Love Should Be Love, Even For The Chinese
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Love Should Be Love, Even For The Chinese

Because the Pride flag extends to every corner of the world.

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Love Should Be Love, Even For The Chinese
CNN

Growing up as Chinese in a predominantly white town is both a curse and a blessing.

It’s a curse because you struggle to maintain an identity that’s satisfactory to both the American culture you’re infusing day by day while also retaining the Chinese culture that your family so fiercely believes in and wants you to have. But it’s also a blessing, because while coming out in American culture is hard (this is true no matter the nationality), there are still always pockets of people that are going to accept you. The internet is a nice place to find them - people from all over the world are there to help you, no matter who you come out as.

But coming out in Chinese culture? Hoo, boy. Find yourself another place to live, ‘cause ain’t nobody gonna have you. Coming out in general is worse than coming home with bad grades - and even though that is stereotypical, it still remains as a truth. For a long time, even now, a large majority of Chinese culture has abhorred the idea of the LGBTQ . It’s not a subject that’s spoken about openly among families - and neither are most things unrelated to success and day-to-day needs. It’s not through any choice. That’s just the way it is. Communication is just not a vital part of life.

Because I grew up in a predominantly white town, I grew up with white friends. I grew up with Asian friends who had been able to ease themselves into a white sense of living. When I went to college, my friend circle was almost exclusively white.

Having eighteen years of white culture behind me made it that much easier for me to realize the type of person I was, acknowledge it, and begin to own it. The American half of me came out during my first year in college, and for that amazing, blissful year, everything was new and shiny, with endless avenues of possibility to be explored.

Then, I came home and remembered that the Chinese part of me still existed, was a large part of who I was, and that my sexuality was the only thing I couldn’t make fit in both parts of my identity. (That, and my future career plans, but I’d already come to terms with those.)

So, yeah, to my family, if you’re reading this: Hi. You have a lesbian among you. You also have an asexual. We’re one and the same. (An asexual is someone who doesn’t need sex as part of their relationship.)

My family talked about LGBTQ like they talked about disgraced members of the family: behind closed doors and as a subject to be kept from the kids at all costs. When I was younger, my family had a debacle about as to whether one of my cousins was gay, all because she tended to spend a ton of time with one of her friends. I only found out about this because I stumbled onto one of their conversations. The phrase they used was ‘lady friend’, and the way they said it was so disapproving, so disgusted, that I vowed then, as an eight-year-old, to never have friends in that way, lest my family talk about me that way.

Fast forward about ten years. During this time, no one lifts a hand about it. No one talks about it. I don’t even get the sex talk. I learn about the LGBTQ+ world from tumblr, fanfiction, and one particularly informative friend from California. My world is filled with academics, problematic friends, and more family problems. I watch documentaries about Asian families that have rejected their children for coming out of the closet. I watch my mom and aunt grill my cousin about girlfriends. I watch them gossip about my older cousin, the one they’d once frightenedly discussed possibly being gay, and her relationship with her boyfriend.

I watch most of my other friends grow up to be straight and fall for boys. Hell, I even fall for a boy, but end up from the relationship running faster than The Flash. I watch as someone I know comes out as transgender, only to be shunned completely by her family. I watch as one of my best friends, whose other closest friends identify up and down the LGBTQ+ spectrum, have her friends looked down upon by her parents because of how they identify themselves.

(My parents send me off to college with the pep talk “Maybe you’ll bring home a boy!”.)

It’s the day of my cousin’s graduation party. We’re discussing end-of-year activities, as he’s graduating high school. I’m standing around in the kitchen, watching as my aunt flit around making her signature spaghetti sauce when it comes:

“Did you know [my cousin] didn’t go to prom?” Sure, I’m taken aback, because my cousin doesn’t seem like the type who wouldn’t go to prom, but prom tickets are expensive and so are tuxedos. There are plenty of reasons why. “He didn’t even go to another girl’s prom when she asked him!” The kitchen explodes into laughter; why would my cousin even think about turning down an invitation with a girl?

“Do you think he bats for the other team?” My dad’s suggest is innocent, sure, but the tension in the air is all the same. Was there actually a gay person in this family?

My aunt snorts. “If he turned out to bat for the other team, I think my father would hang himself.” Then: “Maybe it’s [me] I should be worried about, what with that Facebook post you put up last week!” (I’d jokingly proclaimed to be in a relationship with one of my college friends on Facebook. She was very straight.)

“She can’t be,” My mother, ladies and gentlemen. There’s always some truth to the idea that ‘mother knows best’. And most of the time, she does. “I’ve known she liked boys since she was two - since she could talk.”

Who am I to come out with my sexuality, knowing the backlash that occurs around a purely hypothetical situation? Knowing that it could cost me my entire family? No one’s going to say it to my face, of course. We’re family. You don’t do that in family. But you can become the subject of whispered conversations among the adults, you can get pointed looks and boisterous laughs when asked about significant others. You can live your whole life knowing your family expects you to be something else, that perhaps sexuality is just a phase all of the American kids go through.

So to all Asian parents raising a kid in the States - or raising a kid in this generation, really - please try to open your minds if you haven't already. Talk to your kid about being LGBTQ+. Do some research. Acknowledge that it, at the very least, can exist in family conversations. Don’t tiptoe around it like it’s a taboo, like it’s been for the countless past generations. Normalize it. You don’t have to like it, but if you have a child that does come out, support it. Support them. Support that love can come in a number of ways, in any way that they may choose. Help them feel comfortable in their notions of love, even if they don’t love.

Please don’t let them feel afraid to show this side of themselves. Please don’t let them lie awake at night, feeling small and insignificant because they don’t fit into a norm. Please watch what you say - one small, innocuous sentence can rattle a self-esteem to its bones and even cause them to resent you. (That’s more than just being a millennial snowflake. There is no better way to foster resentment than have your own family member think it’s unacceptable to live how you want to live.) At the end of the day, regardless of who they choose to love and how they want to do it, they are still the child you brought into the world. They are still the child who’ll go on to do great things and want you by their side as they do it. Taiwan legalized gay marriage. They were the first Asian country to do so. People can change. You can change.

And to anyone that’s feeling confused or afraid to come out, whether it’s due to personal reasons or because their cultural identity rejects the notion or anything, really, I see you. You are no less than anyone else, nor do you deserve to feel afraid. Just because you feel differently than the norm you’ve grown up with does not mean there’s anything to prove. You are you, and there’s no need to change.

I see you, and I hope one day, the rest of the world will, too.

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