Jun Chen isn’t the first Chinese girl to have been left by her family. Her father abandoned her in NYC when he returned to China after losing his job in the United States. She was only 17 at the time. What’s unique about Jun is how in the face of such adversity she created her own family and her own support network.
On a yellow sheet of paper, she drew an alternative family tree: Lily, her girlfriend; Sonia, the mom; Chino, the dad; Ami, the older sister. The last three are all staff at the [Edgies Teen] center.
It is through them that she built her personal identity. “I wrote my college essay bout being a quarter Chinese, quarter black, quarter Dominican, and quarter Indian,” she said. It helped her earn a full scholarship to Middlebury College in Vermont.
Being gay and Chinese you understand the full implication of the phrase “building your own family”. In Chinese culture family may be the most important thing, but not when your only son is gay. Partly joking, I tell my friends that in American culture it’s duty to God, Country, Self, and then Others, but in Chinese culture, it’s Family, God, Country, Others and then Self (and sometimes I think Self doesn’t exist in Chinese culture). Being gay is of course the biggest stigma you can place upon your family in Chinese and most Asian cultures, and the easiest way to fail in your duty to your family.
It took a long time, but my parents also eventually came around and accepted me and my family as best they could. They even chose to live with my family when they could no longer live alone, creating our extended family. Although my father passed away several years ago, my mother still lives with us.
It’s a bit cliche but I tell everyone that family is the most important thing there is, and for me, I’m especially lucky that it’s a family that I helped to create. I can only hope my daughter has a family to depend on and build upon throughout her lifetime.