In China, coming out is not easy
Two elderly gay men living in Beijing find themselves in the center of controversy after their high-profile coming out on the web is as much censured as praised.
The two men, one a retired teacher and the other a rural migrant working as a water bottle deliverer, created a profile page named “Two Old Men’s Romance” on Sina Weibo, a hugely popular microblogging service, where they proudly and publicly displayed their affection for each other in pictures, postings and videos, many of which received thousands of comments and shares. Since their first coming-out posting on Jan 18, the gray-haired couple now have more than 12,000 followers.
In one posting, the couple blast their attackers on the web, “What is wrong with us two old men falling in love? We are so much better than you straight guys who always divorce, find prostitutes and keep mistresses! What gives you the right to toss filthy words at us! We’ve just had some sparkles of love between us. Love at this age is not easy-won!”
In another video clip, the lovebirds sit side by side, caress each other’s faces and kiss from time to time while singing “The Moon Says About My Heart”, a well-known Chinese love song by the late Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng, “Please give us your best wishes. There is no use objecting even if you do,” reads the caption on the video.
Their unofficial wedding ceremony on January 30 was streamed online, but according to the couple, it was going smoothly until the son of the teacher, who has been estranged from the father for years because of his homosexuality, crashed it, chased their guests away and cut off the streaming. “It made us so humiliated, so painful … Why even a stranger can wish us happy and my own son cannot?”
The couple held their ‘wedding ceremony’ in Beijing and invited net users over to their reception.
Many Chinese net users were very generous in their wishes and encouragement. “Support! I am so touched after watching this!! Best wishes to you! You’ve found a partner to go hand-in-hand with in the twilight years!! Grandpas, you guys will be happy… Wish you a safe and smooth life ahead!!” one net user wrote.
Others, however, were not sympathetic, and even threw vitriol at them, “I don’t think your son did anything wrong. You are so selfish. Have you thought about your son’s feeling!! You deserve it,” one user wrote. Another chimed in, “So disgusting! Why don’t you two old men go to hell?”
Some, including self-proclaimed gay-friendly people, claim they were simply put off by the high-profile and lovey-dovey nature of all their messages and visuals. “Heterosexuality and homosexuality are both right. But you two are at such an age. You can’t think about yourselves alone. Think about the grannies that you spent half a life with. Keep your love low-key. I don’t discriminate against anyone, but I feel terrible for the two old ladies who have got no love in return for their life-time devotion.”
In China, where homosexuality had been listed as a form of mental illness by the Ministry of Health until 2001, coming out can be a risky thing to do, which can mean social stigma, severing of family ties, and if not handled well, mental meltdown. According to a scientific survey of 1,502 residents in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the three largest Chinese cities, over 54 percent of respondents considered homosexuality abnormal. Only 31 percent said they “feel okay.”
Source: Guangzhou Public Opinion Research Center
In recent years, there are signs of growing acceptance and tolerance toward homosexuals on the Internet, especially among younger generations, but it is worth pointing out that it is partly attributable to the influence of boys love fandom originated from Japan’s comic books and animated works. As one post on Weibo points out, many young women who have fantasies about male-male romance are usually so obsessed with beautiful faces and ripped bodies that when they see a real-life plain-looking gay couple, they frown upon the gap between the ideal and the reality.
More important, some Chinese may be noncommittal with homosexuality, but when it comes to their own family member being gay, they suddenly become intransigent and pig-headed in their objection.
That’s why 90 percent of homosexuals in China don’t open up, and 80 percent of them who actually do only come out to friends, according to a study by South China Normal University of 293 gay college students. 73 percent of them believe family is their major source of stress.
And the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on February 10 this year, is seen as a potential coming-out season. When gay people of marriageable age return to their hometown for family reunion during the holiday, their family and relatives arrange back-to-back blind dates and pester them to marry so much that they reach a breaking point and come out, much to their family’s complete consternation, which can ruin the entire holiday for the family.
It is estimated that there are nearly 30 million homosexual men and women in China. 16 million women are desperately stuck in fake marriages to gay men who are still in closet due to family pressures.