Forced identity fragmentation

My personal journey to liberalization

© margarethleanne.com

I have become so good at compartmentalizing fragments of my identity.

I started mastering the art of shelving my interests, into what is acceptable and what isn’t, at a very young age.

My relationship with sex stems all the way back to 2nd grade. I was 6 years old and attended a small co-ed private school in the Greater Manila Area.

I had classmates who used to fool around quite frequently inside one of the cubicles at the girls’ comfort room. I was pretty much obsessed with watching them from the cubicle beside where they hid.

It just escalated from that.

I could pinpoint specific milestones — should I even call them that? Maybe, periods of sexual awakening? — when I learned and discovered more about something that was very much taboo in Philippine culture.

My parents caught me sexting twice during high school because I used to fall asleep in the middle of it, and my phone would continue to blast notifications throughout the night. My old Blackberry either didn’t have a silent mode or I just didn’t know how to set it up. My parents dealt with the situation by scolding me the morning after without ever explaining to me why I shouldn’t be doing it.

I just knew that it was wrong and forbidden.

Unfortunately, for me, I absolutely love sex. That led me through a complicated and winding journey which I explored all on my own.

Ever since I first hooked up with my then-boyfriend at 13 years old, I have always felt like I was living a double life.

On one hand, I felt the need to prove to my family that I took my future seriously. That meant being successful in my academics, then, eventually, in my career. I graduated high school with honors and finished a degree (in my dream major) from the country’s premier state university. Currently, I work for the Executive branch of the Philippine government. This was after working for two years for the U.S. State Department. If I were to build an illusion for myself, might as well make it look as impressive as I can. I once told a friend, “everything is a matter of perception and presentation.”

My second identity felt like the one that I was forced to conceal from the world. Other people love baking, community development, visual arts, social work; which they have little to no trouble balancing with their professional careers. For me, it was much more complicated.

Sex positivity and feminism are two of my advocacies that do not seamlessly fit in with the machismo culture that is deeply embedded in Philippine society.

Sex education at Philippine schools is either limited, problematic, or non-existent. Kids grow up learning about sex through a subjective and skewed lens — either from their conservative parents, rumors at school, or from media.

Filipinas have an even more sophisticated relationship with sex and identity. We are prohibited from being promiscuous and daring. The character of Maria Clara puts purity and innocence on a pedestal, forcing Filipinas to absolutely conform or be penitent. There is no in between. You simply cannot be outspoken about sex and expect to be taken seriously. (Hence, the emergence of finstas and Twitter alter accounts. I think I’ll explore this topic in a separate post.)

When I graduated and joined the workforce, my identity fragmentation started getting more complicated. Since I had a better grasp of who I am and what my interests are, I wanted to reflect upon them and put them out in the world.

But this website took almost three years of conceptualization and procrastination. I had an initial name and plan for this project, which resulted in a huge amount of self-inflicted pressure. But the majority of my hesitation came from voices inside my head telling me that I have to be careful about what I put out in the world and attach my name to; because I could be jeopardizing my career. I have always wondered how and why I would be reprimanded for discussing women’s health (which, by the way, is a bigger topic than just maternal health. Again, one that I’ll explore in a separate post.).

As a romantic and idealist, I’m choosing to recognize the movement and shift of the Filipino psyche. I’d like to believe that we are becoming more open to and embracing of the outspoken and unreserved Filipina identity. I mean, at one point or another, we eventually need to overthrow the patriarchy and cultivate more spaces for women + queer representation and voices, right?

…. Right?

I admit that this website might not be for everybody. And that my opinions may contradict with yours or your friend’s. But to those who are open and interested enough to read my musings, I hope you enjoy your time here.

P.S. My Instagram DMs and posts are open for conversations and discussions. Click here to follow 🙂

Published by Margareth Leanne

Leanne has a soft spot for all things romantic, heartbreaking, and beautiful. She is inspired by passionate people who are in love with the work that they do. Leanne enjoys reading and thinks that Paulo Coelho speaks to her directly through his books. She often constructs run-on sentences and is an advocate of the usage of the oxford comma.

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