Thursday, February 9, 2012

Asian Perception of LGBTQ

        While the LGBTQ community in America is quite diverse, different ethnicities in this community follow American conventions. In Martin Weber's Huffington Post article “Move over, Confucius!” from January 2012, he describes the LGBTQ roles that are common in China and analyzes how the Chinese culture specifically affects individuals who identify as LGBTQ. Using John D'Emilio's article about homosexuality in American society and Martin F. Manalasan IV's description of LGBTQ society in an Asian-American perspective, I analyze the differences of the race aspect of LGBTQ culture in China compared to that of America's and briefly compare historical factors that impact both LGBTQ societies.

       Weber (2012) begins with an anecdote of his personal love affair during his trip to China and discusses the discrepancy between American and Chinese LGBTQ norms. In Chinese culture, a gay man did not have the choice of living with a same-sex partner and “that his life would follow traditional Asian values, and that there was no question of living with a man.” For the Chinese, this is considered to be the way of life. Being gay is one's freedom of choice and expression; however, a man in Chinese culture has the responsibility to have children and a family- essentially embodying heterosexuality. Similarly to initial American contempt and disapproval of homosexuality, Chinese culture as a whole generally does not promote or even support homosexuality and the like. In his article, Emilio states, “rather than liberation, Americans who thought about homosexuality at all, including many gay men and women themselves, would have preferred elimination.” Today, American society has been increasingly more accepting of people who identify with the LGBTQ community, whereas before homosexuality was considered a form of disease. In China, homosexuality was also considered a disease but have become tolerant of LGBTQ individuals. According to Weber's (2012) column, gay men and women in China often have “broken links with their families.” This traumatic experience for those who do identify as homosexual usually leads them to living double lives, in which they engage in heterosexual practices of having a family with children yet also satisfy their desires that correspond with their true sexuality.

        Weber (2012) also mentions the idea of Confuscianism and the way it affects the lives of LGBTQ individuals who live in China. In American society, there are a variety of religions among our diverse culture, many of which don't support homosexuality as well. Anyone has the option to refuse a religion in America and entwine his or her own beliefs in his or her lives. However, Confuscianism in China has long played a huge role in the way Chinese society is structured. If the norm is considered to be heterosexuality among millions of people, then the so-called “odd ones out” in the LGBTQ community will face much criticism in a country such as China. Confuscianism itself strongly disapproves of homosexuality because the idea of offspring is greatly encouraged and is undoubtedly expected. In Martin F. Manalasan IV's article, he points out that “Asian American gay men['s] identity [is] regarded as a static given and ethnic identity [is constructed] as a polar opposite of gay identity.” Clearly, ethnic identity and gay identity can't be polar opposites since many Asian-Americans do incorporate their sexualities into both American and Asian cultures. Weber (2012) explains that in Confuscianism, “being gay is not considered an immoral choice but a refusal to participate in society.” This participation in society means extending generations by having children. In addition, many individuals can decide to ignore their homosexuality in order to “save face” and retain some pride in Chinese society.

        Based on the historical contexts and differences in American and Chinese cultures, it is clear that the level of acceptance of Asian LGBTQ individuals is affected by society's conventions. A person who identifies as LGBTQ may experience drastic differences in the way he or she is treated in America and in China. The Chinese race and the Chinese-American race anticipate distinctive social behaviors from its citizens within the LGBTQ community; more specifically, the Chinese are expected to participate in heterosexual reproduction, whereas Chinese-Americans can more freely express their love for a same-sex partner and never even have to consider the idea of children. Society is what we create, and we have the same power to change the way we believe.

By Judy Phung

Works Cited

John D’Emilo. “Homosexuality and American Society: An Overview” from Sexual

       Politics, Sexual, Communities in the United States 1940-1970. Chicago, Ill:

       University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Martin F. Manalasan IV. “Searching for Community: Filipino Gay Men from New York

       City”. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. Routledge Chapman Hall,


Weber, Marten. "Move Over, Confucius!" 30 January 2012. Web, 8 Feb 2012.  confucius_b_1240939.html


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I agree with your claim Judy on how you think the idea of how wrong sexuality is, it is highly affected by the context given to it by the larger society, which can be demonstrated by the differences in the expression of sexuality that differ from place to place. The oppression the LBGTQ community faces in the United States is both notable and concerning. However, in other cultures, there is more constraint that comes inherent to the traditional values of the particular culture. Therefore, while it is hard identifying LBGTQ here, it is even harder in other places. The individual rights granted by the constitution allow for the challenge of many of society’s conventions. Phenomenon such as the diversity of cultures and ethnicities in the United States allow for different sets of cultural diversity which at the same time prevent the development of a homogeneous society, like in the case of the Chinese. Therefore, there exist several different reasons as to why different societies see gender variance in different way, just as there is a difference concerning to what degree people can express these differences. Adrienne Rich states, “Heterosexuality has been a both forcibly and subliminally imposed on women” (Rich 195). Thus we must remember that women as well as men suffer from society expectations. Some societies in Eastern Europe as well as in the Western World are more open minded and accept the LBGTQ community into society, while the Chinese choose to marginalize them.

    Rich. Adrienne. “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence” from Professions of Desire: Lesbian and Gay Studies in Literatuire. Ed. George Haggerty and Bonnie Zimmermann. New York: Modern Language Association, 1995. pgs 177-205.

  3. Societal constructions of gender are different depending on where you are, which is apparent in Chinese and American traditions. While both not completely accepting of homosexuality, Chinese society is much more strict about sexuality than their other Asian counterparts. As stated in Martin F. Manalansan IV’s article, Filipino men differed from other Asian men because the Filipino community was much more tolerant of homosexuality. On the other hand, the Chinese community is not as open minded. Many Chinese families break contact with their family members if they decide to live a homosexual life that does not go with their heteronormative views. Procreation and having large families is much more important to people in the Chinese community rather than self-expression. Also stated in Manalasan’s article, cultural differences such as religion were significant in being accepted by your society. Confucianism in China disapproves of homosexuality, therefore many Chinese homosexuals hide their real identities and live double lives. Procreation is not an option for homosexuals, and this important factor is what contributes to the stigmatization of homosexuals in Asian communities. Chinese society, and the Asian community in general, emphasize the importance of family and adding future generations therefore homosexuality may be tolerated but never fully accepted.

    Manalasan IV, Martin F. "Searching for Community: Filipino Gay Men from New York City". GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies ed. Peter M Nardi and Beth Schnieder, 1998.