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Pride Interview with Riz

Interviewer: Paakhi Maheshwari

Interviewee: Riz


Riz:

Hey! I am Riz. I am from the Philippines and I identify as gender fluid. Sexuality wise I am pan romantic and demi sexual. Umm, that’s about the introduction.


Paakhi:

That’s awesome! I am Paakhi and I identify as a straight person. I am female.


Pooja:

Hey, I am Pooja and I identify as a straight person too.


Riz:

Nice to meet you all!


Paakhi:

So, first of all, could you give a brief explanation of your sexuality and your gender for everyone?


Riz:

When it comes to my gender- I am gender fluid. Which basically means that there are times when I like to be masculine. I would like to dress up masculine, and cut my hair short. But then, there are times when I want to present myself as a feminine identity. I would like to present myself in a dress or like a girl boss moment in a suit to look both cool and intimidating. That’s how much gender works apparently (laughs)


And when it comes to sexuality, pan-romantic is basically in the asexual spectrum which means that regardless of how a person identifies there is a chance of me liking them romantically. For the demi-sexual part, it means that there is a chance for me to like them sexually if I were to form an emotional bond with them. In a simple scenario, say that, I had this best friend that I had been crushing on for god knows how long. Now romantically, I would like them regardless of who they are, and sexually you know-


Paakhi:

Yeah. How would you differentiate between sexually attracted to someone and romantically attracted to someone?


Riz:

Okay. Umm, when it comes to my romantic attraction, attraction is very different for everyone. But when it comes to romantic attraction for me, it's different. Do you know how couples act in public, like kissing, holding hands, and all the sweet couple things that they do- I am very comfortable with that. But when it comes to the sexual part- I can only feel such things only when I have formed an emotional bond with them. That is only when I could have a sexual attraction to them. Like a sexual desire.

Paakhi:

That’s great to know. Now we’ll move on with the questions that we had for you. So, have you come out to society with your sexual identification?


Riz:

Yes, I have come out.

Paakhi:

Okay, how was your experience with that?


Riz:

Trying to accept the fact that I am attracted to people in a different way. That’s how society sees it. It’s like a hard journey to accept that I am different or as people like to call it — weird. And a lot of self-reflection was involved in the process. But I am glad that I have come to terms with it especially when I came out to the people who are close to me like my friends, my siblings, and my mom. But, so far I am still a growing kid. But I hope that I could continue to accept myself for who I am yeah.


Paakhi:

I think self-acceptance is the biggest step in the journey for anyone, right?


Riz:

Yeah, true.


Paakhi:

Was there a particular situation when you realized that this is how you identify as?


Riz:

It happened in 2020. For me, that year was a year of introspection. I thought about who I had been and who I want to be in the near future.


In that, I stumbled upon attraction and how it influences my perspective on romance. I often found myself uncertain about my feelings toward certain people. In the Philippines, societal expectations around having crushes, particularly on the opposite sex, made it seem like a normal thing to do. However, upon reflection, I realized that I had been influenced by societal norms rather than genuinely experiencing attraction.

This realization triggered me to dive into research, questioning my attraction to both girls and guys, and eventually considering if gender even mattered to me. This exploration led me to identify as pansexual initially. However, I later discovered the complexity of sexual attraction, which further deepened my understanding of the concept. Through extensive study and self-reflection, I gradually came to terms with my unique perspective on attraction and love.


Paakhi:

I think that because we have been so conditioned to think in a certain stereotypical manner or certain streamlined things we do not realize what we actually want. And I think that happens with most people in some sense or the other as you had felt in your sexuality or gender, right?


Riz:

Yes


Paakhi:

It's inspiring to hear that you took the time for self-reflection and discovered what you truly wanted. In your journey, did you have someone you confided in, someone who supported you and made the bumpy ride easier?


Riz:

Yes, I have a sibling and a close group of friends whom I've known since grade school. I'm generally closed off as a person, cautious about what I share. Discussing topics like this is still considered taboo, right?


Paakhi:

Absolutely.


Riz:

So, when I came out to my friends and told them about my identity, being gay, I was relieved that they were accepting. They reassured me that nothing had changed, that I was still their best friend or older sibling. It felt like a warm hug, and I'm grateful that our relationship remained unchanged. It made me really happy.


Paakhi:

True companionship is about accepting someone as they are, beyond their sexuality or romantic preferences. It's a genuine connection.


Riz:

Yes, exactly.


Paakhi:

I understand that you had your comfort zone, but society isn't always as accepting. Did you worry about others' opinions when you came out? How did you prepare for it?


Riz:

I did worry a lot, especially about coming out. If someone asked me, I made the decision to be upfront and say, "Yes, I'm gay." I realized I needed to be cautious about who I shared this with, as my mom advised. Not everyone is open-minded. To stay in a safe zone and reduce anxiety, I decided that if someone couldn't respect my pronouns, I wouldn't engage with them. If they made a fuss, it was their problem. I wouldn't let it bother me. Those who don't accept me are the ones missing out.


Paakhi:

They sure are. Accepting yourself and not caring about others' opinions is crucial in every aspect of life. It's a valuable lesson.


Riz:

Absolutely.


Paakhi:

After coming out to society, how has your experience been in reality?


Riz:

Honestly, it's been quite ordinary. People treat me the same. But personally, I feel more liberated. I want to explore and understand myself better. For years, I was conditioned to think in certain ways, limited by societal expectations. But now, I have the desire to discover my own authenticity and individuality, to explore my own mind and preferences.


Paakhi:

It's interesting how most people haven't really delved into these thoughts and explorations. It's like, if you take the time to research and understand, things start falling into place, and you realize why you acted a certain way. That's when you truly accept yourself, and it's an incredible feeling.

Riz:

Absolutely, it truly is.


Paakhi:

Having a mundane life after coming out is actually the best outcome. You don't want to be treated differently or overly nice just because of your identity. The best thing is being treated as who you are, without any special treatment.


Riz:

Exactly. It's like finally exhaling after holding your breath for so long. It's pure relief. During Pride month, I jokingly remind my friends that they owe me money. But aside from that, everyone treats me as they see me. If someone chooses to change their perspective, that's on them. I don't worry about it much.


Paakhi:

That's how it should be for everyone. Even for straight individuals who want to engage with the LGBTQ+ community, there can be a fear of saying something offensive or making someone uncomfortable. So, in your opinion, how should someone approach a person who they suspect might be LGBTQ+ and want to provide support or comfort, even if that person hasn't come out to them?


Riz:

Assuming someone's identity is disrespectful because it labels them without their consent. But if you want to approach someone, ask politely and be careful with your words. A single slip-up can create a negative impression. Be extremely polite, expressing your intention to make them comfortable without putting them on a pedestal or being overprotective. Treat them as they wish to be treated and respect their pronouns. Ask them how they want to be complimented based on their desired gender expression. By doing so, you can approach someone without causing offense.


Paakhi:

Exactly. When addressing someone, it's important to respect their preferences. For example, calling a man "gorgeous" may not resonate as much as it would for a woman. It's crucial to understand what makes them comfortable. Being polite, respectful, and treating them according to their wishes is the key. Now, when you came out to those close to you, what was the ideal reaction you received? What was the kind of response you hoped for from everyone?


Riz:

There wasn't a purely ideal reaction to when I came out, but ideally, when someone comes out to you, reassure them and thank them for their trust. Hype them up! Make them feel proud of it! It's important to acknowledge that not everyone would react calmly and welcomingly, so thanking them for their trust is crucial. Gratitude and reassurance are the ideal reactions that many LGBTQ+ individuals would appreciate.


Paakhi:

It's comforting to know that simply being supportive and comforting is enough when someone comes out to you. Homophobic jokes and jokes that disregard a person's identity can be hurtful. How would you respond to someone who cracks such a joke?


Riz:

In those situations, I've always chosen not to laugh. It's important not to feel forced to laugh just to fit in when the remark is homophobic or offensive. The next step depends on the person and the context. If I have a history with them, I might give them a stern glare, questioning why they would say such things in front of me.


Paakhi:

That's a good approach. Confrontation can be intimidating, especially when it involves homophobic remarks. So, not laughing and giving a disapproving look is a powerful response. If they ask why you're not laughing, you can simply say it's not funny. If they press for an explanation, you can make them reflect on why they find it humorous and help them connect the dots.


Riz:

Exactly. By making them question their own perspective, they may realize the offensiveness of their joke. It's a way to engage them in self-reflection and challenge their biases.


Paakhi:

That's the best way to confront a situation like that. So, Riz, we're celebrating Pride 2023 by interviewing people from the community. Last Pride month, we focused on storytelling, with different stories representing each color of the spectrum. It was a great success and we received positive feedback. This time, we wanted to incorporate more real-life experiences, so we decided to interview real people. If you have the time, I would encourage you to read the stories from the last Pride month. Like we celebrate Pride by celebrating awareness, how do you make the whole of Pride Month?


Riz:

That sounds incredibly creative. I'll definitely try to make time to read those stories. As for celebrating Pride month, I don't go all out like it's a major holiday. Instead, I take a moment to acknowledge how far I've come and give myself a pat on the back. It's about recognizing and accepting who I am. I celebrate by treating myself well, nothing extravagant, and giving myself daily reassurance that I've come a long way and finally accepted myself. Whether it's enjoying a slice of cake, or celebrating with friends, romantic partners, or loved ones, it's about embracing the journey and celebrating the fact that I've accepted myself. That's what Pride month means to me – embracing who I am and continuing to move forward.


Paakhi:

Absolutely. That's the beauty of Pride month – knowing your identity, respecting yourself for it, and celebrating the acceptance of who you truly are.


Riz:

Exactly, being prideful of it.




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