I came out to a friend today via text message. After about an hour of what seemed like an eternity, he replied: “No worries, your secret is safe with me.” I was glad that he was supportive of me, but I don’t intend to keep it a secret for long. Not for another 29 years of my life.
For a single man of my age, my sexuality is doubtful to people around me. Some are curious or try to be helpful to get me attached. A coworker asks if I have a girlfriend (no). My boss suggests prudence, to get married asap so I can see my children grow up (yes, good suggestion). An aunt fervently requests that I add in Facebook her single and interested prospect for me (yes, I’ll try to). These, I usually dispose of with a curt reply, or no reply at all.
However, there are probing questions, even ridicule, that get me down. I am asked why I am still unmarried in a tone suggesting that something is wrong with me. Someone whispers to someone close enough for me to hear a vulgarity alluding to a woman’s organ. Another inquires about my pap smear, or makes effeminate gestures in referring to me. But I am not effeminate at all. As an engineer in a male-dominated industry, I can easily blend in, and a few girls even show interest in me.
But girls do not interest me at all. There was one time in high school when I had this huge crush on a girl, and I had sleepless nights thinking about her. But with all the supposed attraction, there was no erection (pardon the rhyme). I mean, I liked her cute smile and friendly demeanor, but the testosterone rush typical of boys my age was simply not there. Other than that weeklong infatuation, I cannot recall other instances when I liked a girl romantically.
Boys are a different matter altogether. I had a lot of boy crushes back in high school, albeit secretly. When I overheard my openly gay classmates talk about their admiration for this cute boy-next-door type or that burly varsity player, I joined the conversation in my mind, saying, “Yes, they’re hot!” From high school up to this point in my life, I’ve always liked boys in my mind.
This secretiveness has taken its toll on me. I have become aloof to people I presume will not like me for what I am or will likely mock me if they suspect. In conversations, I have nothing to contribute when it comes to matters of the heart, and I usually avoid the topic. When some men I meet show some interest in me, I’d freeze, not knowing how to react, because I am more concerned about what people around me would think. I’ve had a few good men get away because of this. In fact, I’ve had only one hush-hush boyfriend whom I cannot introduce to anyone I know even if I’m proud of him.
Surprisingly, my parents and siblings do not interrogate me about my relationship status. Neither do my close friends pester me. It is as if they already know and assume that I’m gay. Well, I have never had a girlfriend nor have I ever pretended to have one, so they may have some insights somehow. This would be fine, except that assumption is never enough for me. I have always felt tense, burdened and gloomy in not being able to acknowledge my sexuality to people that matter to me. Coming out to my friend today is a small step toward my genuine identity and happiness.
I could have chosen the “straight” path by being a husband to a wife and a father to children who can support me in my senior years. But that will be unfair to them and foolish of me because such a marital setup will eventually crumble under the pressure of my repressed sexuality. I know there are alternative ways of life that will fit me without compromising my true self. I just have to start by being honest about myself.
The stories of coming out of Ellen DeGeneres, Ricky Martin and Anderson Cooper have given me the courage to take this path despite the fear of rejection and humiliation. I’m not fully out there yet (well, I’m still using a pseudonym), but I hope this piece will provide some inspiration to people like me who have been in the closet for so long. I believe we have the right to live the life we have imagined for ourselves. Let us treat ourselves with compassion and understanding: that we did not choose to be homosexual, and that we were born this way.
Dexter, 29, is a resident of Manila and working as an engineer in one of the top petroleum companies in the country.