Reply To: What’s it like in China?

DeeAnn Hopings


I must admit that I was a bit surprised that a “Gender and Media” course, and its offshoots, would be allowed on the Mainland. The country tends not to respond very well to progressive thoughts and concepts.

On the other hand, Asian countries in general have some things going on that suggest that the public perception is different from the reality. This is based on my observations from spending 6 of the 8 years from 2004 through 2011 in Taiwan. Before I left the US in late January of 2004, I did some research as to what the LGBT community was like there. For my part, it was purely academic interest as I had no plans to be out dressed. The thought of being confronted in a foreign country was terrifying to me and also that I would never stop hearing about it from the construction folks that I worked with. I did bring a few things to dress in, but it was reserved for being in my apartment.

Anyway, what I found out was that the first Pride event was just s few months earlier: November 2003. But, the interesting thing is that once that happened, the country moved much faster than we have regarding same sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws. I worked with some Taiwanese that I suspected were gay, but I never brought it up as it seemed entirely inappropriate. But, given the parental pressure on females to marry and have children, you would wonder about folks who were mid-30’s, college graduates and clearly attractive, but have no interest in being married, at least to an opposite sex partner. One thing that did occur to me towards the end of my stay was that this may have been why we developed such strong friendships. I think we felt very safe with one another.

In the 6 years that I spent in country, I never heard anyone mention anything about gay or trans people. Eventually I found out that these were topics that were rarely discussed in public. In effect it is saying that people do what they need to do, but it will not be discussed openly. Now that may be different for the parents of gay and trans kids, for example, but in general it is how society functions. I have heard that things work similarly in Japan and perhaps some other Asian countries.

I did get to the Mainland once. I spent a weekend in Hong Kong in order to reset my visa. I even managed to go to a gay bar there. But, not unlike many places here in the US, there were no external indications as to what it was. You just had to “know”…

Anyway, too bad the classes had to end, but perhaps they will come again. Ultimately I would have to think that it was very helpful to the students to know that someone listened and understood…

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