CityU's 'coming out' research attracts international plaudits
A City University graduate has won an international psychology award for her research into the mental impact on local lesbians of 'coming out' to friends and family.
Pizza Chow Ka-yee received an award of excellence in the 2008 Student International Research Awards from the American Psychological Association for her undergraduate dissertation, 'Self-stigma, homosexual identity and 'coming out': a comparative study of lesbians in Hong Kong and mainland China'.
Ms Chow, who graduated this summer, interviewed 231 local lesbians and 199 in the mainland over five months, and found that female homosexuals were far more likely to be open about their sexuality with their friends than with their families.
Although 95 per cent of those interviewed had told friends, just 60 per cent had opened up to their families.
'If they do not come out to their families during their teens, it seems they never do. I think you only have that kind of courage when you are in your teens,' she said.
'Almost all of the ones who had told their parents had a bad experience. Some had been completely rejected by their parents.'
Ms Chow, now employed as a research assistant by her CityU dissertation supervisor, Professor Cheung Sheung-tak, said lesbians in conservative societies tended to suffer from 'external shame experiences' which could lead to depression.
'The concept of whether homosexuality is normal or abnormal is decided by society,' she said. 'We need to have a change in attitudes to make people aware that there is nothing abnormal about this.'
She said she had decided to approach the subject because she was interested in exploring the impact of discrimination in society. 'When I told my parents about my research, they asked if I was a lesbian,' she said. 'But it was just because I have quite a lot of friends who are.'
Ms Chow said she had found her interview subjects through friends, lesbian groups and websites, and approaching people in bars.
'I had quite a lot of positive responses to my research. Most of the research on homosexuality done in Hong Kong has tended to focus on male gays, so many respondents said they were pleased someone was taking an interest in their situation.'