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Have they really come out: gay men and their parents in Taiwan

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In Chinese culture, filial piety for a son is closely linked to his capacity to produce an heir to ensure continuity of the paternal line. For Taiwanese gay men, coming out as gay may be interpreted as a refusal to produce a male heir and thus constitutes a major conflict within their family. This study explores how gay men in Taiwan come out to their parents within this cultural context. Thirty-two men in total were interviewed. Findings demonstrate that the decision to come out was often motivated by the son's perception of his parents' attitude towards homosexuality. Respondents worked hard to prepare for coming out and to minimize the risk and the impacts of the process, their report shows that some parents go through their own process of coming out and/or hiding in the closet after their gay son's coming out. Although many parents still see homosexuality as illness, some adopt alternative discourses to reinterpret the meaning of being gay as a spiritual path to eternal enlightenment or friendship. These findings imply sites of resistance to the privileged discourse of filial piety in constituting the experiences of coming out for Taiwanese gay men and their parents.
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Keywords: Taiwan; cultural practices; gay men; parents; self-identification; stigma

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: National Yang Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan 2: National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan 3: University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada

Publication date: 01 April 2009

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