A dazzling silver earring in the shape of a cat dangled from the right ear of 25-year-old Wu Hsu-liang (
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 (
The book was compiled by Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association (
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.
"I am really happy to see the publication of the book. It offers a starting point for homosexual children and their parents to learn more about the lives of families with homosexual members," Wu said.
The Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association was established in June 1998, after a series of attempted suicides in 1997 and 1998.
"We are mainly helping teenage gays and lesbians because they are the ones with the least resources," said Wu, head of the hotline's culture and information department.
Wu said that after the hotline had been in existence for a time and had received some publicity, it started to receive calls asking for help from parents of homosexuals.
Last year the hotline received around 800 calls, and in the first half of this year it received more than 400 calls.
The hotline mainly offers counseling about identity issues and other difficulties faced by homosexuals.
It also provides information about the homosexual community at www.hotline.org.tw, with links to a support network of groups and other resources.
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