Dating as a closeted homosexual can be very tricky. Above everything else, I never acted on my feelings for guys whom I liked in real life. My awareness of my sexuality and of my need to hide it made it difficult for me to be close to other men. I was afraid that when they found out or “detected” that I was gay, I would get beaten up. I don’t want to generalize, but I know how violent they can be towards homosexuality, and I understand where that violence comes from. Most of them do not understand that being gay is not a choice, nor do they grasp the fact that it is not a contagious disease. They probably think that all gay men are out to get them when that’s not always the case. Straight men are human beings, too, and sometimes, there are those special ones that you really want to be friends with, but it’s not always without risk.
Needless to say, I did what any other gay man with a smartphone in the 21st century does to find a date—download Grindr, among other dating apps. I was circumspect with my first profile. I didn’t want to put my face out there just to be seen by someone I already knew. I went with a picture of an airplane wing to suggest that I was fond of travelling, but in my personal description, I was candid about who I was to offset the lack of a personal photograph. Just to give you a clue, I am a tall but obese Filipino. For the standards of my race, I am a towering giant at 5’10”. I don’t have a handsome face, but my friends and the few dates that I have had call it cute. My cheeks are so big, my eyes disappear when I smile. I have a clean haircut that doesn’t need to be styled to be presentable, and I never let my facial hair grow to a point that it could be noticed. I think a crucial piece of information to disclose to my fellow gays is that I am smooth.
I am definitely not the most attractive by any standard. I wish that other guys could see past that because I am not revolting to look at either, and this is where it starts to become frustrating. Two hours into using Grindr for the first time, I have spoken to enough guys to conclude* that the modern Filipino gay man is one of the choosiest breeds of the human species. It’s not like I didn’t screen the guys. Being a virgin to the online dating world, I was kind enough to read every single profile of the guys whom I thought had the same level of attractiveness that I did. From their profiles, a lot of them presented themselves as non-judgmental about looks because they used words and phrases like sapiosexual, not into hookups, looking for a relationship/friends, and other bullshit to describe themselves as being above a random hookup. They were all lying.
This is how it usually went: I say hello and try to find common ground with them, taking cues from their listed hobbies. We have a flowing conversation that makes me smile at least twice. When the guy asks for my picture, I oblige, as long as he already has one, and when I do, he blocks me. That makes me go WTF? Were we not having a great conversation? Didn’t I make it clear in my profile that I weighed 250 pounds? As far as I was concerned, I never deceived anybody. I acted on good faith, and more importantly, on what I thought the other guys were into, so it was definitely frustrating to deal with all of that. It then became clear to me that this was not the place to find a good date. This was a place to find a hookup, no matter how pretentious the profile.
Three years later, I had gone through cycles of deleting, re-downloading and subsequently deleting the app again. My inner romantic told me to keep trying, to wait until the right guy comes along. I’ve only managed to meet one guy from it, and that encounter occurred abroad. It also stabbed in the heart the same inner romantic that told me to wait.
I was on a short weekend trip in Québec with my grandmother and a cousin. They slept early because we had a long day, having toured Montréal in the morning, having waited for three hours in a bus, and having explored the French-Canadian city from the early afternoon until dinner. Like I had been doing through the trip, I would do some solo-exploration in town, using bar-hopping as an alibi. Little did they know that I had been using solo-exploration time to explore the men of Canada, except that I hadn’t been able to find a hookup in Montréal the night before because the WiFi in our hotel didn’t work. Anyway, this guy named Samuel messaged me as I was scrolling through profiles with headless torsos or with come-fuck-me eyes. He told me that he thought that I was cute and invited me over to his place to cuddle. I wasn’t one to resist because a) Samuel looked like Seth Rogen, and I was in love with Seth Rogen, b) I have been dying to meet up with a guy for a sweet conversation, and c) Samuel was into me… or at least I thought he was.
Noticing how late it was (10:00PM), and thinking how we had to catch our tour bus at 6:00AM the next day, I departed our hotel room sans shower, dressed in the same clothes I had been wearing all day, and doused in Chanel perfume. I figured I didn’t need to shower, since Samuel and I were just going to cuddle. Besides, the people I’ve been interacting with all day didn’t smell like they showered either.
There were no cabs available outside of the hotel. Waiting for one for ten more minutes just wasn’t an option for me because one might never come, and I might never get to cuddle. I gathered all my courage, plotted a walking route on Google Maps, and started on the 1-kilometer walk to his house. It doesn’t seem to be as terrifying as it is, but when you’re 19 years old and you’re in a city you’ve never been to (in a foreign country, nonetheless), a solo, 1-kilometer walk at night is a textbook example of what gets people murdered. On my way to his house, I walked past just three people, of which was a couple holding hands and walking towards the other direction, and the other, a homeless man who toted along a garbage bag before settling down on a bench and injecting himself in the arm. I also had to walk an entire residential block that had no streetlights.
With my heart racing, I finally found Samuel’s building. I thought twice before ringing the doorbell. I had the strangest feeling that it could be my last night alive, and walking back to the hotel then would give me a better chance of not allowing that happen. But I also had the hankering to feel the weight of another man on top of me. I rang it for the sake of getting it over with. Men might no longer send me invitations to come over when I flew back to Manila at the end of that week. Lust trumped life on this one, so three flights of stairs later, I found myself trapped in a bear hug with a burly stranger.
I quickly learned that if you get invited by a guy from Grindr for cuddling, he actually means sex. Props to him, we did start just cuddling in his bed, which worried me because of the sans shower situation, as I immediately felt that it would lead into something else. It did… it lead to kissing… then to making out… then to taking each other’s clothes off… Later, there was a penis in my mouth, and I couldn’t say that I didn’t like it because for the first time, I felt how good it was to pleasure another man. I suddenly felt assured that there was nothing wrong with me, and that I was capable of being attractive; me getting head in return solidified that. It didn’t last long, however. I had trouble getting it up and keeping it that way. It wasn’t because he wasn’t good, but because I still couldn’t shake off the thought that I was getting blown by some stranger in a foreign country. Was I doomed to date like this forever? To sneak out at night when everybody else was asleep? To voluntarily put myself in danger by meeting strangers in their homes on sketchy streets?
As time will tell, as long as I’m living in the closet, anyone I date has to be pulled into it with me. I have had moments of liberation where I was able to walk down the streets of New York City while holding hands with a date, but there was still an element of secrecy in it. I was practically a stranger to New York. I didn’t even start dating in Manila until a month ago when I started feeling lonely after a long-distance breakup with a wonderful man I met in the States. Even if I had mustered the courage to have dinner with another boy in someplace public, I couldn’t show intimacy. I couldn’t casually touch their hands when they made me laugh. I couldn’t kiss them good night to thank them for a delightful time. I also had to meet them at odd hours just to clear out the possibility of bumping into someone we know.
Knowing this, I get this strong feeling that I’ll never be in a relationship soon, and it doesn’t make me feel sad at all. If there is anything I’ve learned about dating in secret, it’s that I have a whole life ahead of me to figure out if someone is worth coming out for or not. I most likely wouldn’t come out for anybody else but myself, anyway, and as of now, I don’t have plans to do that at all while my mom and everyone else I love are still alive. Until then, I’ll continue to date in secret. Doing it the way that I do adds thrill to it, in the same scale underage drinking once pumped me with a rush of adrenaline. Besides, it makes for a good story at the end of the day.
*I’m being hypercritical. I also understand that this is hasty generalisation.