“If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13)

THIS Bible verse has been used for centuries by Christians to discredit same-sex love, leading LGBTQ+ individuals to be excluded from their communities. It rings like a gong, to tell them that what they’re doing is wrong. The people who bring up the specific Bible verse though, forget that that same chapter forbids round haircuts, tattoos, blended fabrics, and shellfish.

If there’s anybody out there who knows the Bible, it’s Abby Orbeta. Ms. Orbeta works as a senior copywriter for an advertising agency, performs spoken-word poetry, and serves as Co-Head for Arts, Culture and Expression for Metro Manila Pride. In another world, she was once a Sunday School teacher and a church youth leader. She also identifies as queer.

“I grew up in a very devout evangelical Christian home,” Ms. Orbeta told BusinessWorld at the tennis courts of the Marikina Sports Center on the sidelines of the Metro Manila Pride March on June 29. She told BusinessWorld that she once identified as straight, then as a lesbian, then as a bisexual. “Now, I am queer and open to all. I’m just out,” she said with a bit of laughter.

Her parents, meanwhile, identified deeply with the church: her father worked his way up from a servant of the church to a leader for small groups, and then became a preacher. Her mother, meanwhile, serves as a head of an intercessors’ prayer group.

In her very Christian surroundings, Ms. Orbeta found herself attracted to a neighbor before she turned 10. “There was this very beautiful, very butch woman in our village.” She thought that she was just attracted to the woman’s masculine energy, but she soon found herself attracted to a feminine girl in school as well. “Why do I feel that same attraction that I have for men and even masculine women towards a feminine woman?” she asked herself.

“That was when I first knew that there was something different with me,” said Ms. Orbeta. “This was not something that’s right — according to what I was taught.” She said that she suppressed her attraction to females by actively pursuing men, all in an effort to reconcile her faith and her feelings. “I’ve struggled with it since forever.”

Eventually, her truth came out — and not to the pleasure of everyone. “My parents were horrified,” she said. Rumors in church about her attraction to the same sex had been spreading for a while, and her mother went through Ms. Orbeta mobile phone for proof. Ms. Orbeta said that there was a “mega-confrontation.”

“It put into question my position in the church,” she said. “I wasn’t really trying to hide it, but I wasn’t very out about it either. I knew the world I was living in.”

Eventually, Ms. Orbeta had to give up the community she found in church. She says that she has since stopped going to that church, but still attends on special occasions, at the request of her mother.

What she has found instead was her community in Pride, which she found through her spoken-word performances, which enabled her to connect with other queer people. “Without it, I probably wouldn’t be alive,” she said. “I still have faith in Christ; that’s still there.

“This is why I keep volunteering, and keep moving forward: so that people that have the same experiences as me don’t have to feel the same way.”

The Metro Manila Pride March last Saturday attracted over 70,000 people, according to a count by the Metro Manila Pride organization. Included among these were Christian groups who held up signs that said: “I’m sorry for using the Bible to hurt you” and “God loves you, and so do we.”

“Now, there are so many people embracing us with open arms, telling us that who we are is valid, and that we are loved, and we are seen,” Ms. Orbeta said. “That’s all I want to happen; that’s all I want to feel… that’s there’s nothing wrong with us.”

The Bible says in 1 John 4:7-8: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”

Ms. Orbeta said, “I believe that God loves me for who I am. He made me who I am. I spent so many years on my knees to try to pray the gay away. But God never really made it go away.” — Joseph L. Garcia