I stared at my phone screen, looking over the text I had typed out to my parents: I’m gay.
I hesitated, unsure of what would happen if I pressed send. I played this risky game too many times before, never sending it in fear of my parents’ reactions.
I took a deep breath and sent the text, finally coming out to my parents. I told them that I didn’t want to hide my identity from my family anymore. It was too painful.
I just started my freshman year at Temple and was living in Johnson Hall — away from my home in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania and my family.
There was never going to be a right time for me to come out to my parents. I just had to do it. I could no longer live a lie, a false version of myself.
That night, I stayed awake, anxious to hear back and to see how my parents would react. The following morning, my mom sent me a message: “We still accept you.”
I began crying and felt as if a weight lifted off my shoulders, and I could finally breathe again. She told me that she had always suspected and that it would take a while for her and my dad to come to terms with my sexuality.
Growing up, the word “gay” was taboo. Whenever I heard someone say something about gay people or that something was gay, it was associated with being different and strange.
I remember feeling upset when someone called me gay because I didn’t like sports and because I was friends with girls. This enforced toxic masculinity along with the self-denial of my sexuality, and I felt pressured to act more “straight.”
In Filipino culture and religion, homosexuality is considered a sin against Catholicism, and I was afraid that my family and my culture wouldn’t accept me — they would disown me for my identity. Even to this day, I remain silent about my sexuality to my extended family in the Philippines, not wanting to be shamed or discriminated against.
I always struggled with accepting that I was gay, that I was attracted to men. I told myself it was just a phase, and that I would end up marrying a woman anyways. I felt like the odd one out with all my straight male friends because I could never relate to them when it came to talking about women they found cute.
I kept making excuses as to why I thought I wasn’t really gay: I wasn’t as flamboyant as gay people were supposed to be, nor did I listen to Lady Gaga or Lana del Rey — two musical artists that I thought gay people loved.
These negative stereotypes I held proved to be incredibly toxic to my mental health because I kept lying to myself. I began feeling invisible and unhappy. Over time, I learned that these stereotypes weren’t all true and that I didn’t need to fit into them to know I was gay.
After experiencing my first relationship and subsequent heartbreak with a man last year, I learned to fully accept this part of myself.
I chose to come out to my parents right after my relationship ended because in retrospect, it had changed me, and moving forward, I didn’t want to hide who I was anymore.
My first gay relationship allowed me to grow, and I learned how to be more comfortable with my identity. I learned that I could love, and be loved by another man. I was no longer ashamed to be open about who I was attracted to.
I began to embrace who I was by practicing self-love and affirming myself, and I became more and more confident in my own skin and identity. I put all my energy into focusing on my passion for photography and music, allowing me to take control of my life more than ever before.
Coming out to my parents took a long time for me. Before I ever felt ready to be open about who I was, I needed to accept and love myself and learn how to be comfortable with my sexuality. I finally feel proud to say, “I’m gay.”