BABEL Magazine issue #1
23°01’N × 113°44’E | by Rose Dekker
“I came out to my parents almost two years ago. We haven’t had a very good relationship since then. They think it’s against God’s will. I went home during the Mid-Autumn Festival, and we had a really big fight. My dad told me that if I am not going to change my lifestyle, then that’s the end. My mom shouted at me and said: ‘How can you face God?’”
Jane Hu grew up in Dongguan, Guangdong province, with her parents, her younger brother, and her sister. Born to two Catholic parents, religion has always been a big part of her life. “When I was in primary school, we went to church every Saturday and Sunday, but other kids in my class didn’t. I didn’t want them to know about it, because I was afraid they would ask me questions and think I’m different. But when I was a teenager, my thoughts started to change. You think you’re different and you’re more special.”
Jane didn’t talk about her religion with anyone in high school until she saw one of her best friends wearing a crucifix necklace. She asked her about it, and it turned out the girl was also Christian. From then on, they often went to church together.
When Jane was fifteen, she decided she wanted to be more independent. Her mother rented a room for her in the same city. “When you’re fifteen, it’s an amazing time to live alone. You have your own place without your parents, you can sleep whenever you want to sleep. You can go out. You can decide not to come home. During that time, I went out a lot. I had a very nice time. The best time of my life, I guess.”
Despite not living with her parents, Jane still went to church.
“My mom is very religious. When something happened, she would say, ‘Jesus arranged this.’ This is very weird for me to hear. I could take it if you would say it’s destiny, but when you say somebody, or some god, arranged this thing for you, it sounds very limiting. In university, I started to have my own thoughts about what religion is. I remember I had a big fight with my mom about whether Jesus really existed or not. By that time, I did have religious beliefs inside of me, but I didn’t think about whether it was this god or another god. But I did believe there is something out there.”
As part of university, Jane studied abroad in Indonesia, where she went to church more frequently. “I think it was because I was alone and in a different country. Whenever I enter a church, it gives me a sudden kind of peace. I can just sit and think about things very peacefully. It’s a safe place for me to go.”
Jane met her girlfriend, Ana, in Indonesia. They decided to move to China together. “The first thing I did when we went to China together was to bring her to my hometown. My parents do not speak English, so I was basically translating everything. It was very awkward. My mom asked me, ‘Who is she?’ I told her, ‘She’s my friend’. By that time, my sister already knew that Ana was my girlfriend, but nobody told my parents. We decided not to, because we were having a hard time at the time, and we felt like it was not a good idea.”
Jane did not tell her parents about her relationship with Ana for two years. “People kept introducing me to boys and boys and boys. I told them that I didn’t want a relationship, that I wanted to focus on my career. I thought of millions of reasons to make them stop bothering me.”
Even though she hadn’t told her mom, Jane suspected her mom already knew about her girlfriend. “Sometimes when my mom saw the news, she would tell me, ‘You know, there are gay people — actually quite many in Shenzhen.’ And I would think, “Why would she tell me this? Maybe she knows already?” It was very weird, but I was very happy, because I thought maybe she was OK with it, maybe she wanted me to tell her.”
Jane tried to come out to her mom twice. “I said, ‘Can I ask you something? What if, just what if, I’m a lesbian?’ My mom replied, ‘Come on! Are you kidding?’ Then we started talking about something else. That was the first time. I was so scared to tell her, but she didn’t take it very seriously, because I was young. The second time was the time she told me about the news. Then I asked her, ‘What if one of your daughters is gay?’ She said, ‘I would kill any one of you if you were gay.’ She was laughing when she was saying this.”
After being in a relationship with Ana for two years, Jane’s mom started calling. “‘Why don’t you want to have a relationship? How come you don’t have a boyfriend? Why, tell me why?’ She was pushing me and pushing me. I was so tired of making up excuses. So I told her, ‘I have a girlfriend.’ And she said, ‘What? A girlfriend?’ And I said, ‘Yes, a girlfriend. Ana is my girlfriend.’ She couldn’t understand what I was saying: ‘What are you talking about?’ She was processing it, and I said, ‘Yes, mom, a girlfriend. I’m a lesbian.’”
“I didn’t talk to her for a month, maybe two. When she called me, I didn’t answer, because I didn’t want to see her face, and I didn’t want to talk about it. Actually, I regretted telling her under these circumstances. I had planned it so well: I wanted to educate my mom step by step, so she could be more open-minded about it. I was going to give her books and videos and everything. But then I just couldn’t take it anymore, and told her.”
“My dad started to text me. He wanted to know about my life. My mom didn’t tell him what I had told her.
Jane did not have a close relationship with her father, so she was very surprised with his sudden interest in her. “And then once, he yelled at me: ‘I just want to know your life! I just want to get to know you! I know we don’t have a very good relationship!’ He said this in a very harsh way. We are very similar in our temper, our character, so I answered him, ‘Oh, you really want to know my life? Then I have something to tell you.’ And then I told him that I had a girlfriend.
“He deleted me. He didn’t reply anymore. When I texted him, ‘How are you?’, I couldn’t send the message.
“Then, one early morning at 4am, he sent me voice messages, maybe five, of 60 seconds each. He told me that it is wrong, and that if I cherish our relationship, I shouldn’t do this. That I should break up with my girlfriend, go home, and that he would pretend nothing had happened. I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t say anything. I knew at that time that nothing I said could change what he thought. Even now, whenever I see him face to face, he tells me exactly the same thing.”
“My brother and sister are fine. We have a good relationship. They knew that I was in a relationship with Ana before my parents knew. They were very supportive. They told me, ‘It’s your life, it’s fine. You should grab your chances, and if this is you and this is how you want to live, that’s it. No one should tell you how to live.’
“Nobody else knows in my family. Every time, when people ask how old I am – I’m 26 – they think ‘Oh my God, so old, and she doesn’t even have a boyfriend!’ It’s not their business, but they care a lot.”
Jane’s parents’ disapproval goes beyond religious reasons. Where she comes from, people care a lot about “face” and reputation. “In the beginning of this fight, I said very straightforwardly to my parents, ‘I know, you just care about face, so you don’t have to tell anybody. It’s my life, not yours. If anybody asks me, I will not tell them if you don’t want me to.”
But there were other concerns.
“Both my mom and dad thought that in this kind of relationship I cannot have a baby. It’s very important for them to have a child who can take care of them in the future. They also said I cannot get married in China. Those were the two main reasons they were telling me, so I told them I can get married somewhere else, and I can have babies. They have different views. They are from a different generation. They think that this kind of lifestyle does not guarantee your future. But even in an “ordinary” relationship, you could get divorced.
“They think I will not be happy, that people around me will judge me because of this. They don’t want me to live a miserable life. I told them that the people around me are fine, that the times are changing and people can accept this.
“I always told my parents they can take as much time as they want. I told them I don’t want them to understand my lifestyle; I just want them to accept who I am, and the way that I want to spend the rest of my life. They just couldn’t take it.
“My mom is getting a little bit better. Sometimes, she asks about Ana. It’s very interesting, she can be yelling at me about that topic and then the next thing she asks is, ‘How is she?’
“Before I went home for the Mid-Autumn Festival, I thought that things would go better. But then we had this big fight. My mom was crying and throwing things on the floor. She was saying, ‘You don’t deserve to be judged by these people.’ I was crying when she said this.”
“I do pray before I sleep, every night. I pray when I have bad things happening in my life. I do seek help from Jesus. I do talk to Jesus and think he’s listening. And when I travel, I do the same thing my mom did when we were younger — I pray. It’s a quite complicated situation, I think. I cannot say I completely dedicate myself to religion, but I also cannot say I don’t believe.
“Sometimes, when my mom can’t fight me, she brings up things form the Bible. ‘God doesn’t accept gay people; gay people are sinners.’ She would take out the Bible, and read the verses to me. She told me that God would not accept this, and it is against God’s will.
“Once I talked about my sexuality during confession in church. I told the father that I’m a girl (in case he couldn’t hear it) and that I have a girlfriend. He asked me, ‘Why did you decide to tell me now?’ The next question was, ‘Do you think God would approve your lifestyle?’ He asked me several more questions, but he didn’t tell me what he thought about it, or what I should do. He said he didn’t need my answers, because he wanted me to answer them for myself. Then he said that God loves who we are. So for Him, it’s not a big deal, which is something I also believe in. And I want to live my life this way. There’s nothing wrong about that, and I don’t need to change it.”