By Isabelle Cruz, Editor
In 2016, my step-brother came out of the closet. We were driving home from school. I knew something was up when he turned down the radio and skipped the turn that would have made the drive home faster.
“I came out to San Jose today,” my brother says, in a sort of outburst. His eyes were on the road, looking back to me when he could. I looked at him, surprised. His mom’s side of the family in San Jose was very Christian. He recalled the fear of what they would say or how they would treat him after such an admission. It was the same feeling of angst I had become familiar with.
He spent many nights staying out late and pretending to hang out with his best friends Andrea and Marie when he was sneaking around with boys. We all already knew he was gay. My dad would jokingly call him Michelle instead of Michael. He would call girls gross whenever someone implied he was dating one, and in reality he was crushing on the girl’s guy friends.
I ask him what our mom had thought. He told me she was fine with it. Our family loved him no matter what. As the words registered in my brain, my head swiveled toward him. She was fine with it? “That’s not fair!” I cry, choking on tears.
A year before I was told that it was only a phase, that I’d grow out of it. My heart beat like a sledgehammer, a million thoughts ran through my head. I’m bisexual, is that not okay? I felt obligated to agree to reconsider, despite my conflicted head and heart. I wanted to be the perfect daughter, more than I wanted to be happy.
Being rejected and pretending to reject a part of who I was hurt more than anything in my life. It was the last thing I expected from the people I loved.
My brother knew what went down when I had come out that year. He also knew it was why I had grown distant to the rest of the family
That year, I didn’t go out much, asked for very little for fear I would be snapped at. I kept to myself. My family and I became detached from each other. I didn’t like being home, didn’t even want to call it home. I wanted to run away, but there was nowhere to go.
Senior year I was surprised I was able to keep my grades up, considering the turmoil in my head. School was my sanctuary. I had to pretend things were okay at school when things felt like they were falling apart at home. The only person I was able to confide in were my friends and my significant other at the time. The fallout of my coming out were the roughest months of my life. I felt like I deserved it. It was my fault for being too scared to be upfront about the situation. Would that have changed the outcome? Would anything have changed the outcome?
That day, a year ago, I got in trouble. “I wasn’t hurt you’re that way, I was hurt you didn’t tell me honestly you were with her,” my mom said. I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t. I was paralyzed by fear. No one in this situation was getting it.
Since then, I hid my relationship and walked a thin line between safety and deception. I felt like I had to.
I always wondered if it was a cultural double standard that made it okay for my brother to be gay and not me. My parents were old school. I always had to take the high road and apologize even when neither of us were at fault. When I tried to tell a counselor at school or even a couple of teachers, the blame was always put on me for not trying to think of my parents’ point of view. When I tried talking about it with my brother, it was like he didn’t understand his privilege. To me it was like it was okay for him to be gay because he was a guy and it wasn’t as taboo. My brother never shared his opinion on my relationship with my mom nor offered advice; he was just there. It wasn’t fair.
It took a couple sessions with a therapist at LBSU Counseling and Psychological Services to diminish the remaining anguish and guilt I carried.
“It’s not your fault,” the therapist said. I remember looking at him blankly. He said it again. Tears began forming and ran down my cheeks. He told me I was normal for wanting to date and be in love and it was unfortunate I was forced into my situation.
I believed him, and still believe him today. I now accept my situation. The weight of choosing my happiness has somehow been lifted. Things got much better after I moved away for college. I had more freedom, and people around me who supported me. I didn’t feel guilty for making decisions without my family’s approval.
My family was a big influence on how I thought, reacted and felt about every little thing. It was this control they had that drifted me from Filipino culture. I did what made me happy and I don’t regret it. Nothing was going to stop me anymore. While I grew distant from my family, I knew I still had the love and support from the family I chose. I am surrounded by love and hope.
It didn't really matter that my situation was unfair. What matters now is that I'm happy, and I am free.