My name is Shuolei. I am a young man from China, where I’ve spent most of my life. I grew up in a traditional society where the LGBTQ+ community is invisible. I still remember the confusion and isolation I felt upon realizing my sexual orientation. I searched the Internet for a “cure,” only to learn there was no cure because being homosexual is not a disease. I clearly remember struggling with this. At the time I needed some guidance or to talk to someone about it, but I couldn’t. It was so hard to trust people around me, so I had to keep my secret from almost everyone, including my parents.
After I came to Canada, I found life could be so free and colourful. In my first class for my master’s degree in BC, some classmates mentioned they were members of the LGBTQ+ community. I was shocked. I thought things like this should be confidential. How could they say it out loud so easily? But that was so cool! Seeing them be so open about who they were gave me the courage to be honest about who I am too.
Even though the LGBTQ+ community has been gradually accepted by the younger generation in China, the older generation still believe being gay is an illness. The government supports this idea and no one dares to stand out against it. I saw a news story about a gay couple several years ago. When one of them died his partner was denied any inheritance because the law didn’t recognize their relationship. The oppressive atmosphere is suffocating.
It is getting better now in China, but it still has a long way to go. When I walk in Vancouver, I see acceptance: LGBTQ+ flags are everywhere, and there are offices and associations supporting the LGBTQ+ community, including my school. Davie Street is the most impressive, it’s a colourful testament to diversity, which makes me feel safe, and makes me feel like I finally belong.