by E. Dunn
Before most of us come out to our parents as queer, we take some time to prepare for their reactions and even imagine what they might be. If we come out to our parents as teenagers, as Hong Kong’s Gigi Chao did at the age of 16, we certainly expect that they’ll get over any shock and disappointment by the time we grow into adults.
So the news last week of shipping magnate Cecil Chao — Gigi Chao’s father — offering a $65 million bounty on his daughter’s hand in marriage might have come as a surprise to Gigi. It certainly came as a shock to the rest of us gays.
Gigi’s been playing it pretty cool since the bounty was placed on her otherwise-spoken-for hand. She lives with her partner of seven years, Sean Eav. Whom she shared a civil partnership ceremony with five months ago. In a church. Look how cute they are! (Eav is on the left and Chao on the right).
Unfortunately, Daddy doesn’t recognize this partnership because it’s not legal in Hong Kong. In his eyes, Gigi is single and available. It’s not helping her case that Gigi keeps pretty quiet about her sexual orientation out of respect for her family.
Gigi might be used to this sort of treatment from her family. When she told her mother she was dating a girl at age 16, her mother “banged her head against the wall, literally”. Her father maintains he loves Gigi but wants more for her.
“It’s not that he can’t accept me,” she said. “It’s that he can’t accept how society would view me and the status that it would incur.
Gigi appears gracious under the firestorm of marriage proposals and date offers streaming in from Facebook, Twitter, and other channels. She claimed to see the offer as proof of her father’s love and the fact that he wants more for her, like all most parents. But even she reached her limit, posting on Facebook last Friday. “For your family’s sanity’s sake, Daddy please rescind the notice!!!!”
As bizarre as it may be, this tale just underscores the sad fact that so many of us queers have to parent our own parents while they struggle to accept the fact that the lives we want for ourselves are different from those they imagined for us. Parents rant, they rave, they solicit indecent proposals, they pretend to want what’s best for us — and we’re supposed to turn a deaf ear, smile, and still love them in the morning.
With so many troubling elements to this news story, a few rise above. First, Cecil Chao claims to have slept with over 10,000 women himself and has never married. Yet he doesn’t seem too concerned about his own societal status to change his playboy ways. Or give a two-parent family to any of his three kids, each with a different mother. Which begs the question: Is this just another case of homophobia disguised as family values?
While Gigi gets props for acting like the only adult in her family, I wish she’d take more of a stand, calling out her dad’s behavior for the ridiculous b.s. that it is, and putting some sort of consequence out there for him. Something like “never seeing me again until you apologize to me and my wife” sounds about right. Until we own up to this type of double standard and demand that our relatives do better, their bigotry masquerades as caring.