It was 2007 when I first heard about the Pride march. I had recently attended my first LGBT event, a forum about lesbian identities and relationships. When I found out about Pride, I immediately thought if it was possible to come and march even if I was in the closet.
I was so eager to find out about the preparations to be done, the events planned, the costumes needed. I was thrilled. There was actually an event that celebrated LGBT people! How awesome was that?
I knew I wanted to attend the pride march. But there was a lot I was worried about. What if someone recognizes me at the event? What if my family sees photos from the march posted everywhere on the internet? What if local channels cover the event and my employers catch a glimpse of me on TV? If any of those would happen then maybe my world would fall apart and all hell would break lose.
So maybe I shouldn’t attend? Then I could just continue to hide in my little comfortable corner and rot there forever. It was not an easy decision to make.
I was working in a field that was not known to be supportive nor tolerant of gay people. I tried to always careful with my words and actions. But I wanted so much to be part of the community. I felt the need to be with the people whom I could relate to.
I had seen the negative reactions some people in my circles had towards the LGBT community. I was also working in a field that was not known to be supportive nor tolerant of gay people. Since I was not ready to be shunned nor fired, I tried to always careful with my words and actions. I felt that I needed to wait for the right time to completely come out. But I wanted so much to be part of the community. I felt the need to be with the people whom I could relate to.
The march was scheduled for the first Saturday of December. When I arrived, the place was already packed with people. The participating groups were busy getting their members assembled or preparing their props. I brought my own props — a mask we had made a few days earlier during a pre-prod event. We had also been told to wear white and that we would be given a bandana to wear. I was ready for my first march.
I don’t remember if the weather was too warm for a parade or if my legs felt tired from walking. All I remember was that I was terribly glad to be there. I felt that I had fit right in and that I was with people who accepted me and understood me.
I did notice one other thing — I was one of the few who was wearing a mask. Other participants were wearing masks as part of their costumes. I was wearing one so I wouldn’t be recognized.
I thought the event was amazing. I had never been that excited to be surrounded by hundreds of strangers. We carried banners, waved flags, marched, and chanted together. I was not aware that there were so many different groups and organizations in support of the LGBT community. Being at my march helped make me feel more confident about who I was. Spending time with the community helped me to slowly realize I had nothing to be ashamed of.
I had such a grand time at the event that I continued to attend the other pride parades that came after including a few that were held outside of Manila. Each time I attended a march, the more I felt more secure about being myself. It felt wonderful not having to be so secretive about things. I felt relieved.
You realize that you have to go out of your comfort zone to begin the process towards completely accepting yourself. I knew I did not want to hide forever. So I just took that first step. I had to start somewhere. And I’m glad I did.
I learned that each parade is different from the last one. There would always be a new theme. New participants and new groups could join. There could be a different set of issues you need to make people aware of. And you could also decide to attend without wearing a mask. Instead, you can come and carry a rainbow flag or wear a pair of wings.
You realize that you have to go out of your comfort zone to begin the process towards completely accepting yourself. I knew I did not want to hide forever. Since I had no idea when the “right time” would be to come out, I just took that first step. I had to start somewhere. And I’m glad I did.
Tips for marching while in the closet at Pride
Be informed. Learn about the routes, research about past marches, get an idea of what goes on at these events. It will be less stressful if there are less surprises.
Be with friends. Join the march with people who support you. If they aren’t available, you will always be welcome to march with the different participating group. They know what you’re going through.
Be observant. If you’re concerned about having your face end up in photos then you need to be aware of your surroundings. Make sure you aren’t walking right behind an interview being conducted by the media. Blend in so it would be difficult to single you out in a photo.
Be prepared. What if your worst fears do happen? Have a plan on how you would deal with that small possibility of being outed at the event.
Enjoy! If you do decide to participate, make sure you immerse yourself in the event. March, cheer, chant, and smile. If you’re going to be there, you might as well experience it completely and have fun.
After teaching for more than a decade in Manila, Abby is now based in Vancouver and is into Customer Service. She enjoys the outdoors and often goes birding and hiking with her partner, J. She loves animals and dislikes zoos. Abby also collects children’s books. Her students know her favorite color is rainbow. Abby can be reached via the social media links above or thru abbysantos [at] gmail [dot] com.