I’m gay and why I still go to Church


“Bakla” is the most fearsome word in my life. It means “gay” in Filipino, a label I wanted to stay far away from, growing up.

Like many Filipinos, I was raised in a devoutly Catholic home and went to an all-boys school run by priests most of my life.

My family, teachers, and friends never talked about homosexuality, all I knew was that I should avoid it.

In reality, I began to fear that I might be gay when I was six years old.

I did not understand it yet then, but I knew I was different and that scared me. What if someone found out?

There was a long period of repression. I wanted to believe that my homosexuality was temporary, telling myself that when I found a girl to love, I would become straight.

I didn’t go to gay bars nor hang out with gay people.

Then, at 35 years old and after becoming a lawyer, I entered the Jesuit Novitiate to become a priest.

I was there for over a year before I was kicked out for having sex with another man.

That was when I finally came around to accepting the truth about myself.

It’s ironic that this happened as I was supposed to be preparing for a celibate religious life, but I have come to see it as a blessing.

I think the Catholic Church is misguided in its teachings on sexuality but, ultimately, I choose to stay because this is the Church I grew up in and I have found a personal connection with a loving God here.

Inside the Church, there are sacraments that make me feel God’s presence more intensely.

As Catholics, we believe that God is most present in the Eucharist, so when I go to Mass, I know that God is there.

The Church gives us an experience that is lived and enfleshed in our being. It turns something spiritual into something tangible.

I often find myself bursting into tears during Mass because I would get overwhelmed by a feeling of God’s personal love for me. It’s a connection I still look for, especially during a pandemic that has me locked up in a room.

I have cried during online masses too, but for me, going to church is important because it underscores this sense of community.

I did not always feel this way.

After leaving the novitiate and coming out to my family and friends, I stopped going to church regularly for eight years because I no longer felt welcome there.

But I never stopped examining my beliefs.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field,” Rumi wrote. But finally, I returned to the Church of my childhood in a proverbial field while living in Cambodia, where I worked as a refugee lawyer for 10 years.

Living in a non-Christian country freed from the pressure of tradition and judgment, I found that it was the Catholic Church that gave me a sense of home.

While living there, my nun friend helped me realise that God has been misrepresented as a taskmaster, someone with a list of Ten Commandments that one has to follow — you have to go to church, you have to dress this way, you have to behave like this, you have to avoid offending people. But the bottom line is that God is love. And a loving God would not create something evil.

I had to leave my country before I could come full circle and come back home. Continue reading

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