Although Hong Kong may seem progressive, LGBTQ issues are still often taboo, so we’re talking about why it’s hard coming out to Asian parents
In Hong Kong, there are registered charities like Pink Season that do amazing advocacy work and run local events for the LGBTQ community, as well LGBTQ+ counselling services at RED DOOR and LGBTQ+ sexual wellness services at My Place. You can also easily look up LGBTQ movies and queer artists online. It’s 2021 and it seems that we’re all heading towards a more radical and inclusive world. Still, coming out to your Asian parents is immensely difficult for kids who are sexually fluid and/or gender non-conforming. Why is that? Are people just pretending to seem more accepting of LGBTQ subjects in the hopes of being seen as politically correct?
Why is coming out to your Asian parents hard in Hong Kong?
All hell breaks loose – is what first pops in my mind. Growing up in a household that is comparatively open-minded in the sense of an Asian household, I have had my fair share of tattoos and piercings since college years, yet I still haven’t been able to muster up the courage to blurt out: “Hey, I’m actually not straight. I like both girls and guys,” to my parents.
In my household, we don’t talk about feelings, romantic relationships and sex-related topics. My mom might be a big fan of Mitch and Cameron on Modern Family, but I’ve heard her casually making fun of transgender people multiple times about how they wear inappropriate wigs and dress themselves “indecently”. I’ve also heard my 70-year-old grandma yelling at a lesbian couple on TV saying that they’re awfully disgusting (and I was standing next to her pondering if I’m awfully disgusting), and my dad thinks that dudes touching hands is, well, bizarre. They aren’t hostile towards LGBTQ people, but they’re always making jokes, as if non-straight/non cis-gender people are just clowns for the world to ridicule.
Coming out is fine, as long as it’s not to your own parents
In China, conversion therapy against LGBTQ people still exists, so is homosexuality a disease? We’re not even talking about the Bible and Christianity here (but of course I did receive my “lesbianism is a crime” sort of education when I was in an all-girls catholic high school). Since the beginning of every dynasty, it’s one male emperor, aka the king, verse thousands of concubines. It’s the idea of having biological kids (preferably a son) being deep-seated in most Chinese households. And if you’re a non-heterosexual, that means the bloodline can’t be extended – bam, that’s one big Chinese sin for you.
In Hong Kong, most people pride themselves as being progressive thinkers, yet the anecdote they share on the dinner table is that time they caught a gay couple kissing in the MTR, and everyone else will give pity laughs to it to not feel excluded. What you hear most often from Asian parents is that, “I’m totally fine with people being gay, as long as it’s not my son or daughter.” So if everyone’s parents are like that, then who exactly is allowed to be gay?
If you stand neutral or silent in situations of social injustice, then you’re on the side of the oppressor.
Coming out to your Asian parents is especially hard, not only is it because gay marriage isn’t legal here, but also because almost every Chinese household cares about what others think of their kids more than they do themselves. When I show up at family meetings, I always have to wear long-sleeved clothing, so no aunts and uncles of mine can see my tattoos. You know your parents have accepted you, but they are ashamed of and for you. So how can I possibly tell them that I’m queer if having tattoos is already such a big fuss? My best Asian gay friend once wrote a coming out letter to his mum, and unfortunately to this day she still negates his sexuality. And what I think is, maybe one day I’ll do the same, cross my fingers and hope it works out differently.