By: Daniel Otero
From Spanish Traditional Society
With all growing economies, things will change, some say certainly for the better or worse. In our Western societies, many homosexual communities began ‘coming out of the closet’. It principally started in very conservative places around the world. For my time and generation, it was the end of the 1980s and early 90s. I was a young man trying to find my way in the world, but wait, this isn’t about me. I already had ‘found myself’ or discovered my own sexuality. And knew I loved women. A fascination since I was 18 months old (ha, ha), just a little joke. No, whom I would like to talk about is my cousin. It was his ‘coming out moment or age’. Now, for people from a Spanish/Macho background, this is a transcendent moment!
Sitting around the dinner table on a Sunday, it came like a message from the heavens. Holy crap, what’s my cousin about to say? As he began to clink his glass with an eating knife three times. He slowly stood up and we all looked at him. We were of course still joking as we ate, and we all thought he was about to perform a joke, which was a family custom. Then he said, “Mom and Dad, I want to first say, I love you all!” Then came the bombshell, “People, I’m gay!”
At first we all laughed, thinking it was a bit of humor. Spanish people are crazy in this manner!
Then he repeated his statement. What was a joyous dinner turned into sudden echoes of silence, as the laughter faded away! He repeated himself again, much more seriously. Like we hadn’t heard him the first time, “I’m gay and for next Sunday dinner I would like to bring my lover, so you can meet him!”
All of sudden in my youthful insensitivity, “I knew it! I knew it!” My other cousin punched me in the arm and told me to shut the fuck up! But thinking back, when I was a teenager going out with girls, he always wanted to stay at home with his mother or be around the ‘pretty boys’ at school.
My uncles began to pace and cry. My uncle pointed at my aunt, “This is your fault for teaching him all of your sensitive shit!”
Aunty came out, “Oh my God, my son is gay!”
It felt like the modern comedy of “Death at a Funeral” or even a Greek tragedy, but worse, since we were all left to deal with the reality. The following week, women and men of my family were equally looking out the window; waiting for my cousin to arrive with his lover. Then, suddenly, as they arrived, we all left the window pretending not to look. We actually had a great dinner that day and we knew that for the first time, my cousin was in love. In the beginning nobody wanted to accept this bitter reality or like ‘eating the bitter’ as many Chinese would say. But little by little, we began to come around and accept my cousin’s homosexuality, furthermore his lover. We later realized he was a happier man for being true to himself. This happened more than 21 years ago and my cousin couldn’t be happier. Later they were allowed to marry according to Spanish law in 2005 and he has had a good life with his lover.
Now, you don’t have to agree with me, but China is facing the same problems as we did back in America and Europe in the early 1990s. While in Nanjing [2014 and even before] people are growing into a new era—and are starting to deal with this social problem.
To Chinese Conservative Society
An underground society has arisen, maybe not like one during the Civil Rights era. But across the major cities from Beijing to Shanghai, and exploring into smaller-ancient cities like Nanjing, there is a counterculture. There has been a small explosion of gays ‘coming out of the closet’. I have lived it and seen it with some of my University Students. From a deeply shy and conservative background, ‘secret clubs’ are springing out and operating along Shanghai Lu. The question maybe as well, what’s happening? For some to have to hide the fact that they are gay and pretend to be interested in women is utter hell! Those that can say it aloud can feel the freedom/liberation from their ‘mental chains of slavery’ come off. But still, in this society, if a gay person doesn’t have support from friends or family, they are doomed, disowned. Those that are rejected, face a tough/hard life. It causes even more unhappiness when family and friends cannot accept it at all!
For generations like in different societies in the West, Chinese were told what to do. They were told to follow the older generation, even if it cost them their happiness. Presently, many are refusing to go this route and want to decide their own lives. I would estimate, according to how this society is progressing, that in a decade we will see in Nanjing ‘Gay Pride Parades’ and so on! It’s going to happen, whether they like it or not! As it happens in Beijing, so it will trickle down to other major cities in China. Nanjing is no exception.
Why Should We Allow People to Make Their Own Choices?
The reality is, as China develops, what we shall see are these social problems on a rise. Nobody can hide these problems forever. It’s like when a pipe or wall leaks, eventually from one hole, many others will start to spring-up!
In conclusion, when people are forced into something, it creates an unhappy society–90 percent of the times. For those whom are forced to do something, according to psychologist, it causes the following: deep sadness, social depression, suicide, unhappiness and even professional incompetence. Freedom of choices, from deciding employment to sexuality, or the person we want in our lives will certainly improve our self-esteem. It will lead into a healthier-quality of life. Now that’s a concept I can live with!
This article was first published in NUFE (Nanjing University of Finance & Economics) newspaper during September – November, 2013.