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'PFLAG' China meets in Beijing

  • Source: Global Times
  • [10:33 November 01 2010]
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By Fang Yunyu

"His being gay doesn't make him less my son," said Sarah, an American mother speaking at the third meeting of the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) China in Beijing last weekend. "God made him. It's natural, like people's eye colors, blue or brown."

More than 100 gay men, lesbians and their parents gathered at the Longdinghua Hotel in Chaoyang district to discuss their families' experiences in addressing their children's homosexuality, calling for social acceptance and support.

Sarah, who only gave her first name, participated in the meeting to provide the mostly local attendees with an example of how to be publicly accepting of one's gay or lesbian children. She told of how when a woman flustered her 23-year-old son by hitting on him, Sarah straightforwardly told her, "My son has a boyfriend already."

"The attendees have doubled since our first gathering on January 4 and 5 last year," said PFLAG China's founder Wu Youjian, a 63-year-old mother whose son is gay. Wu founded PFLAG China in Guangzhou on June 28, 2008, with plans to hold annual meetings. They are unaffiliated with the US organization of the same name.

Wu views the attendees as her children, and many stopped by to ask "Wu Mom" for a hug during the tea break.

"They're not ill, sick or abnormal," said Wu. "They're just children who need understanding and support from their families and society."

In many foreign countries, parents are more likely to defend their homosexual children against outside pressure. In contrast, due to Chinese traditions of family and filial piety, parents here attempt to force their children into being heterosexual, according to the event's host A Qiang.

"I still feel pains about my son's sexual orientation," said a mother surnamed Li from Tianjin.

Li said her son told her that he thought he was gay three years ago. "And it's agony," Li said. "I'm still undergoing the process of acceptance."

During the meeting, some parents also said they have tried to turn to doctors or psychologists for consultation and medical treatment, but it made no difference.

"As far as I know, it's basically impossible to change a person's sexual orientation," sociologist and prominent sexologist Li Yinhe told the Global Times.

In Western countries, people are more focused on the individual, while in China people are more family centered. That's the reason why people put too much attention on family and reproduction rather than on personal happiness, Li Yinhe said.

She also estimated that around 3 to 4 percent of the Chinese population, or 40 million people, are homosexuals.

"Acceptance from family members is the first step," Wu said, "but understanding from society is the most important thing for homosexuals."