Op-ed: My Life 10 Years After Coming Out on MTV 

BY Advocate Contributors

October 11 2011 5:00 AM ET

Few moments compare to coming out in an episode of MTV’s True
Life
some 10 years ago. Even when I boarded
a plane in January with a parachute that I was terrified wouldn’t open,
flew up into the sky and 10,000 feet later jumped out of the open doors, it was
the second most exhilarating experience of my life.

Ten years ago, I was 19 and wanted to come out. But I was
scared. Much like being in that airplane, I didn’t want to jump. It
was only after my best friend Kat demanded that I go skydiving with her, and
only after I spent a few weeks saying “No” that I eventually gave in.

Living in a strict, Catholic, Filipino home, my parents
expected a lot from me. And being the only son of five children, my
parents wanted me to get married, have lots of kids, and support my family with
the money I would make from being a doctor.  Although none of these
things would make me happy, I was raised to respect my elders and live up to
their expectations.  So I was prepared to live a lie.  

Then things changed. My dad had a heart attack and was
sent to the ER, where I rushed to find him lying weak on a bed.  I
held his hand, and as feeble as he was he still managed a smile.  A
realization hit me: I almost lost my dad without him really knowing
me.  I felt like we both deserved better.  That was the
moment I decided  to overcome my
fear and come out. 

That night, I started thinking of ways I could do it that
would let people like me learn what I’d learned.  I considered
writing an article, or something along those lines, until I went on the
Internet and stumbled upon a casting call on MTV’s website. They were doing a
show called True Life: I’m Coming Out.  I
never believed in signs until that night, and so I immediately wrote MTV a very
long email.  I remember being so passionate about what I was writing
that I didn’t even proofread.  I just kept typing and typing and then
clicked “send.”

One week later, a producer from MTV called and said they
definitely wanted me on the show.   A television crew flew from New
York to California two weeks later.  I was aware that I was about to do
something absolutely crazy, especially since I had to mislead my family and
friends and say the show was about “college kids growing up.” After all,
the whole point was to capture the moment when I would say “I’m gay” to my loved
ones “on camera.”  And their reactions were not all happy endings.

I started with my dad.  The cameras were rolling
as we went to a nearby park to play some tennis.  We took a break for
lunch on a bench, and I remember being terrified.  I was beating around
the bush, telling my dad that I knew he had a lot of expectations from
me. He agreed, but he also said he wanted me to be happy.  I
think having that heart attack not only taught him about the value of life, but
also the value of happiness, not just for him but for his kids,
too. 

Dad asked me, “So what are you trying to tell
me?”

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