Hokkaido, Japan, fourth week of April 2017
“You’ll never believe what just happened,” I started telling Astrid over the phone. I was dressed in a kimono, sitting on a hotel bed in Hokkaido. Standing outside my window was a mountain whose name I could not remember, and at its feet was the sleepy Japanese town I just spent the day shopping in. I was not about to brag about my view to Astrid, however. She had been to far more grandiose places than I have been, but I had news that would impress her infinitely more than any mountain in the world could.
“Kulas just invited me to see a show in UST when I get home,” I blurted out before she could ask what happened. I explained how he and I had been messaging each other on Instagram throughout my entire trip in Hokkaido, which had started just a day before he invited me to watch Kapitan Sino with him. He asked me when I would be going home; while I was sure it was to ask me out on a date, I never expected it to be as cute as going to a play. I thought it was so sweet of him to remember how much I enjoyed theater, a topic that I was sure got lost somewhere in discussing the ex-files during our first date. After accepting his invitation, he immediately sent me a photo of the tickets. He had already bought them, which to me meant that this was how he did dates. It was all so romantic, and I could not stop gushing about it.
“Hold on, honey,” I said to begin ending the phone call. “I can hear my cousin coming back. We’re going out for drinks.”
“Was that your boyfriend?” asked Yuma, one of the girls I was touring Hokkaido with, as she entered the bedroom with my cousin Ryan, whom we were also touring with. She was rumored to have a crush on my cousin, which was a pretty big deal because her dad and my cousin’s grandfather, who was my grandfather’s younger brother, had been in a rivalry before we were even born, first as business competitors, now as political enemies.
I shook my head with my eyebrows scrunched up. “That was my girlfriend,” I began to explain. Technically, I wasn’t lying. That was how Astrid and I introduced each other to people we met, as boyfriend and girlfriend, because we were. That didn’t mean that I wasn’t gay, though, but Yuma didn’t have to know that.
“Really?” she said. “It’s my first time to meet someone like you, then.” Someone like what exactly? As soon as she finished her sentence, I knew that the hot seat at the bar where we were about to guzzle down draught beer would be mine. Avoiding it would only confirm her suspicions about my sexuality. Had it just been the three of us, I would have gladly come out1, preferably with a cosmopolitan in one hand, but the little trio we formed since we met wasn’t a trio—it was a small group that included my aunt. I couldn’t bear having my mom hear about my being gay from a relative I barely even talked to before stepping on a plane with her just the day before.
I was right about being put on the hot seat, which was half of the flushed couch I shared with my aunt. We barely made it through half of our first round of Sapporos when Yuma asked the same question from earlier. “Were you talking to your boyfriend?” I had to intertwine my legs underneath the table to stop myself from laughing at what I was about to say next.
“That was my girlfriend,” I said in a tone somewhere between nervous and firm. “I don’t have a boyfriend.” Again, I wasn’t lying. My whole drama with Kulas was him not wanting to be my boyfriend. Still, everyone looked confused, so I explained.
“Well, we met in school. We were in the same block, and we started out as friends because we were always grouped together,” I started. “Then we began hanging out outside of school, and when everyone noticed how close we were, they started asking us if we were boyfriend and girlfriend. We always said no, but one day we talked about it, and we just decided that maybe we should be. I mean, we were already great as friends.” I punctuated that last sentence by finishing off my beer and ordering another one.
“You’re joking, right?” my aunt said in a playful tone. I chuckled.
“Not at all. We’re going really steady. We’ve been together for how many years now…” I started counting on my fingers, “four years last January 15th.” I pulled out my phone to show them photos from our date to commemorate four years of being each other’s beard.
“Never had any other girlfriends?” Yuma asked.
“Nope,” I said. “And I don’t plan on having any more. Kuya,2 you should be doing the same. Loyalty is rewarding,” I told him with a wink.
“How so?” he asked with a tipsy grin.
“Well, it’s sad, but she’s moving to the States to get her law degree next year. I’m staying here because I can’t afford the tuition. Her dad’s a billionaire, did well in the construction business in Mindanao, so American tuition is practically loose change for them.
“Anyway, we made plans for her to petition me to become a permanent resident once I get my law degree here. I can get my Master’s degree in law in the States, so the two of us could practice there together.”
With their mouths agape, I knew I could rest my case. To these people, having an unimaginable amount of wealth meant you could get away with anything, even with being gay… or so I thought. Yuma still wasn’t convinced.
“That’s amazing,” she said. “I’ve really never met anyone like you… and with a girlfriend. Ryan, you should take notes from your cousin” All I could do was laugh and drink more beer.
“Wait,” Yuma added. Damn, that bitch was really out to get me. “So you don’t shave your eyebrows?”
I shook my head. I still wasn’t lying. With all honesty, I could say that I do not shave my eyebrows; however, a lovely lady named Claire threads them for me every third Thursday of the month.
Before I end this post, let me share a little piece of advice: Never ask anyone if they’re gay, regardless of how close you think you are to the person you’re asking. Especially for someone closeted like me, being asked “Are you gay?” or anything along those lines could be an extremely uncomfortable experience. Some people may not even know it for themselves, but it is not up to you to find out for them. Let them come out to you, and when they do, let them know how much you support them for being themselves.
- I know that I once wrote that I would never come out. (Read: No. 1 | From the Closet) Since then, I’ve been a little more comfortable about my sexuality. I don’t try to hide it anymore (just from my parents), but I also don’t tell people that “I’m gay” to introduce myself, still out of fear of being cut off. If they think that I’m gay, then there’s nothing I could do about it. They’re not wrong. As far as I’m concerned, I’m just being myself.
- Filipino for older brother, generally used as a polite way of addressing an older male person who’s not old enough to be your uncle.