[OPINION] Out of the closet and into the internet

Swipe left, swipe left, swipe right. Should I be the first to say hi? 

LGBT representation in pop culture is more common more than ever. From Ellen de Generes, Cynthia Nixon, to Tegan and Sara, to Cara Delevingne, Ellen Page, KCal, Ice Seguerra, and Jake Zyrus, we look up to them as brave women and transmen defying the notions of who and what it is to be seen as gay.

We have queer characters on television and movies. The most remarkable of them are Cosima Niehaus of Orphan Black, a lot of the Orange is the New Black cast, and not so long ago in the Philippines, we had Rome and Juliet, and Jade and Althea of GMA's Rich Man's Daughter. 

Yet, the reel life doesn't always reflect the real one.

If we're out, we're the token lesbian in the workplace, the one lesbian your male officemates would want to have drinks with, or that one lesbian friend whom everyone else thinks knows any other lesbian in the world – like all of us hang out in one place all the time but, unfortunately, we don't (Nectar, Today x Future, and Catch 272 are good places to chill, to be honest). Or at least not all the time.

Staying in the closet

Realizing that I'm gay has been a long process of self-discovery.

I liked girls in grade school but I thought that was normal – that I could admire girls like me. I tried wearing boyish clothes as a teenager. My parents didn't like them. In college, I was suddenly in a place where it was okay to be different. Liking girls wasn't so much of a big deal.  

However, belonging to a conservative religion made me question my identity. Am I really gay? Is this a curse? Can I just settle for guys instead? I prayed. I prayed for the "gay-ness" to be gone. In our religion, this is a weakness. I wanted to be strong. I tried fighting it. It didn't work.

For the benefit of my family, I'm staying in the closet. It's not completely closed, but ajar. I know I don't have to hide it from my colleagues. But I'll be screwed if my family knew about this. That's why I turned to online dating sites. 

Online dating for Pinay lesbians

Online dating seems so convenient that we can be perceived the way we want people to see us.

For lesbians who couldn't always be seen dating other women out in the open like me, getting to know people who share the same interests minus the probability of bumping into your churchmate or your mom's co-worker in a mall or a restaurant is liberating.

It's like the internet is a totally safe space for the person you've been wanting to show the world.

Finally, you could be yourself – with a few caveats: 

Rule #1: Androgynous and one-syllable nickname always stands out. Mo as in Maureen? Cute. Elle? Awesome! Nicknames ease the awkwardness of having to introduce yourself to a stranger. 

Rule #2: Headshot can make or break you. Let's be honest. The most popular dating apps like Tinder and women-only HER rely on headshots where you have at most 3 seconds to impress someone. Upload a decent one. Some post their travel photos, other post their gym shots. But a normal close-up photo showing your smile is enough. 

Ladies, boobs aren't the only thing that matters. Thighs? Whyyyy?

Dual purpose: Use your headshot to immediately screen who you want to chat with – post a photo of your favorite TV character. Chances are, if she watches the same show, she'll swipe right.

Avoid badly lit selfies, selfies where you have a duck face, bathroom selfies, selfies with animal face filters. Bruno Mars said, "You're amazing just the way you are."

Rule #3: Write something in your profile. People who are at least looking for a decent conversation would first read up your profile, check your Spotify account or Instagram feed to know whether you have similar interests and hobbies, or if you're taking good care of your pet. 

Word of caution: NO J3jJe Sp3@K.

Rule #4: Engage in proper conversation. Gone are the days of asking about the person's "ASL" because it's usually on the profile already. Ask about her interests, find out what's keeping her busy, or what's the name of the puppy with her on the photo. Be interested. We're all awkward at first. It's okay. You'll laugh about it after a while. But you might hit it off well with someone, too. 

Rule #5: Be real. Not all of us are out. Trust me. I've been there. That's also the reason why not everyone is proud enough to show her face or real name on dating apps. But we're all dying to know someone who understands what it's like to get attracted to a person of the same gender in this day and age. At best, you might meet the love of your life online. But you could also find friends, I bet.

Keep swiping right! Happy Pride! – Rappler.com

 

Rue Mitchell is the pseudonym of a Manila-based freelance journalist.