President Duterte, praying the gay away didn't work for me

People ask me, "When did you find out that you were gay?" I simply respond that it’s no different from when anyone found out about his or her sexuality: it just happened.

In my case, it happened when I was in 4th grade, when I suddenly took an interest in boys from higher grades. While pretty girls caught my attention, it was the boys who kept it.

I couldn’t help that I was attracted to them. I also couldn’t believe and accept it then. I kept on denying my sexuality; my very self. Barely entering puberty, I cried myself to sleep, scolding myself that I couldn’t be gay because I would go straight to hell.

As with many other members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community, I was born to a home, neighborhood, and country that could not accept me.

I was raised thinking homosexuals were mistakes of creation. So when I found a flaw in me, I called on the Creator himself to bargain.

Praying myself away

ACTIVE MEMBER. The author was a member of a Christian youth group for much of his high school years. Photo courtesy of the author

ACTIVE MEMBER. The author was a member of a Christian youth group for much of his high school years.

Photo courtesy of the author

For countless nights, I prayed a part of myself away.

I will be good, I said. I will be better, I said. Just take it away. Just turn me straight and normal so I could have an easier life so holy and pure that I'd be willing to surrender.

Then I joined a youth Christian movement in high school. If I could serve my God better, I thought, maybe he would listen to me.

There, I was taught that prayers should be structured. Remember ACTS, they said – "Adoration of God, Confession of sins, Thanksgiving for blessings, Supplication of desires."

The wishes always had to be last, only after praising an all-powerful being and repeating many times that I am intrinsically a sinner for being born different. I then had to give thanks for the blessings despite my infractions.

Then I wished the same wish over and over. It still didn't work.

IN A GAY BAR. The author visits a gay bar in Quezon City with his friends. Photo courtesy of the author

IN A GAY BAR. The author visits a gay bar in Quezon City with his friends.

Photo courtesy of the author

I Googled if it were possible to turn myself straight if I forced myself to like girls. There were no conclusive answers but I still hoped my sexual preference could be reversed.

I chose my crushes and tried to get close to them up until we reached dating status. But no matter how hard I tried, the farthest I could go was admiration. There were no sparks and I felt empty.

The prayers and the attempts to love a girl continued until before I went to college. At that point, faking it became unbearable.

I gave up on self-destruction and began to accept who I was. Perhaps the Creator didn’t really make a mistake. I began believing that this was who I was meant to be.

I am gay and there is nothing wrong with me. You cannot fix what is not broken.

I have since accepted myself, feeling comfortable sharing my sexual orientation with my friends and my family. I have spent unforgettable nights at gay bars, dated guys in the open, and yes, felt the thrill of real love.

There's nothing to cure

SIGN LANGUAGE. The LGBT community and its allies spread messages of love through signs at Metro Manila Pride 2018. File photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

SIGN LANGUAGE. The LGBT community and its allies spread messages of love through signs at Metro Manila Pride 2018.

File photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

So when President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that he was supposedly gay (well, maybe he was joking again), and that he was cured, I remembered my days of self-inflicted conversion therapy.

He implied that being queer was a disease that could be cured by a beautiful member of the opposite sex. It was even a good thing, he said, that he was able to cure himself.

He even taunted his chief critic Senator Antonio Trillanes IV by claiming he was gay.

People can say that he said it in jest, but it remains a fact that the President’s words carry weight, especially since he has claimed to be an ally of our community.

With one stroke, he resurfaced the wrong notion of homosexuality as a disorder and the twisted view of being gay as something that is undesirable.

The World Health Organization used to label homosexuality as a disorder, but it has since recognized it as a legitimate sexual orientation.

As for the belief that being gay is wrong, history has taught us that when there is destructive animosity among us, the problem always lies with those who hate, and not the objects of their hate.

I call on the President to stand with what is right. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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