I was pleased to get an interview with Robin, who runs a Chinese-language asexual community, and lives in Taiwan. They are also part of the AVEN Project Team.
Siggy: Tell us about the Chinese asexual community you run. What kind of community is it?
Robin: It’s a place where people who speak Chinese can get together, organize meetups, discuss the concept of asexuality in relation to Chinese culture, and figure out the terminology. It’s still a relatively new community (started in February), and not many people have joined.
The situation was, there were two online groups in China, and none in Taiwan. I wished to create a new community. First I wanted it to be only for Taiwan, since there was none before, but then I wanted it to be Chinese-speaking people in general. The structure is modeled a bit after the English AVEN.
Siggy: So far we’ve found that many non-English communities simply take the English information and directly translate it. To what extent do you do this?
Robin: I use the English information as a base, and edit it according to local culture. Like, the part about being shamed for being a virgin is removed, since that doesn’t exist here.
Siggy: How many members understand English?
Robin: Not many, as far as I know.
Siggy: So members of the community primarily understand asexuality through the main page information, or are there other sources?
Robin: There is an article on Wikipedia, and a bunch of badly-written media articles that are obviously copied, or plain wrong.
Siggy: You said that there isn’t any virgin-shaming. What sort of problems do you or others encounter then?
Robin: There are traditional family values. A lot of asexual people are also aromantic, and/or don’t want children. But people are always expected to have a “normal” family, as to pass down the family line. Also, I have heard from other members who got married, not knowing that people are actually sexual, and get surprised when asked for sex.
Siggy: I’ve heard that Chinese-speaking cultures generally put romantic relationships lower down than family relationships. Is this true to your experience in Taiwan?
Robin: Hmmm… That may be true in the older generation, but now, romantic relationships are also important. The concept of romantic love seems to be popular among the younger population. Valentines Day, romantic tourist destinations, and other stuff.
Siggy: How do people in Taiwan see LGBT people?
Robin: They think that gays are just seeking attention. They also think people decide to become homosexual. And bisexuality is almost invisible.
LGBT has been included in the curriculum, including homo, bi, and the gender spectrum, so the younger generation is more accepting of queers. So basically, the younger generation is more accepting, and more leaning towards western culture.
Siggy: How do asexuals see themselves in relation to LGBT then?
Robin: We see ourselves as part of the LGBT. My group is pretty close to a bi group, because we’re both invisible identities here. The bi group actually had a speech at the pride parade last year that included asexuality. We weren’t that organized back then, but we plan to march in the parade this year. As a new group, we have a major problem of inactivity, so I’m trying to bring involvement up. Hopefully the pride parade can do that, and also get us some new members.
Siggy: Do you know how LGBT got into the curriculum? What age group is it taught to?
Robin: We have sex ed three times, one time in the higher elementary grades, in junior high, and in high school. LGBT was mentioned every time, and the concept of the gender spectrum appeared in social studies. Asexuality was never mentioned, although Storms’ Model was mentioned in high school. In 10th grade, we had a group talk to us about abstinence, and traditional family values. The flip-side of “traditional family values” is anti-LGBT.
Siggy: It sounds like there is a big generational gap. How does this impact asexuals?
Robin: LGBT people are comfortable coming out to their peers, but not to their parents. Parents always think that “my child could never be gay”, and may also bring that up, causing the LGBT child to fear coming out. And as mentioned above, parents expect their children to be married and have children, but asexuals might not want that. I believe that the US is also like this, but it’s more strict here.
So the younger generation believes in free love, which includes not loving (romantically).
Siggy: You’ve mentioned (privately) that some of the English terms are missing from the Chinese language. How do you feel about that?
Robin: I feel that this causes a big problem in both self-identification and visibility. For example, there is no word for “romantic relationship”, or “romantic orientation”. The word for “sexual orientation” sounds a lot like “romantic orientation”, so a lot of members think they must also be aromantic to be asexual. The Chinese culture doesn’t like to talk about sex, so a lot of related terms are replaced so they sound like love or romance related. Also, the Chinese culture considers everyone to be demisexual, so it is supposed to be normal not to have sexual desires outside of marriage. Which is, of course, not true.