We brothers, raised in the ways of hardy men with a touch of flair on the side, courtesy of my mother’s artistic roots, never quite talked about issues related to sex or its relation to manhood. Unlike mainstream society and the religious institutions that pulled the strings on the ebb and flow of contemporary moral thought, we considered manhood to be grounded more on principles. As such, “enjoys vaginas” as a prerequisite for masculinity was not something that concerned us. Still, strongly heterosexual as they were, there remained the element of shock that was all but expected when the revelation reared its ugly, rainbow-colored head.
What was not expected however was that said revelation wouldn’t come from me. Rather than the typical procedure of revelation wherein the mystic revealed his sacred tidings to the people, the process was reversed: a man from amongst the crowds (i.e. my brother) calls to the prophet to reveal his own knowledge to him, and the manner through which the crowd (i.e. my significant others) had come to partake in it. But as it turned out, the revelation did indeed emerge from my own lips – my dry, quivering lips, crusted with the faint scent of rum.
That was lesson one: never underestimate the speed of gossip. Oh, and lesson two: refrain from revealing sensitive information while under the influence of alcohol.
It was the first week of December 2010 when I discovered that my secret was not-so-secret anymore. (Ah, how time flies when you’re being gay.) I can only imagine the heavy feeling of awkwardness in my brother’s heart when he called me into his room one day and said, “we know about… you know.” As I said, it still came as a bit of a surprise to them, but not because I had done such a wonderful job of hiding my sexuality; it was just that my behavior and my love of typical manly things in general never quite fit the bill as far as image of the quintessential “bakla” was concerned. That’s lesson three: stereotypes don’t always apply.
I was of course compelled to ask how he found out about my “same-sex attraction”, as the unpleasantly religious ex-gay apostolates put it. He asks me to recall what happened during the Halloween party in Katipunan, hosted by the neighbors of my mother with whom I had developed strong friendships with. And so I do.
Rewind three weeks and we enter the dining area of the neighbors’ two-story bungalow, decked with all the lovely drapery of the season. (They were always keen on going the extra mile with decorations. Paper mache spiders!) Mother and the others returned to the other house after the first two hours of regular dinner time, but I stayed behind to enjoy their company for a while longer. Then came along their other friends from work, bringing along with them more drinks to complement the neighbors’ already impressive supply of alcohol, and you can imagine how things turned out for the next five hours. Between discussions of existentialist philosophy and the best kinds of spices, gender preferences somehow squeezed into the conversation. Considering how much my brother somehow knew about my private life, I can only guess how much I disclosed after my 10th shot; I remember little from that night aside from how much I hated absinthe. It was like drinking kerosene. Huh, that’s a good fourth lesson: refrain from ingesting anything that tastes like something you’d use to power your car.
Four moons passed and then one afternoon, during the usual round of coffee at my mother’s place, one of my neighbors accidentally mentioned my heartfelt affirmations from that evening. What followed that slip of the tongue was, according to what I was told, an equally heartfelt response from my mother and my eldest brother; it was, as he put it, a mixture of alarm, guilt (mostly on my brother’s part because he was very fond of making rather offensive gay jokes), and fear of my father finding out. [EDIT: It suddenly occurred to me that I’m taking a huge risk writing this and possibly having it published under my name. Oh well, my father’s not much of a reader anyway.] The titular lesson: beware the slips of the tongue, yours or someone else’s.
Mother phoned my brother that night, one thing led to another, and finally we’re back to when my brother called me into the room. And then he tells me something out of the blue that I didn’t think would mean so much to me until he actually said it.
Those two words kept me up for hours that night. There was no mention about any of it again after that, as if nothing had ever happened, and the normalcy of it all was strangely comforting. They knew I was gay, and they were okay with it. (Well, maybe after some gnashing of teeth, but still.) It was refreshing not having to worry about it anymore, having realized then that deep down it was their approval that I had been seeking out for so long and sorely missed out on. It was no wonder then why so many of us are so adamant about being able to come out of the closet, intentional or otherwise. It’s an unusually liberating experience, and I’m glad my neighbor’s tongue slipped that afternoon. Saved me the trouble of coming out of the closet myself and what would have been another four years of me not mentioning my sexuality to my family and wondering if everything was cool.
I realize that not many gays can be as lucky, but that for me was the sixth and most important lesson of all: having your family by your side in something like this really helps perk up the mood. My heart goes out to those who haven’t found the same kind of acceptance, and I pray for the day that this whole issue will no long be an issue.
© Copyright 2016 Jan Gabriel. All rights reserved.