Sun, Dec 21, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Book explores gay identity dilemmas

COMING OUT The Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association has published a compilation of interviews of homosexual men and women and some parents of homosexuals

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

A dazzling silver earring in the shape of a cat dangled from the right ear of 25-year-old Wu Hsu-liang (巫緒梁), a clean-shaven baby-faced homosexual man -- who was brave enough to tell the story of his life as a gay man using his real name.

Wu, who found out about his sexual orientation when he was in junior high school, said he panicked when he first realized he liked men instead of women.

"I did not know what it was like being gay, and I read negative news reports and information about gays, making me feel that gays were either strange or bad people," Wu said.

"And it looked to me that there were no other gays around me. I did not know where to get acquainted with people like me. I did not know what to do," he said.

Wu said that his life improved in high school, when he finally had access to more resources.

"But I have no idea how my Mom found out I was gay," he said.

Wu said in his first year in college, one day a good woman friend called him and said that his mom had called her and asked questions. So he panicked.

"I originally planned to tell my family about my sexuality only after I graduated from college, but everything was pushed forward after the call," Wu said.

He went home during the Mid-Autumn Festival that year. He said he and his mom both sat silently in the living room for a long time, like the silence before the storm.

"I can't remember who started first, but both of us ended up crying and talking through our tears," he said.

Wu said his mom talked mostly of her worries about his health, the possibility of contracting HIV and society's discrimination against homosexuals. She also told him not to tell his father.

Wu and his father didn't confront the issue until sometime last year, when they had dinner alone. His father did not use the word "homosexual," and showed his frustration -- as well as some tolerance.

"I still don't know how my mom sees me as a gay man. Maybe she thinks life as a gay man is harder, but I think she is more concerned about me as an individual, and whether I can survive on my own," Wu said.

Wu's story was included in a new book, Dear Mom and Dad, I'm Gay (親愛的爸媽, 我是同志), which tells the stories of homosexual men and women and the parents of homosexuals.

The book was compiled by Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association (台灣同志諮詢熱線), the first homosexual group to have been officially registered as an organization with the Ministry of Interior.

Tongzhi (同志) means comrade and homosexual in Mandarin.

One of the women who spoke about her life in the book is Chen Yu-shin (陳鈺欣), who is about Wu's age and works as a teaching assistant at a university.

Chen pointed out that "tomboy" lesbians such as herself face a unique problem compared to other homosexuals.

"We are most afraid of losing our jobs and looking for a new job because we are very afraid of sticking our photos on our resumes," Chen said.

It is customary in Taiwan for employers to require job applicants to attach photos to their resumes.

Chen said employers might sense something was "wrong" by looking at the photo.

She said most tomboys she knew felt pained when looking for a job, and it was also difficult for them to integrate into a social network constructed on a basis of heterosexual dominance.

"Survival is still the most important issue for homosexuals," Chen said.

Most of the parents interviewed for the book, who recounted their struggles to accept their children's homosexuality, were mothers. Apparently many fathers are still too uncomfortable to discuss the subject.

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