When Qi Xuan Wang’s mother told her she could date anyone she liked as long as it wasn’t a girl, Xuan, who is bisexual, felt their previously close relationship begin to strain. “Trying to ignore her opposition, I decided to keep a little distance from her. It helps, but at the end of the day, she is still my mom. It’s really sad,” Xuan shared. She wondered if this was a common experience LGBTQ youth in China. With that question in mind, Xuan delved into a cross-disciplinary study combining adult development, sociology, and psychology, on the multifaceted stressors faced by Chinese Queer Youth (CQY), hypothesizing that family may be the biggest contributor. Through her thesis, Queer China: Diminishing the Tension Between Chinese Queer Youth and Their Family, Xuan set out to design interventions that bring comfort, provide support, and facilitate both personal and political conversations for Chinese Queer Youth and their families.
100% Me is a toolkit for Chinese Queer Youth who weren’t accepted when they came out to their families. The toolkit comes with a box, which includes guidance and props for CQY to communicate with their parents in the form of a letter. “Writing a letter prevents the awkward silences and intense conflicts that might occur when people communicate face to face,” says Xuan. “It gives both sides space and time to digest information and handle their emotions.” The toolkit structures the conversation into four sections: “My journey,” “Something about me,” “The future,” and “Concepts you may need to know about being LGBTQ.”
We Are Here W/U
We Are Here W/U is a community-based platform designed for Chinese Queer Youth’s parents, where they can seek and offer help, connect to peers within the community, share their stories, and attend in-app support group meetings. Connecting with the community makes CQY’s parents feel less lonely, isolated and judged. Because other community members can serve as role models, their stories can become the inspiration for parents’ own strategy. Xuan designed the app to be an inclusive, safe, and welcoming environment, to help users cope with the grief and stress of being the parent of CQY in an LGBTQ-unfriendly society.
The Gaydar is a speculative piece of wearable technology that makes a subtle, celebratory statement about the wearer’s identity. In the context of China, where the government removes rainbow flags from public places, the Gaydar works as a smart object with a screen showing LGBTQ-friendly places. The Gaydar will also notify users when another queer person is nearby; this function is especially helpful in conservative areas where queer people feel isolated and struggle to find other community members, or for visitors to another city or country who are hoping to find community members in an unfamiliar environment.
Queer China Earrings
Queer China Earrings are customizable earrings that give Chinese Queer Youth a tool to show their pride, protest the status quo, and start dialogues. Similarly, allies can use the earrings to outwardly express their solidarity and support for the LGBTQ community. The earrings are a simple way to increase the visibility of the LGBTQ community in public space, especially in places where LGBTQ issues are taboo or even illegal.
To learn more about Qi Xuan Wang’s work, take a look at her projects in more detail at www.xuanwangdesigning.com.