Friday, November 16, 2007

Recommended Read

I have know quite a few gay Asian born guys. Like for multi generational Australians, their coming out stories or their not coming out stories are as different as everyone else's.

This from MCV, one of our local gay newspapers was a good read I thought. The part where his mother thought that her son had died when he told her he was gay was a good insight into how some parents must view their gay child.

Condoms and coming out PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 14 November 2007

p11_feature_filipino_250.jpgNavigating the complex intersection of sexuality, family and culture is no easy journey, writes Ryan Perdio.

My birthday, last year. Out with the whole family for a Sunday night dinner, my mother hands me a present and insists that I open it in front of everyone. The look of restrained excitement and anticipation on her face should have made me suspect that something was up. The parcel turns out to be a box of condoms.

Less an example of her enthusiastic and somewhat warped way of showing motherly concern for my health and wellbeing, the strange gift was, in fact, a gag. A playful gesture and a simple, albeit significant, reference to how far things between us have come.

My parents were understandably upset when they found out I was gay.

I came out at 16, the arduous conclusion of several challenging years of self-doubt and self-exploration. Along with being an extraordinarily moody teenager due to the difficulties of dealing with my sexuality, I was also quite the strong headed and stubborn youth. My parents and I regularly butted heads. They were the authorities, and thus the people whose seemingly unreasonable rules - imposed purely, of course, to make my life difficult - I disobeyed.

The old world views they were raised with back home clashed with the autonomy that I’d adopted as a consequence of growing up in Australia.

Like many Filipino families, ours is an exceptionally close one. This strong sense of togetherness is largely due to the belief and importance placed on the cultural identity of the family unit, which Filipino society is especially driven by and centred upon. It’s within this identity that we should, as individuals, find reason and purpose, at least in theory. Parents nurture their children; children tend after their parents, and so on. But it’s a double-edged ideal. While on the whole the family is a wonderfully welcoming and encompassing environment, it can also be prove to be strict and inflexible. Problems arise when something, or someone, deviates from what is regarded as the norm. As, clearly, I had done by coming out.

My parents’ way of dealing with my revelation was to ignore it, and me, completely. When not locked in her room crying her eyes out, my mother refused to acknowledge my presence; a stark contrast to the mother whom I had had regular hearts-to-hearts with. I felt alienated and helpless; not to mention guilty for causing her so much grief, and angry at the lack of sympathy that I felt I was due.

My father, on the other hand, acted like nothing had happened. He went on treating me much the same as he had before I came out, which proved to be both a relief and a nuisance. While it made me feel normal, his lack of acknowledgment also frustrated me. I wanted to speak to him and to open up on how I was feeling, but I couldn’t bridge the gap.

It seemed an eternity before I slowly felt a change in both their attitudes. A gradual shift. And now ten years have passed.

Which brings me back to my birthday dinner. I feel slightly mortified as I hold out the box of condom for everyone to see, but laugh it off along with everyone else. As we finish laughing our collective heads off over my somewhat unorthodox present, my mother points to the attached card I haven’t previously noticed. She insists I open it and read aloud the message within: ‘Happy Birthday! Don’t use these all at once!’ Time has definitely been a great healer and equaliser.

A few years back, I asked my father why he acted the way he did when I first came out.

“At first I thought that you were just going through a phase, so I didn’t make a big deal of it,” he told me. “But when I realised that you weren’t going to suddenly change back to what you were never before, well, I thought, why continue to worry?”

And my mother’s response?

“I felt like my son died. Not you specifically, but my image of my son. The one who will get married to a lovely wife and have beautiful children,” she explained. “So, when I found that that wasn’t going to happen, I grieved. For that son. And when I was done, I found that I still had the same son, but one that I really needed to get to know. And he turned out to be someone that I equally adored... Plus now, I have another daughter also!”

Ah, parents. I guess you’ve gotta love ‘em and accept ‘em as they are!

10 comments:

  1. And parents have to love their kids and accept them as they are. If I have children, I would hope that I dont put them through a decade of pain by refusing to accept their choices in life, whether they're gay or want to be a lawyer, or create unfunny 'cute cat is being cute' lol-cat pictures.

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  2. for the record, some of those lol cat things are hilarious...just not the 'whatever chat is being whatever-ish' junk on there. and enough jokes about cats with computers!

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  3. Funny you mention that, because I am over lol cats anyway and unsubscribed to direct feed today. They amused me for a bit.

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  4. The author of this piece, Ryan Perdio, was up until recently a well known Melbourne blogger. I enjoyed reading R*YAN's blog but unfortunately he has not posted since August.

    http://ryansqueerbent.blogspot.com/

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  5. Thanks Firehorse. In his profile it says broadcaster. I have heard him on the radio.

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  6. I'm heterosexual, but am aware of how difficult it is at High school for someone who is gay. They face an uphill battle against stereotypes, caricatures and incessant bullying and picking-on. This issue then begs the questions of who's to blame for the bullying? What role does the government play and will we ever see a turnaround to tolerance?

    Did you face negative reactions from school kids?

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  7. I don't think there would be a single moment in my life that could come anywhere near what it would be like to come out. Mind you, it has been so long that assumptions have been made and when I announce that I'm seeing a woman, you can almost feel the disbelief. That gust of air as everyone inhales!

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  8. Not that I really remember Sueglossy. But I wasn't really obvious or sure myself. There are some very out there secondary school kids now. There is no way anyone could have done that back when I was at school.

    Same for me Rob as I have never come out. I don't shout it out loud and I rarely hide it.

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  9. Hi Andrew,

    A friend has just recently pointed me over to this post. Might be a few months behind but I wanted to say thanks.

    It amazes me what kind of reaction and responses people have had to this story. I guess you never really expect your own personal tale to have much of an impact or relevance with others.

    Still, I'm chuffed every time! :)

    Cheers,
    Ryan

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  10. It was a good and informative piece of writing Ryan and deserves its accolades. :)

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Whenever I wish I was young again, I am sobered by memories of algebra.