Perception of Homosexuality: Status Quo in Chinese Society
In Chinese contemporary society, many people knows about homosexuality; some individuals express their support for LGBT equality as well. Compared to the rest of the world, however, China is one of the least accepting.
As a result, many homosexuals choose to conceal their sexual orientation because of unfair treatment and misunderstanding. Among the 1000 gays/lesbians who took the ChinaFile survey in 2013, nearly 50% said they chose to conceal their sexual identity while only 6.3% of them completely out. There is still a long way to go in terms of acceptance for homosexuality in China.
Homosexuality in Parents’ View
How does this status quo affect Chinese homosexual teenagers? They may be mostly influenced by their parents’ attitude because they don’t have independent economic ability and mature conscience.
To understand how parents view homosexuality, I conducted my own survey, collecting data from my classmates’ parents and their colleagues and friends. So far, I have collected 48 samples from individuals who have children. The sample size is small but the results are revealing.
I found that 50% of them oppose their children to become homosexuals.
Reasons Behind the Prejudice
In China, the general public still considers homosexuality a mental disease. Even though homosexuality was removed in 2001 from the standard Chinese Classification and Diagnostic Criteria of Mental Disorders, Version Three, our parents’ generation still hold the outdated view because they were raised under the influence of traditional Chinese culture and conservative education before 2001.
They also believe homosexuality is abnormal because of the reasons below:
1. The traditional marital point of view:
Female has been frequently discriminated and were considered as a tool to reproduction and childbearing until new China was founded. Love was not considered an indispensable element in marriages, and this outdated view persist even until now. In the traditional martial point of view, marriage between couples is formed by responsibility instead of love.
What’s more, procreation in Chinese marriage is exceedingly important. There is an old saying in ancient China “there are three ways to be unfilial, the worst is not to produce off-spring.” (不孝有三，无后为大). “Carrying on the family lineage” matters to many families, so many couples are forced to have children by their parents in China.
2. One-child policy
Since 1980, one-child policy has been enforced, which meant that each couple could only have one child. Because of the conventional marital point of view of Chinese parents as I mentioned above, the only child is the greatest hope of parents and is provided with all the available resources. Therefore, all the pressure and responsibility of “carrying on the family lineage” falls on this only child, making it extra difficult for parents to accept if their child’s homosexuality. Although the one-child policy has been abolished in 2017, this kind of thought is still popular today.
3. Illegal homosexual marriage & companies’ unwritten rule
In China, homosexual marriage is still illegal. Homosexual couples aren’t allowed to make their union official, which can cause many legal dispute. For example, when a homosexual need to have a surgery, his/her partner cannot be the one who sign the consent. In addition, many individuals discriminate against homosexuals in schools and work places because of their illegal sexual orientation. Many companies have an unwritten rule that they don’t hire homosexuals, which caused many homosexuals to conceal their sexual orientation in order to get jobs.
Tongqi, or straight wives of gay men, is quite common in China. Many of these women got married without awareness of their husbands’ sexual orientation. The phenomenon of tongqi exists because of the attitude of parents. I have shown in <1> that parents forced their children to get married; some homosexuals also choose to marry as well because of the unfair treatment which is mentioned in <3>. Tongqi often suffer from a loveless, passionless marriage.
Coming Out: Strategies for Teens
I admit that coming out is difficult and painful. For teenagers, coming out to their parents is especially difficult because they are still dependent on their parents.
I have interviewed some homosexual friends around me, and some of them have came out successfully. They told me about their process of coming out and I found some similarities among them. If you are thinking about coming out, consider the following strategies: maybe they will make things easier.
1. Hint at your sexual identity through suggestive behaviors before you come out.
Helen (pseudonym), a lesbian who has came out successfully, said that she has done many things to pave the way for coming out. “I realized my sexual identity when I was in Grade 8 and I recognized that my parents would not accept this if I told them immediately. Since I ensured my sexual identity is lesbian, I started to repost some activities’ information and articles pertinent with LGBTQ from time to time. And when my friends and I went to KTV, I will sing some songs…… which has special meanings……such as Take Me to Church. I also answer some questions relevant to homosexual in Quora and let my friends know my ID, so that they will see my answers and they will know. Well, something like that, some hints that can show your sexual identity.”
“I talked about a gay actor with my mother before I came out, and I found that she really dislike homosexuality…… She even said that if I was a lesbian, she shouldn’t have born me.” Maria said, “So I know that it is not the right time.”
Through suggestive behaviors, you can gain a general perception of the attitude to homosexuality of people around you. Maybe some of them will notice your sexual orientation (even if no one actually says it out loud).
You can also utilize the power of online social networks to hint your identity, such as posting articles about LGBT rights and stories. When the actual conversation comes, you will be more prepared.
2. Come out to your friends/classmates first
Most of the gay/lesbian friends around me came out to their friends and classmates before coming out to their parents, because they thought fellow students would have similar outlook and would understand them.
The education your friends and classmates experienced is more open and inclusive, so it is easier for them to accept the fact that you are a homosexual. Additionally, if you have done those suggestive behaviors in <1>, they may not feel so surprised about your sexual orientation.
You may make jokes about your sexual orientation to let others know that you fully embrace your homosexual identity and you are just as normal as others.
Successful experience of coming out to friends will give you confidence in your identity and empower you to approach the more difficult conversation with your parents.
3. Educate your parents about homosexuality
Many parents are prejudiced against homosexuality because they do not know much about it.
As teenagers, if you want to let your parents to know more about sexual identity as well as know more about you, here are some resources for you. These resources provide basic, reliable and accurate information about homosexuality. Sharing them with your parents may help them change their opinions.
American Family Acceptance Project designed a booklet for parents to learn about homosexuality, and it has been translated into Chinese as well. You can download the pdf version after logging in.
Some Chinese parents has not only accepted their children’s sexual identity, but also is rallying with their children to advocate for LGBT equality. Here is a Chinese mother who advocated for her gay son and took part in many LGBT activities. It is possible to bring your parents to your side!
I want to know more about…
- If you identify as homosexual, I hope that I can have the chance to know your story!! Leave a comment with a tag #OutOfTheCloset# .
- What’s the status quo in your country? Do parents there oppose homosexuality and why/why not? Tell us about your country by leaving a comment!
Leave a comment below if you have something to say ~
Pew Research Center. (2013, June). The Global Divide on Homosexuality. Retrieved from http://www.pewglobal.org/2013/06/04/the-global-divide-on-homosexuality/
ChinaFile. (2013, September 9). Where Humiliation is Normal –Being LGBT in the Chinese Workplace. Retrieved from http://www.chinafile.com/multimedia/infographics/where-humiliation-normal