‘Safe But Not Safe’: Life As a Gay Man Between China and New Zealand

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05/17/2020

Arriving in New Zealand to start my doctorate in 2017, I immediately sensed it was a more welcoming environment for LGBT people than my home country. On my very first day at the University of Auckland, I spotted a rainbow flag hanging in the window of the international students office. A poster by the library entrance proclaimed “zero tolerance toward racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, homophobia, and transphobia” and my enrollment form offered an “X (diverse)” option for listing my gender. It also asked if I identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or Takatāpui — a term used by LGBT members of New Zealand’s Maori population. Although the university’s official policies gave me a sense of belonging and security, I soon realized New Zealand was not the refuge from anti-LGBT discrimination and prejudice I had hoped to find. As an overseas student from China, integrating into mainstream New Zealand society is difficult, and much of my social life is therefore tied to the local Chinese community — a diverse mix of migrants, students, and New Zealand citizens of Chinese heritage. And unfortunately, much of this community is not very tolerant of sexual minorities.

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