My topic of research is sexuality in the asian culture, more precisely: homosexuality in China.
“Ancien China had a rich literature of strong male homosocial culture” (Louie,
2002) Indeed, people were acceptant towards men with a preference for other men. This is because masculinity was considered more as a “social obligation”. Therefore, as long as the man fulfill his duties, which were to get married to a woman and to have children in order to carry on the bloodline, people overlooked men’s sexuality. As Travis S. K. Kong states in his work The sexual in Chinese sociology: homosexuality studies in contemporary china: “In other words, masculinity was understood less as sexual identity or orientation and more as a familial and social role […]” Homosexuality was then seen as a “side hobby”. In the early 20th century, many Chinese intellectuals brought Western ideology into China, agreeing more with it than traditional Chinese schools of thought. Sexuality was still seen as a disease and few was interested in this topic, but more and more intellectuals started to study Western studies and tried to understand why some people are attracted towards people of the same sex. The surge of interest towards sexuality created many debate about this topic; the population tried to categorize homosexuality into right or wrong, socially acceptable or taboo and if homosexuals could be cured from it (it was seen as a disease, therefore was maybe possible to cure it).
Ok, after the brief overview on the history of homosexuality in china, I want to talk more about the stigma gay men often experience in China and its consequences. In the conservative China, people are often pressured to get married and to have children by their parents and relatives. According to Bill Powell’s CHINA’S BIG CLOSET, “That pressure is only intensified by the country’s controversial one-child policy, in place since 1979.” The pressure makes gay men and women in China hide their sexuality, since being a homosexual is still considered as shameful and is contrary to what the elders’ expectation. According to the China’s LGBT Community Survey by Community and Marketing Insights, there is “only 3 percent of gay men are ‘completely out.'” This research shows how hard it is for people to come out in China. Another example I found to illustrate how gay men is treated is the case of Xiao Jun, a 30 year old gay man. His mother called him after having suspicions about him being gay and after Jun told her about his preference for men, she hung up on him. Fearing being laughed by their relatives, his parents then let them to introduce women to him and said to him that his homosexuality was a disease and that it was “curable”. What surprized (or didn’t) me was that most stigma that homosexual people face in China come directly from their family. An interview with Chinese MSM (men who have sex with other men) from Charting a Moral Life: The Influence of Stigma and Filial Duties on Marital Decisions among Chinese Men who Have Sex with Men illustartes the inequity these people face:
“Interviewer: Where would discrimination occur?
Participant: Well, for example…family members. Of course I think that in the end, family is tolerant. But despite that, it [knowing a person is MSM] would change how they perceive you. Let’s say there were some coworkers or neighbors that I wasn’t especially close with. If they found out my identity, I think they would look at me as if I were a freak. –Participant 21 (37 years old, college education, originally
from Beijing, currently unmarried)”
Indeed, the pressure for homosexual people to get married and to have children mostly comes from parents and relatives, and it makes harder for them to come out since they know that tradition is important and they don’t want their parents to be worried by the fact that they would grow old alone or to embarass their parents in front of aquantance and relatives. Homosexual men are often torn beween their own happiness or to live according to their parents’ wish and to be a good son. Some men chose to sacrifice their private life and to get married to a woman in order to appear “normal”, but other men refuses to conform to those norms and traditions:
“My viewpoint is very extreme in terms of marriage between MSM and heterosexuals. I resolutely condemn it, do you understand? […] There are people who say it’s in order to protect oneself because of the so-called environment, so they have to get married to a woman. This I resolutely condemn, I object to these kinds of things. I feel that it’s not ethical. […] To sacrifice a woman in exchange for oneself, to protect oneself, I feel like this is an extremely unethical thing. –Participant 9 (52 years old, college education, originally from Beijing, currently unmarried)”
I do agree with this man’s point of view and I also do think that it is unfair for both parties in this kind of marriage, since the man would never love his wife the way he loves another man. In my opinion, all parties is on the loosing side: the man is married to someone he cannot love, and the parents are living in a lie, thinking that their child have found happiness.
To finish, I would like to state that what I wrote is the result from my reasearches and it is not a criticism about China or the Chinese culture or its people.
Kong, Travis S. K. “The sexual in Chinese sociology: homosexuality studies in contemporary china.” Sociological Review, vol. 64, no. 3, August 2016, p.495-514. EBSCO, http://proxy4.vaniercollege.qc.ca:2079/ehost/detail/detail?vid=4&sid=605e2a8a-e4e8-4111-bafd-0e8a91ec890f%40pdc-v-sessmgr02&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=117510900&db=aph
Powell, Bill. “CHINA’S BIG CLOSET.” Newsweek Global, vol. 163, no. 12, September 24 2014, p.18-20. EBSCO, http://proxy4.vaniercollege.qc.ca:2079/ehost/detail/detail?vid=4&sid=c7ecc3db-1013-46d7-a012-ffcc72b8e91d%40pdc-v-sessmgr02&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=98286777&db=aph
Steward, Wayne T. “Charting a Moral Life: The Influence of Stigma and Filial Duties on Marital Decisions among Chinese Men who Have Sex with Men.” PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, August 2013, p.1-9. EBSCO, http://proxy4.vaniercollege.qc.ca:2068/ehost/detail/detail?vid=4&sid=b29b7257-ebb2-403e-a1e5-30bd9201ff60%40sessionmgr4008&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=90071776&db=aph