We are living in the 21st century. In modern society, we are very lucky we don’t have to live the way gay people lived in the past — misunderstood, hated, rejected, broken, beaten up, discriminated against. Half of the world has big gay movements that advanced the status of every gay man and woman on the planet. Sadly, there are still some areas where life for gays can be very difficult.
I am happily straight but what made me understand that we are equal in all ways, in all things is being blessed to grow up with gay uncles. Yes, two of my mom’s brothers are super gay. At age 5, I already have a full understanding of the gayness of my uncles. Uncle #1 (Ian) who came out at 10 years old would braid my hair before I go to school. We didn’t have a big age difference. My mom’s younger brothers are about 6-12 years older than me. I found a friend in them and it really makes me happy that I have super amazing uncles who are okay with who they are.
Whenever there is an event in school that needs a total make-over, Uncle Ian would volunteer to do my hair and make-up. Come Senior prom, he volunteered to take care of me because my mom was busy working. From the gown to the hair, to the eyebrow plucking (that made my mom seriously angry), he put all his energies to make me look like the most beautiful girl in school. He even went to the prom with me for a few hours to do the retouch and check if everything is okay. At the end of the night, I was awarded, prom queen! He jumped up and down and screamed like a stage mom.
Uncle #2 (Kemp) has been a big part of my teenage beauty queen years. Yes, I joined a lot of beauty pageants in my hometown. There, I said it! It wasn’t even my mom’s idea to do this but because she has so much love for her brothers, even if she didn’t want to expose me to this kind of environment, she said yes because she knows it will make my uncles happy. For the whole month of the pageant, Uncle Kemp was there for me all the way and I don’t think I could’ve done it without him. I didn’t win the title but I was happy to be able to share a bond with him for those nights we spent together – rehearsing, practicing, and training.
I was raised to be okay with gay people. In my family, being gay is normal. But what can my family do when I go out there and be corrected that gays are not humans? That they are bad people? That what they are doing are against God’s will? I was bullied because my Uncles were gay. In the Philippine setting, a macho society will never handle this kind of belief and acceptance. My uncles and friends went through the difficulties of coming out. There were a lot of religious hypocrites who questioned their humanity and it made me really sick. A lot of gay men and women in my community have inspired me because of their coming out. They were in hiding for a time but they braced the war with so much courage and kindness.
In college, all my friends were so gay my mother gave me the title “Babaeng Bakla.” I don’t even know how to translate this but I would say, “a girl who’s like a gay man?” Anyone? Help me out? Anyway, even if I was already in University, there were still a lot of challenges to being gay in the Philippines.
“Move to Hong Kong,” I told a friend.
“What will I do there? I don’t know anyone there!”
“You know artists and gays can move freely in Hong Kong. They hold hands, make out on the streets and nobody cares. Gays have no future in this country!”
He went on a 4-day trip and never looked back. 7 freaking years and he is having the time of his life in Hong Kong! I was really happy he did this! For some, Hong Kong is so small it drives them crazy to come across their Grindr matches in every street they walk in. There is so much competition in small cities that sometimes they want to scream and just move out.
When I came to Tel Aviv, I’ve seen a big shift, a different world.
Remember that instance when you introduce a gay friend to a straight crowd: “Hi, this is my friend Vince. He’s gay, by the way.” This is how we, straight people who are okay with gays become tied in an awkward situation with straight people who are not okay with gays. I hate it when people are always waiting for a confirmation. “He dresses like a dude/chick, blah blah blah” are the usual comments in the guessing game.
In Tel Aviv, you don’t have to follow up your introduction. Everyone is so free you wouldn’t have to ask if they are gay. Their personalities are shining bright with an outpour of so much positive energy. I did not expect this from a Middle Eastern country but what surprised me the most is how straight people react. They are blending in. I was really impressed with the straight men I met who partied like crazy in gay clubs! It was something new for me. I thought of my gay friends and Uncles and wished they can also see what I was seeing.
I can never speak for you about love but I am pretty sure that in a city like Tel Aviv, where people are sure of who and what they are, there will be no room for meeting closeted gays who are just “experimenting.”
Israel is a pool of different religions: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist are all here. Nobody will ever ask you to choose between your religion and sexual orientation. According to mystical Judaism, there is no connection between homosexuality and spirituality. With this, some orthodox organizations are teaching about acceptance and tolerance towards the LGBT community!
Equal Rights according to law
In general, there is no civil marriage in Israel, not even for straight people. However, whatever your sexual orientation is, you can register yourself as a couple with your boyfriend/girlfriend and it will give you the same rights and same legal status. Two thirds of the country is very supportive of same-sex marriage. If you are married abroad, you can easily register your marriage in Israel. This also includes registering children adopted/born abroad. Israel doesn’t choose one to be the legal guardian but recognizes both as the child’s parents. Registration can be done at the Administration of Immigration.
Fun Fact: Over 3,000 children are raised by gay couples. There are also dozens of professionals who specialise in the needs of LGBTQ household in Israel.
The best gay friendly city in the world
Tel Aviv has been named the world’s best gay friendly city in the world because of its unending movement on LGBT rights. The urban city is home to the most colourful Pride Parades (every June) which is also considered the best celebration in the Mediterranean. Some events also include Pride Expo (Gay Culture Fair), LGBT Theatre Festival and LGBT Film Festival. Additionally, Tel Aviv outranked New York City with the number of gay clubs all over the city.
I am very happy to be here, I tell you honestly. I am filled with joy and excitement to witness people living freely. Their positive energy on being okay with who they are inspires me so much I want to ask all my gay friends to move here! My faith in humanity is getting stronger and stronger as I pave my way around the Middle East.
I think it’s totally okay to leave a country when you don’t feel accepted. You have all the right to choose to be who you are, to do what you want without dealing with difficulties. Please, don’t live your life keeping up with other people’s BS. Aside from Tel Aviv, there are a lot of other gay friendly cities in the world that you can move to. You deserve the life of acceptance and love so run away from the toxic society you are in!
Ahhhhhh…. what a time to be alive as a straight person in a super gay city as Tel Aviv!
Are you a gay/straight person living in Tel Aviv? Have you been to Tel Aviv? What are your experiences regarding LGBTQ communities in the city? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below! 🙂
Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak, and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She’d like to believe she’s not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. In no particular order, her favorite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv.