I visited a friend’s blog today, and he mentioned me in it. (The post was written more than four months ago; some friend I am, checking his blog three times a year.) This friend was a good friend of mine back in college for around three years, I think. We met up in my freshman year, he in his sophomore year, making our acquaintances in the college’s ROTC marching band. That was pretty much the extent of our relationship – we’d see each other every Saturday while playing marching tunes under the heat of the sun, and occasionally at school basketball games, where we would play inane cheer medleys. We weren’t close, but I considered it a friendship.
Now, his post talked about how he visited his old college haunt, which brought back a slew of mostly bittersweet memories for him. Near the end of the post, he wrote about the last time he and his friends were together, which was at the senior party. I was there, despite my being a junior, because the band I was a member of at the time performed that night. He had a few beers, got a bit wasted, and approached me. We chatted for a while, I think I thanked him for his friendship and tutelage (he and I were members of the cheering squad’s horn section), and wished him well. After a few more minutes, he came out to me, after which, he literally ran away.
I remember standing there, stunned. My own friends later on told me that it was no secret, and I guess that pretty much told me my gaydar was shot to hell. I didn’t speak to him for some time, partly because we weren’t that close and had no opportunities to really talk, and partly because I tried to deal with his revelation in my own way. The end result was “AC-DC,” a three-act play I wrote for a master’s class, staged twice. Writing that play was therapeutic in many ways, best of which was it allowed me to come to terms with accepting that this friend was my first friend to actually tell me to to my face that he was gay. Later on in life, I would eventually learn of many friends coming out, all well and good, but my friend Tyler was the first.
Why did Tyler’s coming out hit me so hard, anyway? I realize now that his coming out made me realize I, too, had to deal with my own concepts and struggles with sexuality. It wasn’t easy. Ever since I was a kid, a lot of people thought I was gay, and looking back, I guess I can’t blame them for thinking that. Society today isn’t as closed-minded as it was back in the 80s and 90s (imagine even further back!), and my mannerisms in high school and college didn’t exactly scream “jock.” Back in high school, for the first two years, I hung out with guys who were pretty much in the same mold, so I think that contributed to people thinking what they thought. Some of my students – whether at DLSU, Saint Scho, even PROSEC – thought I was gay. It bothers me because people were attaching a tag onto me that was not true. It makes no difference what the tag is. When someone labels you with something that’s not true, it can hurt.
I guess it bothered me because all my life, I always defined myself as “funny.” The nonstop talker, the entertainer, the sarcastic wit. I never included “gay” in how I saw myself, so it came (and still comes) as a surprise to me when people add that definition, because I never entertained the thought of having any kind of sexual contact with another man. Actually having the gay kiss in “AC-DC” made me realize that there really isn’t anything in being gay for me.
I actually see myself as Chandler Bing – the funny guy on Friends. It was always “funny,” “witty,” “entertaining.” Chandler, too, was also thought by some to be gay. Like Chandler, I was never gay, but people thought I was. Like Chandler, it bothered me that people thought I was. Like Chandler, I just learned to deal with it.
Other than my family, my high school buddies, and true college friends – Release and the LHC – the only one who really saw me for me – Chandler and all – was Cathy. When Cathy and I started dating, she looked beyond the corny jokes and the decidedly unmacho persona and saw potential. We could talk for hours, we were never bored, and she liked me for me. We had so much in common, and she didn’t care if I shrieked – that’s right, shrieked – at the sight of a cockroach or did a really good impression of Miriam Defensor Santiago.She is my woman, and I am her man. She made me want to be, not just a man, but the best man I could be. Now that God lent me a son, it is my responsibility to raise him to become the best he can be – and true to himself, whatever he may be or wants to be. I owe it to my wife and I owe it to my God, who made me who I am today, a person I can be proud of, regardless of what other people think about me.