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7 - Growing old with stigma: a case study of four older Chinese gay/bisexual men living with HIV in Hong Kong

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 June 2023

Mark Henrickson
Affiliation:
Massey University, Auckland
Casey Charles
Affiliation:
University of Montana
Shiv Ganesh
Affiliation:
University of Texas, Austin
Sulaimon Giwa
Affiliation:
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Kan Diana Kwok
Affiliation:
The University of Hong Kong
Tetyana Semigina
Affiliation:
Academy of Labour, Social Relations and Tourism, Ukraine
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Summary

Introduction

This chapter presents a qualitative study exploring the lived experiences of four older (over 60 years of age) Chinese gay/bisexual men living with HIV and how those experiences manifest in their lives in the Hong Kong context. Stories of the informants are explored during two periods of their lives. The first period (1950s to 1970s) concerns the time of their emerging sexuality; when most of their peers were engaged in heterosexual relationships, they attempted to remain unmarried while facing considerable pressure both from their families and society to conform. The second period (1990s to present day) relates to their diagnosis and living long-term with HIV. Their experiences of being non-heterosexual and living with HIV have been stigmatised because of cultural values related to their sexuality (for example, Confucian filial piety, familial obligation and loss of face) and shame about their illness.

In this study, informants’ narratives are captured by means of face-to-face in-depth interviews. Four overarching themes emerged from the three areas of sexuality, HIV and ageing. First, the theme of ‘filiality’ captures how the informants handle their same-sex desires: playing along with both family and societal expectations to marry while also secretly exploring their same-sex attractions. Second, ‘heterosexist harassment’ reflects their experiences of facing both their own denial about their non-heterosexuality and the subtle/indirect harassment from others. Third, ‘hidden lives’ focuses on how the informants negotiate their gay/bisexual and HIV identities in the context of home and the gay community. The fourth theme, ‘living with ageing’, considers how the informants cope with their sexuality and HIV during the process of ageing.

The findings show how the informants experience heterosexism, HIV stigma and ageism, compounded by the unique challenges they face both within the gay community and at a societal level. The narratives of the four older Chinese gay/bisexual men with HIV illustrate how their untold stories can shed a light on the intersectional area of sexuality, HIV and ageing stigma in Hong Kong.

Literature review

The term ‘stigma’ is defined by Goffman (1963) as ‘a deeply discrediting attribute that globally devalues an individual’ (p 12). Individuals’ social identities are affected by attributes that mark them as deviant from social norms and as being incapable of fulfilling the role requirements of social interactions.

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Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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