Telling Dad that I am bakla
By Ronielle “Ron” Buduhan
Telling dad was one of the most terrifying things I did in my life. I am lucky, from a gay child’s point of view.
I realized that I needed my dad to know that I was gay because I couldn’t live pretending to be straight anymore. Ironically, it was he who inspired me to summon up the courage to be true to myself.
“What am I going to be when I grow up, dad?”
“Just be yourself and be happy. Promise me that.”
“I promise, dad, to be myself and be happy. Always.”
Four years old at the time, and realizing I liked boys, I kept it a secret since being bakla was considered a shame. I learned that at a young age whenever I did something that only girls did, like wearing makeup or dresses. But I knew I was different, and I felt so alone. I didn’t know who to trust because I thought I would be in trouble with my parents if they ever found out.
Now that I am an adult, I wonder if many gay kids feel this way. I want to help families understand the hardships that a bakla child has to live with. Some live their entire lives in secrecy. As a gay boy, hearing people around me make fun at gays and baklas, the only thing I could do to avoid suspicion was to laugh along, knowing that these people are the ones I must never tell my secret to. But my dad was never one of those people who poked fun at “homos,” probably because, as an anthropologist, he had learned to accept the diversity that all people are capable of.
And perhaps there was another reason as well.
When I was eight years old, my family travelled to the Philippines for the first time. We travelled far to visit the fire mummies and shamans who kept their secret ancient Filipino traditions alive. I was so fascinated by magic, the supernatural and nature as a child. Meeting the witch doctors was an experience I will never forget. But apparently my father knew the shamans for a long time, having lived among them as a child and then returning as a young anthropologist to study our indigenous culture. They informed him of something important about me.
At home in Winnipeg, my brother and sister were avid readers so; we spent a lot of time at the public library. This is where I did my secret research on homosexuality when they were not looking. The books available at the time were mostly about prisoners in jail who did homosexual acts only in jail, but when they were let out, most returned to their straight ways. That didn’t help.
Then I found a free gay newspaper at the entrance of the library and it became something of a lifeline for me. I took it home and hid it, reading it only in the middle of the night or behind locked doors as if it was forbidden knowledge. I found an ad for a gay youth group meeting in Osborne village, so I worked up the courage to go. Finally, one night, I found myself there, surrounded by many other nervous people my age, all silent, waiting for someone to speak. Clarissa Lagartera, who was working at the Gay Youth Group at the time, was one of the speakers who let people tell their stories. These group meetings helped me a lot, and I learned much about other people’s coming out experiences. I highly recommend gays to find someone to talk to – feeling alone can lead to depression or worse: suicide. Many teenage suicides are homosexual.
After talking to some Asian gay youths and hearing their “coming out to dad” horror stories, the idea of telling my own father scared the poutine out of me. So, I lived with the secret of being gay until I was 12, during which time my father always encouraged me to be myself. So one day, around my 12th birthday, I decided that it was time to be myself.
Dad and I sat down, and I started sobbing, “I think I’m gay, and I’m scared that you will kick me out of the house.”
He held me close and told me, “You’re so special, you know that? It doesn’t matter to me that you are gay or not, I still love you because you are my son. Remember the witch doctors, the shamans we visited in the Philippines when you were eight? They told me that you were like them. They are also homosexual like you, Ronnie. Shamans need to access male and female energies, a gift of being gay. There is a place for people like you in our society, being both inside and outside our culture. That gives you a much different point of view of the world.”
As you can imagine, I felt relieved that no harm came from coming out. But I also felt betrayed by the shamans for telling my dad my secret – and stupid for not hiding my homosexuality better. Let’s just say I felt mixed up.
My relationship with my dad got even stronger as I became myself. Life was much happier because the people that I love, and who love me, accepted me. My brother, sister and mother were very supportive the entire time. A gay child could not ask for a better family.
It suddenly made sense why our family spent summers living like hermits in the middle of the woods with no plumbing and electricity. My dad, Cleto Buduhan, was an anthropologist and had extensive knowledge of many cultures. His stories filled every evening with candle light dancing on the walls – stories of how different and the same we are around the world, and how accepting people for who they are was a part of living in the world. Medicine men and witch doctors was a topic that fascinated me. My father also practiced it with me because he lived among them as a child. When I met them, their “gay-dar” (gay radar: the ability to detect other gays) confirmed I was gay, but dad waited until I told him myself.
So when I thought that my coming out would shock him, he was actually proud that I was strong enough to put that secret behind me and to face him as a man – a young gay man. It was dad who shocked me, with his knowledge and patience, but most of all by his acceptance.
For parents who think their child might be bakla, Cleto Buduhan is a good example of how to face a “coming out” scenario. When I tell my gay friends this story they tell me that I have the best dad a gay person could have. I know now that it is true.
If you have a close friend that you think might be struggling with the secret of being bakla, please give him or her this article to read. If you have received this article, it is your friend’s way of telling you that they like you whether or not you are gay, and that they just want you to be yourself. Being your self is the first step to being proud.
Ronielle Buduhan was born and raised in North End Winnipeg, and is now living life to the fullest in Montreal, where he helps gay men of all ages with their sexuality. Find him on Facebook, and let him know what you think.
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