Andre from the Philippines

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  Hi I'm Andre, 17 years old and I'm from the Philippines.

Let me start off when I first coming to realize about my sexuality. I guess it started when I was 11 or 12. I was a pretty normal kid for my age, though I tend to keep my circle of friends minimal because bullying/discrimination here is quite severe and goes unpunished. But anyway, I mostly kept to myself. One day, at recess, I was eating by this tree in our quadrangle (or the middle schoolers area) which was my favourite spot. Quiet, peaceful and shady. There was a kid in my class named Justine, who always picks on me. Sometimes too far to the point that I cry in the boy's comfort room. He came to me that time on recess, naturally, I was anxious and scared when he came to me. Being my personal bully and all. I was scrawny and small compared to him so the choice I immediately made was just to stay away from him. I pretend not to notice that he was coming for me, tried to lose him but eventually I was cornered in the school's private cemetery, since it was a catholic school. I was at tears when I was cooped up on a dead end with my tormentor just slowly taking confident, yet somehow reluctant, steps towards me.

"Ba't ka tumatakbo bakla?" He said. (Translation: Where are you going gay/fag? - oh, and here in the PH, basically if you're gay or suspected of it. You're immediately filed just below "dirt")

I didn't respond to him, knowing what might happen to me if I back talked him.

He was also older than me, a year or two, which only added to my scare factor. He slammed his fist on my stomach the moment he was close enough. I gasped for air when he did. He then grips my hair and makes me look at him.

"You're disgusting," He says but his eyes trail on my face (I would remember the details, I was so scared at the time) "I hate you."

As he those words there was a stutter in his voice. I had my eyes closed, prepared to take the beating that never came. All that I felt when my eyes were closed was the tears that continued to fall and my attackers lips on mine.

After that day, I couldn't help but beg my mother to not send me to school. In a week or so I eventually was forced to go back. But soon found out that Justine had transferred schools.  

  Through middle school and most high school years, I was constantly picked on and assaulted because of what people think of me. Maybe I was at fault for not being like most boys, maybe it was theirs to fail to understand who I am. I don't know or remember anymore, I stopped pointing fingers. Don't know why, and don't care. 

At age 15, I have come to realize my sexuality and identified myself as gay. It might have been Justine who started this, but I've never felt the same kind of like the other boys in my class felt for the girls. My bestfriend, being my sole partner in this dramatic change in my life. I came to the conclusion on my own, despite the idea being constantly drilled into my head by my peers, because of her. My one true best friend.

 When you're living in the Philippines, you'd immediately notice that it's not safe to be anywhere if you're in the LGBT community. Not even in your own home. Which is why I couldn't confide this with my parents even if I dearly wanted so. You know that feeling that you have something you want to share. Something that means a lot to you, but you can't because you know what's going to happen. And it surely isn't sunshine and rainbows. I grew up with that feeling my whole life, even now. 

And today, at 17, I am more distant than I have ever been my whole life. My family hates me, they only tolerate me because of my blood and what other people would say. And I haven't even come out to them. I have no friends these days because I fail to see, find, or even meet people who would accept me for who I am. My best friend is now studying at a different university from me. I don't talk to her much nowadays. It feels like she'a forgotten me. Reading and writing has been my only... well, safe place.

 My whole life, might as well have been in a caged bar. And I'm quite lucky compared to others of the LGBT community here.  

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