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On this page are third-party educational resources that may serve as a starting point to generate greater cultural awareness and exchange of multicultural ideas. Asians & Friends Denver is not responsible for content and the following is for informative, education purposes only.

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'Mama Wu' inspires other Chinese parents of gay children

November 16, 2010|By Steven Jiang, CNN

Following Wu Youjian's example, several parents took center stage with their gay children at the November 6 "Family Day" event at the second annual Shanghai Pride festival, singing a popular Chinese song titled "Tomorrow Will Be Better." "Coming out starts with the family - and it was great to see family members there," said Kenneth Tan, the festival organizer. "We hope to make this a regular feature and see more people show up next year." Wu's words have resonated beyond China. Guest speakers at a recent PFLAG meeting in Beijing included families from Canada and the United States, and non-Chinese faces dotted the room.


A Mother's Love Inspires a Nation: Mama Wu says 'Gay is Okay'

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Nov 17, 2010
Mama Wu
Mama Wu  (Source:Image posted at CNN.com)

Chinese society has been making steady progress toward greater acceptance of LGBTs. Now a former magazine editor has a message for the nation’s parents of gay children: it’s okay.

Wu Youjian, 63, learned over a decade ago that her son was gay. In a nation where children are under enormous pressure to marry and have their own offspring, parents hearing such news often take it badly; sometimes parents break off relations with gay children. Other times, they experience a deep sense of shame and contemplate suicide. The woman who has become known as "Mama Wu" instantly arrived at a different response: acceptance. "I told him, there’s nothing wrong with liking boys and it’s no big deal," Wu told CNN in a Nov. 16 article.

Five years after he came out to her in 1999, Mama Wu’s son, 30-year-old Zheng Yuantao, made a television appearance to talk publicly about being gay--and Mama Wu was there with him to offer her support.

"Many of my gay friends are afraid of going home during holidays, because their parents would ask about girlfriends and press them to get married," Zheng told CNN. Unlike his friends, Zheng added, "I grew up in a very open-minded family. I didn’t have too much of a struggle about my sexuality."

Mama Wu has not limited her support to her own son, but rather has become a well-known advocate for China’s gay community. Mama Wu blogs and tweets about the cause, and is the founder of China’s first PFLAG chapter, the CNN article said. "I just followed my instinct and my love for my son," Wu explained.

Added Wu, who has recently published a new book titled Love is the Most Beautiful Rainbow, "It doesn’t matter if our children are gay or straight--just like it doesn’t matter if they are left-handed or right-handed. They are always our children." That core message undergirds the talks Wu gives across the nation, and is part of her campaign to raise awareness on issues such as HIV and the high rate of gay suicides in China.

Such acceptance and unconditional support renders unnecessary the extremes to which some gays feel driven by family obligation. In the past, sociologist Li Yinhe told CNN, gay men usually married women and produced children as expected. Now, it’s becoming more common for gay men to marry lesbians, thus fulfilling part of the familial expectation, but then the gay husbands and their lesbian wives lead separate romantic lives.

According to Li--whose 1992 about gays Wu read and was impressed with--Chinese society would have been much more resistant to a message of acceptance had it come from the West. But Wu is Chinese and understands the deep family bonds that run through the nation’s social structure. Her example--not of turning away from a gay child who may not extend the family line, but rather of embracing a child no matter what--allows Chinese parents with gay children to consider alternatives. "No one would listen to an outsider, but she is not--she is a mother whose only son is gay," Li told CNN. "Others would wonder, ’If she can handle it so well, why can’t I?’ "

Indeed, other parents are beginning to emerge as fully supportive of their gay children. A separate CNN article, also published Nov. 16, said that parents and gay children stood together on stage at a Shanghai Pride event called Family Day, on Nov. 6. Shanghai.

"Coming out starts with the family--and it was great to see family members there," organizer Kenneth Tan told CNN. "We hope to make this a regular feature and see more people show up next year."

China’s growing acceptance is similar to social trends in America. One young American living in Beijing, 23-year-old Stephen Leonelli, attended a PFLAG meeting headed by Wu. Leonelli related to CNN how, as a gay teen in the American Midwest, he had experienced isolation. "No one else was out, and I didn’t know how to deal with it," he recalled. "Even I would have benefited from such a talk" as the one Wu delivered to the PFLAG meeting.

Though homosexuality is not illegal in China, the government still seems to harbor ambivalence toward gays. Earlier this year, what would have been the first China-hosted gay pageant was cancelled literally at the last minute, but only a few months before, the first state-sanctioned gay bar opened its doors. In the greater scheme, however, Li said, the government has other things to worry about.

That might be a mixed blessing for gays, who are not routinely persecuted, but who also are unlikely to see their relationships granted official legal recognition in the near future. "Gays are minorities in society," Li, who serves as an advisor to the Chinese government, told CNN. Li has pressed for marriage rights for gay and lesbian families, but, she said, "People just don’t think this issue is important enough, compared to national priorities like economic development."

Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.


Chinese Parents of Gay Children Team Up in Support of Each Other

January 17, 2008

What's next for parents? Increasingly in China, parents of gay children are not only accepting their sexuality but trying to help other families in the same situation support each other, Dinah Gardner reports.

Every Chinese queer teen must dread the thought of coming out to the parents. A face off with the demon force of 2,000 years of Confucian traditions is no joke. While China is blessed with a largely secular nation - there is little right wing Christian or Islamic homophobia for instance - mainland parents dream of their offspring getting hitched and carrying on the family name with a child of their own. A gay son or daughter is an unwelcome spanner in the works that can bring on anything from tears to the outright severance of family ties. No wonder so many lesbians and gays keep their sexuality under wraps and even get married to fulfil familial obligations - the ultimate sacrifice.

So when 18-year-old Zheng Yuantao in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou told his mother he liked boys, he must have been delighted by her reaction. Wu Youjian didn't cry, introduce him to hot women or disown him. Instead she taught herself how to use a computer, got herself a Sina blog, and put their story online in the hope she could help other gay and lesbian children come out to their parents. In just six months her site had clocked up 100,000 hits and she had earned the affection of hundreds of gays and lesbians who now call her Auntie Wu.

Wu, a writer and editor by profession and a self-confessed liberal, said she found it easy to deal with her son's sexuality because by the time, "Yuantao came out to me? I had read a lot of gay-themed books and movies (by his recommendation). Besides he had also been a good boy in school and in the family; he never made us worried."

And therein lies the key, she says. If you want to come out to your parents do some groundwork first and feed your parents information on what being gay is all about before coming out to them. "Always make sure your parents have some understanding and acceptance of homosexuality before coming out to them," she advises.

"Coming out to younger, trustworthy members of the family first might also help." It also helps if you work hard in school and, in all ways, are an exemplary son or daughter.

"Just make sure you're well behaved [and a good student]," she says. This "can hopefully give you more credit when you try to convince your parents that you are gay and it's fine." But, Wu adds, not all gay children should feel they have to tell their family their sexuality. "If the parent-child relationship hasn't been close then I don't think they should tell."

Of course it helps if your parents are bohemian. But their story is not an isolated case. Now, increasingly in China, parents of gay children are not only accepting their sexuality but trying to help other families in the same situation support each other.

When Wu Youjian's was told by her son that he's gay, she started a blog (top) to write about their experience in the hope she could help other gay and lesbian children come out to their parents. Similarly for Sun Dehua, who went from wanting to literally kill him to launching a hotline for parents to help them understand their gay children. Click on the link below to read article on Sun in the South china Morning Post.
In 2001, when Sun Dehua - 58-year-old-farmer in China's northeastern city of Dalian - found out his only son was shacked up with his boyfriend, he literally wanted to kill him. Sun was quoted as saying in the South china Morning Post in an interview published in 2005 that he had even bought a can of petrol with the intention of blowing a gay bar which his son, Mu, had owned and operated in Dalian. It was only after his son and partner fled the city that his father reconsidered his position after his son's friends mediated the situation. He got to know more of his son's gay friends and began reading some of the free material in his son's bar (where he also worked) on homosexuality and HIV prevention.

"I learned that my son is not mentally ill. It was my fault that I didn't know my own son well enough before."

In September 2006, he started China's first hotline to help parents understand their gay children. He has also become involved as a volunteer to raise HIV/AIDS awareness among the local gay community.

He was quoted as saying in the Post: "I am really glad seeing them together, because Mu is so happy when he's with him (his son's boyfriend). Now it feels like I have two sons. And I do hope the law will allow them to get married one day."

Wu also encourages parents to do their homework on what being gay is all about.

"They should seek to find out what science says about homosexuality," she says.

"Science can rid them of this unreasonable fear. I feel comfortable that my son is gay because I know being gay is not a crime? or a disgrace." At the end of the day your child's happiness is more important than carrying on the family name, she says.

On her blog, 60-year-old Wu offers encouraging words to gays and lesbians struggling with their sexuality and dispenses advice on everything from boyfriend/girlfriend troubles to how to deal with parental pressure to have a conventional marriage. She says she values how far-reaching the web can be.

"I can actually use my blog to connect to people and express my views - encouraging society and families to accept homosexuality."

She has a lot of fans on her site. Many gays and lesbians find her articles and advice a comforting resource. "Auntie Wu, you are so great!," writes one blogger.

"It must be great to be your son. My mother left me when I was seven years old. I cannot imagine what she would think if she knows I am gay."

Not everyone is so appreciative. Homophobes also find their way onto her blog. ""Even animals don't have gay sex," writes one angry blogger.

"Don't you have any shame? Go to hell!" Wu told Chinese media that she sometimes deletes hateful comments but leaves others just to create some controversy.

Their situation attracted the attention of local media. Two years ago the mother and son team appeared on a Nanfang TV talk show. Wu says she was initially worried about appearing on the show.

"I hesitated, because here, in this city [Guangzhou], there are a lot people who know me and what would they think of me if they knew my son is gay. But later, I thought there was nothing wrong with my son to love boys, I am his mother. I am supposed to stand by him." She adds that after the show aired she became a minor celebrity. "Even taxi drivers recognised me and encouraged me."



Chinese parents learn to accept gay children

Updated: 2010-10-31 10:01

BEIJING - Li Baba could not believe it when, about 10 years ago, a psychologist told him that his son, then still in high school, is gay. " At that time, I thought homosexuality is what hooligans do. My son was a nice boy, how could this be possible?"

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The psychologist referred him to a therapist in north China's Tianjin Municipality to "treat his son's homosexuality". After the treatment, Li Baba's son suffered prolonged depression, fits of agitation and other mental problems.

"Don't try to fix your child's homosexuality. It can't be changed. Treatment only cause more problems," said white-haired Li Baba. His wife, also in her sixties, wept in silence by the side, as the man told other parents of gays or lesbians about the story.

About two hundred people, who are gays or lesbians, along with their parents, gathered in a small conference room in a modest hotel in Beijing on Saturday and Sunday to call for family acceptance and support for gay people.

Out of privacy concern, parents at the gathering asked to be identified as their children's parents, like Li Baba, or Father of Li, Yang Mama, mother of Yang.

Lesbian Xiao Ying regrets that she came out of the closet too quickly when, at age 19, she told her mother. Her mother took her to doctors and kept a close watch on her so that she could not meet her lover.

Now, after nine years, her mother remains firm on the issue. "It only got worse when my mother converted from Buddhism to Christianity," said Xiao Ying.

"Live your life and I'll live mine," the single parent of Xiao Ying said when the daughter tried to invite her to the gay parents' gathering.

"I didn't hope to win her support from here, because it would be unrealistic. I only wanted her to get to know about the community," Xiao Ying said.

Gay people, whose families are often extreme in their rejection of homosexuality, are three times more likely to contract HIV and eight times more likely to attempt suicide compared to those who are well accepted by their families, Caitlin Ryan, a researcher with San Francisco State University, said on the basis of a 30-year research study in the United States.

Also, Wu Youjian, 63, organizer of the gathering, has heard many tragedies from her hotline, which seeks to help families accept their gay children's sexuality. She listens to their confusion, anger and regrets three nights a week.

Tears ran down Wu's cheeks as she recounted the many suicides of people she tried to help -- a senior military officer who dared not seek a boyfriend or even talk about his sexuality and committed suicide during this year's Spring Festival; a mother who did not know about her son's sexuality until she read his will; a man who took his own life after hearing about the suicide of his boyfriend. ...

Yang Mama now cooks for her son's boyfriend, washes the two men's clothes and even helps to take care of the boyfriend's paralysed father. But her support came only after three attempted suicides by Yang, who suffers from chronic depression.

"I'm not comfortable enough to express love in words. But I bought her a necklace," Yang showed gratitude to his mother for her attendance at the gathering. He spent 40,000 yuan (5,996 U.S. dollars), more than a year's savings, on the jewelry.

"Now, my greatest wish is for my son to find a nice boyfriend so they can take good care of each other," said Wang Mama, who took advantage of the gathering for match-making. "If they can have a child someway or another, it would be even better."

"With patience and good preparation, I believe all gay children can win the understanding of their families. After all, parents love their children," Wang Mama said.


Chinese parents learn to accept gay children

10:02, October 31, 2010

"I'm not comfortable enough to express love in words. But I bought her a necklace," Yang showed gratitude to his mother for her attendance at the gathering. He spent 40,000 yuan (5,996 U.S. dollars), more than a year's savings, on the jewelry.

"Now, my greatest wish is for my son to find a nice boyfriend so they can take good care of each other," said Wang Mama, who took advantage of the gathering for match-making. "If they can have a child someway or another, it would be even better."

"With patience and good preparation, I believe all gay children can win the understanding of their families. After all, parents love their children," Wang Mama said.



Family and Coming Out Issues for Asian Pacific Americans

“When my son came out to me, I had no knowledge or support. In the Philippines, homosexuals are looked upon as bad people. There isn't even a word for "gay" in our language (Tagalog). But this was my son. I gave birth to him on a rainy day in Hayward, Calif. He was not weird. He could not be bad. I love my son and I knew I didn't want to lose this precious child. And so I had to get educated.”

- Belinda Dronkers-Laureta, board member, API Family Pride

For many Asian Pacific Americans, coming out to family is an enormous challenge. Many fear rejection, disappointing their parents or being seen as sullying the family name.

"I was terrified of coming out to my family. The potential for rejection or being thrown out of the house all seemed like very real possibilities," says Prateek Choudhary, medical student at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. "When I finally told my mom, she was silent for a few very awkward moments. But then she told me that although it would be difficult for her to handle and understand, she would support me because, she said, 'You're my son, and I love you. Nothing can change that.'"

It may be difficult to accept that your family needs time to adjust to the news. But just as it probably took you awhile to accept your own sexual orientation or gender identity, it follows that others will need time to adjust and understand you as well.

Before coming out to parents, it helps to have supportive resources available you can offer to your parents, such as contact information for the local Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays PFLAG chapter. Keep in mind that your parents may not be immediately receptive to the idea.

"Homosexuality is often very difficult for GLBT Asians because our culture usually treats the subject of homosexuality with the tried and true method of silence," says Harold Kameya, a Japanese father of a lesbian daughter. "In our family, like others, this silence meant ignorance, which made the shock of our daughter coming out even more difficult to deal with. We were fortunate that we found PFLAG, but in the first 10 years we were involved with our local chapter, we were the only Asian family there."

Realizing the importance of speaking to other Asian Pacific Americans parents and family members about such a sensitive topic, Kameya and his wife along with other parents and GLBT Asian Pacific Americans joined with the Gay Asian Pacific Support Network to form the API PFLAG Family Project in Los Angeles.

Even with Asian Pacific American support groups in some communities, it can be a challenge to get parents to attend.

"It's difficult to make any gay-affirming resources, Asian Pacific Islander specific or not, available to our families because even discussing a family member's sexual orientation or gender identity breaks a major rule in our culture, which is to never talk about our 'problems,'" says Trinity Ordona, a lesbian and another co-founder of the API-PFLAG Family Project. "That's why we work to educate the entire Asian Pacific Islander community about GLBT issues, because the less they are seen as problems, the more our families and friends will be able to talk about it."

If your family is reluctant to join supportive organizations, you can bring the information to them.

"We made the video 'Coming Out, Coming Home,' specifically for those families who desperately needed information about sexual orientation but who would never participate in a group setting," says Belinda Dronkers-Laureta, of API PFLAG Family Project. "We're also exploring small social gatherings for Asian families of GLBT people so they can get to know each other in a more relaxed setting."

It is not unusual for a GLBT Asian Pacific American to be out in every aspect of life - except to family. Some find it easier to be out to work colleagues, friends and neighbors than to be out at home. Each person's coming out is a personal journey and not being out to family may work for you. It's also possible that they already know, but the topic is never discussed.

"A friend of mine isn't out to his family but I often wonder how they could not know," says Javier of GAPA. "I've decided they must have a family 'don't ask/don't tell' policy. No one ever asks him about a girlfriend or when will he get married, which makes me think the family is aware. But it's never been discussed and probably never will be."

Still, when parents are aware of a child's sexual orientation or gender identity, that information is often hidden from family friends.Some Asian Pacific Americans find it is helpful to come out to their families in their native language.

"I didn't want to come out to my mom in English," says Aleem Raja, board member of Trikone, a San Francisco non-profit organization for GLBT people of South Asian decent. "I came out to her in Urdu [the language of Pakistan] because I wanted her to know that coming to terms with my orientation was solely about me and not about my attending Berkeley or becoming Americanized."

The strong family ties that often dampen a child's willingness to come out can also turn into support and advocacy once a GLBT Asian Pacific American has decided to be open and honest at home.

"We are concerned about our family and the huge fear of rejection we may face," says Ordona, of the API-PFLAG Family Project. "It's true that many Asian parents tend to be very conservative and protective of their children. But once you can get them behind their kids, they will take on the world!" Getting your parents to that point may be a battle, but it is one worth fighting. See the resources section for more Asian Pacific American family support groups.


Eight Years After Coming Out as Gay, Hong Seok-chon Is Thriving
"I wanted to publish a book like this to celebrate 10th anniversary of my coming out, but it came a bit earlier than expected", says actor Hong Seok-cheon, celebrating the publication of his book "Design Your Own Restaurant" at "My Song Bar" in Itaewon.

In fact, it has only been eight years since Hong shocked the establishment by becoming the first celebrity to come out as a gay man.

The book, however, celebrates his successful transformation form suddenly-out-of-work actor to restaurateur. "I tried to write about how to make fewer mistakes rather than how to succeed. Because people had misconceptions about me, I endured the tough years with sheer determination".

Hong, who found himself in a small rented room costing W350,000 (US$1=W1,375) per month eight years ago, has become the owner of restaurants worth W4 billion. First came Italian restaurant "Our Place", then Thai restaurant "My Thai", then Thai-Chinese fusion restaurant "My China" and then karaoke and wine place "My Song Bar".

Hong says he turned to restaurants when his future as an actor began to look insecure. "To me, my restaurants are people. After I came out, I had to endure so much hostility. I missed seeing my friends and my supporters so much at the time. I thought if I open a restaurant, they could come and visit me. That is how I came to open my first restaurant, 'Our Place'."

What has it been like for him? "After I set my foot in the entertainment business, I only thought about popularity, money and fame. But I changed a lot after I came out in 2000. I still think it was the right thing to do. I had many difficulties since then, but because I'm an optimistic person, I didn't run away but squarely faced the world. If I had run away at the time, I don't think I'd be as happy as I am right now".

Source : www.chosun.com... ( English Chinese Korean Japanese ) http://www.hancinema.net/eight-years-after-coming-out-as-gay-hong-seok-chon-is-thriving-17265.html

Coming Out in China

By , About.com Guide

Dear Ramon:  
You can call me Xing. I'm writing to you from Shenzhen, China. Maybe you would feel strange when receiving a letter from a Chinese gay, but I really like your blogs and your thoughts on the gay issue. I believe you've helped lots of troubled gay friends. Thanks for your hard work!  

In China, the situation is not so open as that of the U.S. I was born in 1980. Guys of my generation have a more traditional parents. China has changed a lot, but most people, especially our parent's generation, cannot accept that their sons or daughters are gay or les. It's a very humiliated thing for the whole family, and also cannot be accepted in most companies or firms. If we come out, we have to take great pressure from all aspects.  

My bf and I are living together now. Our city is far from our hometown. I'm telling a big lie to my family, my colleagues and my friends. I married a lesbian girl at the end of last Chinese new year. We've spent a lot to make all of it seems like the real thing. I don't know how long we can act like this, but I worry the divorce would make my parents sad and humiliate the whole family. What shall I do?

We don't have such helpful website and experienced expert like you in China, so I write to you, and looking forward to hearing from you soon.  


Thank you for the warm greeting from China. Your email doesn't ring strange at all. We have readers from all over the world, many facing similar issues. I've always found it fascinating that despite our differences and vast distances apart, we share common human feelings and many of the same concerns. Which brings me to what you're writing about: generations.

Generations are tricky and ironic no matter which continent you call home. They reflect what's going on in the present; reject at least some form of the past; and, at the same time, nurture previous ideas that slug away at progress.

Moving On

As eager as new generations are to be independent and create their own identities, they often look back to previous generations for what's sometimes guidance, but more often permission. Don't get me wrong, much of what I'm talking about, which is us peaking back over our shoulders for the "what should I do's" of life, is about respecting where we came from and those that brought us here. Unfortunately, this is often in direct conflict with what we need to do to develop our own individual happiness.


For as old as homosexuality is (think the beginning of man), our understanding of same-gender-loving relationships is very new. This is true in Asia, Europe, Africa and any other continent in the world. Many cultures view homosexuality as weakness, a threat or something to be shammed. And we're not the only ones. Pick a culture, find a taboo. Whether that be interracial dating, financially disparate relationships, mixed class coupling, homosexual relationships and so on, there will always be individuals who are in situations that drive them to break with custom taht lean heavily on tradition.

Breaking The Cycle

At some point, however, the cycle must be broken. And that begins with you and your wife being honest with yourselves and eventually your families. It won't be easy. Rarely is coming out a simple process, but it must be done. Not for the sake of your family, but for you. We all reach a point when we realize that we've sacrificed our own happiness for the comfort of others. It sounds like you're already there. Now, what are you going to do about it?


Some guys can never break the cycle, for a number of reasons. As you know, family dynamics are complicated and hard to navigate, but you do have a choice: Keep things the way that they are or change them to what fits you best. Understand, however, that either choice—staying in the closet or coming out—comes with sacrifice. Some choose the option that will have the least amount of impact. I opt for the one that will bring the greatest potential for personal happiness.

Pro-active Coming Out

I always advocate pro-active coming out. What I mean by that is planning your coming out before situations reach boiling points that force you to come out. Planning the process gives you more control, while waiting to be outed or until you just can't take it anymore breeds reaction. Of course, we don't all have the luxury of coming out when we want to. Sometimes life just happens. But you can be as prepared as possible. You're in no way obligated to come out to everyone or all at the same time. Start slow and with those that will be most supportive and build from there.

Begin The Process

To begin the process, I suggest joining the Gay Life forum. Many men—some married, others in difficult family situations—have been able to talk through their coming out processes. For some, the process takes months; others a little longer. They all, however, find solace in knowing that they are not alone and eventually find the courage to pursue their happiness despite being in difficult situations. Don't be shy; say hello. The guys are amazingly supportive.

Eventually, future generations will be able to look back on your courage and break the cycle of shame that surrounds homosexuality in Chinese culture. As you can tell, this is already beginning to happen.

Your friend across the globe,
Ramon Johnson
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How Do Gay Chinese Avoid Disappointing Their Parents? By Faking a Straight Marriage


We've widely read about how anti-gay sentiments in Chinese culture have less to do with religious-based objections to The Gay than a societal importance on getting married. Which explains why some Chinese might be nudging closer to supporting same-sex marriage, because hey, at least there's a wedding. And then there are Chinese queers who still feel pressured to get straight married, but found a neat circumvention tactic.

Fake a straight marriage with another gay couple. Writes Elizabeth Murphy:

They had what they thought was the perfect solution, but it turned out that the men are just too picky. They think that Yu Xiaofei, with her cropped black hair and dark-rimmed glasses, looks too much like a tomboy, and they think that Jiang Yifei's distaste for children is suspicious. So what are these young Chinese women to do? They're 24, out of college, employed, living at home – and they're in love with each other and desperate to find a way to stay together. "The most important thing is that we cannot hurt out parents," Yu said. "They put a lot on us."

That means finding two men in a similar predicament. Their plan is simple. Yu and Jiang will find a gay male couple, arrange a living situation and lay down some ground rules. Then, they'll pair off with the men and get married, just as their parents expect them to do. They still have time, and they're using it to take in every last kiss and touch before these gestures become even more complicated than they already are. Still, their proposed arrangement is no grand tragedy for the pair – it's practical.

Beneath it all are the Confucian family values that still underpin Chinese society: As a son or daughter, it's your duty to maintain and carry on the family line by having children. "We have to – that's tradition," said Jiang, who sports long caramel-colored hair and clinking bangle bracelets. "That's what (our parents) think we should do."

This sounds totally healthy and completely unlikely to yield years of required therapy.

[Miami Herald]


Dealing with Asian Parents When You’re Gay

TUESDAY, JULY 13, 2010

It’s inevitable when you’re gay and Asian. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll disappoint your parents when they find out you’re queer. The question for most gay Asian children is how to lessen the blow. This problem is universal, whether you’re gay and Asian in the U.S., Canada, Asia, or elsewhere in the world. To get around this problem you could always try the “fake marriage” solution that The Wedding Banquet used, but it’s less than ideal and fraught with problems as the movie showed. On the other hand if you decide to come out to your parents, it’s likely they will ignore your pronouncement and insist you still need to get married and have children.

If you happen to be Chinese and gay, you’re likely to be in the same predicament as Yu Xiaofei and Jiang Yifei, a lesbian couple, still living at home, looking for a way to be together, and yet not disappoint their parents. Their plan though might not be right for everyone. They plan on finding a gay couple in the same predicament and each marry one of the pair, and never actually tell their parents that they are gay. It seems in this case, The Wedding Banquet is more real life than fiction.

With all the pressure to marry and produce an heir in Chinese culture, Wei Wei, a sociology professor at Shanghai’s East China Normal University, estimates that about 90 percent of Chinese gays eventually will marry someone of the opposite sex. It’s a sad statistic, but a sign of the prevalent social stance towards gays in China.

Even growing up in the U.S., as I learned when I got older, the pressure to get married only increases the closer you get to the age of 30. By the time I was 30, my parents actually sat me down and asked if there was something wrong with me. I had no choice but to come out to them (and besides they asked me in my home that I shared with my partner!). But even with my declaration, my parents hounded me through my thirties with admonitions to get married and have kids.

During a recent 8Asians writers dinner, Ernie and I happened to be discussing the predicament of coming out to Asian parents and he asked me if they ever stop bugging you to get married. I told him yes, the only time they actually stop, is when you have a kid of your own. Not an adopted child, a true bona fide genetic offspring of your very own. I always knew I wanted to be a parent, and I learned about surrogacy early in my twenties, but it wasn’t until my late thirties that I had the financial means and the right partner to go about executing my dream of becoming a parent.

Among the many things that surprised me about becoming a parent was that my parents stopped bothering me about getting married and having kids. What probably surprised me more, was that they continued to bother my sister who with her partner had two kids of her own. The difference? My sister adopted the two children that her partner had carried, and as such wasn’t actually biologically related to her kids.

After my daughter was born, I really didn’t expect a change in the way my parents treated me. It was an unexpected benefit. I planned to have a child for all the right reasons, and it was the life changing event I thought it would be. I got lucky with my own mom and dad because of parenthood, but I don’t recommend you become a parent unless you’re sure you want to be one. If you’re Asian and gay and were able to convince your parents not to pressure you to get married and have kids, how did you do it?


The majority of men in China who have sex with other men are already married to a woman or will eventually marry a woman — and according to a new study, these women are likely to contract HIV.

In a nation of approximately 20 million gay men, about 16 million of them are married to a woman. http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2010/11/15/Stigma_Leads_Gay_Chinese_to_Straight_Marriage/ .

More homosexuals coming out in the open in China

Beijing - When Lorri Jean, chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, first visited China in 1998, she did not meet a single gay person. An international gay activist even advised her to studiously avoid raising the topic while in the country.

But today, she sits in the office of the Beijing LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) Center located in Chaoyang district, exchanging ideas with Chinese volunteers on gay rights and community development.

The center, established in 2008, offers a platform for LGBT people to make friends, and get legal and psychological help, according to its head, Fan Popo.

The country now has seven such centers, all of which have appeared only in the past five years.

"China's LGBT community is making amazingly fast progress. Even five years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine a place like the one where we are now," Jean says, referring to the Chaoyang center.

Jean and her team spent two weeks recently in Guangzhou and Beijing, meeting LGBT leaders and activists, holding lectures at universities, and talking to academics engaged in women's studies.

Her talk on the history of the gay movement in the United States at Beijing Normal University drew a packed crowd.

"It's interesting how many parallels there are between the experiences of LGBT people in the US and in China," she says.

A whole generation of young people are coming out and telling their parents, "I want to live my life being true to myself", she adds.

"That has happened very quickly. What took us 25 years in the US seems to have taken place within five years here," Jean says.

She attributes this largely to the work of local NGOs, such as Beijing LGBT centers and Aibai Culture and Education Center (ACEC).

Beijing LGBT center's Fan, who organized a gay film festival for the Shanghai Pride 2010, says the center has organized many activities promoting gay rights, such as holding a wedding ceremony for gay couples at the beginning of 2010.

ACEC, which was established in 1998, holds regular talks on gay rights on college campuses every month, attracting hundreds of students.

According to its president, Jiang Hui, the organization also sends four Chinese volunteers to the LA Center every year, to study how to run a NGO working in the field of gay rights.

Fan, who also did a stint in LA, says his visit gave Jean an insight into the challenges facing LGBT organizations in China, one of which is financing. While there are a number of NGOs involved in AIDS-related work, that also covers the gay population, there are very few LGBT organizations.

Being portrayed accurately in the media is another challenge. Jean says LGBT organizations need to step in to highlight and help overcome societal prejudices.

An activist for 30 years, Jean was the first openly gay or lesbian person to receive top-secret security clearance from the Central Intelligence Agency.

In 1989, she was appointed deputy regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, becoming the highest-ranking openly gay person in the US government.

Her story about promoting homosexual rights inspired millions of gays and lesbians all over the world.

She says that while there are many differences between China and the US, there are also many similarities in the struggle for LGBT rights.

"We (both) want to live our lives openly with honor, not in the closet."


'Long road ahead' for gays and lesbians in China


“There is still a long road ahead for LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] people in China,” the Beijing-based lesbian activist Eva Lee told Macau Daily Times. Lee says that most people don’t “come out of the closet” because their parents think it’s a disease and they don’t want to jeopardize their careers.
Eva Lee, a Macau native claims that the LGBT community is pretty big in the biggest Chinese cities, like Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. In the film industry, where she works, “there are many people very open about it.” But outside this sector the visibility is not very high, Lee confirms.
She says there are small LGBT groups in smaller towns, “which are still bigger than Macau.” However, she adds, life is “always difficult and they have to pay a lot of attention to privacy issues.” Nonetheless, the activist, who works with Common Language, the Beijing grassroots support group for lesbian and bisexual women, feels a change. “There are more people asking us for advice. In the past three years we organized the Lala camp [slang for ‘lesbian’] – the first year was in Zhuhai – and we’ve had around 100 activists,” she says.

Coming out is rare

‘Coming out’ is a really big problem in China, Eva Lee explains. “First there is the marriage issue”, she begins, because every Chinese is expected to follow the wedding-and-children path. “I’m lucky because being a single working woman is more acceptable now,” the openly-bisexual activist says.
Still, “my mother nags me about getting married,” she adds. “My mother doesn’t believe in love or marriage, yet she still wants me to do those same things,” Lee emphasizes. “I guess it’s one of those things that people just stopped questioning. And it’s also a control mechanism for the Government. In the past, for instance, only married couples had access to private housing,” she recalls.
The second problem is “coming out to the family”, the Beijing resident says. To reveal the truth to friends “is becoming less of a problem, but parents tend to blame themselves, they think it’s a disease,” she explains.
Besides working in the film industry, Lee has been co-host of China’s only independent LGBT webcast, “Queer Comrades,” for a little over a year. But she acknowledges that “coming out” in the workplace is very rare. “There is no gay-bashing, in Chinese culture discrimination is very discreet,” Lee says.
Still, a lot of people continue to remain “in the closet” in order to “not jeopardize their career,” she claims. Even Lee admits: “I don’t ‘come out’ to all the people I know. People have the wrong impression of LGBT, there is a huge lack of understanding.”

Hanging on censor ‘mood’

In the last few months the Chinese Government has been sending mixed signals over its stance on LGBT. In December the opening of China’s first Government-backed gay bar, aimed at promoting HIV/AIDS prevention in Yunnan province, was postponed. At the beginning of the year a gay beauty pageant was shut down in Beijing minutes before it started.
However, last month the 17th century Chinese opera play “Lianxiang Ban” (“A Romance: Two Belles in Love”) took the stage at the mainstream Poly Theatre. The steamy story shows two women falling in love and plotting to marry the same man so they can continue their lesbian romance.
Eva Lee plays down the meaning of the play’s approval. “It was Chinese opera, people don’t really understand what’s being said,” she says, with a laugh. The activist also believes the play’s ending undermines the story: “In the end they still marry the guy.” The opera concludes with the two women marrying the same man and, on the wedding night, slipping off with each other leaving the husband on stage looking lost.
Chinese are not as afraid of lesbians as of gays, she stresses. “Straight men love lesbian porn, it’s their major fantasy. A lot of straight men have asked me to join them in a threesome,” Lee says. When talking of gays, “people automatically think of the sexual behaviour,” she explains, while “they assume that lesbians can’t really have sex if there is no penis, that it’s just a spiritual relationship.”
“I don’t think it has much to do with us,” the Macau native says. Besides, she adds, although there is specific regulation in the entertainment industry banning gay issues, the law “is not very clear.” So in the end “it all depends on the official’s mood of the day,” Lee states. “For example,” she says, “to portray a Government official as gay would be banned for sure.” Even though artists “have been pushing” the LGBT issue, there is still “a lot of self-censorship,” the activist acknowledges.


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