Updated: Jul 24
Fo The PRIDE Issue, we interviewed YouTube celebrities and real-life couple Roanne Carreon and Tina Boado or more famously known as #RoTin. We talked to our fellow Iskas on life and love as members of the LGBTQ+ community and as a couple.
Even before conceptualizing The PRIDE Issue, J has stumbled upon a YouTube video from Rec•Create as recommended by her younger brother. Said video showed two exes who played a drinking game. It was really entertaining and sweet at the same time. Soon enough, J's YouTube recommendations got flooded with more videos from those two girls but this time, it's from a channel that they share as a couple. And they had a ship name: RoTin. After binge-watching around 10 vlogs, J shared to E a few #RoTin videos. Who would have thought that 8-minute drinking game video would lead us to this interview?
Kids in a Closet
Roanne spent her childhood getting teased as a "tomboy" because she was not typically feminine and this bullying continued in her high school days. The fear of being bullied left Roanne with a lot of unanswered questions and eventually she repressed her feelings.
"Di ko pa sure sa sarili ko...mayroon talagang attraction sa girls pero pinipigilan ko. Sobrang struggle since may discrimination and bullying.("I was not sure yet about myself but I resisted my own emotions. It was such a struggle because of the discrimination and bullying", she said).
Source: Twitter (@rotinarts)
Meanwhile, Tina grew up in a Christian household and her dad is a pastor. She also studied at a Christian school. Tina told us, "What I did most of the time was to battle who I really am." She also shared about how the lack of LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream media added to her confusion. When gays and lesbians are included in films for comedic relief and fetishes, how do we expect queer kids to be able to identify with these characters? With most of her circle seeing the topic of homosexuality as a taboo, Tina found it difficult to process uncertainties about who she really was.
"It's hard to grow up as an LGBTQ kid in the Philippines 'cause you don't have the proper representation or proper resources that will help you explore your queerness."
A lot of things made sense for both of them when they immersed in the University of the Philippines (UP) culture, which is open, free-thinking, and proudly diverse. In UP, there are organizations that aim to spread awareness of various LGBTQ+ issues and are welcoming to various queer identities like UP Babaylan. Some classes integrate sexuality education which made it easier for both Roanne and Tina to understand themselves better.
In a way, it was easy for us to get what they meant. Being fellow Iskas, UP was also a culture shock for us; we, too, came from religious families and were taught that queerness is a sin. But taking classes like LGBT Psychology as well as Sexuality, Gender, and Literature opened our eyes to a more holistic view of the gender and sexuality spectrum. We also got to know LGBTQ+ people who later on became our peers.
When asked what advice they would give their younger selves, both Tina and Roanne took a more serious tone. For Tina, she talked about how there's nothing wrong with her identity. Rather, what's wrong is the kind of mindset other people have about the LGBTQ+ community. For Roanne, the focus was on how she didn't need to prove herself. There's no need to overthink about protecting her family's image because they would love her no matter what. Check out their video for #IDAHOBIT2020.
It took a while but these kids in the closet came out and started a love story like no other.
Love is Love is Love
With their vlogs, they show many facets of #RoTin: the flirting, the heartbreak, how they worked things out for the better. But what we love about them as a couple is that they emphasize that no relationship is perfect.
Believe it or not, we grew up on shows that taught us that love must prevail, even at the expense of our own self-worth, sanity, and security. (Inuyasha, Meteor Garden, Full House... Our first childhood fictional crushes reek of toxic red flags!) These kinds of representation make us think that it is our job is to stay and fix our partners no matter the cost. RoTin, however, breaks this misconception. They revealed in one of their #RoTin Love Story vlogs how they broke up. Even when they do love each other, there were some things they had to sort out individually to be better for themselves and for each other.
This is why it's refreshing to see a real-life couple who spills their truth in such a vulnerable and open way. We asked them to define what love is to each of them. The couple looked in each other's eyes and laughed lightly.
Tina went on, "I used to think love was all about the butterflies, 'yung kilig, 'yung pinapakita sa movies… Hindi sya all kilig. Love is choosing that person kahit na sobrang hirap" ("I used to think love was all about the butterflies, the sweet
moments showed in films...But it's not. Love is choosing that person even when it's hard") Especially during this quarantine, Tina realized that a relationship is not 24/7 fun. But she believes that the hardships and the fights that they have conquered together would make their relationship stronger. She affirms that love is a choice and a commitment.
Roanne revealed to us the pressure they feel as a couple. When people tag them as #RelationshipGoals or see their bond as ideal, the more she wants to let them know that there are ugly parts and inevitable fights. These fights they resolve through communication and comprehension. "Dapat naiintindihan namin yung needs ng bawat isa", Roanne said. ("We have to understand each other's needs", Roanne said.)
During this part of the interview, both of us could not help feeling kilig over the two. The way they glance at each other after every question. The way they nodded approvingly of one another. Of course, they also insert some sweet, flirty jokes or banats, which made us giggle time to time. Even with the short pauses they make as they think of their answers, we could clearly see how much they care about each other.
At the end of the day, love is love is love. We're all humans and the kind of relationship that LGBTQ+ couples and straight couples have are grounded in the same foundation: LOVE.
Pride amid Prejudice
In celebration of Pride month, we circled back to the topic of #Pride and Tina and Roanne was able to share to us what they're most proud of.
"We grew up watching straight couples [on TV] but, look, we're not straight"
Source: Twitter (@razcarreon)
Before, Tina had always told herself, "Hindi ka pwedeng maging hindi straight, kasi mahirap 'yun. 'Di ka kayang tanggapin ng pamilya mo."("You can't be queer, because life would be difficult for you. Your family will not be able to accept you.") She exerted a lot of effort into hiding her attraction to girls. Also, she admitted to feeling guilty about bringing shame to her family. But now, Tina is very proud to have come into terms with being a lesbian. She added, "Pride, more than [a] celebration of our diversity, of our community, it's actually a protest. And for us LGBTQ+ people, simply being unapologetic of our queerness is already an act of protest in itself."
For Roanne, the act of coming out was a big deal. She felt the pressure to prove herself amid a family of overachievers. She's also familiar with discrimination and bullying faced by queer people because she has been going through it since she was a kid. For those of you who may not know, Roanne was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Her mental health issues coupled with her struggles as a bisexual woman has definitely not been easy. But Roanne shared with a bright smile on her face, "Proud ako sa pagiging resilient ko over the years" ("I am proud of my resilience over the years") She is also hopeful that the platform they have would give voice to those who are not yet ready to wave their rainbow flags openly. Roanne continued, "Nakikita nila sa amin 'yung pride na gusto nila ilabas sa sarili nila pero dahil sa situation nila hindi nila magawa" ("They see in us the pride they have within themselves but cannot express because of their current situation")
"Nakikita nila sa amin 'yung pride na gusto nila ilabas sa sarili nila pero dahil sa situation nila hindi nila magawa"
On the subject of coming out, both Tina and Roanne acknowledged that it's a decision each person has to make. Even with over 82,700 YouTube subscribers as of this writing, they still encounter situations wherein they have to come out. "It's a process", Roanne said, "Choose your battle, kung mag-a-out ba kayo sa kanila...sino ba sila para malaman?" ("Choose your battle, if you decide to come out to certain people, assess their importance in your lives") Tina reminded also that safety of the individual should be the top priority, that in this quarantine, coming out may lead to further abuse or discrimination.
Side note: We agree that each person should have the decision of how and when and to whom they will come out. It's an essential part of their identity; they should get the final say. Unfortunately, in the Philippines, relatives have a habit of outing kids who fall beyond the expected gender roles. When boys start to play with dolls, they are dubbed as gay. And it's ironic that when these boys do come out as gay later on, these meddling relatives have the audacity to get mad.
Aside from equal rights for LGBTQ+ folks, both Roanne and Tina dove deeper into other movements close to their hearts. Tina shared how passionate she is on reproductive health issues and violence against women. Meanwhile, Roanne has been a mental health advocate as she also struggled with her own diagnoses. Knowing these things actually made us admire them even more. It's tiring to have to fight for who you are. It's commendable that they make the time and effort to push for these important social concerns alongside their march for Pride. And while being queer is an essential part of their identity, they are more than their SOGIE.
RoTin is truly inspiring as individuals and as a couple. They don't strive for perfection. On the contrary, they are brave to show people their vulnerabilities. They use their platform to further good causes and to spark the interest of others in causes like LGBTQ+ rights, and mental and reproductive health. Their story is one of the many more queer individuals and couples who continue to seek basic rights against gender-based discrimination and violence.
There you have it! We want to thank Tina and Roanne for using their platform to educate people and share their stories so that more LGBTQ+ folks are inspired to be their authentic selves. Let's celebrate this coming Pride month (and each day!) with nothing but respect for other people regardless of their SOGIE. Choose love over hate, and #pride instead of prejudice.
This post is sponsored by Simula PH.