For many older Chinese, the idea of homosexuality is "a blur"by Yuan Ren / June 16, 2016 / Leave a comment
I’m never certain how sensitive the topic of sexual orientation is with new friends. In Beijing at least, among the media, arts and expat circles, there is little taboo attached to homosexuality. But the law lags behind liberal social attitudes. Last month, a gay Chinese couple brought their marriage case to court for the very first time in China. Their appeal for recognition of their marriage failed—China’s laws against same-sex unions remain fully enforced.
Matthew Meng, a 24-year-old Arts graduate who works in Beijing, says that he feels little pressure to keep his orientation under wraps in the capital. Over breakfast, we spoke about his relationships as well as his current boyfriend, who he says is the type of boy that his mother could accept. “He’s much more steady in character and career than my last boyfriend; in the future, if we both have stable careers, my mother might be inclined to give us her blessing.”
As we walked out, I asked if his extended family also knew he was gay. “What? Of course not”, Matthew replied, “none of my family knows I’m gay.” I was taken aback. It didn’t occur to me that the conversation we just had was under the pretext of “one day.”
Chen, a partner of a boutique fashion brand, thinks that most gay people in their twenties and thirties would not reveal their sexual orientation to parents. “In a big city like Beijing, the hardest thing that gay men face isn’t the law or social prejudice,” says Chen, a partner in a boutique fashion store in Beijing. “If there’s anything to protest against, it’s by far parental pressure. I definitely couldn’t ever tell my dad, because he simply won’t accept it.”
I was again struggling to equate in my mind how someone speaking so openly, and at ease with their sexuality could never reveal such an integral part of their identity to their loved ones.
“The thing is, for many of our parents’ generation, the concept of homosexuality itself is a blur,” says Chen. He isn’t exaggerating. I have relatives who question the existence of homosexuality: “How do they know…