Hong Kong: Gigi Chao, the lesbian daughter of Hong Kong billionaire property tycoon, has spoken to CNN about reports he doubled an offer of HK $1billion to ($150m) to any man who would marry her and turn her straight.
Gigi made headlines around the world after her father offered millions of dollars to the man who could win his daughter’s heart. On CNN’s ‘Talk Asia’ Gigi explains why she doesn’t blame her father for his unconventional reaction to her very public coming out and gives CNN an insight into the gay community in Hong Kong revealing the fine line many walk between a rapidly modernizing culture and staunchly traditional Asian family values.
In an open letter she has previously told her father, “I’ll marry a man when you do.”
Gigi, 34, defended her marriage, writing, “You have no idea how happy I am with my life.” Her father dropped the dowry the next day.
Her parents still refuse to welcome her lesbian partner. But by coming out, Gigi has touched off a society-wide conversation about the difficulties facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender-identifying Hong Kongers as they try to find acceptance within their own families.
“It’s a belief that coming out as gay is a blatant disrespect for your parents,” says Gigi, speaking to CNN about Chinese culture. “But it’s not that way at all. Most gay people I know respect their parents very much.”
Raised in a strict family, with a tycoon father who made her enter university at 16 and an actress mother who was a “perfectionist” about her daughter’s appearance, Gigi says she learned from an early age to hold back parts of herself, including her own emotions.
Gigi recalls an instance when, as a teenager, she brought her girlfriend to her house.
“My mom… cried and screamed and banged her head against a wall and said, ‘I will never accept this fact about you,’” says Gigi.
Gigi says her family’s reaction was somewhat typical of the socially conservative Asian society.
“A lot of what Hong Kong is, is family ties and relationships in this tiny, small and overcrowded place, and there’s a lot of people who want to keep it that way,” she told CNN.
“When Gigi came out, it really hit home for me,” says Callie (not her real name), a 21 year-old lesbian woman whose parents, like Gigi’s, are well-known Hong Kong celebrities, reported CNN.
“Gigi definitely showed the LGBT community that there is hope, and we’re moving in the right direction.”
However, Gigi says life may not be as easy for members of Hong Kong’s queer community who lack her celebrity status.
“A lot of people… come from a life of hardship and inequality, not just because of their orientation but all sectors of life, all facets. And to add one more — their sexual orientation being another disadvantage they have to face, that’s the part that makes it more difficult.”