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Chinese company makes ‘coming out’ kits for queer people

By Malavika Pradeep

May 18, 2022

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In the early 2000s, queer activism had finally started flourishing in China—with more and more NGOs advocating for gay rights. This, however, has gotten harder ever since Xi Jinping came to power in 2012. Today, the President has built a more assertive, self-reliant and traditional country with narrowing queer spaces, both physically and virtually.

Given how China has previously censored Ross Geller’s lesbian ex-wife plotline from Friends and even banned ‘effeminate’ men from media to promote (toxic) masculinity, it’s undoubtedly challenging for queer people in the country to open up about their sexuality. But a Chinese organisation is here to change that, once and for all.

Trueself, formerly known as PFLAG China, has created a kit aimed to guide and educate those willing to come out to their family, friends and peers. Dubbed ‘A Journey to True Self’ and priced at ¥99 (£11.84), the kit consists of a planner, step-by-step instructions on how to approach loved ones about your sexuality, a pack of cards with 50 frequently asked questions to ease conversations, and testimonies from other people who have bravely opened up to their families.

Featuring multiple steps, ‘A Journey to True Self’ guides individuals from becoming self-aware and coming out to finally writing a letter confirming their sexuality.

“It won’t be a one-size-fits-all package, but it will be a gift to discover one’s true self,” Hu Zhijun, the founder of Trueself, told Sixth Tone. According to Zhijun, limited awareness often prevents people from revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity—while some fear their decision could potentially harm family dynamics.

“The ultimate goal is to seek growth in your best efforts, although, in the end, you might not achieve what you want or what others have,” the founder added. “As the journey unfolds, some will realise they’ve stigmatised their gender identity and reject the possibility of a more positive relationship with their loved ones from their past.”

According to Trueself, it took six months for the team to develop the kit in question. The organisation also consulted and surveyed LGBTQ+ individuals, their family members, as well as gender and sexuality experts for the initiative, noted Sixth Tone.

Zhijun further highlighted that Trueself essentially aims to provide counselling sessions and meetups for queer people. But given how COVID-19 restrictions have disrupted most events in the country, the organisation seeks to offer ‘A Journey to True Self’ as an alternative for now. This decision aligns with the influx of calls witnessed by the organisation to its hotline that predominantly raised concerns about coming out and self-acceptance amid the pandemic.

In an interview with the outlet, James Yang, an LGBT programme officer at United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in China, explained that the kit will “provide practical tools and guidance—especially for gay men who intend to come out but feel a lack of reference,” based on UNDP’s years of local consulting and experience.

“We need those institutions and organisations to keep motivating and empowering the LGBT community, as improving the coming-out situation entails long-term efforts and support across different sectors in society,” Yang added.

Though organisations like Trueself aim to continue arranging offline events in the country, Zhijun believes new strategies like ‘A Journey to True Self’ could also help those living in remote areas promote acceptance among their loved ones. “If 20 out of 100 people find it useful, the product will have proved its worth,” the founder concluded. “But we will increase that with our efforts.”