Students Heading to Asia
Six Comments from CET Academic Programs (www.cetacademicprograms.com)
CET is a study abroad organization that has been sending
students to China,
Japan, and Vietnam
since 1982. Our shared experience (mostly in China)
has led to the following six general comments. We encourage you to share these
comments with your students!
is a huge region that defies generalities. Local laws, norms, and
views of GLBT students vary widely by country and even by region, so
students should seek out resources specifically related to their
destination. A student living in China
should understand that acceptance levels in Shanghai
are very different than acceptance levels in Harbin,
- In general, Asian culture values “the
group” over “the individual,” so there is an emphasis on conformity.
Asian people who consciously present themselves as “different” (including
GLBT people) often cause confusion and are sometimes ostracized. The Asian
emphasis on marriage and family also places great pressure on GLBT people,
and many choose to remain closeted for this reason.
foreigners living in Asia are usually
not expected to adhere to Asian cultural norms.
As obvious “outsiders,” many feel that they are free to be themselves in
ways that they could not at home. One gay student, who was not “out”
at home, told us that he thought living in China
was the most “freeing” experience he had ever had. He could do or be
whatever he wanted, and his Chinese friends accepted him, without
judgment, as a typical foreigner. Students who in the US
might be perceived as “different” may be relieved to find themselves
viewed simply as “American” in Asia.
are sizable (though largely invisible) gay communities throughout Asia.
Although most Asians face great pressure to remain closeted, there are
gay and lesbian bars, coffee houses, chat rooms and other public spaces
where communities have been created. (An internet search will produce dozens
of new websites, some of which are listed in a separate attachment.)
Mainstream society is often unaware that these communities exist. In some
parts of Asia (Thailand
for example), there are also small transgender communities.
that seek out these communities should take common sense precautions. Students
should understand that the people they meet in these communities are not
exempt from local cultural norms, and they are often risking a great deal
by visiting a bar or coffee house. Students should respect their friends’
confidences and wishes to remain closeted. Also, education about safe sex
varies widely in Asia, and we have heard reports of
prostitution/robbery schemes targeting foreigners (Beijing),
so students should approach gay relationships or sexual encounters with
- For American GLBT students heading to
Asia, we advise cautious, deliberate
exploration. American study abroad students should consult with their
Resident Directors and plan to take their time in exploring both local
GLBT resources and their own ability to live openly. Resident Directors or
other program participants & alumni may be able to help students
connect to the local GLBT community. Students should find ways to “test
the boundaries” of local acceptance—by inquiring about how people view
GLBT issues without self-disclosure, for instance. They should also
realize that it might be in their best interest to explore these issues
off campus, away from local faculty or classmates who may not be accepting.
Our students who have deliberately sought connections with the GLBT
community have developed meaningful friendships and left Asia
with a unique understanding of GLBT issues.
Questions or comments are welcome!
CET Academic Programs
800-225-4262 ext 3147
For more information about advising GLBT study abroad
students, see What can a study abroad office
do? by Kathy Sideli (http://www.indiana.edu/~overseas/lesbigay/int.htm). This article offers ten general suggestions
for study abroad offices that advise GLBT students.
Resources for International Students in Asia
The International Lesbian and Gay Association’s
website (http://www.ilga.org/) includes
news, events, and a survey of many countries’ legal treatment of GLBT issues.
The Asia sections address China,
Hong Kong, Japan,
Utopia Asia (http://www.utopia-asia.com/) is a
popular portal for gay resources, written in English. Included are
country-specific links, resources related to HIV/AIDS, travel advice, and links
to chat rooms.
Fridae (http://www.fridae.com), based in Hong
Kong, claims to
be the first dedicated, non-pornographic gay and lesbian portal in Asia to “tap the full potential of a
huge and rapidly growing community.” The website includes an online magazine
with recent news, a support section, and city guides, from Beijing to Bali.
Gay and Lesbian Hong Kong (http://sqzm14.ust.hk/hkgay/), lists
resources for counseling, AIDS information, and events in East Asia.
(http://www.gnj.or.jp ) offers a list of
recent press related to Japan,
among other things.
BEIJING, China (CNN) – Bar owner Zhang Yi practices
the art of mixing cocktails everyday at his On-Off Bar, a place designed for Beijing's homosexual men and women to mix
Time Asia “Coming Out in the Open,” Oct 2, 2000. http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/2000/1002/malaysia_gay.html
Anwar may be in jail for alleged sodomy, but Malaysia is growing more tolerant of its gay community…
BBC World Series “Gay and Lesbian Life in East
breadth of gay and lesbian experience in East Asia is incredibly varied. It
ranges from Chinese lesbians who call themselves 'female comrades' for want of
a better word, to 'Muk nar'
or transvestites in Islamic Malaysia. East Asia Today's special series: Out In Asia explores the experience of gay men and women in Asia.
Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and
by Ruth Vanita (Editor), Saleem
Kidwai (Editor) (Paperback - September 2001)
Mobile Cultures: New Media in Queer Asia (Console-Ing Passions)
by Chris Berry (Editor), et al (Paperback - April 2003)
Queer Japan: Personal Stories of Japanese Lesbians,
Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals
by Barbara Summerhawk (Editor), et al (Paperback -
Cartographies of Desire: Male-Male Sexuality in
Japanese Discourse, 1600-1950
by Gregory M. Pflugfelder (Hardcover - March 2000)
Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in
by Gary P. Leupp (Paperback - March 1997)
Gays and Lesbians in Asia and the Pacific: Social and
by Gerard Sullivan (Editor), Laurence W. Leong
(Editor) (Paperback - January 1996)
Gay and Lesbian Asia: Culture, Identity, Community
by Gerard, Phd Sullivan
(Editor), Peter A., Phd Jackson (Editor) (Hardcover -
Queer Asian Cinema: Shadows in the Shade
by Andrew Grossman (Editor) (Paperback - March 2001)
The Emerging Lesbian: Female Same-Sex Desire in Modern
by Tze-Lan D. Sang, University of Chicago Press (Hardcover - April 2003)
Sakhiyani: Lesbian Desire in Ancient and Modern India (Sexual
by Giti Thadani, Giti Thandani
Dear Uncle Go: Male Homosexuality in Thailand = Sawatdi Khrap 'a Ko Paknam
by Peter A. Jackson (Hardcover - January 1995)
Tongzhi: Politics of Same-Sex Eroticism in Chinese Societies
by Wah-Shan Chou, et al (Paperback - July 2000)
Passions of the Cut Sleeve: The Male Homosexual
Tradition in China
by Bret Hinsch (Paperback - December 1992)