LGBT community looking for a happy life with kids

By Wei Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2015-9-21 19:08:01

Photo: IC

Photo: IC

Joe (left), Jack (center) and Tommy visit Shenzhen in October 2011. Photo: Courtesy of Sannan Yizhai

Pictures of a happy family of six - with two daddies and two sets of twins - is what netizens see when they first visit the now well-known Sina Weibo account "Li Ruan Yijiaren," or "The Family of Li and Ruan."

Chinese American Li Bingguang, is a professor at the Business Department of Shenandoah University. He and his Vietnamese American partner Ruan Wen have lived together for about eight years in the US. The couple had their first set of twins three years ago.

Living with someone we love and raising a kid or two together is many people's definition of a happy life. However, same-sex couples still must face a number of challenges to make this dream come true.

According to a report from Nandu Daily, the 2011 US census showed that there were 646,000 same-sex families in the nation, nearly double the number from 10 years ago. Among them, about one fifth had children. 

While it is difficult to get an accurate number of gay and lesbian families in China, growing international acceptance of same-sex couples has led to an increasing number of gays and lesbians coming out to share their happiness with partners and even kids. Regardless if they are accepted by society or not, they are living their lives in a low-key but satisfying manner.

Three men under one roof

The little family created by Chinese media executive Tommy, his partner Joe and their son Jack is one such example. 

Like Li and Ruan, Tommy posts updates about the three-member family's daily adventures on Sina Weibo and WeChat under the handle of Sannan Yizhai (Three men under one roof). 

"We met in person on November 30, 1997 after writing letters to each other for a period of time," Tommy recounted the beginning of his romance with Joe from the other side of the phone.

"He told me that at a young age he had married a woman he had met only a few times just so he could be married as is local custom. He also told me that they were having a child."

"At the time I didn't know what having a child would mean," Tommy added.

"Jack was born on December 11, 1997, 11 days after we met."

Not really a person who liked kids, Tommy said his heart softened the first time he held Jack in his arms.

"Suddenly, there was this very strange feeling, very warm," he told the Global Times.

However, the two didn't decide to raise the young boy together until the 2-year-old Jack had an accident while living with his grandmother.

Jack's presence drove the two to begin living more goal-orientated lives.  To provide a more stable life for the small boy, the two bought an apartment. Tommy admitted they had concerns about how prejudice against their "special family" from outside may negatively impact Jack's life, and so the couple was sure to deal with every situation very carefully. 

Tommy said they told Jack the truth about their relationship when he was 12. To his surprise, Jack accepted the situation very naturally.

"Familial love surpasses everything" is Tommy's conclusion.

Now that Jack's 18th birthday is fast approaching, Tommy feels more relaxed.

"He is half a head taller than me now," Tommy said, with a pride that could be felt even over the phone.

No regrets

Thirtysomething Ryan, a lesbian single mother, lives in Hong Kong with her 2-and-a-half-year-old boy.

"I've liked kids since adolescence. Kids' smiles can melt any unhappy mood away," Ryan said in an e-mail interview with the Global Times. She explained that the idea of having a baby came while she was still with her ex-girlfriend, who was planning to have a baby through artificial insemination. Although the two broke up, Ryan didn't want to give up her dream of having a child.

"Without telling anyone, I went to a fertilization clinic," Ryan said.

Like many single moms, raising a child on her own has not been easy.

"I have to face everything on my own," Ryan said, explaining that one time when her son got sick late in the evening, she had to juggle carrying the baby on one arm and getting all the baby's things together with the other hand.

"It was a very hard moment."

Since her son is still young, Ryan doesn't think it's necessary at this point to talk about her sexual orientation.

"But when he matures, I will definitely tell him what kind of person his mother is. If he faces any problem with his schoolmates, I will teach him how to handle them," Ryan told the Global Times.

"Even if my son annoys me 99 percent of the time, I will accept and enjoy that 1 percent of happiness without any hesitation."

Tommy feels the same.

"We were young before, but having a kid made us grow up all at once," Tommy recalled.

Tommy admitted that compared with Li and Ruan's family in the US, where people from the neighborhood accept them, the situation in China is a little different.

Not yet accepted by society in general, Tommy edits their personal information and pictures whenever he posts them online.

"For many years, I rejected any interviews for fear it might affect Jack. And on the other hand, I am also still a person within the system," Tommy said, explaining that he is a high-level executive for a media company.

"Now though, I want to be true to my heart. I no longer want to hide myself, even if it might affect my career," Tommy added.

Newspaper headline: We are family

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