Wedding highlights plight of homosexuals in China

By Fang Shaoqing Source:Global Times Published: 2014-9-18 18:03:12

Brian Davidson, Britain's Consul General in Shanghai, recently married his Chinese-born partner Scott Chang at a ceremony held at the residence of the British ambassador to China. News of the couple's union, which is recognized under UK laws, quickly unleashed a torrent of comments on Chinese social media. Thousands of Weibo users forwarded pictures of the ceremony and posted supportive remarks. Many wished the couple a lifetime of happiness and praised their openness. At the same time, many speculated about whether same-sex marriages would some day be recognized in China.

Davidson and Chang haven't been the only openly gay couple in China to attract attention recently. Hanscom Smith, the Consul General of the US in Shanghai, has also made no secret of his male romantic partner.

The number of jurisdictions that legally recognize same-sex marriages has grown rapidly over recent years. These days, same-sex couples can now get married in dozens of countries and many US states. Despite opposition from certain religious and conservative groups, acceptance of homosexuals and support for gay marriage seems to be gaining momentum worldwide. No doubt more places will soon get onboard with the spreading marriage equality trend.

Unfortunately, societal views have been slow to change in China. Many in the country still lack even a basic understanding of homosexuality. Indeed, many Chinese people regard homosexuality as a purely foreign phenomenon.

What's more, the intersection of family planning polices and a deep devotion to ancestral lines means that gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities are often ridiculed, shamed and ostracized by their families. In other words, because of China's one-child laws, many parents put an incredible amount of pressure on their offspring to perpetuate the family line with a child of their own. Of course, much to the dismay of some less-than-progressive citizens, homosexuality can throw a big wrench into one's ability and willingness to reproduce sexually.

But while beliefs are one thing, actions are another. Within families, reports say that some parents are now forcing their gay children into "conversion" therapies that promise to "turn" their kids straight. Certain fundamentalist religious groups in the US have long offered such "treatments," which most members of the mainstream medical and psychological community roundly condemn. What's more, familial and social pressures often force gay and lesbian women into loveless sham marriages with opposite-sex partners. In joking tones, many people often refer to such unions as "Chinese-style gay marriages."

For its part, the Chinese government has taken no stand on homosexuality, which is neither supported nor forbidden. Given current political and social conditions, China is unlikely to legalize gay marriage any time soon.

Nevertheless, stories and reports about openly gay couples can hopefully encourage more gay people to embrace their sexuality. As people begin to see and acknowledge homosexuals in their daily lives, this could lead to a greater acceptance of homosexuality in general. In many overseas countries, opinions and beliefs about homosexuals have changed substantially over recent years and many people are now enjoying the respect and recognition they deserve. With time, I hope that similar attitude changes can happen in China.

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