This is a follow-up to my first contribution which was published here on PositiveLiite.com on August 19, 2015.
There’s a point in the video for the song “Not Ready to Make Nice”by the Dixie Chicks where all three members stand up in unison and dust themselves off. Whenever I remember June 28, 2014, I also remember that image of a person dusting himself off. It was the day I last got high on crystal. Here’s the full story of what happened that weekend.
I had been getting high for days. After shooting up and, later jerking off to porn as was my ritual, I got up from my chair Saturday night, turned off the computer and went to bed. I woke up Sunday morning to find out that I was late for my volunteer shift as a parade marshall for the Toronto World Pride parade. I had several missed calls from my friend with whom I had volunteered. I quickly showered and took the subway to the parade staging area. Of course, i made sure to cover up my track marks with make-up before I left.
When I first came out to my friends in the early 2000s, volunteering for Pride was something I got to do with them. It became sort of a tradition.
So throughout the afternoon, she and I herded participants into the parade. At one point, I received a text message from my sister-in-law asking how the parade was going. I responded by inviting her, my brother, and our parents to come out and join in the festivities. My family and I have lived in Toronto for 20 years, and I’ve been out as a gay man to them for the last 15, but I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing Pride with my family. This time, I was really hoping that my family would come join in.
But to my dismay, they didn’t come. I thought, “This is the problem. This is what I need to deal with.” If I wanted to move on from my addiction, I needed to address what was really bothering me.
I come from a very religious background. I grew up in the Philippines attending a Baptist church. My family used to say that I should be a pastor when I grow up since I can recite many Bible verses. I was a good Christian boy.
Like many Filipino immigrants in Canada, my family found kinship with others in a Filipino congregation. Growing up gay and a devout Christian in a new country wasn’t easy. For years as a teenager, I believed that I sinned every time I had thoughts about other guys. It wasn’t until a year after my HIV diagnosis, in 2007 when a boyfriend took me to one of Metropolitan Community Church’s Sunday services that I realized that it’s possible to reconcile my spirituality and being gay. Realizing that they didn’t have to be two separate facets of my life was a huge shift in my perspective. I no longer needed to choose between the two.
It was also around that time that my family hosted a party at our home to celebrate my parents’ wedding anniversary. The guests were mostly from the church. As is customary, the pastor took a few minutes to say something, more like a mini sermon. The only thing I remember him saying to us who gathered that night was that “a marriage is only between a man and a woman.”
What hurt me most was seeing my parents, seated beside the Pastor, nodding in agreement. I should have said something. At the very least, I should have stood up and left. But I sat there in the audience, in shock. I couldn’t believe it. How dare he? In my own home! I was pissed. Years later, I realized that maybe I was more mad at myself for just sitting there doing nothing.
The fact that my family still went to a church that did not welcome people like me hurt. I thought that they were siding with strangers, rather than standing tall and proud with me.
And so whenever I got high, my mind would think about the hurt. These thoughts repeated over and over in my drug-addled mind while at the same time, I would hallucinate about snakes crawling around me. Every time!
I was tired of it. And so after the parade in 2014, I went to my parents’place. My brother was there with his wife. As we ate at the dinner table, I spoke up. I told them how I felt that night in 2007 when the pastor stood in front of everyone and spilled misinformation about what it’s like to be gay. I told them that it didn’t matter to me where they chose to go to church. What mattered to me was what they thought of me and whether I have their acceptance or not.
In that conversation, I tried to explain to them that it wasn’t my choice to be gay, despite what their church preaches. Yes, there is a contradiction between what their pastor says about being gay and what I say about being gay. But, I reminded them that I’m the gay one, and so I asked them, “If you wanted to know how a car engine works, would you go ask a dentist or a mechanic?”
That discussion I had with my family that evening was a rollercoaster ride of emotions. My brother surprised me that night because he stepped in a number of times in the conversation when it got heated. Whenever I felt that I wasn’t getting through to my parents, I looked to my brother and sister-in-law for help. And help they did. They would translate what I was saying to my parents in words that my parents understood, although we were all speaking in Filipino.
In the end, though, I did get them to understand that it wasn’t my choice to be gay. There might have been more issues for me to bring up, but I thought it was a good start. Besides, that was the root of the problem anyway, I thought. I believed that if they understood that it wasn’t a choice, then all else would fall into place.
I went back to my apartment that night feeling like I was walking on clouds. It might have been the after-effects of crystal, but I really don’t think so. I felt that I finally had what I had been waiting for all these years: my family’s understanding. They finally heard me.
I still had some crystal around in my apartment but I didn’t touch it. What did I need it for if I already had what I’ve always wanted? Tired and emotionally drained, I slept like a baby that Sunday night. No snakes this time. After ten years of using crystal, I finally had enough. I flushed what was left of it down the toilet the next day because, at last, I felt at peace.
I stood up and dusted myself off.