Dealing with Asian Parents When You’re Gay

It’s inevitable when you’re gay and Asian. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll disappoint your parents when they find out you’re queer. The question for most gay Asian children is how to lessen the blow. This problem is universal, whether you’re gay and Asian in the U.S., Canada, Asia, or elsewhere in the world. To get around this problem you could always try the “fake marriage” solution that The Wedding Banquet used, but it’s less than ideal and fraught with problems as the movie showed. On the other hand if you decide to come out to your parents, it’s likely they will ignore your pronouncement and insist you still need to get married and have children.

If you happen to be Chinese and gay, you’re likely to be in the same predicament as Yu Xiaofei and Jiang Yifei, a lesbian couple, still living at home, looking for a way to be together, and yet not disappoint their parents. Their plan though might not be right for everyone. They plan on finding a gay couple in the same predicament and each marry one of the pair, and never actually tell their parents that they are gay. It seems in this case, The Wedding Banquet is more real life than fiction.

With all the pressure to marry and produce an heir in Chinese culture, Wei Wei, a sociology professor at Shanghai’s East China Normal University, estimates that about 90 percent of Chinese gays eventually will marry someone of the opposite sex. It’s a sad statistic, but a sign of the prevalent social stance towards gays in China.

Even growing up in the U.S., as I learned when I got older, the pressure to get married only increases the closer you get to the age of 30. By the time I was 30, my parents actually sat me down and asked if there was something wrong with me. I had no choice but to come out to them (and besides they asked me in my home that I shared with my partner!). But even with my declaration, my parents hounded me through my thirties with admonitions to get married and have kids.

During a recent 8Asians writers dinner, Ernie and I happened to be discussing the predicament of coming out to Asian parents and he asked me if they ever stop bugging you to get married. I told him yes, the only time they actually stop, is when you have a kid of your own. Not an adopted child, a true bona fide genetic offspring of your very own. I always knew I wanted to be a parent, and I learned about surrogacy early in my twenties, but it wasn’t until my late thirties that I had the financial means and the right partner to go about executing my dream of becoming a parent.

Among the many things that surprised me about becoming a parent was that my parents stopped bothering me about getting married and having kids. What probably surprised me more, was that they continued to bother my sister who with her partner had two kids of her own. The difference? My sister adopted the two children that her partner had carried, and as such wasn’t actually biologically related to her kids.

After my daughter was born, I really didn’t expect a change in the way my parents treated me. It was an unexpected benefit. I planned to have a child for all the right reasons, and it was the life changing event I thought it would be. I got lucky with my own mom and dad because of parenthood, but I don’t recommend you become a parent unless you’re sure you want to be one. If you’re Asian and gay and were able to convince your parents not to pressure you to get married and have kids, how did you do it?

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About Tim

I'm a Chinese/Taiwanese-American, born in Taiwan, raised on Long Island, went to college in Philadelphia, tried Wall Street and then moved to the California Bay Area to work in high tech in 1990. I'm a recent dad and husband. Other adjectives that describe me include: son, brother, geek, DIYer, manager, teacher, tinkerer, amateur horologist, gay, and occasional couch potato. I write for about 5 different blogs including 8Asians. When not doing anything else, I like to challenge people's preconceived notions of who I should be.
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