This week’s post will be a bit of a tangent as I couldn’t force my mind far from today’s happenings.
Today was too beautiful for a funeral. It was the first day of Spring and despite the chilly weather hovering around 0°c, the skies were clear. A good person died and the world had the audacity to carry on.
I found out through Facebook a week ago that my friend’s mother had passed away. We grew up playing and competing in badminton together and our families were friends, so I knew her mother – she was one of the nicer ones, not prone to catty gossip or one to have ill intentions (badminton moms are worse than soccer moms, I assure you). Her daughter and I had a falling out (it’s complicated) so we hadn’t talked in years, but we had each other on Facebook and I was shocked to see the sudden news. I had just came back from a Honne concert and genuinely wondered “Am I still drunk…?”.I Whatsapped my mother that night, and I heard from my brother that she couldn’t sleep the entire night.
Her departure left me in a numb shock, but finding out that she had been suffering from depression and succumbed to suicide floored me. My heart sank – did I miss the signs? She was always such a happy person… Did I foolishly buy into that guise? Should I have been more observant? My mother forwarded me details for her funeral and I knew I had to say my goodbyes.
I had never seen a visitation room so full before – every seat was taken, and latecomers waited patiently in the back as Buddhist monks sang. Her entire family was loved, and no doubt she would be missed sorely. I couldn’t help but wonder what my funeral would look like. Would it be as full? Nobody would know each other…
Her daughter sped through her eulogy, breaking through tears in fear her emotions would catch up to her. She made a brief reference to her mother’s “illness” and how she was in a better place now. I’ve written in previous posts about how Chinese people don’t like talking about feelings or emotions, and absolutely not any sort of ‘illness’. This lack of disclosure traces back to bringing shame to the family – completely irrational and harmful shame. Nobody openly talks about depression, thereby perpetuating the stigma of having it. Perhaps if
Chinese people Asians were more susceptible to dialogue it would be easier to not only get help from doctors, but your social support circle would also be stronger.
Bringing it home, it’s more or less the same with sexuality. The most prominent LGBT Chinese adult I know happens to be someone I despise (unfortunately)*. She was an old badminton coach of mine who was extremely manipulative for her own gain and caused so much emotional grief and internal conflict for the kids she coached. Details aside, she was a lesbian (very butch) and people ‘knew’ she was in a relationship with another coach (since passed away from cancer). I put it in quotation marks because nobody talked about it, and if they did, it was hushed or in the privacy of their own homes. They weren’t married nor openly affectionate, but it was ‘known’. I recall my mother talking about it years ago, that they were “probably lesbians, but nobody really cares”… and that was the end of that discussion.
* Come to think of it, I don’t really personally know any happily married homosexual Asian couples… and it’s a very disappointing realization.
Sure there seems to be tolerance, but it’s looked down upon. The jabs are subtle, but sharp, akin to “yup, she’s a doctor, but she’s a lesbian” or “He’s so handsome, it’s a shame he’s gay“. People my age are supportive of LGBT rights at its most basic (i.e. “sure, let them get married, I don’t care”), but they will carelessly throw around homophobic slurs like “that’s so gay” or “stop being so gay”. And I don’t count that as open dialogue – the opposite, in fact.
Trans people? Interestingly, cisgendered girls who like dressing in more traditionally male-oriented clothing are very well-liked and often have strong social circles, although they don’t go so far as to identify as male. But the opposite is true for trans women. Tragically, they continue to be the punchline on timeless household TV game shows (i.e. men have to wear makeup and wear a dress as a joke). Like how y’all white folks have Jeopardy, we have transphobic and homophobic game shows. Progress is much slower for the T.
p.s. I’m committed to crafting a post every Sunday from now on. Allowing myself some flexibility (aka knowing myself), these posts will probably pop up on the Monday. Fighting commitment issues one blog post at a time!