Television host and entrepreneur Raymond Gutierrez on Sunday came out publicly as gay, making official an "open secret" via a magazine appearance — something only a few in the LGBTQIA+ community have had the opportunity to do.
On Instagram, where celebrities announce engagements and babies on the way, the 37-year old who inherited the clout of parents Eddie Gutierrez and Anabelle Rama alongside twin Richard Gutierrez said "it’s been a long time coming" for him.
While noting how explaining one's sexuality to others was "not important", he said he came out for the "first and [probably] last time" so he could empower those who may be going through what he went through before.
“Growing up, it was hard for me to even acknowledge who I am. Like, what is this? I had my brother who was so similar to me but so different in so many ways. But he never had to explain his sexuality, so why should I? And that was my thinking growing up,” he said.
Even as he took a slightly different path compared to his family, Raymond never left the celebrity spotlight, hosting television shows and parties as a self-proclaimed "nightlife connoisseur".
“I think it’s more important than ever just because I want to be an example to the next generation who are struggling, who are feeling suppressed to take time in finding themselves and being happy with themselves. For me, sexuality is just one aspect of who you are. It doesn’t define who you are," he added.
While friends, family, and fans of Gutierrez welcomed his post with support, noticeably, prejudiced statements also filled the comments section, most of which expressing that they knew all along.
Such statements run counter to the concept of "coming out of the closet", the methapor used by the LGBTQIA+ community to describe self-disclosure of their sexual orientation or their gender identity. Coming out is a personal decision one does at their own pace, and not by anyone else.
"What is happening now is a reminder to all of us to always uphold and embrace our fundamental pride values of diversity and inclusivity. While advocating for equality regardless of SOGIESC, we must practice within our communities acceptance and compassion," said Perci Cendana of Akbayan Partylist, the first party to file the SOGIE Equality Bill in the Philippines.
Coming out in an explosive way or in Gutierrez's words, "a grand reveal", is something only a privileged few within the LGBTQ+ community can afford to do so (take for example, Elliot Page and Caitlyn Jenner). Unlike what is traditionally portayed in media, the process is as scary as it is limiting, especially for the majority of the community who come from less privileged backgrounds.
Philippine society is at most tolerant and still not fully understanding, moreso accepting of the fact that gender is fluid. Society is also heteronormative at best — everyone is presumed "straight" or as Raymond himself noted, straight people like his twin brother didn't have to come out and explain their sexuality. So then, why does he have to?
"I don’t want it to look like I’m hiding or I don’t want it to look like I’m not happy because I am... I [just] feel like labels are not important. I feel like you can love whoever you love. Today, you can be straight, tomorrow, you can be gay," Gutierrez said.
Coming out is an act of courage that should be celebrated, not ridiculed
In Love, Simon, a 2018 film based on the bestselling book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the concept of coming out is portrayed as a process that takes many forms and to many different people. "You won't come out to your mom the same way you do to your friend. Some people will live for years keeping their sexual orientation secret from certain people in their lives while being out to others. None of those options are wrong," Refinery29 noted.
Even when one is heterosexual and happen to embody traits that are typically regarded as effiminate, they are often ridiculed, leaving them to have to prove their sexuality.
Bimby Aquino-Yap, for one, told his mother Kris Aquino in an April vlog that he was "straight as an iPad", hoping to put an end to the public's long-held assumptions that he was gay. “Well you know Bimb, whatever you choose to be, it’s none of their business," the Philippines' queen of all media said, offering support that is rare for a Filipino parent for all of social media to see.
In all instances of coming out, regardless of privilege, one's coming out should be celebrated and met with as much support, as "LGBTQ+ persons should be one in lifting each other up", said Cendana. Ultimately, the goal is for people to not have to come out as they can be just themselves, society's opinions be damned.
Coming out means coming to terms with ones SOGIESC or Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics, taking into account the stigma that comes with it, Cendana said.
"When someone comes out, please recognize it as an act of courage because it really is," he said.