"I feel misunderstood and alone, to put it simply," 20-year-old Youngblood says. "People talk of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) as if we were a different species, as if our sexuality was the only thing that defined us. You often hear people describe one as 'the tall girl,' 'the smart student' or even 'the athlete,' but when one refers to someone who is widely known as queer, one usually says, 'the gay/lesbian one,' not 'the nice one' or 'the fashionable one.'
"We're grouped with other people, just because of our sexuality. It's like racism, but with sexuality. Because of this, certain traits have been known to be 'inherently gay.' A guy interested in fashion is suspected to be gay, a girl who cares for none of it is also suspected of the same thing. Of course, our country's strong, traditionally binary gender roles play a part in this," Youngblood adds.
"Being LGBT could be worse," 17-year-old Prinsesa Castora comments. "In my everyday life, I've never had to endure hostile acts, apart from the occasional insults. People would generally brush past an LGBT. Contrast this with other places, such as Russia, where discrimination is basically state-endorsed; I feel fortunate that people aren't as overzealous in upholding tradition."
Being a homosexual in the Philippines has been a struggle for 17-year-old McFierce Fried Chicken, as he was always seen as a stereotype, and asked ridiculous questions such as, "Magpapa-sex change ka ba paglaki mo?"
He believes society has created this idea that all gay people like to act and dress up like girls, gossip, and play volleyball. "I'm telling you right now that these stereotypes are not true. We also enjoy playing baseball, Frisbee, basketball, football and other sports. Not all of us want to be girls or hang out with girls. I like talking to dudes because they're easier to relate to, and you can discuss topics that girls normally dislike.
"People should stop paying attention to stereotypes, and get to know others for who they are. For all you know, you might actually like the person," McFierce says.
Despite LGBT culture slowly seeping into the consciousness of Filipinos in a way that helps them understand the identity of the LGBT people, 17-year-old Kitty Pryde still thinks that he cannot reveal his real identity. "One day, I would like to casually tell someone that I am gay. That day has not come," he sadly says.
"There is still time for society to change its ways," Castora adds. "First of all, people should stop using the term 'bakla,' which means 'coward,' to describe LGBT, particularly the more flamboyant ones. What's so cowardly about fearlessly and unapologetically expressing oneself? Due to our image of being vibrant, I often feel that I am expected to always liven up stuff, even if I just wanna sleep or something. It's disappointing that news, rumours or speculations of someone turning out to be gay are still a big deal at this time."
Having just graduated from high school from an exclusive boys' school, Castora admits that what irks him most is the idea that there is an acceptable type of gay. "They say things like, 'Buti pa sina ano… hindi masyadong malandi,' and 'Porket bakla ka, hindi naman kailangang maging masyadong namumukadkad ka umasta, o manamit…'
"Conservative society has played a big part in teaching me that being an LGBT was indecent, simply because it opposed what the Bible said that God created Adam and Eve to procreate, not [as we like to joke] Madam and Eve or Adam and Steve… The mere fact that you have feelings for someone of the same gender, or show signs of wanting to be the opposite sex, was considered immoral. Growing up, I shied away from people who exhibited such behaviour. However, because of the usual teenage problems such as bullying and backstabbing, I searched for myself in other people.
"Among these were the LGBTs, who've accepted me for who I am, and made me value my gender even more. By developing friendship with these people who were also undergoing identity crises, I realised that many others were struggling to be normal in a traditional and rigid society, but could not find that voice to express themselves.
"Even though times have changed, with Western predecessors influencing the acceptance of LGBT culture, it still cannot be denied that LGBTs are misunderstood, misinterpreted and maltreated. However, hope springs eternal-in the form of Pope Francis, who broke new ground by saying, 'Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?' and in the form of six teenagers, through private messaging (PM) on Facebook, who have found the courage to express their beliefs and sentiments regarding LGBT."