As an LGBT student, I was pretty nervous as I got on the plane to come here. Attitudes in China and America are both pretty mixed when it comes to genders and sexualities that are "outside" the social norm, and I was about to go to an unfamiliar place where I didn't know anyone at all, and didn't know how they would feel about me as a person. Upon my arrival I found a similar mix of perspectives among both American and Chinese students as well as community in Beijing. I'm not really out to most of the people in the IES group, save for a few of the other students on the trip who are also LGBT. This is quite challenging because sometimes not being "out" means that people will freely say offensive things about people who identify as such, and then being out becomes a matter of safety rather than personal closeness or comfort.
Beijing has a wonderful LGBT center which foreign students are welcome to, and they have many monthly events for the community in Beijing. While the most visible members (and the majority of gay bar frequesters) are cisgender gay men, there are smaller commnuities of other sexualities/ transgender people.
Going abroad as part of a group that still doesn't have full liberation in either culture can be extremely daunting and challenging. I feel like these extra challenges all too often can be a deterrant for students when they think about studying abroad. But in going and having these experiences, I've had really important conversations with both American and Chinese students about their perspectives, and have come away with cultural exchange and a community in Beijing that I can relate and belong to.
More Blogs From This Author
<p>Hi, I'm Gretchen, and I'm currently a prospective Languages and Linguistics Major at Swarthmore College, PA. I was born in Rota Spain, and have grown up in various places around the states (notably Hawai'i), and am very excited to be participating in the Beijing Summer Language Intensive program! I'm really into all different types of art, and exploring that interest through all sorts of avenues (this blog will be one of them). On this trip I hope to gain not only language skills, but innumerable friends and experiences that last a lifetime. Join the adventures of an unapologetically queer, short (but not tiny) college student navigating one of the biggest cities in the world!</p>