Last June was a very special month for an oft-misunderstood and marginalized group of people. For those not in the know, June is the international pride month for the LGBTQ+ community. Every year, the LGBT community celebrates its greatest triumphs in fighting for their rights and sheds light on those who have suffered discrimination and outright persecution. It is a month when the community is at their most visible, and these people, who normally pass unnoticed in the school hallways, can wear the symbols of their community and beam with pride as they spread awareness without hesitation or fear of rejection.
The month of June is also the perfect time for LGBT individuals to come out. Pride month empowers them to come out of the closet with the support of the community and others who are going through the same situation. But even with the help of the LGBT community, coming out to homophobic strangers, friends, and even family can have disastrous consequences. LGBT individuals will still choose to take this risk, though, because the reward is so much sweeter: a chance to be true to themselves. In honor of Pride Month, four Lasallians share their stories in taking the plunge of faith and showing off their rainbow colors.
Moving forward, alongside family
Like most Filipinos, Julia Elline Espanta (III, DSM) was raised in a religious household, and considered herself very close to her parents. “I tell them everything,” she explains, “so withholding this information from them felt foreign to me, and led me to my decision to come out.”
For a long time, Julia tried to ease her parents into the idea of her sexuality not entirely aligning to what was considered the norm. “I thought subtlety would be the best route,” she says, adding “I would drop hints or compliment girls in front of them.” Eventually, however, she decided this method of coming out was not direct enough, and instead chose to tell them point blank: “I was in the car, and just went ‘I have a crush on a girl,’ leading them to ask questions, and me going ‘it’s ‘cause I’m pansexual.’”
While there are other members of Julia’s family who are openly part of the LGBT community, her parents still found the concept of her being pansexual difficult to grasp. “There were times I would talk about it, or talk about girl crushes, and one of them would go ‘let’s just stick to the normal please’ as a joke,” Julia shares. While moments like these do not offend Julia, she notes that her parents grew up in a different time and culture, so she can’t blame them for finding her situation unusual.
Not everyone sees coming out as a necessity, but for Julia, it was the avenue needed for her to move forward alongside family. She considers her coming out a learning experience for her and her family alike, saying, “They’re slowly understanding that this is normal, that not everything they were thought whilst growing up is applicable now.”
Out and proud
Jushuaia “Waya” Ayco (III, BSA), a transgender, started her journey when she was still a young and enthusiastic frosh fresh from her high school days. Before she came to terms with her orientation, she was mostly unaware about this aspect of herself. “Actually, I was outed by my friend. I was still in denial when I first came to La Salle,” she laughingly recalled in Filipino. “I was straight up asked, ‘are you bi?’ by my friend. He was so straightforward. And I thought to myself, ‘Oh. Oh, yeah.’”
When asked whether it was easier to come out to friends or family, she replied, “Definitely friends. Family was the hardest. My friends were so accepting.” Waya had recently come out to her family, and was plagued by fears of being reprimanded by her parents. “When I went home to Nueva Ecija around December, I was still a little conservative. I was scared. I thought I would be kicked out of the house or forced to stop school, but my family didn’t do that.”
Her fears about rejection however, weren’t completely unfounded. “I noticed that my dad didn’t approve,” Waya continued. “My dad still has a few issues with my orientation, but now he just leaves me be. He knows he can’t do anything about it.”
Not being completely sure about being shunned by her family, Waya remembers coming out to her mom by texting her about her sexuality. Her fears were later assuaged when her mother sent a sweet text back to her, accepting her as long as she did well in school and worked hard for her future. “When I received that text, I cried,” she confessed. I think my coming out was… demure, subtle, in a way, but it was a happy occasion because I could finally be myself.”
Now as a college student, Waya is out and proud. Other than a few strange looks from those in her province, she says she doesn’t really experience discrimination. “And I know if I ever do, I’ll fight it,” explains Waya. When asked what her advice was for people in her situation, she said, “Coming out depends on your circumstances. I don’t think people should be pushed out of the closet. Just be true to yourself, and do what you love.”
“My style of coming out is I blurt it out and hope for the best.” says Ika Dela Cruz (IV, CAM-ADV). Ika shares that she has the tendency to overthink situations, so she chooses to come out quick and straight to the point, lest she psyche herself out and lose her window of opportunity.
She started with her friends, then her sister and parents, and is now openly bisexual and accepted by everyone she considers it important to come out to. When asked if she experienced anything even remotely negative after coming out, she answers “Not really, no. For me, coming out was more of a release. It opened the door for me to be who I am.”
Despite the degree of acceptance she received upon coming out to her friends and family, Ika did come across one major road bump at the start: coming out to herself. “I lived in denial for so long,” she says, explaining that she’d been questioning her sexuality since high school, but has only recently come to terms with it. “[I] kind of [had] this internalized homophobia saying ‘no you can’t be gay’ because it used to have such a negative connotation,” she explains, adding that she hadn’t known at the time that bisexuality was an option. Now that she is older, and understands more about the spectrum of sexualities she could belong to, she shares that she finds it a lot easier to accept herself now.
You are valid
When asked about her thoughts on coming out in general, Ika’s opinion is firm: “It may seem like a rite of passage, like your sexuality seems to cultivate to this point where you have to come out—you don’t. The only person you have to come out to, and who has to really accept you, is yourself.” That being said, she also deems finding a “safe space” in others is important, advising people who have yet to come out to put your foot out of your closet. “You don’t have to out yourself, but at least find people you trust to talk about it with.”
Pride month has now come and gone, but the spirit of acceptance and the sense of community that came with it should not be exclusive to June. After all, being open about who you are is a trend that lasts the whole year round.