it.”
In their NGO, “we have volunteers who are really (open about their HIV status), and our reaction to them is, ‘So what? It doesn’t change the way we look at you.’ And they realize that, and from there, within the community itself, the stigma is (no longer) existent, it’s absent.”
Axl Türk added: “We, as volunteers, in our respective (personal) communities – e.g. at home, in our circle of friends – also openly talk about HIV. It’s like a win for us because somehow, we’re part of the solution in curbing (the spread of) HIV and AIDS.”
YOU HATE, YOU LOSE
Axl Türk wants LGBTQIA people to own their narratives.
“My message for queer individuals in Bacolod City, especially those still growing up, try not to let them get under your skin. At the end of the day, it’s just (all about) you,” he said. “And you know what, there are lots of people out there who are also very accepting. Let’s just not focus on those kind of (hateful) people and their negativities. Don’t give them the luxury of your attention.”
As for those who continue hating on LGBTQIA people: “My message for heterosexual people who are not accepting of LGBTQIA people: Your loss, not ours. They’re missing out on the loudness, the funness of us, of the entirety of the queer community. And every time they see a gay person strolling by and they get agitated, that’s their energy being wasted. So that’s on them; that’s not on me… that’s not on us.”