By Danny Wong, Case for Space advocate
Born in one of the poorest villages in southern China, I realized that I had a crush on my best buddy when I was in junior high school. It was a bittersweet feeling of anxiety which made me swallow my secret deep down. After learning the word ‘gay’ and its dictionary definition, I felt a release, that at least I belong to some ‘tribe’
At the same time, I told myself to keep a low profile because there was no way that the conservative mind-set and traditions kept by rural residents could reconcile with this reality. Being a gay person then was like torture, made even worse given that the teenager I had feelings for was straight.
No one in my village knew what being gay is, which meant the only thing I could do was stare at him through a window during lessons or stroll alongside the Yangtze River with him on the weekends. A sudden telephone call or a glance from him could bring me ecstasy, without any doubt. However, the most intimate response I could have was being his best friend. I hate the word ‘friend’.
Enrolled with the university in Harbin, the capital of China’s nnorth-easternmost province, I began a brand-new chapter of my life. Being thousands of miles away from home offered me the freedom to explore a gay person’s life and gain a better understanding of my own identity, in a city with six million residents.
In my second semester, I summoned the courage to ‘come out’ to my roommates. Surprisingly, they not only accepted my sexual orientation, but also expressed that they would be a haven for me to seek help and support. This made me believe, for the first time in my life, that I should never feel guilty for being myself, as a homosexual.
My delight from finding many other gay people around me remains clear in my mind. However, partially due to its remote geographical location and relatively sluggish economic status, Harbin still couldn’t provide the desirable space for LGBTQI. My relationships were all quiet and kept hidden for four years.
Even now, there are still some sparks shining in my memory of them: On the bus, heading back to campus from Kevin’s place, I couldn’t help weeping because he had to break up with me because he was going to marry a heterosexual woman who has no idea he is a gay man. I felt a strong sense of shame for Kevin with contrasting feelings of sympathy for his future wife, which both filled my heart.
On a bed in a small motel, outside it was snowing heavily whilemy beloved Peter burst into tears and confessed to me, “Danny, you are the first and last man I date, two men can’t have any future in China. Your family and people’s stereotypes are barriers and hurdles you cannot ignore. So go find yourself a girl and get married; I have applied to move to Canada and decided to look for a female partner.”
Right now, I am in Beijing, the capital of China, doing my Master’s degree. Even though I have more words to say about the status quo in the sexual minority community of this beautiful metropolis, my blog has exceeded 500 words. I will continue to share my true stories and reflections about sexual minorities in this unique context and environment of China, a country with a capitalist economy but a conservative mind-set.