I have been feeling down

I have been feeling down all day, uninspired and mentally sterile. In search of inspiration, I rummaged through my old documents where I rediscovered an “essay” (or something like that) that brought back a flood of memories. I wrote it nearly a year ago when I was still living in Hong Kong. I realize it is similar to my recent post on the plight of China’s gays, but there are marked differences.

I have no idea why I write things like this, which then linger, cobwebbed and ignored, on my hard drive, but it’s definitely compulsive. Now that I’m actively blogging I may, from time to time, drop some of these carbon-dated gems onto this site. Here goes, unedited and unchanged:

Gay in HK: The Agony and the Ecstasy

This is a difficult essay for me to write and I had a lot of concerns about it. Finally, I decided to go ahead with it (obviously), mainly because I have such strong feelings on this subject.

Hong Kong’s is a conservative culture. I met a young man recently who told me his father threw him out of the house at the age of 16 upon learning he was gay. No, that’s not typical. Most parents here do not know, nor do they want to know, if their children are homosexual. Hong Kong families follow a strict “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, even if the parents have recognised that their son never goes out with girls and spends his free time writing poetry instead of playing football. There is no gay rights movement here and no Gay Pride Festival. It’s not a matter of intolerance or closed-mindedness. It’s just that such things would make the people here uncomfortable — the gays and the straights. It is just not part of the cultural landscape. The gays here would not understand why on earth they should cause such “unnecessary disharmony” by letting those around them know their sexuality. That is something you do only at night, in the gay hangouts.

One thing I enjoyed about living and working in New York City was the spirit of sexual toleration. Lots of people were “out” at work and no one minded. Here in Hong Kong, most gays (virtually all I’ve met, including myself) feel they have to live behind a front, and I am finding it uncomfortable and, on occasion, painful. For example: I’ve become friends with a classical music lover who is as fanatical as I am about Wagner, and we’ve gotten into the habit of meeting for lunch on Sundays at CitySuper [a huge eatery at HK’s Times Square]. Hong Kong is a notoriously small place, a village really, and inevitably one of my colleagues bumped into us there one Sunday. Automatically, before I could even think about it, I was making up a story about how this guy is teaching me Chinese and we meet at CitySuper because it is so centrally located. I made up a lie (and a pretty lame one at that) because I feared my colleague would wonder what I was doing alone with another guy. I felt sick, but it was a reflex action — so strong is the “hide your sexuality mentality” that it caused me to lie when, in retrospect, I didn’t even have to. Why didn’t I just say, “This is my friend, and we met for lunch to talk about music.” But it s easy to become paranoid in HK and as I said, the lie was more of an instinctive reaction than a reasoned calculation.

Oh, well. I’m sure it’s much worse in Beijing and other places [I certainly got to discover that for myself!]. It’s just such a shame that people anywhere have to live a secret life and make up lies to perpetuate the disguise. It adds a level of stress and tension that are definitely unhealthy. Still, I realise this is part of the culture and I respect that.

Before I moved here, I was working in one of the most conservative states in America. Still, a young lady at my company kept a photograph of her and her lesbian lover prominently displayed on her desk. I always thought that was wonderful. And I was so happy that the people in my office also thought it was great that she could be so open and proud of her relationship. Of course, it was a high-tech company and most of the people there were 20-somethings, and they were a lot more open-minded than the generation before theirs. Is it that way in Hong Kong, too? Could I put a photo of my lover and me on my desk here, where the staff is also young, and be admired for it? I doubt it, and I’m not in the mood to experiment — as I said, I respect the culture here and would not attempt to change it or criticise it. I am very close friends with some of the people who work with me, and I wish so much that I could read their minds and know how they would react If I told them my secret. These relationships are all incomplete, based on a deception, and therefore they are never fully satisfying.

So I am always on my guard, always cautious about every aspect of my private life. I am always looking over my shoulder, no matter where I am. It’s just a minor heartache that I’ve got to live with. There are many joys in the gay world of Hong Kong, and some pain as well. When it comes to pain, perhaps this aspect — the obligatory double life — is the most painful.

The Discussion: No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.