Is what we do meaningful? Do we do things because we believe them to be meaningful, or do we find meaning after we have done them?
During my teenage years, I was entranced with Hong Kong entertainer, Leslie Cheung – award-wining singer and actor, songwriter and music producer. One of his films, Farewell, My Concubine became the first Chinese movie to win the Palme d’Or in Cannes Film Festival in 1993.
He was my idol, and I am still fascinated by his creativity and talents, how well-spoken he was, and his soft demeanour. He showed his vulnerabilities and through it, his gentle defiance and courage. It helped that he was oh-so-handsome. 🙂
For close to three decades, I was disconnected from the Chinese entertainment world having migrated to a new country, and into a life where adapting and fitting in was more important. Life happened. In recent years, I have slowly re-acquainted myself to my Eastern roots. The internet is a great tool! And it seems I have missed much.
In these intervening years, I have come to realise I am a rebel at heart, one who questions the rules and norms I encounter. I was seeking to not be like everyone else within the societal constraints. At a time when teenage girls wore their best frocks to parties, I was more comfortable turning up in tight slacks and kaftan blouse. When I was told law was too tough a profession for women and would interfere in their role as mothers, I pursued a career in law. I have quietly resisted certain role expectations and performance of gender as culturally nuanced. Ah, what is a woman to be!
While I might have been and most likely continue to be influenced by the social norms and expectations that have shaped me, I do not desire to apply them to others.
Perhaps that’s why I was drawn to Leslie Cheung, a man who came out as gay in the late 90s in East Asia, which societies till today remain conservative and largely unaccepting of gay people. He took on movie roles portraying gay characters which were not caricatures but multi-faceted and real. He lived openly with his same-sex partner. His androgyny and gender-crossing in his Passion Tour concerts were sights to behold! In hindsight, I find this so courageous.
Does this justify the teenage years I spent idolizing this Chinese star? Does this make my then behaviour less trivial? Was it trivial? Maybe a part of me is still that teenage fangirl?!
Maybe he appealed subconsciously to my desire to be seen, to be more than what was allowed, to know what’s possible beyond what’s known and accepted. Perhaps I was drawn to vulnerability and empathy even then. Are we not curious beings? Don’t we want to know and understand what’s on the other side, behind or around these rules and norms society has imposed upon us?
An article got me thinking of this gay icon of Asian entertainment industry. And the meanings of his life and of my idolizing days 🙂 .
What meanings do you make of your life experiences? How do you tell that story?
If you are wondering about Leslie…
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