A version of this essay first appeared in Adobo Magazine's first-ever Gender issue.
Any gay guy will tell you: it’s not unusual to hear a straight cisgender person ask, “Sino sa inyo ang lalake o babae? (Who's the guy and who's the girl?)"
It’s the straight cisgender gaze at work.
Whereas women have the so-called male gaze to blame for how they are objectified and stereotyped by society (#patriarchy), we gay men have to deal with the powerful outsider's gaze—that is, the framing of our identities and experiences according to how straight cisgender people experience the world.
This essay was delivered during the launch of Baker & Mackenzie Global Services Manila's LGBT+ Circle Allies Program in Taguig on June 23, 2017.
My mom is not a bad person. I’d like to think she’s not. Like most mothers, she did the best she could, with what she had.
But not being a bad person doesn’t mean that one is faultless.
At twenty, when I was struggling to come to terms with my sexual orientation, I came out to my mom. I remember it quite vividly. It was late evening, and she was on her bed, and I entered her room quietly. I asked if we could talk. I was crying back then. It felt like I had failed her with what I was about to admit:
Mom, I’m gay. I can’t change who I am.
She didn’t pause. She told me that it was going to be a sad, difficult life. I couldn’t blame her. Our church made all of us believe that being gay was a sin. I was a sinner not by choice, but because I was born gay. Even I believed that for years. I remember buying a pamphlet at the church bookstore about how homosexuality was from the devil, and I could cure myself by praying hard.
Trust me, I did. At our church’s summer youth camp, I closed my eyes so hard when the pastor asked us to pray our sins away.
I opened my eyes and there I was: still gay.
To be told for years that your life was a sham can be a soul-crushing thing. Moreso, when the person you expect to love you and understand you would tell you that your life was just wrong. The rejection from my mom was a push, and I spiraled further into depression.
Recently, I found myself engaged in a serious talk with someone I've never imagined I would even talk to, had someone given me her profile with bullet points that described who she was.
This girl, an officemate from my consultancy work, was a classic extrovert (although she rabidly claims otherwise), a devout Christian, and against gay rights.
As you know, I am quite the opposite of all those things: I am an agnostic introverted LGBT advocate.
It was a recipe for disaster.
Or at least, that's how it appeared then.
HELLO, MY NAME IS EVAN TAN.
I'm a writer and communications professional based in Manila, Philippines. Outside of my regular job, I like to travel, work out, volunteer, watch movies and plays, go to art galleries/ fairs and museums, read books, and eat vegetarian food.
More about me here.