Dudu, a young, gay, Chinese man, shares his story on coming out in China and finding himself in Limerick.
In a small Chinese city 8,500 kilometers away from Ireland, a middle school boy discovered that he liked the same sex. It was 2010. At that time, much of the world still held an ambiguous and evasive attitude toward the topic of homosexuality.
Dudu, a young man from a coastal city in China, is now pursuing a master’s degree in modern dance at the University of Limerick.
“I didn’t even know there was a term for homosexuality. I only knew that I liked boys, and I was very scared or, I should say, averse to female organs. I didn’t dislike girls, but I really felt physically uncomfortable with those feelings.”
This isn’t surprising. It wasn’t until 2020 that the government legislated for gender equality education to be implemented from primary to junior high school. Many people only then realised that boys liking boys was called homosexuality, and there were different categories under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella.
“Although I didn’t fully understand it at the time, it seems like I’ve always had very stereotypically ‘gay’ characteristics. For example, I liked playing with girls, I liked tidying up and dressing well. So even though I didn’t come out to my friends at the very beginning, everyone just assumed I liked boys. There was no malicious attack on me, everything happened naturally. I’ve experienced bullying in school, but I don’t think it was because of my sexual orientation; maybe it was just because my personality didn’t quite fit in with the group.”
Dudu’s life in Limerick has provided him with a whole fresh viewpoint. He has noticed that mainstream culture in Ireland has a relaxed and supportive attitude towards the LGBTQIA+ population, and no one avoids talking about it.
In China, however, the LGBTQIA+ population is viewed as a specialised group, similar to the elephant in the room, which everyone is aware of – but avoids addressing.
“I found another interesting thing: girls tend to be more inclined to be friends with gay guys,” Dudu commented. “This is especially noticeable in China, possibly because women are naturally more empathetic and kinder. They can sense that your group is not widely accepted in mainstream society, so they are willing to support and embrace you. Most of my friends in China are female. However, in Limerick, this distinction is not as apparent. Perhaps it’s because, in here, LGBTQI+ is not as specialised.”
Unfortunately, the disparity between reality and the internet is a frequent issue that Dudu brings up: “I often come across various LGBTQIA+ events on social media, but I can’t find any such organisations in real life. Perhaps it’s because these organisations’ advertising is not effective? I really want to participate in Pride events, but I don’t know where to get information. There’s a sense of disconnect.”
Another obstacle Dudu encounters is his desire to have a family. Dudu may assume he needs children and a family because of conventional cultural conventions. He thinks that by doing so, he will be able to show his presence in this world. It is, however, difficult.
“At UL, I met an amazing guy from Brazil. But we both realised at the start of our relationship that we didn’t have a future. We come from diverse nations and have different work goals and desires. Our destiny is to split ways.” After a little silence, Dudu remarked: “Perhaps it’s because the love wasn’t deep enough, or else I might have been willing to give up my future for him.”