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Gay Chinese Men Feel Right at Home in New York, but Not in Their Homeland

By Shirley Lew
AsAmNews Staff Writer

This year’s theme of the 49th NYC Pride Parade parade was “Defiantly Different.” That theme certainly fit the mood of members of the gay community visiting New York from China.

With thousands of rainbow flags and cheering spectators, the 49th annual NYC Pride Parade stepped off at 16th Street and 5th Avenue last Sunday under blue skies at noon.

“This year’s theme is about showing our power, squaring our shoulders in the face of adversity, and continuing to sculpt that magnetic bond within the LGBTQ+ community and our allies,” said David Studinski, NYC Pride Co-Chair.

View photos from the 2018 NYC Pride Parade.

Unfortunately it’s hard for the LGBTQ community to square their shoulders in China, their sexuality simply isn’t widely accepted.

Jeff and Aaron, visiting New York from China.

I met Aaron, he’s been openly gay for 10 years and is visiting New York from Beijing.

“Does your family in China know you’re gay?” I asked.

“I haven’t told them yet. They wonder if they will have grandchildren and I worry if I told them they will be very sad. I want to tell them. I am planning on it, Aaron said.

Jeff is also visiting New York and is from Beijing. Like Aaron, he has been openly gay for ten years.

“I am proud to be gay,” Jeff said.

“Does your family know you are gay?” I asked Jeff.

Jeff replied, “No.”

“So when you go to back to visit family, you have to pretend you’re straight?” I asked.

“Yes,” Jeff replied “But many friends know I am gay.”

I asked them both, “How do you feel now to be gay and visiting America?”

“I feel really relaxed and happy,” Aaron said. Jeff agreed.

“Have you been practicing on how to tell your parents?

“My parents come from a little town. I want to protect them from the other people’s views, but it’s my life, “ Jeff responded.

“I would tell my mom first,” Aaron said with a smile. Jeff also agreed, “Yes, Mom.” They both laughed.  Aaron also said his siblings do not know.

On another part of the parade route are Jerry and Kevin. They have been married a year and now living in New York.

“Does your family know you are gay?” I asked Jerry.”

Kevin nuzzles his husband Jerry’s head, while friend Era looks on.

“No, they don’t know. They don’t know we’re married, “ Jerry said, as he grabbed Kevin’s hand and looks at their wedding rings.

Jerry who lives and works in New York said he became openly gay four years ago and met Kevin in China. They were married in New York just a year ago. Kevin’s family doesn’t know he is gay either.

“Have you been practicing to tell your parents?” I asked.

Jerry answers, “No, scared“ said Jerry.

Their friend Era is also from China, and is a manicurist in New York. She has been a lesbian for 14 years.

I asked Era, “Does your family know?”

“Yes, they know. They are OK,” said Era smiles.

The parade commemorates the riots at a New York gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in June 1969 that erupted in response to a police raid.

80 floats, thousands of viewers and parade participants made for one huge party.

In America, coming out as LGBTQ can still be a struggle, and still a struggle for many to accept, although more widely accepted than in China. While these Chinese men I just met during the parade feel relatively safe in New York about their sexuality, their fear of having their family and their home community learn of it can cause tremendous shame on their families. As Jeff said, “I want to protect them.” A culture that expect their sons to have grandsons to carry the family name, to sustain the lineage is an obligation that has transcended for centuries.

China as innovative it may be with technology and it’s advances in other industries, they haven’t caught on in accepting their children’s sexuality. How soon will they work on eradicating the stigma of being gay? Only time will tell.

AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart.  We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns.  Check out our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content.  Please consider interning, joining our staff or submitting a story.

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