Her Campus Nottingham teamed up with student organisation Humans of UoN to bring you this anecdotal piece from one of their interviewees...
We are ‘Humans of UoN’, a project from the International Students' Network, mostly run by our international students. We photograph and interview various members of our community to celebrate our the diversity of our campuses. Here is one such interview...
I’m originally from China and I’m gay.
Moving around between cities in China and England showed me the contrasts of people’s responses to others’ differences. The Ningbo campus, where I’ve come from, is quite close to Shanghai, one of China’s big cities. Studying at UoN Ningbo and then moving to a Shanghai for an internship was never challenging in terms of my identity. People accepted me there. But things weren’t so easy in the smaller cities.
I experienced bullying in school in the small cities because the gay culture there is really restrained. Several gay friends in Middle School didn't come out. Most of them just wanted to get out of that place and go to bigger cities, where they’d be better accepted. In High School, people were more open to the idea of homosexuality.
People in China (and elsewhere) have a very pre-determined idea of what homosexuality should look like, but this is slowly changing. Acceptance of the LGBT community has been a heated topic on Chinese social media. I think that, through several generations, the problem will be gradually solved. It’s quite different in Ningbo and Shanghai where people can be much more open about their identities.
When comparing the gay communities in China and England, there aren’t many differences. People can be openly gay here too, but the youth culture is generally different. Young people here are big on instant relationships. Chinese versions of Grindr and Tinder exist but they’re mostly used for fun and not serious relationships. There’s also a higher percentage of gay people looking for a long-term relationship at university. We Chinese don't talk about our sex lives. Europeans, however, talk openly about what goes on in their relationships.
I love exploring the LGBT community through art, and I am currently looking into photography and working on a film project about my mum. It’s interesting to interview her and see how life has changed since she was my age. In the 1990s, ballroom dancing was popular in China, so she went with her friend nearly every night. People gossiped about them being lesbians, but she didn't really care! My dad played in the band and he followed her everywhere until they got together.
The best thing about art is that it inspires people; especially contemporary art. It’s mostly about how you perceive the world and changing your perspective gives you a different angle on people and values. One of my favourite artists is Félix González-Torres; he was a gay Cuban-American artist who died of AIDS. One of his installations was a pile of candy in a corner. He wanted people to take the candy, as much as they wanted, to share with others. They could taste the sweetness and remember the colours, but what you couldn't change was Félix's body gradually disappearing. This is really moving and touching, and it makes me think of where our society goes wrong.
So, I started to think about what I can do. Working as an artist allows me to explore my own different views and to help people see things in a new way. That's the goal: to create as much artwork as possible. To help inspire people.
Written by Pia Schäfer and Ana-Maria Diaconu
Edited by Georgina Pittman