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.”
When Bex, now 37, was growing up in an Islamic community in Marawi City in Mindanao, she remembered how things were “pretty… should I say oppressive? In that place, if you’re not Muslim, you’re the minority. And you’re not allowed to dress a certain way. Or speak a certain way. We were in our homes by 6 P.M. because we had to be careful because everyone was a target. That was the environment there.”
She said that without the benefit of hindsight, “it was ‘normal’ for us. But now that I’ve grown up, I’m realizing it really wasn’t normal.”
There was this feeling of “confinement”, of “suffocation” that stays on.
And so when she had a chance, Bex moved to Cagayan de Oro City; and then – eventually – to Cotabato City.
LETTING PEOPLE BE
Bex said she knew “for a very long time that I’m not straight. As early as six years old, I knew that something was different.”
When she was in high school, she already started experimenting. “At first I dated women. But it didn’t stop there. And so at some point – I guess it was already in my early 30s – I decided that I don’t confine myself in the gender binary.”
Now, Bex said “I accept myself as a pansexual.”
Bex had to come out. “I think (that was) in my mid-20s. I think my Dad already figured it out when he was still alive, when I was still in high school. But we didn’t talk about it. But then when my Mom sort of had that confirmation that I was seeing women, she didn’t take it very well. She thought I was just acting out. At some point… maybe she was blaming herself, trying to make sense of it all. At this point I don’t even think she’s fully accepting. Just tolerating it, and living with it.”
But Bex now says that “if people can’t accept that, I’m not saying it’s a problem. But if they don’t understand it, then they should learn. If they want to understand it, then they should learn about it. I mean, if you’re not open to the idea of pansexuality, so be it. I guess you just have to let people be themselves.”
“I don’t fall in love with a person’s body parts. I fall in love with their soul. To me, that’s how I see, how I view pansexuality as,” Bex said.
She understands that “it can be confusing to other people who are on the outside looking in. Before, people even told me I’m just being selfish; like I just want the whole buffet,” she said, somewhat sardonically. “But I guess it’s not about what other people think. It’s what you are at peace with. You know, being accepted by other people is one thing, but the most important thing is that you accept yourself.”
Even now, “you don’t really feel free to tell everyone who you are. You don’t really feel – all the time – that you’re safe. So, of course, I still need to be careful,” Bex said.
Bex said she didn’t “literally come out, telling people that I’m gay. At that time I only told people, ‘Oh, I’m dating this person.’ I guess it got confusing for them, too, because I didn’t only date women. They saw that I dated men. I also dated a gay man. So I think it was necessary for me to tell people that this is what I identify as.”
HEAD OF A FAMILY
Bex has a younger sister; 10 years younger than her.
“I’m not sure how it was for her (when I came out) because for a very long time – because of my sexuality – I detached myself from my family, including her,” she said.
But when her sister started attending college, “I made a decision to take her under my wing.”
At that point in time, too, their mother had to leave the country.
“I don’t fall in love with a person’s body parts. I fall in love with their soul. To me, that’s how I see, how I view pansexuality as.”
Recently, Bex learned that her sister has “very strong feelings about gay people. Like, she would say that it’s not fair that gay people can’t marry. She would say that it’s not fair that gay people are having such a hard time. She understood what my struggles were,” she said, misty-eyed. “She understood what my struggles were (while) growing up and having to look for a family elsewhere because I didn’t feel like I was accepted (by) my own (family).”
“I actually gave in to a friend’s request to come see Cotabato. I had very low expectations,” she said, adding that she initially thought Cotabato City would be similar to Marawi City, which she left because it was stifling.
But when she arrived in Cotabato City, “it was actually very different. I (would) travel and I’ll just wear shorts; short shorts. In Marawi City, everyone would look at you if you’re wearing skimpy shorts. But here, it’s just normal for them. Also, what amazed me was that I saw a lot of gay people; like… loud and proud gay people.”
As a graphic designer who does most of her work online, “I can take my job anywhere I go. (This) made it easier for me to move to Cotabato just like that.”
Actually, coincidentally, “a couple of months (after checking Cotabato), I met someone on Tinder (dating app). Coincidentally, (she) was living in Cotabato City. So we met up a month later in Cotabato City. And (another) month later, I moved to Cotabato City.”
WANTED: INCLUSIVE RAINBOW
Bex thinks that “right now the LGBT community is growing; the (number of) letters (in the acronym) is growing. So they’re just putting (the plus sign) on it. But there are still people who need to feel that they are included. That they’re part of this community. That it’s not just for the ones (represented by the available) letters on the acronym,” she said.
There may be others who used to also feel trapped as she once did.
And so Bex said: “My message to the members of the LGBTQ+++ community who are still trying to find themselves is that, you know, you’ll get there. It will get better. I mean, just be happy. Don’t overthink things. There are always people who will be there for you, but you have to also make an effort. Don’t play a victim, you know. There is so much in this world waiting for you. And there is so much that you can give.”
And in the end: “If they hate us, then it’s their problem. Like I’ve always said, ‘Hate is a poison that you ingest.’ So if you have hate in you, you’re harming yourself more than whatever it is you’re hating.”