Chiara

China 2018/19 | school program

First of all, I don't want to devalue or show anyone in my story. I'm just telling you how I perceived the topic of "queer" in my host country.
 
I traveled with a very biased attitude towards being queer in my host country, China. Because we all know that China is considered a very conservative country. However, I didn't want to be slandered or intimidated by the values I hold, including supporting the LGBTQ community. So I wrote it directly in the letter to my future host family. At that point I didn't know who it would be. I mentioned in the letter that I support the LGBTQ community and expected that it would either not be understood or that I would have less of a chance of finding a host family as a result. However, a few weeks before my departure, I also received the details of my host family. I made some contact with them before I left, but my comment in the letter was not brought to my attention. I thought it was because they either accepted it, didn't understand it, or simply because it's not in Chinese culture to address such sensitive issues head-on.
 
A little time passed in my host country, I spent my stay with my wonderful host family: my host parents, host sister, host grandparents, uncle and aunt, cousin and our dog, 豆豆 (dòudòu). My host mother always talked to me a lot and started the conversation, even if my Chinese wasn't that good. At some point in the evening we were in my room together and she asked me what I had written in my letter to her at the time. She asked me if I remembered it and obviously wanted to give her opinion on it. To be honest I was a little intimidated by her, the Chinese culture and what was to come. I couldn't tell how she would feel about it. Up to this point she had struck me as a very open, warm-hearted woman and I thought a lot of her. So when I finally understood what she was trying to tell me I didn't give a definite answer and and she told me quite frankly that as a mother she doesn't do anything like that (that is, being part of the LGBTQ community) with her own child could accept that no Chinese parents could. At first, that really overwhelmed me. I didn't know if I could allow myself to say "something wrong", I didn't even know what was wrong to say and what wasn't (also culture wise). So I didn't continue the conversation or encourage a discussion.

That was one of the most formative experiences I had on this subject during my stay in China and which I can still clearly remember up to this point. It's a shame it's not an uplifting and joyful tale, but it's realistic. Other rather smaller encounters that I had during my year abroad on the subject of "queer" and "being queer" were surprising and positive, among other things. After my host mother told me something like that, I didn't expect that she could accept it and find it nice in other parts of her life. For example, when she came home from shopping, she said that she had seen a (probably) transsexual woman or a drag queen and that she thought her appearance and make-up were very beautiful. We also watched a TV show together that featured Chinese stars. She openly told me that one of the characters on the show was the most famous transsexual star in China and everyone knew her.
 
But I felt most comfortable with the other exchange students. In my experience, almost everyone in our generation no longer sees any reason to discriminate against someone because of their sexuality. Rather, it has become a side piece of information that you give others at some point to explain why you z. B. Talking about a girl in a romantic way.
 
I hope you enjoyed the little insight into my life and my experiences that I had in China back then 🙂 Thank you for reading! <3


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