“One Man’s Search for Acceptance”

A Community-Submitted Story
Told by Tony Chen

“Only by speaking out can we create lasting change. And that change begins with coming out.”
― DaShanne Stokes

Michael Lu is a double minority. As a gay Chinese man in the United States, Lu has not found full acceptance in China or in the US.

His life story, however, shows that no template exists for coming out, being a man or finding love.

Lu was born in the late 1980s* in Anhui Province, China, which has a population of 61.95 million people.

Despite having such a large population, Lu said, “Everybody knows everybody. They may ask about your personal life and then say they just care about you or want you to do well in your life.”

During his adolescence, Lu rarely dated. He was not attracted to women or men and his sexual education was limited.

For example, Lu never heard the terms “homosexual” or “gay” until 2003, his first year in college. Lu began to search for LGBT-related information on the internet, though he was not sexually interested in men until 21.

Anhui and Jiangsu Province

The population of Anhui Province is comparable to that of Italy.

“I didn’t feel shame or undignified. I went to a couple gay events, made some friends, and just lived life as usual,” Lu said.

In 2010, Lu came to the United States to pursue a doctoral degree in Computer Science in Tennessee.

While trying to expand his personal network in Tennessee, Lu discovered China Rainbow Network, a nonprofit organization that primarily helps members of the Chinese LGBT community in North America.

In 2012 in Atlanta, GA, Lu met his future husband Bingbing** during a speed-dating session.

“When I laid my eyes on Bingbing, I knew it was him that I want to be with,” Lu said. “I asked for his number and asked him out on a date.”

After the weekend-long event, Lu returned to Tennessee and Bingbing to Madison, Wisconsin, where he was an Industrial Engineering Ph.D. candidate.

Three years later, Lu accepted a new position with a technology company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Lu’s mother visited for four months, helping Lu move in.

One afternoon, Lu and his mother were watching an episode of the Chinese web-based talk show Qi Pa Shuo, in which the actors discuss homosexuality, leading Lu and his mother to discuss the topic as well.

“She said she knew about ‘these kind of people’ and could accept them,” Lu said. “But she also mentioned that gay people cannot produce offspring,” which holds great significance in Chinese culture.

When Lu was in the US, his mother, who still lived in China, often asked about his dating life. At first, he told her that he was dating a girl but never introduced them.

“I described Bingbing as my girlfriend. My mom asked if my girlfriend and I were having fertility issues. I rebuffed,” Lu said.

Then she asked if Lu’s girlfriend was a boyfriend.

He said, “Yes.”

When Lu finally showed his mother a picture of Bingbing, she laughed, realizing that Lu had previously introduced him as a friend.

China Rainbow Network

According to its website, CRN aims to build a better community among Chinese LGBT living in North America. To achieve this, it provides services such as consulting, advocating, increasing community influence and social networking.

The entire CRN website is in Chinese. As of now, only the homepage can be translated into English. Past that, any of the network’s resources or events pages are only accessible in Chinese.

Further, despite having more than 5000 followers in North America, China Rainbow Network is not listed as one of the 73 users of the acronym CRN.

This translation barrier, alongside a lack of reporting by English-printed and English-speaking media outlets, makes self-education about Chinese LGBT for the non-Chinese speaking audience nearly impossible.

On Sept. 2, 2015, during a trip to Chicago, Illinois, Lu proposed to Bingbing in front of his mother. The US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide earlier that year. The couple married on Sept. 4, as soon as the marriage license was approved.

The couple lasted through four years of long distance, finally moving in together in 2016 when Lu accepted a new job at a tech company in Pittsburgh and Bingbing moved in with him.

Although he came out to his mother, he never had the chance to tell his father. His father moved to the Zhujiang Triangle Area when Lu was 6 to better provide financially for the family. Until Lu was 18, the two reunited only annually during Chinese New Year.

His father finally returned home before Lu went off to college. Unfortunately, his father was not home for long. He died three months later, after receiving a diagnosis of late stage liver cancer.

“I really admired my dad,” Lu said. “He was a gentle and calm person. He talked slowly, never shouted or belted, did not care for sports, and did not drink or smoke.”

For Lu, being unable to tell his dad about such an integral part of his life is a difficult situation to describe.

“I know he loves me, so it isn’t regret. We just didn’t get to spend a lot of time together,”

While in China and before coming out to his mother, Lu came out to his friends. To his surprise, his childhood friends supported his coming out, and their friendships continue today.

“We grew up together in a city about 1 million people. In China, that is considered a small city, especially compared with Beijing and Shanghai. When my friends said they were cool with it, it actually amazed me,” he said

Not all are fortunate like Lu. “One of my friends came out to his best friend in middle school, and his best friend decided he was sick, needed help, and simply couldn’t be friends any longer.”

Despite receiving positive acceptance from his family and friends, Lu has not yet come out to his coworkers.

“In China, we don’t come out to our coworkers, mainly due to fear of alienation and mistrust. So, I just don’t feel obligated to come out to my colleagues here,” he said.

“In China, we don’t come out to our coworkers, mainly due to fear of alienation and mistrust. So, I just don’t feel obligated to come out to my colleagues here.”

*Lu asked for privacy regarding this detail.

**Alias for Lu’s husband per Lu’s request.

Story Credits

Writer: Tony Chen

Editor: Rebecca Peters 
Photographer & Web Producer: Madeline Quasebarth

Disclaimer: the narrative expressed in the article is solely those of the author(s).
However, 
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