Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bus Ride by Thomasian Psychologist

By Thomasian Psychologist

NOTE: I’m going Shakespearean with this, as The PG Blog puts it. This is a true-to-life account of my coming out October last year. Things have changed greatly, and I’m happy that they’re for the better.

"Are you sleepy?" I asked mom as the bus made its way through the bridge that connects the place we’ve been to our destination.

"Yes," mom replied absent-mindedly.

"Want to feel awake?"


"About what your boss said earlier," I started. The thumping on my chest felt so much stronger, like a little boy pounding on the doors of the closet from which he was hidden. The little boy—I—knew it was time to finally come out. I had promised myself that the moment I get the chance, I would grab it. Earlier was that moment. Mom's boss joked about how mom's youngest would tail her around, and what possibilities such attachment could imply. In a split second that seemed to stretch into an eternity of consuming trepidation, I finally disclosed, "it's true."

Mother's expression turned sharp, intently listening and prepared to absorb everything that was awaiting digestion. "That you're..."

"Yes, I'm gay. I have always been."

All her facial muscles, so sharp and alert prior to my revelation, collapsed into what seemed like an overwhelming sadness. That was my cue to answer the why's, when's, and how's even before she could ask.

"I have always known that I’m gay," I explained in a manner young mothers would tell short stories to their little kids before bedtime, "But it was only when I entered college that I accepted myself for what I am. It was not easy for me at first, but yes. I'm gay."

“How did you know you're gay?"

"Attraction to guys. I get attracted to guys."

"I mean, how?" she implored. She seemed not to understand. And it seemed that I would be answering many, many questions, and she would be asking instead of me preempting them.

"That simple. I find guys attractive." I see no other way to put it.

"Have you had a boyfriend?"


I chuckled. It’s funny how love would always come into the conversations of parents with their children. She looked at me straight in the eye, and I looked back. I was comforted by the absence of judgment, of anger, of disgust. This would normally make me stop, reluctant to push my luck further, but I knew I had to go on, to deliver what I wanted her to know without her misunderstanding any part of it. This does not assure, as I understand it, that those three would never follow after, so I have to make effort in getting everything across well and clear.

"Who is he?"

"A student I met from my college."

"I thought it was only during college that you..." Her voice trailed off. There was momentary silence between the two of us. The honking and the belching seemed to have grown louder, and it felt threatening, as if it were to consume everything that we have already established. I realized, then, that to make the most out of what we were having, I have to keep the conversation flowing. I picked up from where she left off.

"It was when I entered college that I accepted myself being gay," I reminded her, "but that doesn't mean I was not gay even before that."

"But now, are you single or are you double?" Her lips curled into a forced smile. She must have intended that as a joke; an attempt to lift the rather unexplainable ambience that have enveloped us. She, however, was not able to make it like one.

"Single," I promptly replied, with a smile. I was uncertain whether or not she was already open to the idea that her children are starting to get involved into romantic relationships, with the opposite sex or otherwise. She has always been firm on imposing the studies-first-love-later family upbringing onto her children, and being single at that moment favored me greatly.

"Why did you break up?" she followed up.

"We were both new to accepting ourselves as gay people. We were still in the dark. I myself did not have gay friends that time. We didn't know what to do, where we were going."

I also knew I had to let her know—finally—with whom I go out with from time to time whenever I leave home.

"Regarding friends, you remember the fashion designer that I got to judge the pageant?" I asked, referring to the intra-college competition I helped organize a few weeks back.

"I already had my suspicions regarding that. How about the illustrator?" she inquired, citing a friend I told her about who had a book signing during this year’s Manila Book Fair.

"Yes. He's gay as well."

Her expression was hard to discern. One thing that deeply matters is my gay friends. This prompted me to explain how we met (though in much simpler terms), to let her know that they cause and bring me no harm which, I know, she fears most.

"There is this blog that writes everything about being gay," I explained. "We are all readers of that blog, and that's how we met."

"I believe you have spent at least one overnight with them," she said. It was not a question; it was more of stating rather than asking. It was difficult to decode the emotion behind her tone of speech, but I took confidence in giving her just the truth, or even just some of it.

Yes," I said. "Once, in Antipolo." It may not be entirely true, since I have already spent two overnight get togethers with my gay friends at the place. Yet, I believe telling her otherwise wouldn’t do harm. I didn’t want to overwhelm her further.

"But you said you have a block mate from Antipolo?"

"I do. I sleepover at his place as well, as you may know."

"Is he gay?"

This gave me a little laugh. Adrian is too macho to be gay, and suspecting him to be one is simply absurd. "No, mother. He's not," I chuckled.

"Do your other friends know?"

"Of course, though not all at the same time,” I replied. This reminds me of my strategy on how to avoid the pain of “expressing my uniqueness” from the majority of the people I am surrounded with. I thought that, perhaps, the struggle of coming out becomes less painful when done gradually. I believed it would be best to come out to those that would least likely to return my honesty with rejection and disgust. In my own theory, their acceptance would fuel my acceptance of myself which, in turn, would serve as the force that would actualize my ultimate goal in choosing to do all of these—living a life of no pretensions. And that’s what I did.

I explained this to mom. “I came out first with whom I am closest,” I continued, “then there came the guidance counselors, other block mates, then—"

"Don't they feel awkward that they are sleeping with a gay man?"

Now, I laughed for real. "We always joke about it, but I don't bite, mother. We're all cool with it."

A little silence, then, "As long as you don't go out that much with your gay friends, I don't see any problem with it," she blurted out.

I do, I said to myself. But I chose not to push her to the limit. We could save that for later, since even before I disclosed to her my orientation, she is already having problems letting me go.

Then came the part I was least anticipant to, yet very much obliged to explain: the kind of gay person that I am.

"Will I be seeing a Bebe Gandanghari later, in the future?" Her eyes twinkled with tears upon asking.

"No, so don't cry." I laughed. "I always explain this to people, and I know it is quite hard to understand, the way our culture shapes our ideas and the society depicts gay people in media. I am gay not because I want to become a woman. I am gay because I get attracted to guys. I don't differ much from other men. It's just that my preferences are different."


"Gender preference. Don't be so sad." I took mother’s hand and gave it a little squeeze.

"It's just that I don't want to see you getting beaten up by a guy or something."

"That's only something you see on TV."

"But it does happen in real life."

"It does,” I affirmed, but with an air of confidence that it won’t happen to me. “But mother, you will be surprised to see that many gay guys do not actually look less of a man. Don't be so sad."

We reached our destination and alighted the bus. We agreed earlier that we would be having her wrist watch fixed before taking our last ride home. The talk continued while the watchmaker made time tick again.

"Now, that did wake me up," she said, for the first time through the course of our conversation, in a genuinely lighter tone. I returned with a simple smile.

"When are you telling your father?"

"I do not know yet." Honestly, all I cared for is my mother knowing. If I were to tell my father, that would only be out of necessity and nothing else.

"Ah basta, I won't be the one to let him know."

"I don't want you to."

"Does your sister know?"

"Yes. And so does our cousins,” I said with pride, referring to mom’s nieces that live with us. “Don't tell me you never suspected me, mother," I said with a new smile.

"I did." She smiled back.

"And so did they. I just affirmed it, like what I am doing now."

The watchmaker was quick in fixing mother's watch. After paying for his services, we headed home. This time it was a silent jeepney ride, and the stillness between us mirrors the subsiding pounding on my chest. It came back to its normal beat; relaxed, serene—just how it's supposed to be.

We decided to walk instead of taking a pedicab at the entrance of the village. Mother talked a few about her boss, her work and her colleagues. When the house was already in sight, she said, "Take care of yourself. Don't do anything that will bring shame to the family. Take care of yourself," she repeated.

"Of course," I assured her. "Gay or not gay, I should. And I do."

A cousin opened the gate wide when we arrived. As I entered the house, I knew that starting today, a different life now awaits me inside. I am quite uncertain of what it could be, but I am sure that it would now be less pretentious—a bit more real.

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