“Here I Am” is a eight-minute film that touches on themes of love, sexuality, stigma and acceptance. In the video, Mengwen Cao, a queer Chinese photographer, watches on FaceTime as her parents view her video letter coming out to them.
What are the possibilities and challenges of coming out to one’s parents on video?
1. Watch the short film above. While you watch, you might take notes using our Film Club Double-Entry Journal (PDF) to help you remember specific moments.
2. After watching, think about these questions:
What questions do you still have?
What connections can you make between this film and your own life or experience? Why? Does this film remind you of anything else you’ve read or seen? If so, how and why?
3. An additional challenge | Respond to the essential question at the top of this post: What might be the challenges in coming out to one’s parents?
4. Next, join the conversation by clicking on the comment button and posting in the box that opens on the right. (Students 13 and older are invited to comment, although teachers of younger students are welcome to post what their students have to say.)
5. After you have posted, try reading back to see what others have said, then respond to someone else by posting another comment. Use the “Reply” button or the @ symbol to address that student directly.
6. To learn more, read “Coming Out to My Parents in China by Video.” Ania Bartkowiak writes:
Before showing her parents a video she had prepared, Mengwen Cao had faith that they would understand. Still, she considered the implications of what she was about to reveal.
“‘Saving face’ is an important aspect of Chinese culture,” she explained. “The stigma of being queer prevents people to come out.”
Although L.G.B.T.Q. rights in China have come a long way in the past few years, largely thanks to social activism, estimates show that only 5 percent of China’s gay community is fully out. And there are few protections for China’s L.G.B.T.Q. community regarding reproductive rights or marriage.
“China is still not a very welcoming environment for queer people to come out,” Ms. Cao said.
Still, she felt she could not be truly close with her parents if they did not know and, after making her video, called them on FaceTime from New York.
To behold their expressions as they follow her graceful cadences while she calmly revealed her greatest secret is to feel an emotional hush at the intimacy glimpsed in this pivotal family moment. The discussion that follows is filled (as is often the case in times of personal unveilings and upheavals) with a complex mix of tentative acceptance, lingering disappointment and the wrestling of deep love with disparate hopes.
“I wanted to leave my parents enough time and space to react and reflect,” Ms. Cao said. “They told me later that they actually shared the video letter to their friends to get advice.”
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