Queer (and) Chinese: On Be(long)ing in Diaspora and Coming Out of Queer Liberalism

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Tam, Michelle
Gender , Sexuality , LGBTQ , Chinese , Chinese Canadian , Diaspora , Race , Queer Theory , Critical Race Theory , Non-Binary , Queer Women , Belonging , Queer Liberalism , Queer (and) Chinese , Home , Erotic Autonomy , Queer Diaspora , Queer Asian Diaspora , Asian Diaspora , Queer Asian , Acceptance , Coming Out , Chinese Canadian LGBTQ , Citizenship , National Belonging , Nationalism , Racialization , Racism , Multiculturalism , Sexual , Family , Community , Colonialism , Imperialism
Being bicultural, Chinese Canadian LGBTQ people face a double jeopardy in navigating a white heteropatriarchal society while striving for acceptance within their own Chinese Canadian communities. My project records the coming out and not-coming out stories of Chinese Canadian LGBQ women and non-binary people in order to interpret their understandings of the process of coming out/not coming out in relation to the formations of sexual, gender, racial/ethnic, and national identities in the context of diaspora. Based on interviews and a focus group conducted in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, this project examines whether home, recognition, Chinese nationalism and familial values are sites of exclusion and if so, how youth reconcile these tensions. This research expands beyond the visibility of gay, bisexual, and queer men within extant social science accounts of Asian diaspora LGBTQ people by focusing on women and non-binary members of Chinese Canadian communities. I employ a queer diasporic approach centering female subjectivity and standards of femininity and masculinity to conceptualize diaspora outside of heteronormative and patriarchal structures of family and community (Gopinath, 2005). I examine diverse points of tension and reconciliation in the narratives of youth who have and who have not experienced “coming out”. The analysis is built from three major insights introduced by narrators to illuminate Chinese Canadian experiences of queer diaspora: the instability of queer (and) Chinese subjectivity; sense of belonging and acceptance; and logics of modernity, progress and queer liberalism as continued racialization, colonialism and imperialism in disguise. I document how tensions among Chinese Canadians regarding sexuality and embracing or resisting change articulate racial and colonial histories and the fraught locations of Chinese Canadians within a white settler state. I argue that histories of racism, colonialism, and migration place Chinese Canadian families in tension with forms of citizenship and national belonging that are defined by historical politics of sexuality. This research is also concerned with the ways in which these histories may inform the location of Chinese communities within contemporary Canadian multiculturalism, which perpetuates whiteness through its embrace of queer liberalism (Alexander, 2005; Eng, 2010; Lowe, 2015; Manalansan, 2003; Shah, 2001).
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