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coming out, autumn and friday the 13th
singapore sunset
amw
This has been another busy week. Everyone flooded back to work on Monday, but there is a weird post holiday daze, i think. Or perhaps that's just me. I am sleeping poorly every second day or so. There doesn't seem to be a reason, aside from the fact the second day i am so tired i just collapse in exhaustion. Perhaps this is my manic depression doing a little manic spurt and it's been so long that i bothered to give a shit about that diagnosis i have forgotten what it feels like.

My life hasn't been much different from the usual. 4 hours of school. 1 hour of studying Chinese characters. Try fit in about an hour and a half of walking commute each day, though if i am in a rush i take the subway instead. Some days i climb a mountain to make up for it. Eat noodles. Eat buns. Eat fruit. Read the news. The end.

Except not really, because i came out to one of my teachers this week. Coming out is something i don't really think about these days. I don't have sex any more, so my sexual identity is pretty much irrelevant. My public gender identity is for all intents and purposes exactly what it says on my passport: "F". It has been for almost 20 years now, so there isn't much to come out about. Still, i don't go around telling people i am trans, or lesbian, or bi, or whatever the fuck i am. I just say i have no partner and no interest in one. Meanwhile i suffer the same oppression every other woman does. It's really a non-issue, unless we start talking in detail about the past.

So, this serial rapist who has recently been exposed in Hollywood was on my mind. It's hardly a shock - everyone has known about it for decades. Since probably the beginning of time, women in every industry have been sexually harrassed at work. Even women who don't work at all are regularly sexually harrassed. Sexual abuse is so fucking normalized that there is even a large group of women who think it's something that should be brushed aside as "just the way things are". Those are the women who voted for an out-and-proud sexual predator last year. You can't make this shit up. Fortunately in the past few years it seems at least a few of these despicable men have been facing the music. Sure, they are just a drop in the bucket, but at least these days you are no longer immediately written off as a raging, man-hating dyke if you start talking about the patriarchy. Woo progress.

Keeping up with the scandal also affected my sleeping patterns, and i tried to explain this to my Chinese teacher (in Chinese). I expressed my hope that things would have been different in China because of Mao's idea that women and men were equal, but that i have realized it isn't really the case. Certainly, there seem to be more "tough" women in China than there are overseas, but at the end of the day they are still expected to step aside, shut up and bear children. My teacher told me that there is also a reluctance to having women in political positions due to a single empress back in 700AD who was allegedly a poor leader. Yes, seriously. Anyway, i concluded my rant with "all men are trash". That's when my teacher told me that she has a friend who has come to the same conclusion and never wants to date or get married because of it. Gaydar ping.

I guess that helped me realize my teacher might be sympathetic, because later in the lesson when we were talking about marriage, i revealed that i had been married and was now divorced. I also explained i was gay married. The response was far from what i expected. At some point while telling my story her floodgates opened, and she revealed she had had a girlfriend while she was in university. They were very much in love, but her girlfriend didn't want to tell her parents. They had a long distance relationship for a while, and visited one another's families as "friends". Chinese women can hold hands and be affectionate with one another without being read as gay, so they just survived like that until they moved to Shanghai. Shanghai is a more cosmopolitan city, so seeing two women holding hands is more likely to be read as gay. Ironically they faced more discrimination there than in small towns that were ignorant or on campus where most people understand being gay is quite natural. Eventually they broke up, but i could tell my teacher was still cut up over it. She had pictures of her ex in her phone and said i was the first person she had told in Shenzhen because even though her colleagues are educated, she wasn't sure whether they were educated and conservative or educated and liberal. Coming out here still carries a lot of baggage. She is dating a man now and identifies as bi. She said it's not the same, but it's easier.

We talked a little bit about Taiwan and how gay marriage has been (almost) legalized there. Mainland Chinese are well aware of this and the liberal set think it is the right way forward. But apparently Xi and his conservative wing of the Party have been less receptive to the idea. My teacher explained that sometimes when people post pro-marriage memes on Weibo, they mysteriously get deleted. Whether the government is behind it or it is just an over-zealous mod is unknown, but the point is it is very hard to openly express support for gay relationships here, even conservative/family-centric gay relationships like marriage. I didn't have much in the way of comfort to provide. The best i could do was point to America - a hideously conservative country full of religious extremists - and how in the space of a decade public opinion swung massively to support marriage equality. Perhaps the same thing could happen here. It certainly seems aligned with Maoist thought and the huge value China places on traditional family structures.

On a side note, it still boggles my mind that conservative leaders can't see that allowing two gay people to get married and start a family is far less destabilizing than forcing them to live secret lives and resent the government. I guess in China the Party has done the calculus and worry that letting a few urban gays marry will feed unrest amongst a much larger group of rural folks who already feel left behind. I suspect for gay people here the hope remains that urbanizing/educating enough of the rural population will eventually tip the scales. Of course, that would be a lot easier if more people felt they could come out publicly... But, just like with the recent exposure of sexual harrassment in Hollywood, it's very hard to come out when society is structured in such a way that the victims of oppression are routinely shamed and blamed. Sigh.

-o-

Thursday i noticed it had been National Coming Out Day in America, but by that point my big coming out discussion was over and it was back to business as usual. The most interesting thing to remark on was that autumn finally hit. I mean, it's still warm here and everyone is still wearing shorts and T-shirt, but a cool gust of wind was added to the mix. It's not so humid any more. For some reason i thought this place would be like Singapore or something - all hot, all the time - so it was a pleasant surprise to get a bit of that fall feeling. I wonder if Starbucks has pumpkin spice lattés? I will probably never know because most Starbucks here are located in upscale shopping malls and their coffees cost twice the price of my favorite "local" coffee chain - Taiwan's 85°C.

-o-

I didn't discuss this earlier because i didn't want to jinx myself, but i was invited for a job interview on Friday 13th, after a screening call during the golden week. It was with a large, well-known American company that is one of the top three in the world in its space. I think the interview went fairly well. Although the work would be unremarkable - same old software, same old problems, same old shit like everywhere else - it would give me a Z (working) visa and enough of an income to sustain myself here. I certainly wouldn't get rich - software developer salaries here are comparable to minimum wage in Canada - but it would give me a chance to work amongst a team of all-Chinese colleagues and i would no longer be calculating how many more months of language education my life savings will net me. We'll see how it pans out. I think this company may be one of my best opportunities outside of (vomit) finance, at least until i become fluent.

Speaking of becoming fluent, HSK2 test tomorrow. It will be a cakewalk, but i want to get in practice for HSK3 which i aim to take next month. If i can land a job here it would be awesome to shoot for HSK4 by the Spring Festival. HSK5 is much harder and is likely to need another year of study, but that's considered a mark of fluency - at least in reading/writing. Hey, if i don't hate the place by then, wouldn't it cool to be fluent by 2019 - the centenary of May Fourth Movement? It's not like i have anything else to do with my life. My job isn't a motivation, just a means. I don't have a family and don't want one. Europe doesn't want me any more. Canada is cold. China is making me fit and skinny and fascinated. I quite like me that way.

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there's also malta, which only legalized divorce in 2011, but also legalized same-sex marriage this summer.

i'm not surprised that china's a little, uh, conservative when it comes to queer folks and gay marriage. i'm glad your coming out to your teacher went well, and i feel bad for her that she couldn't be with her girlfriend.

good luck with the job!

Thanks! I seem to be getting a reasonable-ish set of screening calls now, but it's hard to crack through the barrier of not having a working visa. I have to not only be good enough to offset my poor Chinese skills, but also good enough that they are willing to sink some money and a month or more into sponsoring a visa for me. I think this is a hurdle a lot of local companies don't want to cross - even though i am very good at what i do, what i do isn't very unique. If they have a month or two to look, they can probably find someone else. It's pretty frustrating and hard on the ego, but i guess looking for work always is :(

I have chatted a bit more about gay rights in China since this post and i get the impression that it is less about homophobia and more about tradition. China doesn't have any anti-gay laws and especially the younger generation doesn't seem particularly bothered by gay relationships, but not fulfilling the traditional expectation of marriage and kids is still a major taboo. That's why i think allowing gay marriage should be a no-brainer. Instead of passing employment non-discrimination or establishing hate crime laws or some other "progressive" approach, the government could just grant gay people access to the same traditional family structure that straight people have and move on.

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