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Arthur Tam chats to a mum who struggled to come to terms with having a gay son – but now helps other parents do the same

On some level, all parents have an intuition about their child’s sexuality. But many parents, particularly in Hong Kong, would rather avoid bringing up the topic for fear of the worst – that their child is in fact gay or lesbian. But for those who do find out the truth – by asking, or discovering through unauthorised bedroom searches or online history checks – there’s an initial shock of disappointment and then abject worry.

The subject of the shocked parent is described in author So Mei-chi’s latest book, Our Gay Kids. In this hearty read, So profiles around 25 parents who are part of a support group organised by The Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association of Hong Kong. Ann Siu and her son Joseph Cho are just one of the mother and son pairs. Siu participates in the group to listen to other parents as well as shed light on how she eventually came to accept her son’s sexuality, hoping that new members can do the same.

“I always had a feeling,” says Sui, remembering how Joseph was especially friendly with his male friends in his school days. She decided to confront her son and hoped it wasn’t what she suspected. She dreaded her son being homosexual. However, her fears were soon proved true. And her initial reaction wasn’t good. “I was a bit disappointed because I had such high hopes,” she tells us. “I thought he would date, go to college, marry and have kids like everyone else. I became so disorientated by the news.”

Immediate acceptance is difficult for some parents and emotions can be overwhelming, as author So explains: “For a generation that has little knowledge or exposure to homosexuality, the whole concept can be scary. It conjures up fears about HIV and a life filled with hardship, stigma and discrimination.” This very much coincides with what Siu was feeling when she found out her son was gay. After her initial disappointment, she developed deep-rooted feelings which stemmed from uncertainty. She worried that others would think her son was ‘perverted or deranged’, or would think he had HIV. “Who is he going to meet online?” she asked herself. “Was I supposed to do something?” she adds. “He came out of his closet and I was trying to come out of mine too.”

After a process that spanned three years, Siu finally accepted her son’s sexuality. “He introduced me to his boyfriend at the time and I thought he did well for himself,” she says. “Once we were in better communication with each other, I started to feel relieved.” According to So, ‘if you love your parents, you also have to consider their feelings’. “Most parents just want their kids to be happy and healthy,” she says, “but parents and children have to discover their own way of working towards mutual acceptance.”

Nowadays, Siu is on the support side of the group, helping to give advice to new members. She remembers Mr Cheung, a father who Siu describes as a ‘man’s man who I never expected to see cry’. Many parents can be upset and angry initially, she says – especially a traditional man expecting his son to marry and have kids. But the miraculous thing, she claims, is how Mr Cheung did ‘a complete 180’. “His son made the effort to open up his life and introduce his father to his boyfriend and now all three of them get along. But it took time.” Mr Cheung worried for a long time about telling his own mother if she could accept a gay grandson, says Siu. But apparently she said, at the time, not to be ‘so close-minded’.

Siu helps group members alleviate their concerns of being parents to homosexual children. “Whether or not I can help is one thing,” she says, “but it’s better to let it out than keep it trapped inside. We let out all of our worries. We talk about our own worries, our worries about how people see us and how people will view our kids.” Besides Siu, there are social workers who facilitate discussions and expert guest speakers who answer questions from the group. And for those parents who might feel anxious about joining the team: “Everyone is supportive and no-one judges. Often new members are surprised that everyone is so open.” Pleasantly surprised, we hope.

Our Gay Kids (我們的同志孩子) is available at jointpublishing.com, priced at $108. To contact the support group, go to newtouch.net

 

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