Last night my mom and I went to a reception to celebrate the Republic of China (Taiwan) National Day. My mom gets invited to all sorts of events. We ran into a bunch of my mom’s friends, as well as the parents of some of my high school friends.
A big part of these events and seeing old friends is to talk about how great your children are. All parents like to brag about their kids, but in the Chinese culture, the family’s reputation is everything. Any shame (of any magnitude) is unmentioned to “save face.”
Here is a big example. My mom’s friends sometimes ask if she only has two sons, to which she replies yes. She makes no mention of the daughter (my sister) she had from her first marriage, because divorce is shameful. Clearly her good friends know better, but for more casual friends, she basically denies my sister’s existence.
One of my mom’s friends mentioned being a grandmother, and she asked whether my mom is a grandmother yet. When my mom said not yet, her friend turned to me and said “Give your mom the chance.” I shrugged and smiled awkwardly.
It’s events like the one last night that make me think about how I will only bring my family shame. Right now, I’m seen as a good son. I go with my mom to social functions (I have respect for my elders and fulfill my duties as a son), I got a masters (I’m “smart”), and I’m studying to be an actuary (a respectable profession since it makes a lot of money and requires some brains). Once people find out I’m gay, all of that means nothing. Not wanting to marry a woman and have (biological) children to carry on the family name and bloodline is beyond ordinary disgrace.
There are days when I accept who I am. I like boys, and I can’t imagine being straight. It just isn’t me. But then there are days when I really wish I wasn’t gay. On those days, the fact that I’m gay gives me immense guilt and fear. Inevitably, I will let my parents down by just being me.
My parents sometimes say that I’m free to do whatever makes me happy. I just hope that what makes me happy also makes them proud.