David

China | school program

TW: oppression

An exchange year in East Asia. It sounds like I've fought my way through tropical jungles or grueling city traffic with screeching market traders every day without a quiet minute. Who would have thought that I spent most of my days in the library with books on philosophy, or at my desk in class? Everyone changes during their exchange year, so now I do too. But have I really changed? It seems to me that instead, for the first time, I really spent time with myself and really got to know myself. I like music, but I don't play that well. I like doing sports, reading, writing. And I'm bisexual.
  
You don't see it right away, and I didn't suddenly come across it either. There was no triggering event. I read about it on the internet and at some point I realized, that's me. That applies to me. It didn't affect my exchange year. It wasn't until three years later that it became important again. In China, I was just a student and a guest child in my wonderful host family. Relationships between students are very secret. You should focus on learning; and most of the time they do. The government does not oppress people with non-heterosexual identities. The public is positive to indifferent, but in individual cases there is said to be intolerance. I haven't told anyone about this except a friend.
 
Although I didn't behave any differently than others, I was embarrassed. For example, physical contact between boys is quite normal (among girls as well). This may give foreigners the impression that they are "gay". Of course that's nonsense. But I can imagine how difficult it can be for a gay boy when he can't be open about it.
  
It can also happen that someone gets physical contact that he or she doesn't want at all. I don't mean a slap on the neck if someone listens to illegal music in class. But I was once in a situation where I felt pressured by someone. I was not afraid. But I had to stand up to an authority figure. I hope that no one finds themselves in a situation like this or worse, and perhaps not knowing that he or she has the absolute right to fight back. I always had a phone number with an AFS help desk, so I knew I was never alone if I needed help. If everyone has that, then nobody needs to be afraid of discovering their identity abroad!
  
Today I would no longer hide the fact that I am bisexual, even in China. I owe that to my friend. In some situations, especially when I'm not good at assessing them, I don't emphasize my sexuality either. I think that's very important and justified. Everyone is also allowed to leave their heterosexuality unstressed.


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