Being gay no longer a 'mental illness'
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Gay and lesbian activists from Beijing got together on Valentines Day for a mass pretend wedding. The police didn't disturb the festivities - a sign that Chinese society, however conservative, is beginning to tolerate its gay community. Read more and see the wedding photos...
Gay and lesbian activists from Beijing got together on Valentines Day for a mass pretend wedding. The police didn't disturb the festivities - a sign that Chinese society, however conservative, is beginning to tolerate its gay community.
Until 2001 homosexuality was classed as a mental illness in China. But while the 30 million gays living there are largely tolerated, same-sex relationships are still a taboo subject. Our Observer Zhang Zi took part in the first-of-its-kind ceremony on the 14th, which, surprisingly, even made it into the news.
The wedding photos
"It doesn’t mean that the situation for gays has really changed"
Ronnie, who is gay, is a 29-year-old student from Shenzhen currently living in Paris.
This kind of demonstration is quite a rarity in China, but it doesn't mean that the situation for gays has really changed. People over 30 still find it hard to accept us - Chinese society is still very conservative. The government doesn't support the gay community enough. For example, we don't have Gay Pride here. And same-sex marriage hasn't been legalised either. My dream is to live without social pressures. But it's only a dream, because Chinese culture compels us to get married and have children, and the pressure is huge."<
"A lot of my gay friends are made to marry women and have children because of pressure from their families"
Zhang Yi, 35, runs a gay bar in Beijing. He took part in the wedding.
We organised this demo on our own initiative. But the police didn't bother us. The happening had an enormous impact. It's been discussed on loads of forums and not only by people from big cities, but also in rural areas. What surprised me the most was that we got mentioned by CCTV [Chinese state TV channel] on their website. That's something very rare. It means that the media is increasingly interested in the gay community and that the government is more tolerant of us, although not openly supportive yet.
By doing this we were trying to get in direct contact with the public, who only know about the gay community from media reports. We want to fight stereotypes and get our traditional culture to evolve a bit. A lot of my gay friends are made to marry women and have children because of pressure from their families. Some marry lesbians. I understand, but it really is tragically inhumane. I hope that gay marriage will be legalised and that one day we can have our own programmes in the media."