Trigger warning: mentions homophobic threat against a child. Marked with: *
“These are the questions I am most often asked by Chicanos, especially students. It’s as if they are hungry to know if it’s possible to have both – your own life and the life of the familia.” (Moraga 3)
My earliest encounter with the word “gay” had been at seven years old. A television network covered a story of a young boy, 15 years old, who was kicked out of his home – beaten by his father and disowned by his mother. The news continued, the boy was gay and his family could not accept that. That day, I learned that being queer meant abandonment. Coming out meant you would be thrown out into the streets and beaten by your family.
I cannot recall my age in the next memory. My uncle had come home and he had not seen his three sons in months because of work. That day, my cousins and I played dress-up. His youngest son loved to wear my dresses, he loved how it looked when he twirled. When his Papa got home, he was told to change. I remember sitting in the balcony, with my uncle speaking to my aunts. *At one point, they talked about my cousins and he said: if any of my boys turn out to be gay, I will hang him from a flagpole until he turns straight.* That day, I learned that the abandonment and violence that was associated with being queer extends to my own family.
Similar to Moraga, my family is largely Catholic. In fact, a large majority of the population in the Philippines practice Catholicism. Stories about the young boy are unfortunately common among queer youth in the Philippines. Often, a parent’s reaction toward their queer sons and daughters are because the religion associates queerness with sin. They are told that it is not right to love someone of the same gender. I was very young when I was placed in these situations so I never questioned their implications, sin was sin and committing any sin meant punishment from God.
Looking back, these experiences revealed the hypocrisy behind most Catholic families. We are taught to love our neighbors as if they were our family, we are taught that family is most important, and we are taught that love and forgiveness conquers all. Yet, these teachings are forgotten when it comes to queer children. Families hurt their own child, threaten their safety, and abandon them – all for what? For committing a sin? Was it not considered a sin to abandon one’s child?
Unfortunately, because of instances like these, it is easy to understand the students’ questions and their implications. Often, I just assume that to have my own life meant that I could not have the family. That choosing to have the family meant giving something up. While I understand that there are exceptions, these situations happen enough that most of us just assume the outcome. It should not be this way, we should be allowed to have both.