“I want nothing more than to have a normal family.”
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Gay pride is for the whole family
They say that on your birthday, at exactly at the hour and minute of your birth, if you make a wish with a contrite heart it may just come true.
Every year for as long as I can remember, I made this wish.
Back then, it was not because I was a lesbian; but more because my father doesn’t believe in the institution of marriage for men, and security and stability was what my mother had longed for, working for so many years as a singer and actress.
In the media spotlight ever since I was a bump on my mother’s belly, growing up I’ve always longed for the anonymity of just being a normal girl, and I dreaded the judgmental glances everywhere that seemed to think they knew more about me than I knew about myself.
To be humble and respectful is supposed to be virtuous. Maybe it’s safer to go with the flow and stay closeted. The picture of heterosexual marriage is a default childhood fantasy for many Chinese youth, myself included. After all, there aren’t many rites of passage associated with becoming a Chinese grown-up. A university graduation may be the entrée, but le plat de résistance is marriage. In many ways, marriage is a milestone that defines us as taxpaying adults longing to be contributing members of a stable society. But without the option of marriage, what is there?
Now that I properly regard myself as a grown-up, I’ve come to realize that there is no such thing as “normal” or “natural,” only what is expected, accepted, and tolerated – and what is not.
Year by year, the idealized picture of the perfect family fades into the background and the complexities of real life take over.
In Asian cultures, I would say there is probably a higher acceptance in society for men having extra-marital affairs – as one could say even the wives tolerate it – as long as they are not caught. Homosexuality, on the other hand, still has quite some way to go before being generally accepted.
I really can see no good reason for this other than discrimination, plain and simple. It is for this reason that LGBTI people can no longer afford to hide in the shadows, but must demand to be visible. For it is only with visibility that attitudes change and communication can be forged. Laws should not promulgate only the idealized version of society, but should solve practical problems and encourage all members of society to become engaged.
In particular recognition of LGBTI individuals, our rights and our responsibilities should be codified. The judgement in the recent Hong Kong appeal case on same-sex spouse benefits refers to this specifically: that heterosexual married couples have specific rights and responsibilities according to the law, and such rights and responsibilities are denied to homosexual married couples because Hong Kong’s law, as currently interpreted, discriminates against homosexual couples.
Hong Kong is a city that never sleeps, with vast concrete jungles where we stressed-out urbanites dwell in tiny flats. But it nonetheless has one of the longest life expectancies in the world. The older population can still remember the days when male homosexuality was criminalized. It is also the older generation who wield much of the financial prowess within families and in businesses.
It may take more than a few marches to change the negative impressions associated with the fear that caused the AIDS epidemic. But the truth is, being gay is no longer a personal issue. It’s a family issue, and in Asia gay pride must move beyond individuals and start becoming a family mission.
For many LGBT people, coming out to one’s family is probably the hardest thing they have to face, an area where emotions run deep and they feel most vulnerable to rejection. Tragedies can be avoided if we find the strength to declare our love, and demand that this love be treated with dignity and equality.
Gigi Chao is the vice chairman of Cheuk Nang Holdings. She topped the FT’s Top 100 LGBT Executives list in 2016.