Another personal testimony from the President Emeritus of Courage Philippines , Bro. Rollie.
by: Rolando delos Reyes II
All my life I have been trying to prove myself before people. I believe it is more than my homosexual issues, though I also believe that it started there – the moment I began to question why my feelings and attractions are different from my biological sex, that was when I began to question my very identity, the question of who I am, and a huge gaping hole filled my heart.
The Origins in My Family
“Wala kang kamukha sa pamilya mo” [You look like your famiy] commented one of my friends when I introduced my family to her. The comment seems harmless, yet it has cut skin deep. I was born with a cleft palate, and looking at the faces of my immediate family members, I began to question whether I was really part of their clan. I was comforted knowing that on both sides of my father and mother, I had relatives also with a cleft palate. Yet it did not remove my insecurities, since there were cousins and uncles of mine who would tease me about it. Coupled with this, there were times my father was not there to defend me – like when he had to go abroad to work, or when he chose to join a doomsday cult in Palawan who believed the second coming is at hand. Though he eventually came back, during those times, my mother would seek comfort in me as the eldest son, sometimes crying with words like “iniwan tayo ni Papa mo” [Papa left us with you]. So I developed a strong bond with her, even if at times I felt that avoiding things to be lost or broken is more important than me. I noticed that I got noticed when I was "a good boy" and followed her rules. Yet I would have mixed feelings of joy and disgust when she would tell our relatives “etong anak ko laging maaasahan” [my son is always reliable]. With my father, there is a longing to be close as to a stranger; with my mother there is a longing, yet fear, to be detached –The thought of being "a good boy" is born.
Teachers and My Superiors
Growing up, most of my teachers were women, and I held them all in high regard. The good boy in me was primed up by the affirmations I got when I helped them carry their books or do some errands. But there were two incidents when I was falsely accused by them – one was about cheating during examinations, and the other was about stealing money from the Mass collection. Indignant about the seeming injustice that I felt, I vowed that I would be the extreme of what they accused me of – as my mother would put it “ang pinakamasama mong gagawin ay yung magsinungaling”[the worst thing is to just lie]. And so I excelled in both my academics and my conduct grades, and made sure none of my teachers would have anything against me – the thought of being a "perfect performer" is born.
This performance orientation continued throughout my schooling and even when I was already working. So it felt like a dagger in my heart when my rector in the seminary asked me to leave, and in college, I would rather drop my subject than fail it. When I started working in a corporation, I allowed myself to be cursed and shouted by my clients, even if the problem was beyond my control. And there were times that a phone ringing or the approaching tapping sound of my boss’ heeled shoes was enough to make me anxious and afraid of seemingly impending bad news –a thought that I am a big mistake is born.
Where I Belong
I never had a best friend. More accurately, I never had a best friend who would always be there for me. Having had my early education in an all-boys school, most of my classmates and school mates would tease and bully me because of my harelip and my effeminate ways, excluding me during play time, hitting me or playing pranks on me or berating me with foul words until I cried in public. Once in a while there would be this one boy, who would come and make friends with me, but it would only last for that school year, and then he would transfer school or section and he would have his new set of friends. In high school I would be close to a group of effeminate boys like me, yet even though I enjoy their company, there was a thug in my heart that wanted to m'ake friends with the manly kind – but I felt they won’t understand. Even when I came to this Catholic community, I knew they would not understand. But there were two men who dared to try to understand. They included me in their accountability, and slowly I realized that I was also a man. However, when they started to court, and date, and eventually married – I distinctly remembered how I embraced one of them on the eve of his wedding and told him “iiwanan nyo rin pala ako”[leave me as I shovel]. I completely resigned myself to that idea that I shall live and die alone. And so I started preparing for it – getting memorial and pension plans, purchasing a vault in a columbarium, and scribbling my last will and testament – the thought that " I am alone forever" is born.
Even in the State of Sin
“Tutal, eto na ang pananaw sa akin ng lahat, magpapakabakla na lang ako”[after all, here is the point of me, I am just homosexual] – this was my rebellious stand after being subjected to multiple life experiences of rejection. And so I lived the homosexual life to its full bloom – I engaged in romantic and sexual relationships, even if I knew these were fleeting, I joined my friends when they cruised at night or when they would go on a weekend to dress in “drag” behind closed doors, and I had numerous anonymous sexual encounters in movie and bath houses and massage parlours. And the irony of it is that even in the LGBT scene, there exists rejection – that only the beautiful, the toned and muscular, the witty, or the sexually adventurous was accepted. So I survived the gay scene collecting juicy stories of my latest escapades without regard to decency and morality. One night after another juicy encounter, I remarked to a friend “hanggang kalian tayo maggaganito?” – and the silence led me to rethink of my hedonistic behaviour. Coming to terms with my sexual immorality, I was confronted with deep shame that seems irrevocable – I am a boil in the body of Christ, and a cobweb in the house of God – the thought of a "shame-based self" is born.
Myself in Shambles
Like the prodigal son, I began my long journey back to the Father. Healing retreats, prayer partners, books of restoration by Andrew Comiskey, Leanne Payne and John Eldredge, inspiring videos such as The Third Way: Homosexuality and the Catholic Church and Desire of Everlasting Hills, and personal testimonies from personalities Ansel Beluso, Marwill Llasos and Vins Santiago enabled me to start this journey to change. I joined Catholic communities and became active in support groups that would enable me to face the realities that I have so longed to escape. I began to stop the engine of my sexual and relational addiction, and I am overwhelmed at what I find inside. Coated in layers of shame and self-condemning guilt, I face jets of deep hurts and trauma, bitter roots of judgments and inner vows, and nightmares of my past encounters. There are times that I seemingly repeat my sinful past, and in those times I allowed myself to be used and abused physically and financially. There are times that I presume an upsurge of grace, when I am invited to talk or give witness to an assembly, and in those times I became arrogant like the Pharisees of old that I forget that I am still a sinner and not an ordained saint.
My accountability group noticed my schizophrenic self, and they came and prayed with me. What came out were two false selves that I am trying to reconcile – the image of the forever victim of broken past, and the image of a Messianic future. What they asked me afterwards devastated me – they asked me to lay down both images. Like a bewildered child, I cried out “Sino na ako pag nawala ang mga ito?”[How will I lose them?] They assured me of their prayers, saying that they would rather deal with someone who does not know who he is, than someone who lives a lie through false selves.
The Equation of Identity
A mentor once told me about this equation: Desire + Design = Destiny. The desire is everything that we feel and want and need. The design is everything that God has made us to be. And the combination of what we do with desire and design spells our destiny – of who we would become. Which, between desire and design, is easier to tinker with? Which would have lasting effect when changed? We need to realign our desires, to rediscover our design, in order to rebuild our destiny.
This involves a long, difficult and painful process – likened to peeling an onion, layer upon layer upon layer – tears are unavoidable as raw emotions that was long unrecognized surface. Lenin rightly said “A lie said over and over again becomes the truth”. The lies that I have believed in have to go, in order to unmask my true self. And even as God reveals the truth about who am I, grace is needed for me to trust and believe it. In my long healing journey, God has made known that I am forgiven, I am His beloved, I am not a mistake, I am not just a man, but His knight placed in front of His army – yet even if in my head I appreciate it, in my heart I doubt it. He has brought me back to those traumatic moments of my life and let me see how He was actively present in all of these, yet I still fail to trust Him. My constant prayer is: Lord, help me in my unbelief.
This is why I attribute homosexuality as not only a psycho-emotional and developmental issue, but a spiritual one as well. This is my warning to young people led to believe that being gay is okay. The devil does not want us to know who we are, because as St. Ireneaus said “The glory of God is man fully alive”. He wants us to remain blind to the greatness of our identity in Christ. Yet God desires that we see our worth beyond what we do, and what we have, but in what He has made us to be.
All my life, God has been trying to prove Himself to me. Jesus, help me to trust in You!