Keep Your Questions To Yourself

A series created to illustrate the shame associated with questioning and gender and sexuality in a conservative, brown household.
By Victoria Lee

I first realized I wasn’t straight on what would have been an ordinary week night in elementary school. My first reaction was “I can’t be, I can’t be, I can’t be”. I’ve since grown from then, spent years shedding the initial shame the world around me said I should carry. I’m willing to tell anyone now, except my parents. They still don’t know, and if they suspect it. We don’t talk about it.
As I learned more about gender I began to apply what I learned to myself, discovering more about who I am, what makes me happy, and what feels right for me. My parent’s reaction to accidentally discovering that I was questioning my gender was to tell me that I was confused. They said I was creating problems for myself, when so many people in our mother country were suffering more than I was. I couldn’t come to them for questions, or comfort. The distance between us grew.
Being raised in a Filipinx Catholic household, the answer was always to pray. Pray that all these “bad” things went away. Pray that I stopped being confused. Pray that I would be set down the “right” path. I have never been able to look at prayer the same.

There is no twist to this story, no heart-warming coming out tale that will be shared by hundreds. Some parents will not change, some cultures will remain toxic. Out of all of this, I’ve learned to find a home elsewhere, in people that accept me. To find faith in those people, and their unconditional love for me. It’ll take years to unlearn the involuntary shame I’ve been taught, but I will get there. I believe in myself. I am valid, and I am here.