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Backstory

Time to see gay people in a different light

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On my last trip to the then freezing tundra that is New York City, I met up for dinner with a few old college buddies from Ateneo. We always have a laugh and a half recounting the days when we were much younger (and thinner), remembering old friends and former teachers, and seeing how drastically our lives have changed (of the three of us in that cafe who began as BS Biology majors, only one actually became a doctor).

Two of those buddies are a married couple and brought along their two sons—a long-limbed 13-year-old who wants to be a stage performer (given that he’s from an artistic family, I’m not surprised in the least), and a 9-year-old seemingly more concerned with just being 9 than anything else. At that dinner, the boys’ mother confided that her teenage son had just come out to her. I was impressed; at an age when other teens are figuring things out, here was one that knew what he was.

The mom went further to say that she had felt a little bit of heartache with her son’s revelation. I can understand that, as a mother. The future that a parent envisions for his/her child includes a wedding and grandchildren. Three words would seem to throw a monkey wrench into those plans: “I am gay.”

I would go out on a limb here and say that no parent is ever truly prepared to hear those words from their young son or daughter. Each parental situation is unique and I can only imagine varied possible reactions, among them the utterance of “God,” followed by “Why hast thou forsaken me?” A tearful mother might turn to the rosary. An angry father might punctuate a “No son of mine is gay” outburst with a beating of the “errant” child. Maybe they’ll throw him/her out.

One reaction stands out in my mind. When my good friend Jay Kuo (cocreator of the Broadway-bound “Allegiance”—he wrote the music and lyrics and cowrote the book) came out to his dad, the response he got was: “Well, I must now think of gay people differently.” Later, I asked Jay when he realized that he was gay. He said he had known at age 5, when he wanted an Easy Bake Oven for his birthday. Besides spending much of his time on “Allegiance,” he’s also a lawyer. Plus, he knits.

By choice

You presume correctly if you think I spend much of my time around gay people. Some of it is purely by circumstance but a lot is by choice. One of my best friends in the whole world, Victor Lirio, is gay, and he stood as Bride’s Best Man (aka Gay of Honor) at my wedding. Whenever an opportunity for us to spend time together arises, travel plans are made. We have worked hard together, and played just as hard together.

The concept of sexuality was something that, as a young child, I didn’t understand. Although I was always surrounded by gay men and women (my first director and musical director were lesbians), I didn’t know to that greater extent what being gay meant. I mean, when you’re 9 years old, singing “Tomorrow” in a room full of other actors in rehearsal, the only things you look out for are staying in tune and not getting bitten by the dog playing Sandy.

Half-brother

Earlier, at age 7 or 8, I had met relatives of mine who were gay—an aunt, an uncle, a few cousins. Around that time, I was introduced to a younger half-brother, Jeffry Salonga. His sexual identity didn’t fully emerge until later in childhood. Now in his 30s (he looks 25), he’s completely bloomed. He’s a regular entertainer in comedy clubs. We call each other “Sis.”

In my late teens and early adulthood, I had peers who started making their identities more known, though not always explicitly. Monique Wilson, when we were working together in “Miss Saigon,” never took me aside to tell me that she was gay, but the implicit signs were there: a girlfriend visited her dressing room on a regular basis, and I never saw a male suitor. Not that it mattered to me at the time; as long as she did her job and did it well, I thought, that’s what counted. Last I checked, she’s in London coupled with Rossana Abueva, an investment banker, and is a staunch advocate and activist for women’s rights.

I cannot categorically make blanket statements about homosexuality, as I am not an expert armed with scientific facts that state the whats, hows and whys of it. Is it genetic, or circumstantial? If a little boy plays with a Barbie doll, does that make him gay?

Let them be

For the record, I never liked playing with dolls, always opting for books and my brother’s toys. I liked assembling remote control cars that Gerard would then take to Greenhills and enter in races (he may have won one with the Hornet). I took things apart and put them back together. Thankfully, my mother never once discouraged this behavior, and instead allowed me to just be me. Which, at the end of the day, is what we as parents, grandparents, teachers and mentors have the responsibility to do for our children: Let them discover their true selves.

That’s what gay people ultimately are—men and women on this adventure we call life, navigating it with much uncertainty, fear, anxiety and hope. They are our friends, lovers, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, coworkers, rock stars, doctors, lawyers, lawmakers, teachers, artists, actors, writers, directors, musicians, authors, businessmen, store owners, designers, athletes, singers, dancers, and students. They are all ultimately human.

It’s time to think of gay people differently.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000158435924 Michael Arsenault

    If being gay is a choice, why would we choose to make our life a living hell? Why would we choose to have bigots and “Christians” and all religious people and all anti-gays hate us? Why would we want this? No one would want to be hated. It’s like saying that black people seventy years ago would “choose” to be black with all that hatred. No one would EVER choose that.

    • http://twitter.com/bigg_dawg big dawg

      i think the answer is between your legs. you don’t even have to look in the mirror. you’re either male or female. you can also have a blood test if you’re not convinced. i’m pretty sure the nurse will let you know your gender. now, if you act against your gender, that means you chose to.

  • Guest

    Captive Philippine Eagles are trained to copulate with human surrogate mates.  Success rate is not 100%.  I bet eagles that are able to distinguish humans from their own kind refused to be trained while others doesn’t mind at all.

    That’s how evolution works.  Some nature, some nurture.  But being the smartest among the living species, I would expect humans are more discerning and are inclined to choose base on reason instead of relying on the natural flow of things.

    • Kurt Paolo Sevillano

       I have to say that your comment wreaks idiocy. Humans do not COPULATE with eagles. They act as surrogates to encourage the production of sperm and egg for harvest latter on. They do not poke their reproductive organs in eagles for crying out loud!

      “I would expect humans are more discerning and are inclined to choose base on reason”. I sure bet that the next boy or girl whom you’re going to fall in love with will be very well chosen by your brain by virtue of reason.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CFRY6YJQLN2KRP22F5JZ7XNYTQ XYZ

    There are two types of reactions that I absolutely abhor – the
    assertion that being gay is wrong because the bible said so, and the
    declaration that it is sick because it is physically not meant to be.

    If you’re the pious type who’d readily throw a bible verse
    in response to any topic concerning homosexuality – please form an opinion that
    isn’t based on what somebody else wrote eons ago.  Society has evolved, and as a consequence,
    perceptions must change with it.  Living
    in the past is a personal choice, but do not – by any means – force others to
    join you.

    If you encounter gay people and the first thing that pops
    into your head is the manner by which these individuals have sex, then you
    would have to think twice about your perceptions of the world.  In the first place, who a person has sex with
    and the means he/she and his/her partner employ to obtain pleasure, is none of
    your business.    

    The bottom-line – a person’s reaction to homosexuality reflects
    the quality of thinking that he/she is capable of.   One
    could either be outdated or just simply have a filthy mind.
     

  • AliMore

    Dear haters, I hope that as you go on with your lives you encounter fabulous gay people who will prove to you, just by being who they are, that they are people too, deserving of love and respect, and free to do whatever and whomever they want, just like you. It would be extremely delicious if you found one of these jewels in someone in your own family, a best friend, a boss or co-worker, your child. May they be strong enough to overcome your prejudice and love you for who YOU are, you angry, self-loathing, bible-thumping, ignorant sheep.

    • http://twitter.com/bigg_dawg big dawg

      Everybody deserves love and respect as a human being, but homosexuality is a choice, like choosing to lie, steal, fornicate etc…we love and respect the people but not the choice they make.

      My God is no respecter of human opinion. His thoughts are beyond ours. don’t you think it’s a tragedy when you go against nature? even if you’re an atheist, isn’t it wrong to go against nature? you can believe whatever makes you sleep at night, but your beliefs don’t change the facts and the truth.

      tell me you don’t believe in the God of the Bible and i’ll stop replying to your crooked comments. regardless how many people agree with you preaching your perverted message of love, God loves us and His love is fair because He’ll pass judgment like how He judged Sodom and Gomorrah.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=723182268 Danton Remoto

    Bravo, Lea, and many thanks from Ang Ladlad Party List. Salamat.

  • concern_netizen

    I won’t be surprise if LGBTQ and Ang Ladlad will try to make it a crime for parents to suppress gay behaviors of their children. They will argue that not allowing children to express their true gay feelings is affront to human rights. Tama no? Aminin…

  • http://twitter.com/_Ozeki Ozeki

    It’s all about love

  • lanzthirteen

    ‘Let them be’ – Therein lies the problem. You see something wrong and do nothing then it becomes accepted. No one is questioning the skills and talent of gay people. What is being questioned is their aberrant sexual behavior and preferences.

  • abudahbi

    its just amazing that no one has made research on homosexuality. i’ve always believed there is a scientific explanation. might be genetics or something. it is not a preference. not even an orientation. in my opinion, it is inborn. it is as natural as being born a girl or a boy.



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