“I think everyone knows it. I want to be a girl.”
Saying that on stage in front of more than 100 people took a lot of courage from me. It happened before I entered college. I was reapplying for the continuation of my scholarship in a nonprofit organization, Assumption Development Foundation (ADF), where students like me attend monthly seminars on character, confidence, excellence and life’s most valuable lessons, including analytic thinking. Everyone was asked a question; mine was about my greatest ambition. So I said that because it was true. People there saw the spirit of valor and honesty, and I gained respect for it. But the hesitation and fear inside me were unknown to them.
I had reasons to feel that way. For 20 years, I have had experiences that made me feel bitter, inferior, unsure of my true self, and inconsistent in my belief, on account of my being gay—things I wouldn’t have to endure had I been a girl. Like most gays, if I were just given a peso for every time I was insulted, I would be rich by now.
When I was a child, I always wanted to play with Barbie, believing there was nothing wrong with it. But my parents would insist on noisy trucks, hostile water guns and dull baseball. However, none of these matched the bliss and fulfillment I got whenever I played with Barbie and Sailor Moon dolls—paper dolls that I secretly bought from the nearby sari-sari store.
My unusual behavior made me a subject of bullying at a very young age. Almost all the people I knew (except my parents) laughed at and teased me. Entertaining themselves at my expense, they made me feel ridiculed and intimidated. I hated it when my playmates wouldn’t let me join them “kasi bakla ka (because you’re gay).” They made me feel like an outcast.
In grade school, I held myself aloof from my classmates, teachers and other people for fear of being laughed at. I used to cry in response to my classmates’ insulting cackles when I played Chinese garter with my closest girl friends on the corridors. I was silent in class; I didn’t want to attract attention. But my silence aroused more suspicion. My classmates took notice of it, of my “graceful fingers,” my “feminine ways,” and, of course, my having crushes on boys. I suffered interrogations regarding my sexuality. “Marvin, bakla ka ba (are you gay)?” they’d ask. And I, having been taught and having accepted as true that being gay meant being ridiculed and bullied, evaded answering them (“Hindi pa ba halata? Hello?!”). When I couldn’t handle the uneasiness, I would say, “Hindi (No),” which didn’t sound convincing at all.
Years of denial passed before I came to be true to myself and admitted that I am, indeed, gay. This happened late in grade school, when I found acceptance from my circle of, well, gay friends. I overcame my shyness and fear of ridicule.
Or so I thought. In high school, I encountered more serious bashing and discrimination (for example, walking on the corridors with boys shouting invectives and sometimes blocking my way to incite more annoyance), and was faced with a very disturbing notion: Homosexuality is evil.
I remember our history class turning into a discussion of Sodom and Gomorrah because of me and my friend (also gay). I didn’t know then if our teacher had some gadget capable of detecting gays, because at the sight of us she knew she “needed” to do some preaching. I cannot call it respect, but there was a bit of concern in her tone when she explained to us—to the whole class—that “God despises all acts of homosexuality; that’s why Sodom was destroyed.” She also said, as if making a concluding statement, that “He has only made—how many sexes?—two sexes,” and that everyone should be as “God intended them to be.”
It didn’t matter whether there was respect or concern; I considered it an attack. I felt shamed in front of everyone.
I think anyone in my place would have felt the same way. I should’ve said, “So, Ma’am, heterosexuals are the only ones following what God ‘has intended them’ to be? I shouldn’t be alive then.” I wanted to ask, “How do you know that it’s what God wants? Was it merely because of homosexuality that Sodom was destroyed?” But I just kept quiet. What could a 12-year-old do to win an argument over a 2,000-something-year-old belief?
I became resentful and bitter when the Bible reading was about Sodom and Gomorrah and when the discussion touched the “only-two-sexes” stuff, for I knew that under those garments of religious and cultural beliefs being imposed on me, there were threads of fear. Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against the Bible. It just cuts me when other people act as if they’re the only ones who know and are loved by God, and when they use sacred texts to break the hearts of homosexuals or inject fear in them.
Yes, I blame people for being judgmental. I don’t see any sense in quoting from the Bible to frighten others, telling them that if they don’t do this or that, they will burn in hell. It not only causes fear, it also imprisons people’s minds. The “purpose” of bringing them back to God does the reverse. Many gays were being frightened by what other people told them, and so was I. At that time I began to feel tremendously insecure. I thought God was being so unfair.
A lot of gays have tried to change, to be “straight” men. And I pity those who do so out of fear of hell, because when they pretend to be what they are not, they create their own hell while they’re still alive.
I believe in God. I just can’t believe that God wants His creations to be destroyed and to vanish like dust. Gays are all over the world. Can God stand seeing His wonderful creations destroyed? I believe not. What kind of merciless and unloving God would that be!
I consider myself blessed for having ADF accept me, but most of all for accepting me for who I am. It’s here that I have come to view things from different perspectives, and it has encouraged me to think outside the dictates of culture, norms and conformity. Most of all, I am grateful because we conduct a philosophy class where we discuss life through different lenses. The class has enlightened me on my insecurities regarding my sexuality.
Four years have passed since that day I said I wanted to be a girl. If I were to be asked now whether I still want to be a girl, I’d say no. It’s not because I have been traumatized by my experiences or I have succumbed to the fear of going to hell, but because there are now people with whom I’ve found love.
Unpleasant experiences made me vulnerable and resentful, but also taught me to define myself and construct my own beliefs. I am not afraid anymore. I will stand for what I believe in, win or lose, with others or alone. I will never again let anyone make me feel small, or unimportant, or evil.
We cannot all agree on one belief, but I’m saying this anyway: Homosexuality is not evil, and it does no harm to other people. It’s some people’s bad judgments that are evil. I hope that in my lifetime, gays will wish they were girls and not deny it, but later find that they don’t have to be girls to gain acceptance and love.
Marvin L. Senobio, 20, wants to become a renowned fashion designer.