This is why Lunar New Year is a time of massive anxiety for LGBTIs in China

‘Sometimes our parents are more like children than we are,’ one gay man in China said

Justin doesn’t plan to return to his hometown in southern China this Lunar New Year.

As a closeted gay man, Justin said he could not face the ‘worry and uncertainty’.

Over the festivities, his parents and other relatives would inevitably quiz him about girlfriends and pressure him to get married.

‘Sometimes our parents are more like children than we are,’ he told Gay Star News.

Millions of LGBTI Chinese this week will join the largest annual movement of people on the planet to return to their hometowns and bring in the new year with their families.

Like at Christmas or Thanksgiving, people spend a lot of time with their families. Chinese parents are not shy to ask about love lives, wedding plans or grandchildren.

Young LGBTI Chinese like Justin face a dilemma as they return from more liberal big cities, where they may be out to close friends or colleagues:

Do they avoid the celebration altogether, return home and suffer in silence, or risk everything and come out?

’There’s a lot of pressure’ explained Ah Qiang of PFLAG China, which offers guidance to LGBTI people in China as well as their families and friends.

‘LGBTI people do not want to lie to their parents’, he said.

That’s why our hotline is always so busy over Lunar New Year’ he told Gay Star News.

Coming out in China
China legalized gay sex in 1997 and removed it from the list of mental illnesses in 2001. But, in a conservative and family-orientated society, many LGBTI Chinese live in the closet.

Same-sex marriage is also illegal.

China officially banning LGBT content from China’s internet in June 2017. It labeled it ‘abnormal sexual behavior’.

‘Chinese culture is mostly about family’ said Ah Qiang. ‘Parents care about the next generation, about grandchildren’.

Parents will also face questions from other relatives, neighbors, friends, and colleagues on why their child is not married. ’The fear of losing face is big in China’ Ah Qiang said.

What’s more, 30 years of a government policy that forced most couples to have only one child puts extra pressure on LGBTI youngsters.

‘Parents will ask “why is it only us” if they are just three people sitting together at new year’.

Sham marriages
Oscar Chan, a 33-year-old who will return to his hometown in Guizhou province this week, is hoping for a ‘peaceful conversation’ with his family after he recently came out.

When Chan told his parents he was gay, they did not say anything. ‘Then, they said I brought shame to them and disgraced them in front of all their friends’ Chan told Gay Star News.

‘They thought I chose to abandon morals and the rules of our country’.

Colin, a 22-year-old from central Jianxi Province, was forced to come out this year after a relative found out and told his parents.

‘They can’t make sense of it, they can’t imagine their son is gay’ he told Gay Star News. ’They asked me to try my best to become a “normal” person’.

Even if parents can accept their child’s sexuality themselves, they often force them to lead a straight life. Around 90% of China’s 20 million gay men are married to women.

‘The real me’
But, Ah Qiang advises, ‘you don’t need to feel guilty about telling the truth and being yourself’.

‘Being gay is not a choice,’ he said.

Chan said he came out for himself, not for others. ‘I totally did not want to lie to my parents anymore’ he said.

He also said it was important to make it clear that sexuality does not change a personality. What’s more, coming out is a process, he said. LGBTI people should not be afraid to ask for help.

Around new year, Ah Qiang is busy organizing workshops and talks in China’s smaller towns or cities. He said networks of parents of LGBTI people can help families accept their relatives.

‘LGBTI people will have to take more time, provide their parents with more information’.

Although Justin will not return home this year, he has begun preparing his parents for when he does come out.

He has talked to his mother and father about sex and relationships. He tries to alter their traditional, conservative views.

‘Then, I will need to tell them my story, and hope for less pain and more harmony’.

by Rik Glauert
Source – Gay Star News