By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Always religious, Bordador got involved with Dignity, the gay Roman Catholic group, and joined in Act-Ups demonstrations. He soon had his first boyfriend. But though he had somewhat settled the question of his sexuality, he had a tough decision to make: Should he stay in New York illegally to go to college, or go back to the Philippines?
I knew my parents would never hurt me, he says, if he returned home gaythough he wouldnt come out to them for more than a decade later. However, he wasnt so sure about everyone else. A small-town boy, Bordador says, I would be the laughingstock of the village. I would bring great shame upon my family.
There were gay members of his large extended family, but their experiences didnt bode well for him. He had a male transgender cousin who started to live as a woman. The last time she had seen her father, he recalls, he beat her, stripped her naked of all her clothes, and banished her from the house. Somehow, she got back in and got some clothes, and escaped out a windowbut they never saw each other again. (She eventually fled to San Francisco.)
In the end, Bordador decided to stay in the United States. I was gay in New York City, which was great in the 80s. And I had a boyfriend. I didnt want to give all of that up. I didnt want to go home to be completely stifled. He didnt have the option, of course, of legalizing his status by marrying a citizen in good conscience.
Bordador got a job as a stock clerk for a music publisher, worked as a church organist on the weekends, and enrolled at Hunter. As he began to spread his gay wings a bit, he had a falling-out with his aunt and moved out to be with his boyfriend.
But as much as the boyfriend factored in to his decision to stay in the States, the relationship didnt prove healthy. One time, he even got me pinned down on the floor and beat me up really bad, Bordador says. I was afraid to go to the emergency room, because theyd call the police, and there would be an investigation. Hed already gotten a letter in 1981 from Immigration telling him he couldnt stay in the country, and though they hadnt contacted him since, he was always worried.
To make matters worse, he says, his boyfriend would threaten to have him deported. During those years, Bordador recalls, I never knew who I could trust. Its something he says affects him still. To this day, people say, I cant read you. What are you thinking? He is, by nature, quiet and kind, and it hurt, he says, feeling like I had to lie to people.
Bordador finally got away from his boyfriend, and when he graduated from Hunter, he enrolled in Union Theological Seminary, planning to become, if not a priest (or a nun), then at least a church historian. The guilt he says he felt at the timeof being in an abusive relationship, of being in the country illegally, of being gayfit in with his studies. It all goes with being Catholic, he says, with a laugh. He knew by this point that he couldnt be openly gay and be a priest, but he hoped to somehow answer what he felt was his calling.
It was when he started seminary that the Reagan amnesty law passed. Bordador heard about it through the Catholic Church, which was very involved in lobbying for the legislationsome parishes were sanctuaries for illegal immigrants facing deportation. But though the Church was helping people process their applications, Bordador was too ashamed to let them know his own status. So he went to an immigration center in Long Island City to sign up.
Upon graduation from seminary, Bordador figured he would work for a couple of years before returning to school to get a PhD. He had volunteered doing social work, and took a job at an agency on the Lower East Side when school was over.
Social work was the thing for him, especially working with people who were homeless, had HIV, or were mentally ill. Someone once said that there is a disintegration that happens in life for a purpose, Bordador recalls. He felt like he had been through thatwhen he was living illegally, when he was losing his straight life, and when he realized hed never be a Catholic priest.
I dont like to romanticize suffering or pain, says Bordador, but it has crystallized for me what it means to be a social worker and a priest. To simply be in touch with peoplewith their pain, their feelings, and their struggle.
I think thats why I like working with the homeless, with people who just cant get their act together. I have a spiritual kinship with them. I am hoping that, in being with them in their disintegration, somehow there is Gods grace within that.