Dear Strange One

I’m one of the odd and strange ones, and I think that’s okay.

One huge reason of having a personal blog is to take my readers to my journey with me. I want to share every bliss, every heartache, every lesson learned, every failures, and every success to every reader who cares. Why? Because I want to remind everyone that you are not alone, that you got an ally in me, and that I am with you in this journey. Today, I am again sharing a part of my journey that will again make me look vulnerable. A part of my journey that will once again unveil my struggles. I am being brave today in the hopes that this honest confession will also give courage and company to those who need it the most.

It is always a struggle to be different. It is a constant battle when we choose to challenge the set standards of the society we live in. For majority of the people in our conventional society, it is an abomination to be queer, to be strange, to be different from others. For as long as I can remember, I hated it. I hated constantly repressing myself. I hated the feeling of constantly wanting to belong, the feeling of wanting to be respected the same way. I hated being obedient, being silent, being pretentious just to have acceptance. I may no longer be that lonely bird in a cage now, but I can still remember the gruelling struggle I’ve endured for years before I was able to give myself the freedom that I deserve. This article is for the strange ones, the queers, the odd ones. I’ve been (and perhaps, I am still) in the struggle that you are in or been through. May this story remind you that your journey is understood and accepted, and that you are valid. Relive my journey with me, and I hope once you finish reading this article, you’ll realize that you are not alone.

The “Extra”, The “Diva”

Ever since I was a young kid, I’ve constantly been ridiculed for being extra. *laughs* When I was in Kindergarten, I liked bringing my teachers flowers in the morning because I loved making them smile. The parents of other kids used to call me “sipsip” (currying up favor). Of course, 5-year-old me got hurt and therefore, I stopped bringing flowers. During my elementary years, I’ve experienced constant public shaming from teachers who thought I’m being extra in the simplest things. These moments included me giving over-the-top English sentences examples in our English classes or volunteering for tasks that they think are unsuitable for me. I just cried myself to my mom, constantly asking her if it is wrong to have the guts on things that are bigger than me. She told me that I shouldn’t be discouraged by their words, but it was too late. I was already discouraged. Who would want to always be public shamed in school? Nobody, right? In high school, me and my squad were constantly judged by teachers and students for wearing eyeliner and maskara in school. It was in that moment that I learned to not care anymore. It was in that moment when I learned to fight back. When a teacher stopped us midway in the school corridors just to say that we look like sluts, we already found the courage to smile at her and walk away. Even in an ideal environment, like UP, did not spare me of criticisms. While eating dinner at a karenderya one night, I accidentally overheard 2 batchmates calling me a “Diva” for being too meticulous on our Intramurals preparations. I just looked up to them as I realized they’ve seen me, then I smiled.

Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of close friends because of this attitude of mine. I love doing things the extra mile. I love making things grand. I love overplanning. I love to go over-the-top whatever it is that I am doing, and I do not stop there— I also make sure I execute those plans perfectly. I can be an asset in the team but at the same time, I can also become a major source of pressure and stress. Over the years, I’ve learned to love myself and I’ve learned to take advantage of the perks of having this kind of mindset and attitude. I made sure to use it for the good, and I no longer care about people calling me an “Extra” or a “Diva”. I now even take it as a compliment. However, I’ve also learned to accept that some people become tired of me sometimes. For them, I’ve learned to take a step back and accept their position. I’ve learned to accept that it is not only important to build a safe space for yourself, but is also equally important to respect the safe spaces of others. So dear strange one, as long as you’re not hurting others, don’t be afraid of loving yourself.

The Girl who Challenges Religion

Every Filipino is completely aware of how big deal religion is. Religion is the foundation of our country, The Philippines, and to question that foundation is just unacceptable to majority. Even to question the existence of a God is an unspeakable thought in the presence of many.

I shifted my religion from Roman Catholic to purely Christian when I was only 17 years old. My village folks in Leyte did not handle this well. I’ve been smirked at for not doing the sign of the cross. I’ve been labeled as a disgusting heretic even by my kin because I no longer practice the rosary or I no longer attend Catholic masses. Now, I do not know what they and my churchmates will think and do when they find out that I’ve gone from being Christian to an Agnostic.

I am not doing this to look smart or to become an exclusivist. All I want is to be allowed to ask questions like; why being an LGBTQIA+ should be equal to sinning, why giving women a free choice to Abortion is wrong, why giving couples freedom via divorce is offensive, why humans are allowed to monopolize and create rules in the name of religion, why should the pleasure of a God be the purpose of our lives and not our own happiness and peace of mind? Why should I be shamed because of asking these questions? Why is it a fault to question a system? Why should I be ashamed to challenge a system that will dictate my life? All I want is to able to ask these questions and be allowed to explore freely for answers, but am I being shamed of that?

This part of me is still inside a shell right now. I have not outed yet, and this is the first time I’ve said all of these in a public space. I’m afraid of the judgments. I’m afraid of the threats. I’m afraid of being cancelled by people who matters to me. Religion has killed many lives, and why would mine even be an exception? Nevertheless, I’m keeping my head high. Because dear strange one, it is not wrong to ask questions and to challenge beliefs even when you are the only one who does.

The Girl who Speaks Up

Unique appearances are not the only things that are scrutinized in our society. People who speak out against the incompetence of the government, people who fight against capitalism and fascism, people who point out social injustices, and all those who become strange ones because they’ve learned to voice out their concerns are also being targetted. These people are constantly bombarded, not only with hate speeches but sometimes, death threats and violence as well. Whatever happened to the Environmental activitists in Amazon? Many are now dead. Whatever happened to Malala? She survived but she suffered from being shot in the head. Whatever happened to Greta Thundberg? She is always insulted.

Being outcasted because of the truths you speak about is normal in our society. The previous generations have been so used to being silent and obedient that when a single nail pops out to speak up, they try to subdue them right away. I am one of these strange ones. I am one of those who receives smirks and is always laughed at for my stands on issues. I’ve lost friends and I’ve been alienated by relatives because of my political views. Being a woman who speaks out is also a separate issue. I’ve been insulted, smart-shamed, judged, bullied, and outcasted just because I speak out against social injustices. Why indeed are they angry on people who speak out about injustice than the injustice itself? I try very hard to understand why people react negatively because I know that this behavior is a by-product of several factors as well. However, I do not let these prejudices and discrimination hinder me from standing for what is right. I may be labeled as an “odd” one and would occassionally receive negativity from it, but I don’t mind as long as I stand in the right. I will continue doing my duty to my community.

Dear strange one, having a different view from others and speaking up is valid as long as you are in the right, so be brave.

The Foreigner

Lastly, I want to talk about being different because of the color of your skin, the difference in your culture, or the disparity in your languages. I want to talk about those who receive long stares in sidewalks or judgments in establishments because they are Black. I want to talk about the kids in school who becomes a laughingstock just because they wear Hijabs. I want to talk about those Chinese nationals who were not allowed inside establishments because of the virus scare. I want to talk about those people who experienced Racism and Fascism abroad and in their own countries too. I have not experienced a lot of these instances because most of the time, being different has worked to my advantage. However, I’ve also had my fair share of experiences. First, I’ve been denied many times or charged extra in my apartment applications because I’m a foreigner in Japan. Second, I’ve constantly felt inferior and ashamed because I couldn’t speak the language in the level that they expect me to do so. This is why I understand how much of a struggle it is to live in a selective and exclusive society. However, I am perfectly aware that my struggles are nothing compared to those kids who are forced to suicide because of Racism or those who have died because of Fascism. I am writing this article because I want these knit-picked people to know that they are not inferior, that they are not at fault, and that a selective community is never right. So dear strange one, hold your head high because pushing for an inclusive society is never wrong.

The four narratives presented above might be quite a handful, but these are only very few stories of struggles that people face because they are classified to be different from the standards of the society. I have only iterated those I have experienced myself. I have not even included yet the struggles of the Queers, the people bullied for their appearances or disabilities, the people discriminated for being marginalized and poor, and many more. Their stories are very real, too. There are still stories that must be heard by many because the constant persecution of people who are deemed to be different is a reality in the society, no matter what type of different they are.

One again, I turn to you, strange one. I hope this confession gave you courage and strength. I hope this writing helped you realized that you are not alone, that we are all in this together. I hope it was able to provide hope to your weary heart. I hope this made you realize that you have an ally, that we are strong and abled to defeat the discrimination and prejudices that are constantly thrown at us. We will eventually come through. Until then, I want you to be strong, to hold your head high, and to keep your faith. Someday, we will attain the inclusive society we deserve.

Sincerely,

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