"Gay men are 'primed to expect rejection'. We’re constantly scanning social situations for ways we may not fit into them. We struggle to assert ourselves. We replay our social failures on a loop. The weirdest thing about these symptoms, though, is that most of us don’t see them as symptoms at all.”
1. How do gay people feel about inappropriate jokes or, what some call, microagressions?
For me, such jokes will not piss me off if the person does not mean to hurt me or is just trying to be funny in an improper way — prejudice does not necessarily come from hatred but, often from the lack of information. With this huge information gap, building mutual understanding between the non-LGBT community and the LGBT community will bring much more good than simply criticizing each other. On the other hand, I cannot stand those who intentionally try to embarrass or mock me.
2. What is the major source of pressure for the LGBT community?
In China, family or, more precisely, the notion of family is suffocating the LGBT community. I see so many of my LGBT friends who have come out to their own friends/colleagues/classmates, but very few of them, even in their 30s, to their families. At the end of the day, it’s the inveterate obsession with a “complete and normal family” lying in the foundation of Chinese civilization that emasculates the community’s voices. Such traditional culture meanwhile brings parents the same large amount of social pressure, the failure of ‘high expectation’ for their kids, and the inevitable concern about their kids’ future.
3. What is the biggest thing that the LGBT population wants the public to be aware of?
Personally, I hope people know that: with sexuality being just an ordinary thing that all humans live with, any preconception – either positive or negative – is unreasonable.
I’ve always been openly gay on social media platforms. Sometimes people come to me, curious about why I’m gay, believing that this non-mainstream preference makes me special from others in ways beyond sexuality. That’s when I just have no idea how to respond.
One night several days ago, some guys from a college application group chat requested to friend me on WeChat. Flattered to see so many messages, I asked them what they wanted from me. They said they read my story (of coming out as gay) and found it touching, but I actually didn’t tell them any details about how or why I came out of the closet, except the pure fact that I’m out. The next day, one of them asked me how on earth I discovered my sexual orientation… Being openly gay does not give total strangers the privilege to observe me as if I’m some rare animal. At the same time, I was saddened by the surprise they showed when coming across an openly gay guy. I’m pretty sure that they have a certain amount of LGBT classmates/friends around them, but their surprise demonstrated how invisible this community is to mainstream society.
4. How do you plan to deal with your parents?
On the night of my 18th birthday, my mother said happy birthday to me on WeChat. At the end of her voice message, she said: “You should fulfill your responsibility to yourself, to this family; do not go wrong.” It might seem melodramatic if I told you my smile froze, but the sorrow I felt at the moment I became an adult was so real.
The most mind-blowing thing my coming out brought to my life was that it made me doubt everything I previously knew about “unconditional love”. Zhou Guoping, a well-known Chinese writer, said: “Regardless of age, the moment when a person loses their parents is the moment when he becomes an orphan.” Then what about the “betrayal” of parents?
I love to make steady connections with myself (strongly resonating with the Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower), so loneliness is not a new thing for me. But only after I came out did I see my constant isolation from a sharper angle: I am walking across this world alone, and all I can do is keep myself motivated. To expect understanding is wrong, and to assume that any kind of relationship can last long is wrong.
It’s definitely hard to put this feeling into words and send it through a laptop screen. I’m clearly aware that there is not a single conclusion on this. But it’s exactly my constant retrospection, self-diagnosis, reflection, and fantasy that brings me to where I am and makes me accustomed to this place right now.
5. How does being gay influence your choice of studying abroad for college? What would you suggest to your LGBT friends who will study in America?
I think it’s certain that Western society is generally much more tolerant of non-mainstream communities than China. Many friends of mine were in the closet while in China and came out in college, having a very “gay” life. But meanwhile, the pursuit of manhood in American culture determines that the LGBT community has no way to keep themselves totally away from discrimination, either implicit or explicit. It’s nuanced still.
The higher tolerance is not the root cause of my decision to study abroad, but it does make me more sure that I’ve made the right choice. Having grown up in a relatively homogenous place, I crave to spend time with more open-minded people in the future.
6. What advice do you have for other teens who want to come out to their family or friends but feel they can’t?
I would suggest them to take this very seriously. You are just not able to “confront” your parents, if they fail to accept it, when you are not financially independent from them. If you really hope to live in a family or a community in which someone can fully support you, carefully start with coming out to a more open-minded family member or a trusted friend, and make sure they will be on your side if one day you decide to come out to your parents.
I know at times you may feel the waves of impulse that encourage you to finally be yourself, but you need be aware in advance of all the potential outcomes. While being yourself is your ultimate destination, doing a precise calculation in the first place – of how and when you will come out – is wise.
The TeenzTalk blog is here to amplify teens' stories on topics including personal challenges, wellness strategies, initiatives in their community, passionate pursuits, & more.