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Homophobic parents? ‘We all are, before we learn’

Homophobic parents? ‘We all are, before we learn’

Georgia Kuo thinks LGBT young people in Taiwan are in danger of being too insular and distancing themselves from their parents. She believes that if you give them time and education 80% of Taiwanese parents will accept their LGBT children.

Gay Star News asks her about her own experiences as a parent, societal changes in Taiwan, same-sex marriage and her advice for LGBT kids.

How did you get involved with Loving Parents of LGBT Taiwan?

My daughter came out at the age of 15, very young. It was a shock, but she’s always been a tomboy so I was already thinking she’s different from other girls. Her dad said, maybe she likes girls. It was still a shock but less than for parents of very feminine daughters perhaps.

She’s very happy. She has a girlfriend. She’s a little bit transgender, so in the bottom of her heart she really wants to become a boy or a man someday. So we’re really hoping and waiting for the new laws to pass so transgender girls don’t have to do the surgery to officially change their gender. She’s already got rid of the breast part but other more serious operations I really don’t approve of, because it’s really bad for the health. I don’t think it’s necessary. No one’s going to check!

Are parents becoming more accepting of their LGBT children in Taiwan?

Yes definitely. After going through a few different phases, my personal observation is that 80% of parents accept their children. It might take four or five years but afterwards they really understand.

At first the parents ask ‘why? Why my kid?’ We tell the parents it’s not the kid’s choice and that helps. They blame themselves, or blame the kids, or other kids or teachers or the environment, so we try to make them understand it’s a natural thing.

But 80 or 90% of LGBT kids don’t come out to their parents. They’re scared. They say ‘my parents are old-fashioned, stubborn, they won’t listen’. I encourage them to come out.

What do you say to kids who say to you, ‘I know my parents are very homophobic and strict and they won’t understand’?

We all are, before we learn. You have to maintain a good relationship with your parents. It’s really important. Then you will have a better home life. Even if you don’t come out yet, you can talk to them and they will listen to you more and respect you.

You know some LGBT kids just don’t talk to their parents anymore. They live in another city and only go home once a year for Chinese New Year. So it’s more difficult for the parents to understand, not just the sexual orientation, but why you are keeping the distance from them.

I think it’s pretty sad if you keep a distance from your parents just because you are gay. Parents are not that bad. But you have to let parents gradually understand what is happening with you.

What activities do Loving Parents of LGBT Taiwan do?

We’ve been running a workshop on how to come out to your parents. We help kids write letters. Writing something in black and white is very important so parents can read, not just talking and fighting. Maybe before you come out you write letters every week and emails. Then you will become close, then they will listen. Parents need to be appreciated.

I speak to a lot of parents and sometimes they just don’t have all the facts and the right information. So it takes time to get them to understand. Sometimes they believe small talk on the street, people saying ‘you should get a monk’ or go to a temple to change them.

When the children will keep the facts from the parents for so many years it’s very difficult for parents, especially if they think they’ve been lied to. Some kids pretend to be straight for a long time.

I heard yesterday that a lot of families reject their relatives when they hear they have HIV?

Yes, because they don’t understand. Most people don’t understand AIDS and HIV and what’s the difference and how contagious it is. They are scared.

Have you had any clashes with the government or other groups?

Last year there was a nasty thing. The ministry of education was going to put something in the textbooks for primary school age children and junior high school children about LGBT issues. There were protests from Christian groups saying ‘why are you trying to teach the LGBT things? they will make our children LGBT’.

Eventually it passed but we had to modify the textbook. There were public hearings and we talked to other parents saying ‘it’s not contagious, your child can’t catch LGBT’. They wouldn’t listen to the kids but they kind of respected parents a little bit more.

Is there homophobic bullying at school in Taiwan?

I don’t think so, because they don’t come out at school so other people don’t know. Teachers are getting better I think because of the education and the whole society is accepting LGBT kids more and more each day. But I think the kids’ attitude is still very closed, because they are young they cannot judge who I can trust, who to come out to. I really want those kids to have a happier, more open lifestyle.

Do you have fathers involved in the group as well as mothers?

Yes yes, people are biased and say ‘fathers cannot accept it’, but it’s not true. They just don’t want to come to the meetings that much. They think it’s a women’s thing – talking to each other and crying. But they accept it.

So do you support the campaign for same-sex marriage in Taiwan?

Sure sure, we want to do more for those kids. One thing I’ve noticed is that LGBT kids don’t understand marriage, because maybe when they’re young they think ‘oh marriage is for one man and one woman so it’s nothing to do with me’. They don’t understand what marriage stands for and don’t think about longterm relationships.

It would be really good for them if we legalized same-sex marriage. We want them to get married more than anyone else. That’s really our dream to have a family, to have children, even dogs is better than nothing.

They need marriage, the system, the law, everything. They have to change their attitude. We do that when we get married. For straight men and women too, if they don’t have a marriage system then relationships fall apart, maybe after three months, maybe after three years. Even though the divorce rate is really high, I think people really want to take marriage seriously.

I think if we have same-sex marriage everything will change, rapidly. I think we’ll have gay marriage in Taiwan very soon.

What advice do you give to young LGBT people in Taiwan?

I really think they should come out more to society, not just to parents, but parents are important, because your family life can really support you all the way, through anything. I think those kids eventually will understand what’s best for them.

Parents in Taiwan are pretty relaxed. They think if you want to have children, fine, but if you don’t, ok. We have a very low birth rate in Taiwan anyway. For a long time we’ve been having very very little children. So it’s not only LGBT people.

Society is changing rapidly. We don’t believe we have to have children to support us when we’re old. We notice, ah it’s a lot of time and money to raise children so forget it! So I don’t think there’s that much pressure on young people in Taiwan to have children, not like China. I don’t think LGBT kids can use that as an excuse not to come out to their parents.

LGBT kids have to accept themselves. I think they still have a lot of fear that other people won’t accept them, they will discriminate against them. But I don’t think so. They just fear it in their own head but I don’t think it’s that bad in reality.

What issues do LGBT kids in Taiwan have?

I used to talk to them and say, ‘I don’t think it’s really healthy to stay with your group of people, the LGBT community, 24 hours a day’. My daughter is really open about her sexual orientation so she doesn’t just spend time with LGBT groups. She doesn’t think it’s necessary because she realises that she needs to deal with the rest of society too.

It’s not necessary to just stay with your own kind all the time because you get too reliant on each other and then they think they can’t socialise with straight society. They say ‘they don’t understand us’, but maybe the problem is you spend too much time with your own kind. So you don’t let the rest of society understand you. I think that’s the biggest problem in Taiwan.

I meet straight people who say ‘I’m very friendly, I’m open-minded but I can’t find anybody in my whole community who is LGBT because they don’t come out to me’.

So there’s not much homophobia in Taiwan?

No I really don’t think people are that homophobic in Taiwan now. When I was young, I am 57 years old, society was very closed-minded and prejudiced. We didn’t like people getting divorced. Parents would think it was really losing face ‘I cannot let my peers know my child has got divorced’ or having a pre-marital kid – it was a huge thing, people could get killed. But nowadays people accept it. And they accept marriages between aboriginal Taiwan people and Han Chinese people. I don’t believe sexual orientation will be a huge problem for people to accept. There’s no reason.

Just a very small amount of Christian groups are against gay people – but it’s a very small percentage. Only 3% of people in Taiwan are Christian, and only a small amount of them are against gay people. They can’t to that much damage!

Other people just don’t understand. They can be kind of stupid but I don’t believe they intend to do bad. Once they are educated they are ok.

I’m really optimistic. I think in three or four yeas this organization will not be necessary. Like we used to have support groups for divorced women, but it’s not necessary anymore because they are accepted in society.