Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer:
I am 20, raised in a Born Again Christian community, and never had a relationship. As a child, I knew I was different. I'm attracted to men, but deny it to myself. I couldn't express my feelings to my high school crush. Homosexuality is considered immoral.
I don't like people talking about my sexuality. When they ask, I say, "No, I’m not gay.” My mother is homophobic, claiming homosexuals are sinners and will burn in hell.
My father believes homosexuality does not run in our family. He is frightening; you cannot talk to him openly about your sexual orientation because you might get dumped.
My cousins, neighbors are undeniably homophobics. They cat-call gays "salot," an offensive term for homosexuals; they laugh at, curse, and intimidate them. My entire family is Christian. I am afraid to "come out," fearing they will reject me.
I don't befriend gay people since I might end up being gay myself. I want to get rid of my homophobic nature but my religious mindset tells me not to. I want to get out of the closet, but fear I might end-up disrespected like those homosexual people who were bullied by my cousins.
I want to be straight but the attraction is getting stronger. I cannot stop sexualizing men. I ask "God" to change my sexuality; my prayer has not yet been granted.
I want to start a family in the future, but don't want to hurt my wife by admitting I am homosexual. Also I'm not attracted to women, and I'm afraid I won't be erect when we make love.
How can I stop being homophobic? How can I come out in a homophobic environment? Should I continue hoping God will change me? Or should I dump religion and start embracing my true myself?
Dear Sponge-Bob (SB),
Religion and sex are two of the most significant influences on our lives and can make huge, positive contributions to our well-being. However, as your account illustrates so clearly, when they clash with each other or with the fundamentals of our nature as human beings, they can instead bring us a tremendous amount of conflict and pain.
You, SB, are caught between identifying as gay and an environment (family, society, religion) which you rightly perceive as homophobic. While progress is indeed being made towards reducing discrimination against gay men and women, tokenism is rife, much remains to be done.
You say that you want to be straight, marry, and have a family, but at the same time you are attracted only to men and this attraction is increasing. You want to conform with the norms of your family, their religious beliefs, and those of the society in which you live but these all run contrary to your own aspirations to live as a gay man.
As you are faced with seemingly implacable opposition, the forces of which you cannot combat successfully in the short term, the only changes you can reasonably hope to make are to yourself. You appear to have three main options:
1) Repress every element of your gay self and live as a straight man. To say that this is mentally unhealthy is an understatement. It may also be unachievable in the longer term, especially if you try to have a conventional marriage.
2) Live a dual life, seemingly straight but secretly gay. Like option 1, this is scarcely optimal, full of danger and deceit, and you may be outed at any time.
3) Move to an environment more accepting of gay men, either at home or abroad, and allow your true self to develop free (or at least freer) of the prejudices of others.
There is unfortunately no easy path. Please write again if you wish to examine these issues further. All the best – JAF Baer
Thank you very much for your letter. Most people wouldn’t relish being in your shoes — being part of a family and living in a neighborhood that is clearly homophobic. Happily, you have one great thing working in your favor which you do not give yourself enough credit for: an ability to understand the reasons you have such angst over what you are going through. Also, you write: “I'm attracted to men, but deny it to myself,” which shows courage and an admirable self-honesty.
You berate yourself for not coming out to your nuclear family, but frankly, I understand why no homosexual, no matter how brave, would be willing to do so.
Come out to people you feel safe with, people you know will listen and continue being your friend regardless of what you share.
Your deciding to keep quiet about your possibly being gay to homophobic family/ neighbors makes perfect sense. This is not because you are cowardly, but because you are smart.
You ask: “Should I continue hoping God will change me? ….Or should I dump religion and start embracing my true myself?” In my (mere) opinion (and without any evidence-based research to back me up), yes! Do continue hoping God will change you, (definitely) NOT to become “straight” but to be more gentle with yourself and with others, so you can embrace your true self and thus, also be okay with embracing homosexuals, both figuratively and literally. All the best — MG Holmes