“My parents are freaking out because I’m not married yet, and I don’t think either they or I can stand it anymore,” they sighed. “My parents are so scared I’m going to miss my childbearing years. They’re forcing me to get married.” Their eyes suddenly grew darker, and they looked down to gaze into their tea. Without looking at me, they continued, “I can’t do it. I have got to get out of here. I have no choice but to leave. I mean, I want to leave China.”
I was immersing myself in a Muslim community for the first time. I was still learning the basics of what it meant to eat Halal and fast during Ramadan. I soon learned what people were saying. Like never before in my life, my gender was a cornerstone in most social interactions.