Lawyer Magdalena Lepiten: A proud member of the LGBTQIA++ community
CEBU CITY, Philippines — She was already 40 years old when she decided to officially ‘come out’ and admit that she was gay.
Lawyer Magdalena Lepiten, 61, said it took years for her to make the decision because of her fear of condemnation and discrimination, among others.
“For us gays, there is a partial out, when one discloses one’s sexuality to a few close trusted friends or relatives. And there is an ‘out-out’ where you disclose your sexuality even to those who will condemn you, discriminate against you, and judge you,” she said in a speech that she delivered during the Cebu City Hall of Justice’s Pride Month celebration held on Monday morning, June 19.
In her speech, Lepiten, who is also the president of Cebu for Human Rights and founder of the Children’s Legal Bureau, proudly said that she is a member of the LGBTQIA++ community.
She said that people might think of her as a “late bloomer” for coming out during her midlife, but she said that in her generation there are still many “who are [still hiding] in the closet” because they fear condemnation.
Many also prefer to continue to conform to the society’s standards unlike the Gen Zs and millennials who “openly” speak of their sexuality.
“Sa amo nga mga bayot ug tomboy, naay saying which goes like this ‘kahibalo na ang tanan, sila na lang ang wala,’ but then again many would still prefer to be in the closet and are still hiding,” she said.
When she made the decision to come out, Lepiten said, she was confident then that others would find it easy accept her true self because of her profession.
“Obviously, I was wrong. Nobody would accept me not until and unless I accept myself completely and wholeheartedly,” she said.
Lepiten admitted that working in a very conservative community of lawyers and judges was also a big challenge.
“Of course, you would expect a certain backlash because in a very conservative community like the lawyers and judges, they may not be able to appreciate the diversity of the LGBTQIA++ community, especially me because I’m a lesbian and I’m married,” she said.
“When you say you’re married, there is a stigma because we would always like to solidify, safeguard the unity of the family that father and mother should not, in any way, separate,” she added.
Living a not so normal life
And there was her family that she had to deal with.
Lepiten shared with CDN that when she came out, she was told by family members and relatives to go back to having a “normal” life and family.
She used to be married with three kids. But she and her husband decided to live separate lives and she is now with Lawyer Fiona Bojos, who also acts as a second mother to her children.
Lepiten admitted that what they now have is a “not that defined” family. Her children – 2 lawyers and an architect – now have two mothers, her and Bojos, her partner for 23 years.
But they are trying their best to live a normal family life.
Lepiten said that with her children all grown up and professionals, this was an indication that her “abnormality” was never an obstacle to their success.
In the message that she delivered at the Cebu City Hall of Justice’s Pride Month celebration, Lepiten said opening up about one’s sexuality is “something very private” and is often shared only with friends and relatives.
But she was grateful to have been given the opportunity to share her experience to her colleagues and the public. Lepiten said that she also felt so much lighter after she decided to ‘come out.’
“I may expect a certain backlash but I can never move forward, not unless I’m honest with myself. So, acceptance I think would have to start within me and once I start accepting my being me, as they say ‘a manufacturer’s defect’ I think I move fast forward, not looking back,” she said.
Before she ended her speech, Lepiten also thanked the Supreme Court for allowing them to celebrate Pride Month and for recognizing them as a marginalized and discriminated minority of the Philippine society.
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