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June Serrano: A positive story

June Serrano: A positive story

We are in this small Thai restaurant in Amsterdam when a jolly Asian-looking man, who after talking to the waitress in Thai, smiles at us and starts a conversation.  As it turns out, June Serrano is a kababayan who can speak seven languages and has been living in Amsterdam for years now. After our chance meeting, he agrees to meet via zoom to share more of his story.

The second eldest among six siblings, June describes his childhood in Manila as happy but not fulfilling. When he was eight, he was sexually abused by a teenage neighbour.  “He would grope me, lead me to a toilet and rape me. I didn’t know that it was rape. I resisted in a way, but at the same time, I was afraid to let people know about it.”  The abuse went on for three years and only stopped when June reached puberty.

“My sense of intimacy was damaged. I began to look at guys more of a sexual object rather than a person I could be intimate with.” 

June Serrano

Growing up, June didn’t need to come out. He never hid his sexuality from his overly religious parents. “I was their favourite son, but my my being gay caused them a lot of grief.”  His father wanted him to be a macho man like him and his mother warned him he would burn in hell.  

From zero sex life to positive

He had always dreamt of living abroad so he took up European languages and literature, major in Spanish and French. In 1980, 19-year-old June moved to Thailand to join his older sister where he worked as a receptionist in the hotel owned by his sister´s husband. “Believe it or not, my sexual life in Thailand was boring. I was more into young Caucasian men and the ones who came to Thailand were older guys.” Boring might his social life be, June´s professional career was flourishing. In 1988, he was promoted to manager.

Despite all the challenges that he has had in his life, June oesn´t have any regrets.

The following year, June decided to study Hotel Management in Laussane, Switzerland. There, he was exposed to the European gay lifestyle where he learned to let go of his inhibitions. In between classes, he frequented gay clubs and saunas. His sexual life had never been that active. “It was like a buffet party. I was young and beautiful. Everyone wanted a piece of me. Never in my life had I felt so desired by all those gorgeous men.”

Then June fell ill one day and went to see a doctor. Thinking it was just the flu and being fit as he was, the diagnosis came as a shock. He was HIV positive. It was too much for him to take.  He was just beginning to live the the best time of his life and suddenly, it was slowly crumbling down right before his eyes.

“I was sent to a psychiatric institution for a week. It was my first time to wrestle with depression. It was very bad.” 

June Serrano

June worked hard to battle his depression. He focused his attention on his studies and eventually graduated with honors. Much as he wanted to live in Switzerland, loneliness made him go back to Thailand and stay for another seven years working as a hotel manager in several hotels in Phuket and Bangkok. There, he had a string of relationships that came and went. “There were guys who really wanted me to be their boyfriend, but I felt I wasn´t good enough for them. 

In 1996, time took its toll on June´s health.  Although he had been eating well, taking his vitamins and going to the gym, he knew it was time to seek treatment. He tried Australia and New Zealand but after a failed job search in New Zealand and an unpleasant experience in Australia, June set his eyes on Europe.

Finding love, settling down 

June came to the Netherlands in 1997 as a tourist and there, he met his first husband. “I thought he could probably help me live here. He was tall, very good looking and two years younger than me. And he had the biggest dingdong in the whole of Amsterdam!” The two fell in love and on his third visit to the Netherlands in 1998, June told his Dutch boyfriend that he was no longer going back to Thailand.

They got married that same year and June come clean about his illness. “I was relieved that my husband understood my situation. There was already treatment for HIV patients in the Netherlands that time and after several years, I had an undetectable viral load, which means, I cannot pass HIV through sex.” He underwent significant treatments with the needed drug cocktail making his health get better but sadly, his husband died of heart attack in 2002.

A porn actor was born

June carried on working as a hotel manager in Amsterdam, but it was the sense of adventure and sex that lured him to do porn. He joined the porn industry through a friend he met years before his husband’s death. “I told them I was 28, not 36. I also told them I was under HIV treatment, but it seemed not to be a problem that time. I had a good body, and I wanted the world to see it. I started to take some pills like ecstasy so I could perform well. The only one in my family who knew what I was doing was my late brother.” 

“In porn, they don’t want to see the same person all the time. The first years were good, then they didn’t want me anymore.”

June Serrano

June didn’t have qualms about doing the scenes in front of the camera. He was enjoying his newfound fame. “I was in a sauna one time, and they were showing one of my films, and the people there recognized me. The more they saw me in the video, the more they desired me. I told the person in charge of the sauna if they could play my video for 24 hours.”

Despite his busy schedule, June still found himself fall into depression which he tried fighting with drugs and sex. For four years, he travelled to Berlin, Paris, and Madrid to make a slew of porn films. Then suddenly, he was no longer at the top of his class. Projects came few and far between.

“In porn, they don’t want to see the same person all the time. The first years were good, then they didn’t want me anymore.”

June Serrano now spends his free time doing yoga, going to church and painitng.

The fire and the bridge

In 2006, he met his second husband, Reitze,10 years his junior and a sex shop owner from Friesland. But June´s life was on a downward spiral. Three years later, the hotel where he was working burned down. The huge fire hit him hard, bringing back memories of their house in Manila that burned down when he was nine. “I had a breakdown. I went to a psychiatrist. My anxiety level was so high. I realized that anxiety was something that I needed to accept and confront. The more I didn´t want it, the more it attacked me.”

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For years, June was in and out of depression, in and out of institutions. His personal demons were far from gone. June tried to take away his life three times. On his third attempt, he tried to jump off a bridge in Amsterdam. But he was thankfully stopped by a passerby. “I was under intensive care at a psychiatric institution. It took them a while until they gave me the right medicines which helped me to get out of that hell.” The ordeal made him finally the whole mess he was in.

Coming out of hell

It was that third attempt that brought him back to God and turned his life around. “I went back to my faith. Little by little, I found peace of mind. Then in 2015 I started yoga.”

June turned his back on drugs and devoted his time to church, work, his husband and has become a yoga enthusiast.

He and his husband have been married for fourteen years now. “It was in my husband that I found comfort and stability. He knows about my take on intimacy, love and sex. He knows about my childhood. He understands this. And I love him very much.”

June finds comfort and stability in Reitze, his husband of 10 years.

June has no regrets. He believes that God never gave him anything that he couldn´t bear. He never felt he was being punished. “Time is an illusion. I have to live in the present and learn how to be grateful and appreciate myself and the people around me.” 

After our zoom interview, June proudly shows his paintings of birds resting on treetops, a hobby he took on two years ago. I ask him why he has chosen birds for his subject. “They are easy to paint,” he beams.  

At 60, he is living an easy, less complicated, and happy life with his husband, their two cats and his family´s support. Just like his feathered creations, June is now resting serenely on top of his life after a long, colourful and tumultuous flight.

This article was previously published in TFEM Spring Issue 2022.

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