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.”
Ernie Remoto Paraiso – 36 years old from Barangay Ocho, Balayan, Batangas – always eyed to be an educator. He thought that by becoming one, people would respect me.
And now, “as a member of the LGBTQIA community who is now a teacher, I always tell younger LGBTQIA people, to those I know or mingle with, for them not to be afraid to face the challenges of life. Instead, they should study, and prove to others that LGBTQIA people like us can’t be thrown aside. Like me, I became a teacher. And in my experience, since this happened, no one takes me for granted nowadays. Because I proved to all people that even if I’m a member of the LGBTQIA community, I have worth and have something to say to society.”
GROWING UP GAY
Ernie knew he’s gay when he was in Grade 5. “I think I was 9 to 10 years old when I knew my orientation’s different,” he recalled. “I liked doing what women did, like playing with paper dolls. I also had male crushes.”
Ernie is the youngest of five kids.
“When family members noticed I acted differently, that I’m gay, of course at first they forced me to be more masculine. They knew a gay life’s hard. But I was persistent. I showed to them I won’t be a problem for the family or of society. They slowly accepted what I am, and who I am,” he said.
Generally speaking, though, Ernie said it is difficult to be LGBTQIA in Batangas.
“Because when you say Batangueño, it refers to brave people. When you’re LGBTQIA in Batangas, people make fun of you. Or other people from Batangas are ashamed of you. Supposedly because we deviate from this belief that people from Batangas are brave,” he said.
Looking back, “the discrimination I experienced in high school included being laughed at, being avoided by other boys when I went to the male toilet, and of course get hurt in love because I started loving then even when I knew that this love was fleeting.”
Ernie remembered that one school adviser told his classmates not to ridicule him for being gay. “At the same time, my teacher motivated me to show them that I didn’t deserve to be discriminated. I should show them I deserved to be respected. What I did was to study hard; I was an honor student in high school. When I was already an honor student, they didn’t tease me anymore. They started approaching me to copy from me.”
Ernie finished Bachelor of Secondary Education, major in Filipino. He has been teaching in a public school for 11 years now.
“I chose to be a teacher so I can avoid the discrimination I experienced when I was young,” he said. “And to show to the world that a gay man isn’t ‘only’ a gay person. A gay person has rights in this world. And a gay person has the capability to be an integral part of society.”
Ernie added: “My being gay helped me become the educator I am now. If I’m not gay, perhaps I’d just be a loiterer, a drunkard, or… just a carpenter. My being gay helped me persevere, and to make sure I help my family, my community to uplift the quality of LGBTQIA people in society now.”
For Ernie, being LGBTQIA is affiliated with helping their families. As we always say, LGBTQIA people like us have no one to turn to but our families, our siblings. It’s only fair that we’re linked with helping our family before we help other people.”
“I don’t have a partner now because in my mind, a gay man’s relationship is complicated. It’s like planting a seed, and it grows. Uproot it immediately before it hurts you. If you let it grow into a tree, it’s harder to uproot. What I mean is: I love but I know it won’t last because I know we’re not meant to be together forever. I know that a man is meant for a woman.”
This, obviously, reverts back to more traditional arrangement between gay-identifying men who only have relationships with straight-identifying men. Here, the former almost always “pays” for the companionship; and the latter eventually leaves to be with women.
And so for Ernie, it’s very difficult for LGBTQIA people to find love; particularly for those from Batangas. “Because gay people like us can be considered pastimes. We get tapped when they need something. That’s the reality. It’s painful to hear this, but this is our reality; straight men just use us for their own benefit. Perhaps out of 100%, only two guys love gay guys seriously. But most of the time, it’s hard to gamble when you know you won’t win.”
Ernie is a member of the local LGBTQIA organization, Bahian Movers Club; and for him, having such group is relevant.
“LGBTQIA organizations in particular places help strengthen the LGBTQIA people there, and surface them so they become more accepted by society; that there are already LGBTQIA people,” he said.
For Ernie, “dealing with LGBTQIA people who lost their ways is an issue we should focus on.” Specifically, “there are LGBTQIA people who are addicted to drugs. There are LGBTQIA people who steal. LGBTQIA organizations can help them. Give them work; livelihood; or any help for them to find the right path.”
To “emerging LGBTQIA people, or those who still don’t know for sure where they belong,” Ernie recommended “I want to discourage them (from becoming LGBTQIA); if they can still change, then change.”
This advice is, however, grounded on a… good intention.
“This way they don’t go through the hardships that we did in the past. Hopefully their lives will be better if they choose to become heterosexual men and women,” he said.
All the same, he added, “if in their hearts they’re really part of the LGBTQIA community, I advise them to show the community that LGBTQIA people are also part of the society. That gay people can be linked to progress in various aspects of society.”
Ernie added: “But of course, we need to find our proper places. For people to respect you, respect yourself first. Avoid doing something that will destroy you, or lower your worth as a member of the LGBTQIA community.”
PUSHING FOR ACCEPTANCE
“To parents with LGBTQIA children, slowly give them spaces in your hearts. We, as parents or as siblings, should guide them in the path they’d take. We should support them in what they want to do because it will help them succeed in the life they’d choose to live,” he said.
It’s all about love, and reciprocity, in the end.
“If your child is gay, slowly accept him, slowly love him,” Ernie said. “And a time will come when your gay child will lift you out of poverty, and will help you for life. Because a gay person won’t leave you no matter what.”