Growing up gay in China definitely wasn’t something I was hoping for. But here I am, telling you my stories about being gay in China.
Here is my conversation with Lucas Moreira, the host of Rainbow Talk, an amateur collaborative project that aims to explore LGBTQ+ diversity.
One of the things that happened to me in high school that really taught me a lot, in terms of like bullying and stuff like that, there’s a huge culture difference, first of all, between growing up in China and growing up in some Western countries, is that in China a lot of the times people would give you like weird looks but they tend to not use violence.
When I was in middle school I didn’t really experience any physical violence. All of those abuses were more of verbal abuse. For example, somebody would call me bad names and they would see me as the target of ridicule and then they would have a bunch of kids to make fun of me and definitely being gay was kinda part of it.
When you have that feminine characteristic and when you’re in school that seemed a little bit unusual. That was what was causing you to become a little bit different and you became the target for bullying and stuff like that.
For example, there are certain Chinese words. For example, Rén Yāo is one of them. It literally means human monster. It was one of the terms that people used to call me when I was in middle school. Of course it was really hurtful at first, when I heard people calling me those words. I remember the first time I heard it, I was actually on elementary school. It was actually really hurtful I was kind of growing to become very ashamed of myself.
When you’re at such a young age, your own personality is not yet fully developed. So it definitely has a huge impact on you when you’re growing up. When you’re that young it kind of shapes you as a person. All of those words kinda come with you grow up as well.
I didn’t really know what to do with it. I wrote about it. I was trying to put all my frustrations into words like into a journal to express my feelings. When I was a little bit older I got more frustrated and more frustrated. I didn’t know where I could seek out for help and it was very hard for me, so like I was posting some parts of the journal on some web forums and I just wanted to ask other people like what I could do back then. Almost all of the comments and all of the feedbacks were very negative. China is still a very conservative country and their opinions are still very conservative.
Right before I left China, my father told me he’s very frustrated with me and he would never ever accept me and I would be a disgrace to the whole family and my whole family specially my dad – he’s very ashamed of me and definitely none of my relatives know about this because it’s a very shameful thing if any of them finds out that I’m gay. The older generation is still very conservative and they don’t know. Especially when I was on the street asking people those questions. One of them maybe like in his 60’s 70’s was actually questioning me, “Why are you doing this? What authorities are you under to ask those questions?” Because those questions are kind of considered as a taboo to talk about on the street. So when I was asking those questions people were feeling a little bit uncomfortable answering them.
It definitely didn’t make me feel good. And after that, my father even took another approach. He told me that he wanted to help me to come back to become straight again and he wanted me to feel so ashamed of myself. He told me only if you feel ashamed can you correct yourself and go back to being straight again. If you don’t think you’re wrong if you don’t feel ashamed if you can’t accept that, you’ll never be able to come back to being straight again. And that’s what my father told me.
“You have to feel disgusted with being homosexual. You have to feel ashamed of it. You have to understand that it is a shameful thing to do. It is wrong it’s immoral. And once you understand how disgusting it is, when you can not stand being gay yourself, you’re gonna find a way to correct and walk to the right track again. And then you can learn and correct your mistakes and go back to being straight again.”
That’s what my father was trying to do. He made a lot of plans for me to go back to being straight again. And one of the first things I needed to do was to understand how shameful it was to be gay.
China is not a religious country. We didn’t have any religious background. He was telling me stories about how people following the Buddha and they became straight again. He was telling me stories of how people overcame their homosexuality by following certain type of religion, by reading about all of those religion books, and trying to tell me that if I understand this, I could become straight again. But it didn’t work unfortunately.
China is a very atheist country. I’ve never met a Christian until I was 18 years old. And the first Christian I met was actually an American foreign teacher and they were like teaching English in college and before that I’ve never seen any Christians. I’ve never heard of the bible. I was like, “WOW, people in the world would actually believe in God. That is so crazy!” And when it comes to even Buddhism is rare as well. People might go to a temple might go there but it’s more for the tourists. At least none of my family members practices them. It’s kind of rare as well. I’ve never seen a lot of Chinese people that are Buddhists that actually practice it. Homophobia mostly stems from our Chinese traditional culture.
I feel like being gay really is not a bad thing for me, even when I was in high school when I was getting a lot of weird looks because I was gay. I feel like it has become my source of power as well. My identity has become what pushes me, that gives me power to achieve my dreams. I wouldn’t be here in a different country today if I wasn’t gay. China’s a big country I’d be just comfortable being in China living in China right now. The only reason why I decided I to leave China and go to a different country and explore the world was that I was gay.
The message that I wanna give to all of the people who are watching this is – When you look at your identity, it can also be your source of power. It’s what motivates you!