Pride Month Special: Divine Smith on Coming Out, Getting Comfortable
For the LGBTQ+ community, realizing who they are and opening up to others can be a gradual process that may unfold over a series of days, months, or even years. It may consist of many stages, and the process is not the same for each person. It may solve all the problems for others but creates new ones for some. Coming out needs a lot of understanding, accepting, and valuing people’s sexual orientation/identity.
In celebration of Pride Month, we’ve asked Divine Smith, a Fil-Brit celebrity-chef and DJ, to share her experience on how she came out as a lesbian person.
Do you recall the day that you came out? Can you take us to that moment?
Divine: I’ve known I was a lesbian since I was pretty young. I was only 15 back then. I always felt misplaced because I never liked girly things & I’ve rotated more with the guys. I’m more comfortable with sports and guys. So when I came out to my mom, she already knew. She was like, “It’s okay, Vine. I already know. You have nothing to worry about,” and for me, that was a good moment. I felt there’s going to be a weight on my shoulders, but there wasn’t. It was kind of me not being straight anymore. I guess me being more comfortable and affectionate with others because my mom knows about it.
Were there challenges in your career when you came out?
Divine: [Fortunately] I had no challenges so far. When I started my career, especially when I joined PBB. My character there was just me. It wasn’t hard for me inside because I feel like I’m very comfortable with who I am. The older I get, the more comfortable I become. In career, chef-wise also, taking over my family’s company, Soul Sierra, gives me an advantage because it made me confident, comfortable. I would say I’m hands-on and aggressive.
Were there challenges growing up?
Divine: The challenge there was with my father. He is an old-school English guy, and he doesn’t fully understand. In the first year, he didn’t agree with me. He didn’t even want to talk about it. Then, one day he met my ex-girlfriend, and he was okay with it. I don’t know, but maybe people need to go through their things to deal with what they have. I know where he was coming from; he’s a lot older and based on traditions.
What do you think are the issues here involving the LGBTQ+ community that needs to be addressed?
Divine: It was difficult for me to adjust when I move from California to here in Cebu. There’s judgment and discrimination, and some sorts that make people don’t get out of their comfort. There are changes, but it’s slow. My thing here in the Philippines is to legalize same-sex marriage. There are so many gay people here like it’s the time! From make-up artists to fashion designers, they’re dominating different industries. It’s insane how we’re still not legalizing it yet.
What are your thoughts about the notion that the LGBTQ+ community is more tolerated rather than accepted?
Divine: We have so many family members and relatives that are lesbians and gays, and it’s sad because some are more tolerant rather than accepting. It should be common sense. We want to make them realize that we’re all humans, so we should all just love. It’s all equal. It makes me more upset because we’re moving forward, but we’re still so slow.
Some people don’t fully understand who the LGBTQ+ community is and what it aims for. How will you explain it in a way they could better understand it?
Divine: I wanna explain it in my sister’s way, how a lot of people think like this. It’s not how we think of it in the Philippines’ culture because of religion, but every soul has a contract. If you talk to a Shaman or a spiritual leader, they’ll tell you about your past lives. The reasons why we are put into these bodies, and sometimes, it’s for people to understand the meaning of life.
It’s difficult to explain to somebody who doesn’t believe it. If you believe in God, I guess you should also believe in spirituality I mean God is also a spiritual thing. It’s like opening up their minds to the possibilities of what the universe has in store for you and what challenges you’re going to accept and overcome. And also being transgender that’s your soul inside your body, and that body is just a capsule that holds the energy that is stored inside. I don’t know how to explain it to people, but it’s just how you feel. You want to make people feel comfortable with what and who they are. If you feel like you’re a guy but a female on the outside, then go for that change. No one should stop you.
What do you want to say to the people who have the same struggles as you do?
Divine: Find a family that you feel comfortable around. Not necessarily the family you were born from, but find your chosen family that loves you and where you can be yourself with and then, really ask yourself personal questions like, “Do you need this to be or to feel happy?”, “Do you need the transformation?”, Is it because the people that surround you had some changes?” Find a place where you’re grounded to make the right decisions for yourself.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.