Out of the Closet

我们采访者其一的纹身,意为“生来如此”。/ One of our interviewees' tattoos.

The second season of Qipa Shuo, a popular Chinese talk show, featured an episode on the issue of whether gays and lesbians should come out to their parents. It brought tens of millions of clicks to the online video platform iQiyi and quickly became a hot topic of conversation. Then the episode was taken down by censors, on the grounds that it dealt with “sensitive issues.”

In LGBTQ circles, coming out is a dividing line. Most of those who cross it have made up their minds to be themselves, or to free themselves from a long-held mental burden.

But what happens once you’re out?

Chinese society is becoming more and more tolerant, and online programs can now discuss issues like coming out. But tolerance isn’t the same as equality. You can talk about coming out, but you can’t openly embrace your identity.

According to the “Third Annual China LGBTQ Community Survey,” published by Work for LGBT in late 2016, in mainland China only very few LGBTQ people, around 5%, are fully out of the closet (to their families, friends, and coworkers). Around 20% have come out to some family members, 56% have come out to their friends, and 30% are entirely closeted.

We interviewed seven members of the younger generation who have already come out to at least one of their parents. While none of the seven were rejected by their families, that doesn’t mean that everything’s out in the open.


《奇葩说》有一期议题是同性恋该不该向父母出柜,仅在爱奇艺平台上就引来了好几千万的点击量,之后更是引起超乎往期的热议。随后,这期节目因涉及话题敏感而被迫下架。

出柜,也就是你身边人知道你是同性恋吗?,在 LGBTQ (同性恋、双性恋、跨性别者和酷儿)的圈子里是一条线。跨过这条线的时候,大多数人是抱着我要做我自己的决心,或者是卸下自己心理上积累的负担。

然后呢?

社会变得比以往宽容了,至少网络节目可以讨论出柜;但它并没有宽容到足以平等的程度,可以讨论,但不能堂而皇之。

根据 2016 年底由“同志商务”统计的“第三届年度中国 LGBTQ 群体生活消费调查报告”显示,在中国大陆 LGBTQ 人群中,完全出柜(包括亲属、朋友和同事)的人群甚少,仅占5%。有 20% 对一些家人出柜; 56% 对好友出柜;还有 30% 的 LGBTQ 完全没有出柜。

我们采访了已经对父母(或其一)公开出柜的年轻一代,幸运的是,在我们采访的七个人中,都没有因此与父母反目的。但一切也并没有走到阳光底下。


Keep It to Yourself

 

“Over Chinese New Year I told my parents I wanted to meet them for dinner,” says Songbanniu, who’s in his thirties. “They were talking about who had gotten married, so I took the opportunity to say, ‘I’m not going to get married to a woman. But I’ll still get married, so don’t worry about me ending up alone.’ The mood turned serious. My mom cried out, ‘Are you trying to kill us?’ But my father said, ‘I always knew.'”

Even though he’d prepared, Songbanniu says he still broke out in a cold sweat at the table that day.

That dinner was, in essence, a way for Songbanniu to fulfill what he saw as his duty to be open with his parents. It was a roundabout but powerful way of saying, “Don’t worry, I’ve found love.” “I think they can probably accept it themselves, but they’re worried about other people. They don’t want me to tell anyone else—they’re afraid I could lose my job.”

Since dinner that evening, Songbanniu says, “my family has never mentioned it again.”


秘而不宣

 

80 后的松阪牛说,“我是过年的时候跟我父母说要找他们吃顿饭,他们在聊谁谁谁结婚的话题,我就顺势说:我就不准备找女朋友了,我也会结婚的,你们也不用担心会没有人跟我在一起。然后气氛就变得比较严肃。我妈听到这句话后说了一句:乃么要西了。但我爸当时就说,我早就知道了。’”

松阪牛回想起当天的场景,尽管事先有所准备,但饭桌上自己还是一身冷汗。

这一场饭局,本质上说来,就是对父母一种义务上的告知,是以一种婉转却有力的方式向父母传达我有所爱,不必担心我觉得可能他们自己可以接受,可是他们担心周围的人,让我不要跟别人说,担心我工作上会被排挤。

下了饭桌,松阪牛说,我们家之后就没有再提这件事。

松坂牛 / Songbanniu

Sitting next to Songbanniu is his boyfriend, Daxiong. “I think that in China most people who face pressure choose not to come out,” he says. “That’s the case with almost all of my friends.”

Pressure often comes from parents’ worries about their children—especially in a country like China, where family occupies such an important place. In families that aren’t as close, by contrast, there’s naturally less pressure.


在松阪牛一旁的伴侣大雄说:我觉得中国的社会,有压力的人都会选择不出柜,我身边的朋友几乎都是这样。

压力,来自于父母的关切,特别是对于中国这个尤其重视家庭的国度来说。而倘若关系疏远,就会自然导致压力的减轻。

大雄 / Daxiong
松坂牛和大雄 / Songbanniu and Daxiong

In his first year of university, Daxiong bought a DVD copy of the gay comedy Formula 17 and hid it in his backpack. It was soon discovered by his mother, who had a habit of going through his things. Yet mother and son tacitly agreed not to bring it up.

“Then one evening much later, when we were lying in bed together, back to back. Out of the blue, she asked me, ‘You like boys, don’t you?’ I began to sweat! I said, ‘I’m still not sure what I like.’ A year later, when she asked me again, I said ‘Yes, I do.'”

Today Daxiong and his mother, who’s divorced, still have a good relationship. “At home, I never encountered anything negative because of my sexuality. My mom practically raised me as a girl. When I was a kid she had me wear dresses—I guess she thought it was fun. Now the only thing she’s worried about is that I’ll get sick,” Daxiong laughs.

But Daxiong’s father, who’s not really involved in his life, is still unaware of his son’s sexuality. “Actually, when my parents got divorced, I went to live with my dad. I think he definitely knows, we just haven’t come out and said it.”


在大雄大一的时候,他买了《17 岁的天空》的“同志喜剧” DVD,放在包里没有拿出来,当时就被爱翻包的妈妈发现了,但母子二人都默契地选择了不提。

到后来有一天晚上,我跟我妈背对着睡在床上,我妈就默默地来了一句:‘你是不是喜欢男孩子?’当时我汗就下来了!我回答说:‘我可能还不知道自己想干嘛。’第二年她再问我这个问题的时候,我就说:‘嗯,对。’

如今,大雄和离异的母亲就这么相安无事地保持着联系,“关于性取向,我在家里没遇到什么负面的事。我妈从小把我当女孩子养,从小就给我穿裙子,她大概觉得好玩。现在我妈唯一担心的是我会生病。”大雄笑着说。

但在大雄生活里缺席的父亲,至今还是不知道的状态。“其实我妈跟我爸离婚的时候,我跟的是我爸。我觉得我爸肯定清楚,但只是没有说破过。”大雄说。

乐老师 / Le
乐老师 / Le

Having open-minded parents isn’t necessarily a precondition for coming out. In fact, there’s a certain correlation between how distant family relationships are and how easy it is to come out.

Parents who are distant from their children often lead very independent lives. Whether or not their children are queer is like whether or not they have a tattoo, or which city they live in: it’s their life.

Le, a teacher in his thirties, says, “When I came out I didn’t feel any pressure. Now my parents know. After I told them, nothing changed, because I was never very close to them . . . My parents are the kind of people who don’t want trouble. They’re open-minded in the sense that they don’t want to be bothered.”


其实,出柜的前提未必是一对开明的父母,家庭关系疏离和出柜的难易程度存在一定关联。

与孩子关系疏离的父母,大多都拥有自己独立的世界,至于孩子是不是同性恋,和他们要去哪个城市生活、有没有纹身一样,是他们自己的世界。

已出柜的乐老师也这样跟我们说,出柜一点都没压力,他们就这样知道了。后来也没什么不一样,因为我原来和爸妈也不是很近……因为我爸妈本质上是怕麻烦的人吧。他们的开放,是基于不给他们添麻烦。


Acceptance

 

In China, who decide to come out to their family often think their parents will eventually come around since they love them so much. And most parents of LGBTQ children do in fact accept them. Yet such acceptance comes qualified with a request: keep it quiet. It’s as though they don’t want the family’s dirty laundry to be aired in public.

Almost every young person in China today is an only child, and most parents have poured all their love and energy into them. No matter what their child does, they’re forgiving, tolerant, and accepting. But even though parents can find a way to accept their children, once they face the outside world, they’re again beset by worries: “This isn’t good,” they think. “This isn’t natural.”


接受

 

选择出柜的人心里会抱着这样的期许:父母那么爱我,最终会理解我的吧。事实上,出柜后被父母接受的人并不在少数,但这种接受要加一种形容——“默默地 。仿佛是,家丑不可外扬。

在中国,当下的年轻人大多是独生子女,大多数父母对自己的孩子倾注了所有的爱和精力。无论孩子做了什么事情,选择包容、接受、承担是为人父母的天性所致,也是因为特殊的社会环境,让这唯一的孩子变得不可失去。所以面对孩子,他们会千方百计地调整自己去接受;但是一旦面对外界,他们的内心依然残留着这不是件好事”“这不正常的暗示。

小锤子 / Chuizi

Unlike the men above, Chuizi has always been close to her parents. When she was growing up, there was nothing they couldn’t talk about.

“When I was in middle school, I told my teacher to make my parents take me to a psychologist,” recalls Chuizi.

She was in boarding school when she first realized she was different. “I confessed to my parents that I liked girls. I was really sad . . . I don’t know what prompted it, probably a kind of middle-school terror.”

A visit to the doctor didn’t reveal any medical problems, of course. “In the hallway of the clinic, waiting for the so-called doctor to talk to me, it suddenly made sense: I liked girls, so what?”

“But back then I was still young. Maybe my parents thought I was joking—they didn’t take it very seriously,” she says. “But they must have known. I wasn’t like other kids, I gave them more than a few headaches . . . Actually I planted a seed, and they began to worry.”

Chuizi’s parents really came to understand her sexual orientation when she was in college because she’d often talk to them about her romantic problems. “I used to take walks with my mom, and I’d talk about which girls I liked, that sort of thing. I wanted to share it with them. That’s also why I came out: I wanted to be closer to them,” she recalls.

Her whole coming out process, and her parents’ process of acceptance, took a long time, but eventually, they came around.

“Now, at family gatherings during Chinese New Year, when my relatives ask questions like when I’m planning to get married, they’ll deflect them for me, and say ‘she’s still young, she still needs to work,’ that sort of thing,” says Chuizi. “Though even that’s really great.”


不同于上面几位男士,小锤子和父母的关系一直很亲密,在成长过程中,可说是无话不谈。

我是初二的时候,直接跟老师说,让爸妈带我去看心理医生的。小锤子说。

在寄宿制初中的时候,她就认识到了自己的不同,我那时候就和爸妈很坦白地说,我喜欢小姑娘,我很痛苦……我不知道是什么触发了我,大概初中时候那种悸动吧。

当然,看医生没看出什么病症,其实在医院的走廊上,等所谓的医生跟我讲话的时候,我就想通了,我就是喜欢女生,又怎么了?

但那时候年纪还小,但父母会觉得是玩玩,他们没有把它认作一个很认真的事情。可他们应该知道,我和一般的小朋友不太一样,就是有点不省心’……我其实给他们埋下了一个种子,他们开始不安了。

小锤子的父母真正明白她性向的时候,是大学时她因为感情问题反复和父母说过好几次。我以前和我妈散步的时候,会跟她讲,喜欢哪个女生啦,之类的。我想跟他们分享。出柜,也是因为我想和他们更亲近。小锤子说。

她整个出柜的过程,父母认同的过程,路漫漫,终于看到了光亮。

现在过年的时候,亲戚吃饭总会问到什么时候结婚这类的,爸妈就会帮我挡一挡,说她还小,还要工作这类的。小锤子说,虽然这样已经很好了。

Crown
Crown 家中与女友的拍立得合照 / A polaroid of Crown and her girlfriend at their home

Crown had a very different experience. Her mother took the news very calmly, in an ordinary moment over a meal. “She just asked me point-blank—’Are you?’ She said my grandmother wanted to know. I said I was. Then she replied, ‘Oh,’ and went on eating her noodles.”

It was Crown who didn’t take it calmly. The next day, she excitedly told her friends. It just seemed so rare: not every mother can ask such a question and calmly accept the answer. Crown says her mother has a very Western way of thinking. “She really respects my private life. She rarely stops by, and even when she does, she politely waits at the door. She’s not like other parents, who just intrude. I think my mom is unusually open-minded—she’s really awesome.”


相比之下,Crown 的妈妈却是在一个很寻常的吃饭时刻,很坦然地接受了这个事实,她就问我是不是,说我外婆想知道。我就说是的,妈妈就了一声,继续吃面条了。

真正不淡定的反而是 Crown,她隔天就告诉了好友妈妈开口问她性取向的事,因为这太难得了,不是所有母亲都有问出这个问题并坦然接受的能力。Crown 说妈妈的思想一直很西化,她很尊重我的私人生活。她很少造访我家,即使要来,也会先礼貌地站在家门口,不会像其他家长那样主动侵入。我觉得我妈妈特别开明,特别牛。

Crown

Like Chuizi, Crown feels she’s had a closer relationship with her mom since she opened up about her sexuality. A lot of things she couldn’t say in the past she can now gradually start to talk about. “But sometimes my mom thinks she did something wrong, or wonders whether I turned out a lesbian because of something she did,” she says. “Whenever she says that, I always object, and say, ‘No, it’s not! I was born this way.'”


和小锤子一样,和妈妈坦诚了性向之后,Crown 觉得母女之间的关系更近了,很多以前不会讲的话,现在也慢慢打开了话题。只是妈妈有时候还是会觉得是自己的错,是不是因为自己的原因,让我变成了同性恋?碰到这种情况,我就会很激烈地反对说,不是的!妈妈,这是生来如此的。她说。


Side by Side

 

For LGBTQ groups, the challenge is to overcome society’s prejudice and injustice, and to speak out for themselves—for ourselves—and for the community.

For the parents of LGBTQ people, the question is how to accept something that doesn’t fit with—or is even at odds with—their values, how to accept being forced to mentally change sides.

It’s hard to reexamine an entire value system and overturn long-held beliefs. In this sense, it’s not LGBTQ people themselves who face the biggest challenge in coming out—it’s their parents.


并肩


对于 
LGBTQ 群体来说,他们的挑战在于战胜社会的不公和偏见,为自己、为这个群体发声。

对于 LGBTQ 的父母们来说,他们面临的问题是如何让自己接受已有价值观里不存在的,或者是反感的存在,如何被迫接受这一场内心的倒戈

推翻已有的,建立新的——并且是从整个价值观上重新来过。这一点上,面临出柜最大难题的不是他们本身,而是他们的父母。

Bon

Bon’s mother learned of her sexual orientation when she eloped with her college girlfriend.

“I was with my girlfriend at the time, and her parents were opposed to us being together, so we eloped. After that, both sets of parents met and made a scene—it was really ugly,” she recalls. “But my parents actually didn’t put up any opposition. They’re very open-minded, so there was no struggle. Looking back on it now, I think the way I acted was really not right. Later on, my mother met other girlfriends of mine.”

Now that Bon has a stable girlfriend, her mother often comes to eat with them,  and she treats them as a couple.

At breakfast one day, her mother said, “I accept you. Unlike other parents, I accept you. I just want you to be happy. For me, it’s like I have two daughters now—I’m pretty lucky.”

“I just want you to be happy”: often parents say this for their own sake. But wanting their children to be happy is reason enough for them to stand by their side—and to stand up to the world’s prejudices.


Bon 的妈妈,则是在她与大学时期的女友私奔时,知道她的性向的。

我和当时的女友在一起,她家里人不同意,我们就私奔了。然后双方父母都见了面,闹得很难看。” Bon 说,但其实我父母没什么不同意的,他们是很开明的父母,没有什么斗争吧。现在想起来,觉得当时自己的做法欠妥。后来我妈妈也见过我的一些历任女友。

而现在的 Bon 和女友维持着稳定的感情,她的妈妈也常会来一起吃饭,见到她俩成双入对。

在一次早餐时,Bon 的妈妈对她们说道:我接受你们,不像其他父母,我接受你们。只要你们开心就好。对我来说,我就像养了两个女儿,挺好的。

只要你开心就好,很多时候,这句话是父母说给自己听。但这一条理由也足够让他们和自己的孩子站在一起,共同抵抗外界的偏见。

Bon
Bon 与她女友 / Bon and her girlfriend

Of all the people we interviewed, only Kiya had experience with a sham marriage.

The marriage was mainly her family’s idea. They didn’t pressure Kiya herself but targeted her mother, who was in poor health. “Look what you did to your daughter!” they’d say. “At her age, she’ll never get married.” Such comments had their effect. “My mom’s the kind of person who cares about appearances,” Kiya says. “So she also wanted me to get married. She said that if I didn’t, she would never be able to look them in the eye.”


Kiya 是我们这次采访中,唯一有过形婚经验的人。

她的形婚,很大程度上因为亲戚的压力。他们并不施压于 Kiya 本人,转而对准 Kiya 身体抱恙的母亲。他们跟 Kiya 的母亲说,你看都是因为你影响了你女儿到那么大了还嫁不出去,这样的话,听上去简直像针似的扎人。我妈妈一开始还算是个比较要面子的人吧。”Kiya 说,所以她也希望我结婚,觉得我不这么做的话,会让她在亲戚面前有点抬不起头来。

Kiya

She decided to get married when she was 33. “The pressure from my mother was too great,” she says.

“I found a gay man, and we started planning a sham marriage. At first, everything was very clear. I said I wasn’t going to have children, so we’d split everything split down the middle. Then everything would be handled normally. We did a lot of preparatory work,” she says.

She also talked to a lawyer friend about many of the issues involved. Almost everything was ready. But then something inside snapped.


33 岁的时候,Kiya 决定踏出这一步,因为妈妈压力太大了

我找了个 Gay,准备形婚。一开始都说得很清楚,我说我不生孩子,所有东西都 AA 制。然后所有东西都按照正常程序处理,做很多准备工作吧。

Kiya 也找了个律师朋友,咨询了很多相关的内容。

万事俱备只欠东风的时候,Kiya 爆发了。

Kiya

“My lawyer friend said, ‘an agreement is just an agreement. If you go ahead and get legally married, everything is subject to the law.’ When I got home that day, I’m not sure why, I suddenly broke down. I went back to my mom and said, ‘Mom! I’m not getting married, okay?’ I remember I spent the whole day crying. I just can’t lie. I thought, if I get married, how many excuses will I have to come up with to fill out that lie? What’s the point in putting on this show?”

Seeing her daughter burst into sobs, Kiya’s mother also began crying.

Through tears, mother and daughter finally saw eye to eye.


朋友跟我说,协议只是协议,如果真的办了结婚证,都是法律来控制的。然后那天回来,不知道什么原因,我就忽然崩溃了。回来就和我妈说,妈,我不结婚了,行吗!?我记得我那天就一直哭,一直哭。我不是个会说谎的人啊,我想着要是结完婚之后,我要编多少借口去圆这个谎呢?要骗一辈子吗?去做这一场秀,有什么意义呢?

Kiya 压抑已久的痛哭声中,妈妈也泪流满面。

这场母女间的理解在眼泪中达成。

Kiya

The day we stopped by Kiya’s home, her mother happened to be there too, and she knew why we’d come. She greeted us with excitement, then quietly closed the door behind her and went to cook dinner for her daughter. As dinner time approached, she opened the door again and asked if we’d like to eat with them.

Her mother’s accepting attitude had gradually formed a protective cover around Kiya, providing a source of strength and motivation. She’ll no longer have to fight alone. When neighbors see Kiya and her girlfriend nearby and start to ask nosy questions, her mother makes a point of saying, “That’s my adopted daughter!” and Kiya beams with delight.


我们到访 Kiya 家里的那天,她的母亲正好也在,也了解我们究竟缘何而来。一阵热闹寒暄后,她悄悄带上门去为女儿烧晚饭。临近饭点时,Kiya 的妈妈还热情地推开门来,问我们要不要一起留下吃个便饭。

母亲的接受态度,慢慢在她周围形成了保护罩,给她勇气,也给她动力。她不再会像从前那样一个人孤军奋战,Kiya 说,现在还有些街坊邻居会看到 Kiya 和女友在附近活动,转而来问东问西的时候,她妈妈就会主动和别人说:啊,那是我干女儿! Kiya 向我们形容的语气里,满是幸福。


How Much Further?

 

Many LGBTQ people in China encounter incomprehension, coldness, or verbal abuse when they come out to their parents. Sometimes parents even break off contact. The seven people we interviewed happen to all be fortunate, but their good fortune is a far cry from widespread acceptance.

The parents of the people we interviewed mostly had the following reactions:

“I see.”

“I still love you.”

“Your happiness is all that’s important.”

Yet even the most accepting parents are seldom willing to say, “Gays and lesbians are regular people. I’ll come out with you.” They accept their children, but ultimately what they’re accepting is how their children are different, not how they’re the same as everybody else. Their acceptance comes most often out of love.

This shows that there’s hope, but also that progress in society at large still has a long way to go.


还有多远?

 
我们身边也有很多人,和父母出柜后遭遇各种不解、冷漠、恶言相加,甚而断绝关系。只是采访的这七个人,恰巧都是幸运者而已——但这幸运背后,离彻底的接受又存在着距离。

这些父母的态度大多数是:

我知道了。

我依然爱你。

你开心最重要。

但哪怕是这些幸运者,也没有出现同性恋本来就是正常人,我来和你一起走出去这样的父母。他们只是接受自己的孩子,但究其实质,是接受孩子的不一样,而非和大家一样。他们的接受,更多是出于爱。

这让我们看到希望,也看到了社会大环境的进步依然缓慢。

Kiya

Our last interviewee, Kiya, told us, “Just two months ago, I accidentally hurt my foot and had to get surgery. At the time I really wanted my girlfriend to sign some consent forms for me at the hospital, but they wouldn’t let her. I can’t help but think, when I’m older, if something really serious happens, my girlfriend will have no way to sign in my place, since she’s not my ‘family.’ Maybe they won’t even let her in the operating room. What do I do then?”

After coming out, there’s still a long road ahead.

On this long road, hopefully the people you love and who love you will walk alongside you, lighting your way.


在采访的最后,Kiya 和我们说,就在前两个月,我的脚意外受伤,不得不住院手术了。当时手术我特别希望是我女朋友给我签字,但是没办法。我会忍不住去想,但以后我年纪大了,老了,真要有什么事,我的女朋友根本没办法替我签字,她不是我的亲属,可能连手术室也进不去。怎么办呢?

出柜之后,路还很长。

在这很长的路上,希望爱你们和你们爱的人会在左右,掌着你心里的灯。

Contributor: Chen Yuan
Interviewer: Shou Xing,  Chen Yuan

Photographers: David YenCrown Wang


供稿人: Chen Yuan
采访人: Shou Xing,  Chen Yuan

图片摄影师: David YenCrown Wang