Friday, May 25, 2007

Email from a gay chinese guy who feels he can't come out

A couple of weeks ago, the following email arrived from one of my readers:

Dear GB,

I'm gay guy who's still at university, but I don't know if I will ever fully come out in the Western sense because I am Chinese and I am the only child. I don't think I will ever tell my parents. They just don't have the word 'gay' in their dictionary. It will be too cruel of me to do that. My mum has a grand plan for me already: after landing a good job, it is time to start a family. Hooray!!! Ideally, I will marry when I am 28, which is less than 7 years away, and I will become a father soon after. I do want to have kids, because I don't want to grow old and die alone (of aids).

I think I will probably get married, mainly due to family, social and peer pressure. But I will be desperately looking for some casual encounters, just like some of the guys that you mention in your blog. It is gonna be sad and pathetic I know :-(, but this is how things will turn out for me, according to my sixth sense. What do you think I should do?

I immediately replied saying that I thought he should be more optimistic, and the tone of his response was more upbeat. Perhaps he sent his original email when he was feeling particularly unhappy about being gay for some reason, especially because of the comment about dying alone of aids (I know from my subsequent email correspondence with him that he's sensible enough to know the rules of safe sex). None the less, his email raises some important issues.

A cracking good story :-)One thought relates to any future wife that the reader may acquire. If he marries due to family and peer pressure, I don't think it's fair on his future wife is she doesn't know that deep down her husband is gay. Even though he's gay, he's likely to have some (if not a lot of) love and affection for her, so he should consider her situation before he goes through with it. Whenever I think of this issue, it reminds me of the plot of the story The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt. I'd recommend anyone in the situation that this reader finds himself in to watch that on DVD if possible, or read the original book.

Although I'm not an only child because I have one sister, when I came out to my parents I did have some similar concerns. My sister had married a few years before I came out, but she'd agreed with her husband that they were never ever going to have any children. So I was my parent's last chance for grandchildren, and coming out as gay obviously dashed their hopes. [ As it turned out, my sister and husband ended up changing their mind about children a couple of years later, but that certainly wasn't the situation at the time when I came out. ]

Back then, even though my parents hopes for grand children had disappeared, I still ended up with their love and support. This of course is what I had hoped for, and the same might happen if the reader eventually comes out to his parents too. Although they naturally have various hopes and dreams for their son, it often turns out that a parent's main concern is for their son's success and happiness. It can take a bit of time for them to realise this, because if they have no idea that he's gay then it will be a bit of a shock when they discover the fact. None the less, with a much greater awareness of gay people these days, I think that many parents learn how to love their gay son as much as they loved the son they thought was straight. In fact they can end up loving him more!

The reason that it's possible for parents to love their gay son more than the straight son they thought they had is because eventually a stronger relationship develops between the people involved. That's definitely what happened in my case. Comparing the relationship that I had with my parents just before I came out with the situation one year later, the situation improved a lot and I think that this is quite common. Before they knew the truth, I dreaded the "Have you got a girlfriend yet?" line of conversation. I just couldn't be honest with them, and I didn't like visiting them because I couldn't be myself. For several years, the relationship was very tense and difficult. But once I'd come out and they'd accepted the situation, I was able to be honest and our relationship improved a lot because I was able to relax in their company again. Of course, this took time to happen. But if the reader never comes out to his parents, he may find that his relationship with his parents gradually deteriorates. And if he actually marries as a result of family pressures, he may end up resenting them for a very long time, perhaps for ever.

It's a fair comment, though, to want to have kids and be a father. I've said before that I'd like to be a father too, but I haven't found a suitable way of achieving that. Unfortunately I don't think I ever will :-(. I'm still open to suggestions for that, and in fact it would probably suit my current lifestyle to be a (mostly) absent father if a woman somewhere wanted that kind of arrangement. Anyway, I think the only comfort I can offer the reader in this respect is to say that it is possible for 'out' gay guys to have kids. There's also no reason why he should die alone (especially of aids), because if he's able to come out I'm sure he'll be able to find himself a nice boyfriend to live with :-).

In the terminology of my recent posting about gay lifestyle competence, having come out to himself but probably no one else, this reader is close to the white belt level. Coming out to his parents seems an absolutely monumental and impossible task. But every gay person I've ever met has always said that they gradually feel much happier the more they come out and establish their true identity, and the more they tell people the truth the easier it is to tell the next person. But as long someone tries to hide it, it remains one of the most important things in their life, and this inevitably means that it's hard for them to grow as a person and develop themselves in other aspects of their life.

How can he make progress? Well, I bet there are some people who he could confide in, and I think this is probably the best way forward for him. Even if there are people that he never feels able to tell, I think he would get a lot of benefit just from telling the truth to a single friend. And he'd get more benefit if he can find several close friends to tell. The best way to come out is to build confidence gradually, winning small victories with friends who won't mind that he's gay. Leave the difficult people until last, when one is close to black-belt level. The first step is always the hardest, admitting it to oneself, and he's taken that step already. The fact that he emailed me is also a good sign, so in contrast to his current view, I see a wonderful and happy future ahead for him :-).

Do any other readers have any thoughts on this subject?


Daniel said...

There are many gay guy in the world, before I can ont the people but i change my thought and I think it is common, my friendson has the same experience. and we think what your said is the best way ti the chinese gay guy.

peter said...

Is your Chinese friend going back home after he has finished university? If not he still can provide for his parents as it is custom in Asia.

The most important thing now is that HE is happy with himself by being Gay.

Why marry a girl just to make your parents happy but make yourself miserable for the rest of your life.

Who knows, in a few years time he will have a husband [with a kid] or have adopted one or more...

I just wish him well and hope he's true to himself.

Anonymous said...

"One thought relates to any future wife that the reader may acquire. If he marries due to family and peer pressure, I don't think it's fair on his future wife is she doesn't know that deep down her husband is gay. Even though he's gay, he's likely to have some (if not a lot of) love and affection for her, so he should consider her situation before he goes through with it"

It is very funny to give someone advice when you dont follow it

Anonymous said...

I'm in a very similar situation as the reader here, being a gay, Chinese studying in Europe and the only child (little spoilt emperor). I'm planning to come out to my parents after my graduation next year, because I want to be in a financially stable and independent situation just in case things turn out badly, which I don't expect at all, especially since my parents have lived in Europe for a long time themselves, knowing what to deal with living in mordern liberal societies... :-)

I strongly suggest the reader to listen to GB's advice. Don't f*ck up your life and that of your future wife and kids, you don't have the right to deceive and hurt other people like that! Especially having the priviledge of getting Western education should make you know better than to ignorantly succumb to social pressure.

I guess the reader certainly has heard about the movie "the wedding banquet" ( I remember watching that with my mother when I was like 17, and she told me afterwards that of course she would still love me if I was gay. Unfortunately I was too chickensh*t back then to admit it to her, but it gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling to know I won't be rejected... :-)

Good luck and all the best to the reader!

jeremy said...

i'm a chinese myself, but my situation is slightly different because i grew up in a less traditional, more open-minded chinese culture.

but i do understand the guy's situation. it is programmed into every asian to go to university, do a professional degree, get married, and have a family.
gay or not, its an inbuilt protocol.

it will be somewhat difficult for the guy to say no to marriage, and to disagree with his parents, especially if his parents are more traditional.
its like saying to a chinese "don't become a doctor, go do a BA and teach at a primary school".

he has 7 years to think about it. that will give him enough time to convince himself that not getting married is a possibility.

personally, i agree that it is unfair on the future wife. i have made a decision myself to not go into relationships with females, even though they've showed interest, and i think they will be good partners in life. i can't give the love that they deserve. its not worth the hurt.

but as i said, my family is westernised, so its easy for me to say that. for him, he has still has time to think about it. best of luck to him.

Alfred said...

I came out to my parents about one and a half year ago. And I did it over the phone! With lots of tear. Haha. I can laugh about it now.

I recognised when GB mentioned about the talk - you know, it's a good time for you to find a gf already...U can form a family after you graduate etc... I'd always diverted the question (became an expert of it). They knew. My parents always knew. And I hated it when I couldn't be honest, as I'm not a person who lies.

I believe parents will be happy when the child is happy. I told my mom it wasn't the worst. They have taught me a lot of things than they realise.

The earlier one comes out, the earlier the parents are given the time to adjust their expectations and their plannings (perhaps change the will too =p). It's only fair to them - they deserve to know and we deserve to tell. It's not about them if they die without knowing, it's YOU that'll regret not telling them and YOU'll hv to carry that for the rest of YOUR life.

Good luck to all those suffocating in the closet. Come out and smell the (gay) air.