Times sure have changed. When Nariese Giangan came out as a gay woman, it was painless.
Nariese, photographer and Girl Nation 2.0 host at Nectar Nightclub, discovered she liked it different as early as sixth grade. She was having crushes on girls, with her supportive mom even letting her wear boys’ clothes until she was around seven. “At that time, I didn’t have a sense of kung ano yung pambabae o panlalaki. When I was eight, my childhood friends and I would always play bahay-bahayan, tapos gusto ko ako lagi ang tatay. Nung 11 naman ako, may sumusubok na manligaw sa’kin pero natakot ako," she recalls. "Umiyak talaga ako."
Nariese's story invokes an inspiring coming-out one: She mustered enough confidence one day to talk to her mom about it. Much to her surprise, her mom accepted her wholeheartedly. But the surprise of her life happened when Nariese came out to her grandmother, the most religious one in the family. “Never kong naramdamang hindi nya ko tanggap.” She goes on to saying how her lola would even look for her partner during family reunions. “One time when we were eating, sabi niya, ‘Sabi ng pastor namin sa simbahan, ang mga LGBT mahalin natin sila. Love thy neighbor nga, ‘di ba? Mahalin mo ang kapwa mo pati mga LGBT.’”
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Yet, there were also naysayers who didn’t take Nariese's coming out lightly—those who were afraid to accept changes unfamiliar to them, especially since she grew up in a conservative and religious community. Some would choose to be apathetic about her being a lesbian, while some would tell her tactlessly, “’Sayang ka,’ ‘bakit hindi ka pa ikasal?’ or that I should have kids already.” Some would give her unsolicited advice on how to live a supposedly normal and happy life. One even tried to imply that dating men and having intercourse with the opposite sex might convert her to become straight again. But Nariese just shrugged them off.
When Senator Manny Pacquiao once commented negatively about homosexuals being immoral, Nariese's mom fearleslly took the wheel to tell the haters off. “Nag-post sya ng mahabang status… medyo nag-viral sya… Pinagtanggol nya ang LGBT at sinabing proud sya sakin,” she says. “Even before naman, I think my mom was supportive na kasi I have friends who are lesbians and they always go to her for advice.”
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Now, as the founder of Tangina Tibs on Twitter, Nariese—just like how her mom is to her and her friends—is on a mission to uplift the lesbian community through social media. “I use it as a platform to share materials about women loving women, and to help people find their true identity, to explore themselves, to guide them, to answer their questions, and help bring light to whatever it is that confuses them.”
“Growing up, I never had a lesbian role model in the family so I didn’t know who to ask about all the things and changes that’s happening to me. I think it’s really cool that some people really look up to me and trust in me."
Through the process, she says she, too, learns. “Akala ko noon, enough na yung personal experiences to help and give advice to people. Hindi pala,” Nariese explains. For her, to be better advocates, one also needs to educate themselves and learn from other people. “Ang dami ko pa ring hindi alam hanggang ngayon. Yung mga simpleng nagtatanong sa’kin online, ang dami kong natututunan from them. Ang dami kong kwentong naririnig. ‘Dun ko na-realize na maswerte pala ako kasi nga, bago pa man ako nagladlad, hinihintay na lang pala ko ng nanay ko. At dapat gamitin ko yung pribilehiyong yun para makatulong sa mga walang masabihan na kahit na sino.”
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Nariese feels especially elated seeing how more and more people have become as loving toward LGBTQ, as her mom has always been to her. “More families are becoming more accepting, and there are different institutions with initiatives to help educate and give safe spaces to LGBTQs. This is why more people are finding the courage to come out because they feel that it’s safer now."
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Produced by Camille Santiago | Creative direction by Barry Viloria | Photography by Vyn Radovan | Shot by Tin Zabat | Edited by Lui Jimenez | Makeup Patrick lcober, Jinx Agabao, and Maws Diaz of Make Up For Ever | Sam Corbillon of Triple Luck Brow and Nail Salon | Shot on location at City Garden Grand Hotel | Special thanks to Margarette Domingo | Banner image by Lui Jimenez