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  • Writer's pictureHarper Chen


As part of the LGBTQ community, I want to fight against discrimination by using graphic design. With the help of visually impactful media, messages can effectively be communicated to the public.

I came out – publicly – unprepared.

It was my older sister who accidentally found my account on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, where I had posted photos of myself with my girlfriend. Without warning, she interrupted our family dinner that night and revealed these photos to my parents. Then she interrogated me, demanding to know if I was a lesbian. Her tone made me feel accused of wrongdoing. Her confrontation left me no choice. I had to admit my sexual orientation to my parents right then and there – on her terms and before I was ready to do so.

Thus began a major conflict between me and my family. My parents were furious. They did not accept, acknowledge, or respect who I truly was. They punished me by grounding me indefinitely, and they made me a counseling appointment, hoping that I could be “cured” through medical treatment. Confronting this family conflict was the greatest challenge I had ever faced. I felt lost, and I considered denying who I was in order to restore peace with my family and feel normal again. Then I realized: if I couldn't defend myself – proudly and without shame -- within my own family what chance did I have to present myself honestly to the world?

      I became resolved to challenge my family’s beliefs about homosexuality. While grounded, I spent countless hours researching psychological and biological studies that demonstrated no association between sexual orientation and mental or physiological problems. We are as psychologically and physically healthy as anyone else. In addition, I collected the names of nearly 100 highly successful LGBTQ celebrities. I then gently presented all this evidence to my family to show them that being “different” did not mean being “wrong” – being a lesbian did not limit my ability to live a good and worthwhile life. They were not immediately convinced, but I stood my ground and kept the discussion going. Over time, their views began to transform, and in the end, they came to understand and accept my position.

        My conflict with my family was part of a larger struggle between modern and traditional Chinese beliefs. My experience managing this conflict has inspired me to help others suffering the same discrimination, as well as to enlighten people who hold misconceptions about the LGBTQ community. I published my coming out story on Weibo, the platform that had sparked my coming out saga. At first, my article received hundreds of likes and optimistic comments from readers. Soon, however, personal attacks and abusive language appeared in the comments. One such comment declared that my existence was God’s punishment upon my parents. When Weibo deleted my article, I came to understand that the Chinese culture was unready to accept the LGBTQ community.

         This experience taught me a hard lesson: confronting a robust traditional ideology is like piloting a vessel through a rough storm. It is difficult to accomplish without distress, fear, and casualties. However, it also taught me the power of the internet, which inspired me to develop a meaningful project. It was clear to me that LGBTQ people needed a safe online place to be themselves, so I built such a website. The site’s logo is three overlapping circles that represent the non-LGBTQ community, the LGBTQ community, and the individual. The circles overlap to represent the interconnectedness of all people, and the importance of each unique individual connecting with the larger global community. Challenging my culture’s beliefs made me realize that only when we are courageous enough to reach out to others as ourselves will the world change for us.

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