I haven’t spoken to my mom these past few months. This conflict has been brewing for a while, but it finally became unbearable when I told her about my plans to get married to my then-boyfriend, which she met with silence: her way of expressing disapproval. (When I told her days after bringing the wedding up that I had gotten my condo renovated, she congratulated me on it—but never on the wedding.)
The younger me would’ve been in pain over this. I desperately wanted to win my parents’ affection and approval so much that I would try to achieve things—win awards, ace exams, score promotions—hoping that they would finally accept me.
I eventually hit a breaking point and decided it wasn’t worth it anymore. I was tired of constantly making a case that my achievements trumped my queerness, when to begin with my accomplishments shouldn’t have to mask my being gay.
Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’ve proven myself enough. I became the regional director of a global company in my twenties, I’ve been financially independent for nearly a decade, I paid off my first life insurance and bought my first real property. There are definitely better ways to measure one’s success than titles and material possessions, but these are things my parents valued, so I assumed that having all of these would accord me the respect I craved.
Once I was certain I was leaving Manila to live in a place that was away from almost everybody and everything I’ve known my entire life, I realized that it was just me who was holding myself hostage in a psychological prison. I thought that my parents held the key to my freedom, when in fact I was already free. Why didn’t I trust my ability to liberate myself?
It’s not that I hate my family. Hate isn’t the word for it. I think this is what growing up is: beyond the usual responsibilities to feed, clothe, and shelter one’s self (and to figure out how to pay taxes), being an adult means learning to manage one’s emotions, and cultivating a healthy sense of detachment.
My friend Nancy taught me the concept of reparenting one’s inner child. Queer people who had to survive the rejection of parents often live with the constant shame and guilt for being queer, while also questioning what unconditional love means. For those who suffered from violence, they believe love will always involve hurt and pain, and thus continue to allow those settings in their relationships, perpetuating the vicious cycle of abuse. There are those who either end up deeply distrusting people or become constantly anxious that their partners will leave them behind.
Reparenting your inner child is reclaiming your narrative and giving yourself the chance to live with love and compassion. It’s acknowledging the harm and habits from an unhappy childhood that continue in your life and letting these go.
“Love ko silang lahat, di ko sila kinokondena, yung faith ko sa Panginoon ay nandiyan…In fact, gusto ko silang kasama dahil masisipag po ‘yang mga ‘yan at karamihan ay matatalino.”
He was parroting the same lines my mom had said. This was the script religious people loved to use to soften their LGBTphobia. I love you—but. You’re amazing, you’re wonderful—but.
I am wiser now. I know how duplicitous and patronizing this kind of love is. Their love is a farce. They call it love because they refuse to take responsibility for their thinly-veiled disgust, attempting to disguise the true nature of their feelings with care and concern.
But it can’t be love that they have, because they demand that its recipients deny the very core of their being. How can anyone love something if they don’t love who the person essentially is? What do they love, ultimately?
True love is a love between equals. It is respecting the humanity of the other person: that, while their lives may not be fully comprehensible to you because they possess a different experience than yours, you recognize that they deserve the same rights and dignity as you do because they exist. We may not always love the people we respect, but we cannot love someone if we do not respect them too.
I wish that more queer people will come to realize that beyond coming out, we need to learn how to stand up and unshackle ourselves from the judgment of people, even from those that we love. Not all of us will get a happy story of wholehearted acceptance, so we must learn to give that to ourselves. We deserve it. Let no one tell us otherwise.
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