“She did not come out, but we’ve come to terms” -- family reconciliation of challenged expectations when a young adult child is gender and sexual minority/tongzhi : multiple perspectives
This dissertation investigated adult child-parent relationship where the child is a gender/sexual minority, or tongzhi (同志). Building on Jhang's (2018) model of scaffolding in family, this dissertation theorized the process of chugui (出櫃, exit-closet) for Taiwanese tongzhi and their family. Chugui is a direct translation of coming out of the closet, but it entails a rather different process than disclosure. Thus, this dissertation challenged the conventional coming out as disclosure conceptualization by delineating the coming to terms process. As a Westernized-Confucius society, Taiwan has recently experienced drastic legal changes regarding gender/sexual minority, including legalizing same-sex marriage in 2019, making it a suitable context to examine chugui/coming out in the family. Using grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006), interview and field observation data are analyzed to find categories to substantiate the coming to terms model. 40 tongzhi young adult (age 20-38) and 17 parents (age 45-69) were included. The findings built the model of coming to terms/chugui in the family as scaffolding. It shows the onset of chugui/coming out is the awareness of difference rather than disclosure. The process of coming to terms is characterized by the psychological constant comparison of relating, a way for people to make sense of relationships by comparing various micro and macro discourses. The process is also influenced by the intersectional identity of the offspring (biological sex, gender performance, and direction of sexual attraction) and the parent (father/mother, and social class). People then make individual behavioral scaffolding efforts to move forward. Finally, the parents may compartmentalize their acceptance behaviorally, emotionally, attitudinally, and cognitively, while the offspring might accept or reject the discounted acceptance, making the process indefinite. Theoretical implications include establishing the processual and relational nature of coming to terms, legitimizing parental agency, and underscoring the utility of functional ambivalence, the notion of relational selfhood, and intersectional identity. Practical implications include making the idea of polysemy and the constant comparison process explicit and helping people building schemas while avoiding cruel optimism. The transferability of the model is discussed, and this dissertation invites researchers to look beyond “disclosure” in studying LGBTQ+ family relationship.