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.”
“There are people who judge. But I don’t think I care. I ignore them.”
So said 18-year-old Minjun Jay F. Sawan from Cotabato City, as he takes pride in his bisexual identity.
Looking back, when he was younger, Minjun used to play with his sister; and at that time, “I thought I’m gay.”
Minjun could recall turning fabrics (e.g. towels) into dresses, and playing with Barbie dolls. But it may have also been because “I didn’t know I’d grow up to also like girls (just as I like boys).” The latter development happened to him in high school, when he realized that he’s bisexual.
WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE BI
At least in his experience, being bi isn’t hard because of two things.
On one hand is the misconception about gender expression – i.e. that when a guy identifies as gay, he then has to start acting feminine. Sans background on SOGIESC – particularly on transgender issues – Minjun believes this.
On the other hand, and related to the first point, is this notion of “passing” – i.e. that act of “editing” self-presentation/expression to conform to what’s more socially accepted in order to avoid being stigmatized.
In Minjun’s observation as a cisgender bisexual guy, “sometimes people can’t ascertain if you’re gay, or you’re straight. So for me it may be more difficult to come out as a gay person. When you do, then that may be the time when you dress as a woman, or put on make-up… So for (a cisgender person like) me, it’s not hard coming out.”
FINDING A FAMILY
The eldest child, Minjun’s parents are actually already separated.
“I didn’t really come out to my parents,” he said, though not only because they have their own families now, but also because Minjun also has a new family now.
A few years back, “I was adopted by one of the staff of a beauty parlor,” he said.
When he was adopted, “that was only when I had the guts to come out. My biological parents are very religious. So it’s hard to tell them that I’m like this. I think they’ll judge me. I think if I tell them I am part of the LGBT community, then they will disown me,” he said.
Minjun’s family used to be Born Again Christians. “When I was adopted, I was baptized again into another religion, as a Roman Catholic.”
Not that the Roman Catholic Church is also warmly embracing LGBTQIA people; but at least – for Minjun – the experience is “better”.
The person who adopted Minjun used to train street dancers. “Every year, in the province where I came from, we had festivals. I used to represent my school in dance competitions. He was a trainer then. There were actually two of them. It was the other one who came up with the idea to adopt me. They were getting old, and they needed someone younger to help out.”
Before he was adopted, he lived everywhere (“My parents, the neighbors, my grandmother… At least I was welcomed, and I’m thankful to them”).
Adopting Minjun wasn’t a matter of just taking him from where he was.
“They had criteria when they chose me. They said they picked me because I’m artistic, talented and smart,” Minjun said.
Now, Minjun credits his new family for giving him confidence, and “I now believe if you have confidence, you know how to come out. With confidence, you know how to carry yourself even if you’re part of the LGBT community.”
With his adoptive parent, “I am not allowed to have a relationship.” Not that it bothers Minjun, who said he wants to focus on his education first. “I’ll have relationships later.”
He also has to observe a curfew. “I have to be home early. If I say I’d be home at 5PM, I should be home at 5PM. My adoptive father is very strict with me. You get a mouthful when he reprimands you. Perhaps you could get fed up. At times he talks too much… But he considers me as his only son, so I respect him. I know that everything he does is for my own good.”
Even the direction of Minjun’s life was affected by the adoption.
“I am currently studying Bachelor of Science in Tourism Management in STI College of Cotabato. I took this course because when they adopted me, I was exposed to events management. I gained knowledge about other cultures, about traditions… so I pursued this degree in college,” he said.
ALL ABOUT RESPECT
Typical of Filipino mentality, Minjun has “utang na loob” (gratitude) because of the change that happened in his life.
“My first priority is to help the person who helped me. The person who changed my life, who made me come out to be true to myself. That’s my adoptive parent,” he said.
Looking back, too, he remembered experiencing discrimination, particularly when he was young. “People always derided me. Like when I played with other boys, they shooed me away. They never made me belong. But when I get discriminated, I just say, ‘Fine. I don’t care!’.”
This is why his message to other people who discriminate is to learn to respect.
“Learn to understand other people. We’d understand each other if we can respect each other. So just learn to respect,” he said.
But Minjun is also still a… traditionalist.
To LGBTQIA people, he said: “To LGBT people, for others to respect you, perhaps you should respect yourselves first. In the way you talk, the way you interact with other people, the way you present yourself… Respect yourself so others will.”