Coming Out, Going Home: Spatial Mobility Among the Gay College Students With Their Supportive Parents in Taiwan

Coming Out, Going Home: Spatial Mobility Among the Gay College Students With Their Supportive Parents in Taiwan

Hong-Chi Shiau
DOI: 10.4018/IJBIDE.2020010101
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Despite the historical centrality of Western cities as sites of queer cultural settlement, larger global economic and political forces have vociferously shaped, dispersed, and altered dreams of mobility for gay Taiwanese millennials in the age of globalization. While Taiwanese gay millennials follow a seemingly universal “rural-to-urban,” “East-to-West” movement trajectory, this study also explicates local nuanced ramifications running against the common trend. Drawn upon five-year ethnographic studies in Taiwan, this study examines how parents could to some extent conform to societal pressures by co-creating a life narrative to the society. Parents/family appear to contribute to how participants' decision on spatial movement but gay male millennials with supportive parents are eventually “going home.” However, the concept of home is configured by multiple economic and social forces involving (1) the optimal distance with the biological family and (2) the proper performances of consumption policed and imposed by the gay community in the neoliberal Taiwanese society.
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This article highlights the common threads of lived experiences of increased regional relocation and these recent trends among Taiwanese supportive families with gay college students, as these provide interesting insights into the processes of their identity negotiation and social embedding in the dynamic process of local, regional and global geographic reconfiguration. To take a transnational approach means paying deliberate attention to the material and immaterial interactions among sexuality, class and space. Through comparing the geographic im/mobility among Taiwanese and Western supportive families, I subsequently demonstrate the cultural specialties shape their identities. Studies concerning coming out in the nuclear family home, has tended to concentrate on negative emotions experienced by gay male millennials (Bryson, MacIntosh, Jordan & Lin, 2006; Lea, Wit & Reynolds, 2014). However, following a Constitutional Court ruling and a subsequent legislative act, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide on 24 May 2019 (Jennings, 5/24/2017). As witnessed on the daily life experiences, the public display of intimacy among young Taiwanese gay men in urban areas has been increasingly common, being ‘gay’ in Taiwan has been perceived as affluent consumers in the emerging pink economy (Jennings, 2017). Taipei has been transformed into probably the most gay-friendly city in Asia (Jennings 2017; Martin 2003, He 2006). Scholars analyzing queer movements in Taiwan have long focused on identity formation in the cyber-community, championing the cyberspace as what ‘liberates’ gay people and makes the formation of gay subjectivity tangible (Berry & Martin 2003; Chou, 2000). Accounts of queer subjectivity in Taiwan that also emphasize a hard-won sense of belonging have been prevalent in cyberspace (e.g. Lin, 2006). With the emergence of new media technologies, the gay civil rights movement in Taiwan has become closely affiliated with virtual communities, with alliances to facilitate social change being aggregated and mobilized online. Nevertheless, this social transformation and cultural change is a hard-earned process along the civil right movement. The Taiwanese society witnessed the malicious police raids on gay cruising grounds in 1997, on gay saunas in 1998, on lesbian pubs in 2002, and on gay home parties in 2004, all of which resulted in violations of their basic human rights among gay men in Taiwan, not to mention stigmatization of gay lifestyles and gay-oriented businesses (Ho, 2010).

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