“I grew up in a small, close-knit town where everybody is a familiar face. The townsfolk practically knew each other. Gossiping was not uncommon, it was inevitable,” Gerozel said.
It did not come as a surprise when people began talking about her and her family behind their backs. It was a big deal in a small town like hers when she openly declared her sexual orientation in their local high school.
Gerozel Cabangon is a lesbian, or, as she refers to herself, a female woman-lover.
She has been so in the past 12 years.
The 28-year-old call center agent has been in same-sex relationships in the last couple of years. “Nobody forced it upon me. It was my choice and I am happy I made it.”
However, one thing she is not happy about is how society and her immediate community perceives her homosexual relationships.
Countless companies have refused to hire her upon finding out her gender preference. “Simply immoral. It’s against company protocol, the employer would say. I don’t know about them, but I am quite sure that my preference has no direct implication on my competence as an employee,” she said.
Even in her current workplace, she still gets degrading stares from her co-workers when her girlfriend visits her at the office. “Take it somewhere else. Nobody wants that here. You’re disgracing all of us,” she recalls one elderly officemate saying.
Often, in public spaces and vehicles, she gets snide remarks from random strangers for holding hands with her girlfriend. She feels less of a person by the way they treat her, although she she is never ashamed of her relationship. “I love my girlfriend. And there is not enough hatred in the world to make me unlove her.”
However, Gerozel says she is most affected when discrimination comes from loved ones. “They’re usually the people we turn to for comfort; they know us personally. So it hurts all the more when they are the ones to judge us.”
She thinks her parents felt they lost a daughter when she came out of her lesbian closet. “In their eyes, I am still the little girl I was decades ago. But I have grown up. I’m still their daughter, and Iove them very much. I want them to be proud of me.”
Gerozel has never felt any anger against the people who treat her differently because of her gender preference. She knows they are not to blame. She believes that society has instilled in us a hatred for things we cannot comprehend.
She hopes that someday soon, all people will understand that stereotypes and labels do not categorize people; they alienate.
“Yes, I am a lesbian. But I am a person, too,: Gerozel said. (Ana Catalina S. Paje)