College house party, booze, recklessness, and unexpected pregnancy. One could say that these are the ingredients of an angsty ’80s teen flick—and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. After all, what’s a better redemption arc for a rebellious teenager than making them grow after a series of mistakes and questionable decisions?
But before you go “I think I’ve seen this film before” on me, let me introduce you to a real-life protagonist whose life pretty much flows the way a classic coming-of-age movie script does.
“I’m actually a product of an unexpected pregnancy. Cliché man pakinggan, but my biological parents had me after getting dead drunk at a house party. Their libido acted up,” Kayla* (not her real name) tells me in a virtual chat. “One thing led to another, then bam, I was conceived.”
If this were really a film, things would probably go down the typical route: a romantic story filled with misunderstandings, followed by a breakup, then a dramatic reunion that would end with marriage. But this is reality—and the 26-year-old freelancer shares with me a twist we’d seldom see in movies.
“They didn’t end up together because my dad was gay.” The Zoom call we were in wasn’t the best resolution-wise, but the chuckle she let out made it clear that this was a story she’s comfortable telling. “[My] mom naman, let’s just say she had different priorities. She went MIA after giving birth.”
And this is where the real story begins.
Episode 1: Tatay and… Dad?
“I was around 12 when Tatay brought a boyfriend home,” Kayla reminisces. “And it honestly took me a while to wrap my head around it.”
Her biological father—whom she fondly calls Tatay—had always been her sole caregiver, so a stepparent wasn’t really part of the life her young self dreamed of.
“I was super skeptical. At that time, I already knew that Tatay was gay. But somehow, the concept of him having a boyfriend—and me having another dad—scared the shit out of me,” says Kayla. “But fortunately, the three of us turned out to be pretty awesome together.”
“Growing up with two loving dads made me realize that a parent’s gender isn’t what defines their ability to raise a child. It’s their choices and actions that matter most.”
The transition to their setup wasn’t exactly seamless, though. Kayla admits being “damn awkward” with her Tatay’s boyfriend (whom she now refers to as Dad) until she turned 16.
“I’d watch my friends at school interact with their moms and dads, and then there was me with Tatay and another man,” she quips with a solemn voice. The teen dramas she had been watching didn’t help either as they seemed to further magnify how distinctive their household was. “I wasn’t necessarily bullied, but [I was] always questioned. Those moments made me treat Dad with indifference. I wanted to have a ‘normal’ family.”
Kayla’s relationship with her Dad started to evolve from awkwardness to a genuine bond when they discovered a shared penchant for reality cooking shows. “We literally went from being ‘housemates’ who occasionally greet each other to actually enjoying each other’s company,” she recalls with an evident grin. “Turns out, lots of bonding can happen over culinary mishaps.”
Episode 2: Kayla’s myth-buster era
Kayla spent her teens in a balanced household. “Tatay was born and raised in [Los Angeles] despite being a full-blooded Filipino, while si Dad naman is Japanese-American. They have different parenting styles,” she divulges.
“Dad lets me do whatever I want because he believes I could only learn by experiencing them firsthand. Tatay is the typical Filipino parent na strict. I’d have to prepare a long ass speech just to get his permission for anything. But maybe that’s [because] I was a byproduct of his teenage recklessness,” Kayla jokingly says. “Kidding aside, you can say that I was raised with the perfect balance of discipline and freedom.”
Her parents didn’t enforce gender roles at home—and she considers that freeing. “Tatay and Dad… they’ve never boxed me into a specific role. They didn’t expect me to be feminine. They didn’t make assumptions about my interests. They just let me be.”
“Maybe one day, our stories won’t be unique anymore. They’ll just be stories. Until then, I’ll be standing with my Tatay and my Dad, and the entire queer community.”
But things are a tad different (and harsh) outside of their household. As we delve into her high school years, Kayla addresses the elephant in the room: the myths and misconceptions about growing up with gay parents.
“You know, people love to have opinions on things they have absolutely no clue about,” she remarks. “I don’t get why people act like [homosexuality] is a contagious condition. ‘Oh, your parents are gay? You must be, too.’ It’s ridiculous.”
With a playful roll of her eyes, Kayla jests, “I think there’s this bizarre notion that gay parents have some sort of ‘gay conversion agenda’ just because they’re gay. Do people seriously think that my dads are part of some secret mission to recruit the next generation of LGBTQ+ members?” She lets out a hearty laugh. “I wish people would understand that sexual orientation isn’t something you can catch or [be taught].”
To debunk these stereotypes, she uses a mix of humor and straightforward logic. “I usually say, ‘If my dads being gay turned me gay, then why didn’t all the kids of straight parents turn out straight?’ My sexuality has nothing to do with my dads. End of story. I like boys because, well, I just do. Most of them ain’t shit, though.”
Episode 3: Writing her own IRL rom-com
Now in her twentysomethings, Kayla finally has her own love story to share. “Yes, I have a boyfriend. And our relationship is actually built on the same principles of openness and acceptance that my dads modeled. My parents are our standard.”
She met her boyfriend through a mutual friend, and they hit it off from the start. “He’s amazing. He didn’t freak out when I casually mentioned through text that I have two fathers,” she giggles. “He met Tatay and Dad at a family dinner, [and] it went surprisingly smooth.”
When asked about any concerns she might have had about introducing her lover to her parents, Kayla shrugs. “He’s a genuine ally. His values perfectly align with mine. So, I was more worried about how they’d [gang up] on me in a game of Monopoly than anything else.”
Finale: A daughter, a lover, and an ally
“[For families] like mine, it’s a validation that our bond is just as legitimate as anyone else’s. And for the LGBTQ+ people in general, it’s a legal protection against bigotry.”
Kayla’s journey—though filled with unexpected twists—has molded her into a gutsy and self-assured woman. “The best thing I’ve learned from my two dads is that we can’t let outdated norms dictate our progress.”
Our chat naturally shifts to the socio-political landscape of her Tatay’s home country—where same-sex marriage is unrecognized by law and the SOGIE bill remains a topic of discussion. “It’s long overdue, if you ask me. That bill is one big step towards a more inclusive society; a world where everyone can freely express [themselves] without fear of discrimination.” Kayla leans in, her expression becoming more contemplative. “It isn’t even about giving anyone special treatment, eh. It’s only about leveling the playing field. It’s a basic human right that shouldn’t even be up for debate.”
She then takes a moment to reflect on its potential impact on her family and the queer community at large. “[For families] like mine, it’s a validation that our bond is just as legitimate as anyone else’s. And for the LGBTQ+ people in general, it’s a legal protection against bigotry.”
Kayla acknowledges that change takes time. But with a knowing smile, she imparts her hope for the future. “I’ve seen attitudes shift, especially among my circles. Education and open conversations can make a difference,” she says. “Maybe one day, our stories won’t be unique anymore. They’ll just be stories. Until then, I’ll be standing with my Tatay and my Dad, and the entire queer community.”
Post-credits: Absent mother
As our conversation comes to a close, I remember a topic that we haven’t touched on yet—her biological mom’s absence. “I thought you’d never ask,” Kayla chuckles. “Well, there’s nothing much to share. And I’ve never really harbored any resentment towards her. I realized that people make choices based on what they think are best for them, even if it means leaving others behind.”
She takes a thoughtful pause before shrugging off the notion of longing for a mother figure. “I do wonder about her sometimes, but I don’t have some deep-seated emotional void because of her absence. Growing up with two loving dads made me realize that a parent’s gender isn’t what defines their ability to raise a child. It’s their choices and actions that matter most.”
Kayla may not have grown up in a traditional “mom and dad” setup, but she firmly retorts: “I wouldn’t trade my story for anything.”
Art by Kealan Paul C. Cortez