Considering Pride after Colonization

It’s Pride Month and all I feel is wrath.

I’m remembering the confusion I felt growing up, trying to force myself to fit into the binaries and categories we’re expected to slide into with ease. Square pegs in square holes, round pegs in round holes. 

Half-Filipino, half-white, but the world demands white or nonwhite. Both and neither exist in my body, always and never, depending on the context. I have to pick a side, Filipino or white, or separate myself from both entirely: I select multiracial on every standardized test in childhood and on every job application in adulthood. Constantly picking a parent, a family, to represent or deny. This was my first introduction to binaries, from the day I was born. I thought it was just a fluke—just me being special for being mixed.

But then I learned that as a girl, I had to choose to be a girly girl or a tomboy. Another binary. There was no in-between, there was no “all of the above.” Thus started a very performative rejection of femininity and dresses and the color pink from an early age, even though part of me still quietly loved and yearned for it—an act that evolved into a full-time theatrical production over the years.

My “boyish” interests like video games and Pokémon would take me to the boys aisles of stores. I still remember standing in the boys’ clothes section at Target at age 10 or 11, the only place I could get Pokémon shirts, because they did not exist “for girls.” Even when I liked something “for girls,” like My Little Pony (during the height of the male-dominated “Brony” fandom/movement), it was in a boy way. Likewise, I could be like a boy, but only in a girl way. But I could never like boys in a girl way, no matter how hard I tried. I convinced myself of crushes and elementary school boyfriends, assuming the warmth of genuine friendship was the warmth of romantic love no one could shut up about. I remember forcing hollow words like “Jacob is hot,” out of my mouth after seeing Eclipse with a (straight) female friend. I remember my silent confusion over what finding Taylor Lautner “hot” even meant, and assuming my strange interest in and affinity for Alice Cullen was normal straight girl behavior.

I realized as an adult, maybe I like girls in a boy way, or, better yet—I like girls in a girl way.

But my uncertainty and second-guessing made me hesitant for years; I obsessed over alternatives and what ifs. What if I just haven’t met “the right guy”? What if I’m just not attracted to anyone at all? What if I’m wrong? I tried on labels like trying on clothes at Old Navy: asexual, bisexual, queer...lesbian…

It’s Pride Month, yet all I feel is wrath because there are people who could have guided me, who could’ve showed me the possibilities from a young age:

My Filipino ancestors.

The thing about colonialism, if you’re unaware, is that it’s more than people moving from point A to point B and living a new life somewhere across the pond. It’s far worse than any Thanksgiving folktale will lead you to believe. It’s actually the destruction of Indigenous culture, traditions, and societies. It’s displacement, it’s ethnic cleansing, it’s genocide.

Today, the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country with Catholic theology embedded so deeply within our culture, you’d think we started the faith. But in actuality, the Philippines was colonized and occupied by Spain (and the U.S.) for nearly 400 years. 

My ancestors were not Catholic. My ancestors were actually what we now call “queer.” 

In pre-colonial Philippines (before there was such a thing as “the Philippines”), many tribes accepted same-sex love and considered transgender individuals important in society. In their mythology, there were gay and transgender deities. In one Visayan myth, Sidapa, the God of Death, fell in love with Libulan, one of the moon gods, after the former showered the latter with gifts—both are men. Additional, Lakapati/Ikapati, the goddess of fertility and good harvest, is often described as transgender or androgynous.

There are barriers to accessing this history in greater detail: social media can be inaccurate and academic resources about pre-colonial Philippine history are often expensive. I had family who could’ve guided me through navigating my gender and sexuality, but they were wiped off the face of the planet and erased from history by the Spanish, who indoctrinated generations upon generations upon generations into the cult of “Catholic guilt” for a God who never even demanded such a thing. 

400 years later, every generation in my family that I have access to is Catholic. Let that sink in for a moment. How many of my ancestors had to die to get us here? How many generations of queer Filipinos, even just within my own family, were lost to history? 

It’s Pride Month. But all I feel is wrath. 

Because this is the history of colonialism everywhere. Indigenous, Black, Asian—so many of us had queer ancestors who had the foreign “Christianity,” the mysterious “gender binary,” and the confusing “heterosexuality” forced upon them by European colonizers. Queerness was not queer to them—the colonialism was. 

Yet today, some white LGBTQ+ people are the first to antagonize BIPOC and our cultures for being “homophobic” or “transphobic.” They point fingers at us, our parents, grandparents, cousins, aunties, and uncles, declaring us “Backwards!” and “Barbaric!” They center themselves, yelling, “I’m illegal in your country!” about countries they’ve never lived nor stepped foot in, completely erasing the LGBTQ+ people who actually live there, in danger every day. For many white Christians in past and present, perpetuating homophobia and transphobia is an act of power, hatred, and prejudice in their larger, ongoing group project of colonialism. For many BIPOC, they were forced upon us and became a means of survival in our colonized homelands.

It’s Pride Month, but some LGBTQ+ people have proposed we make July “Wrath Month'' to refocus our energy on fighting against the issues both affecting and happening within the LGBTQ+ community. 

As we move into Wrath Month, which no corporation can make money from by slapping happy rainbows on their products, I’m taking pride in my wrath, because I’ve weathered so many storms of ignorance from my own community members, all while still navigating the generational trauma of colonialism and the residual bullshit guilt in my heart for “offending” the Church by merely existing as God created me. 

We can be proud of our identities, community, and all that we’ve overcome to get to this point in our lives, while feeling angry about all that’s been taken from us. Filipino and white, boy and girl, pride and wrath—all exist within me, always and never, depending on the context. So while I am still proud, I am so, so deeply angry as well. 

I am not an angry person. But for myself, my people, and for my community members going through the same struggle—I will embrace wrath with open arms. 

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