Homosexual’s marriage faces social pressure

 

By Tian Ying and Zhang Hui

Nine years into his second marriage, Yang Bin still awkwardly refers to his wife as “my date” while conversing with others. The failure to settle for a heterosexual marriage has once again saddled him with guilt and remorse.

Yang Bin (not his real name), born in 1970 in the outskirts of China’s Tianjin Municipality, is now the owner of a small restaurant. He looks pale and speaks in an utterly gentle voice, his face covered with chiseled wrinkles.

Like many Chinese homosexuals, Yang has a sad story of struggling in heterosexual marriage, as China’s family-centered culture accentuates one getting married and carrying on the family name, and the social tolerance for homosexuals is still limited, particularly in less-developed areas.

Yang’s story unfolded when he noticed at a very young age that he was different from his peers. “I never had any special feelings for girls but my heart beat fast for boys,” he says.

As Yang grew older, he realized he was gay. However, this knowledge spent a long time locked up deep in his mind, unexpressed to anyone as the sexual tendency was deemed abnormal and untenable by Chinese in the 1980s and 1990s, when homosexuality was included in the official Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders.

It wasn’t until 1997, when Yang was 27, that he got his first chance to meet other homosexuals. In a park frequented by gays, a man approached and flirted with him. The experience excited Yang and the next day, he returned to the park, boldly found another man and “everything that should happen happened.”

Finally falling in love and having an outlet for his long-oppressed emotion immersed Yang in happiness. But it didn’t last long.

In 2001, Yang’s parents repeatedly urged him to get married. With no other choice, Yang disclosed his real sexual inclination, hoping to be understood and accepted by them.

Yang recalls the evening of his coming out. Sitting with his parents in a bedroom, Yang told them, “I am gay, I don’t like women,” and explained how he became convinced.

But he did not convince his parents. During their talk, Yang’s father kept murmuring ‘not possible’ and asking Yang how he became like this.

He tried to win their understanding by spelling out, “I also want to lead a normal life, but I can’t help myself. Although I’ve been going out with a girl for four years, I never touched her hands.”

However, the discussion soon descended into a fight, with his furious father roaring, “Don’t try to find excuses [to break up with Yang's then girlfriend],” and Yang making the accusation to his parents that “It is your genes that made me gay,” citing a hypothesis he read in a book that homosexuality is genetic.

Later that evening, Yang’s parents brought in reinforcements consisting of his uncles and aunts to talk Yang out of homosexuality.

His father insisted that he get married, saying “I would rather you divorce than never marry.” His parents, who lived in the countryside, where people tend to be more conservative, could not stand gossip from other villagers.

The frustrated young man left home the next day. “When I returned half a year later, my parents were not mad at me any longer, and my father, who seldom cooked, made me my favorite seafood. Thinking of all the miseries I created for them and their unconditional love to me, I softened,” he recalls.

Yang finally got married later that year, but divorced after just three months.

Four years on, in 2005, Yang stepped into a second marriage that he says he could never have imagined after the first. This time, an outgoing woman, blind to Yang’s real sexuality, was attracted to him and started pursuing him right in the period in which he broke up with his boyfriend of eight years.

“I was deeply hurt by the break-up and no longer had faith in homosexual love. At that moment, I just wanted to get married and lead a normal life,” Yang explains.

However, his parents fiercely rejected the decision as they were clear about his sexuality and refused to arrange a ceremony for them. So the couple got married on their own and departed for a honeymoon.

Things did not work out as he wished. “I really thought I could distance myself from homosexual circles but I couldn’t,” Yang says. During their 15-day trip, the couple had an awkward sexual incident that saddened the bride, and Yang remembers seeing her “crying in pajamas in the hallway.” But the bride did not have the faintest idea of what lay at the root of their problems.

In the following eight years so far, the couple have only made love five times, all in an unsuccessful attempt to conceive a child. “I felt deeply guilty and didn’t know how to face her,” Yang says.

To relieve his guilt, he treated his wife the best way he could and has taken good care of her family as well. “When her mother was hospitalized after a brain hemorrhage, I left my work behind and attended her bedside for months.” Yang’s parents also treated his wife like their own daughter to “make up for their son’s mistake.”

But his feelings of guilt cannot be totally laid down. Though an unsatisfying sexual life is not necessarily lethal to a marriage in China, where women are often deemed not virtuous for speaking explicitly about or showing interest in sex, being childless is another matter. This gradually poisoned the couple’s relationship, with them fighting about it occasionally.

During these incidents, even his virtuous wife could not help complaining, “I demand nothing of you but to let me feel I am a woman.”

“I cannot even satisfy such a simple wish in her,” Yang says, tears welling up in his eyes.

As time went by, he gave up on making their marriage work and cheated on his wife with another man. The resulting menage a trois has tragically worked as Yang and his wife now only reunite at weekends because the husband has to attend the restaurant day and night.

Yang’s boyfriend moved in with him in the restaurant (retrofitted from a four-bedroomed residential apartment), but his wife still continued to visit him every weekend. “I think that was when she discovered my problem,” he speculates, although Yang told his wife the man was just helping out in the restaurant.

Yang recalls that his boyfriend once slipped into his bed, snuggling with him after his wife got up, but she only jokingly remarked ‘look how happy you are when he is under your blanket.’

But they never openly talked about Yang’s being gay. Like his parents, many Chinese do not accept the idea of homosexuality, taking it as a correctable morbidity.

In 2007, Yang was diagnosed HIV-positive but his wife fortunately not. Yang still kept her in the dark, getting a blood sample from her on the pretext that it was needed for a hepatitis test. After the discovery of his condition, however, Yang began trying to persuade his wife that they should divorce.

Due to social stigma, many people with HIV in China even withhold their HIV status from close relatives. Some localities have endeavored to make it legally binding for HIV-positive people to inform their spouses, moves which have sparked fierce opposition from the HIV community.

“I have brought up divorce many times and encouraged her to date other men because I want her to start a new life, but she refused each time,” Yang sighs. She has always believed that the fundamental problem between them is that Yang is not mature enough (she is two years older her husband) and things will improve when he gets ages.

Lack of public discussions about homosexuality keeps a lot of women, especially less educated ones, unaware of the landmine they may tread upon, and even if they realize someday, many will not let go, clinging onto gay husbands in the hope of turning them straight.

“We may look an admirable couple, doing the very best to care for each other and living a well-off life, but it hurts to think how she has turned from a happy and extrovert girl when we first met into a sad woman whose face is full of melancholy.”

In her book “The Subculture of Homosexuality,” renowned sexologist Li Yinhe estimated that there are 36 to 48 million homosexuals in China.

A large percentage of them surrender to pressures coming from their families and society by entering into heterosexual marriages.

According to HIV/AIDS and homosexuality expert Zhang Beichuan’s citing of his own research in 2012, 80 percent of gay men in China have married or will marry a woman.

However, changes are under way, with China developing more tolerance of homosexuals, particularly among young people and in big cities.

Li Hu, head of Haihe Star, a Tianjin-based HIV/AIDS non-governmental organization, says, “I find fewer and fewer friends and people we work with are married gays.”

 

 

 

NEW POST   updated on July 1, 2013

 

Support group helps

Chinese gays come out

 

By Liu Jinhui, Luo Hui, Xu Xueyi and Liang Saiyu

 

Xiao Kai, a gay man from central China’s Henan Province, finally raised the courage to tell his parents about his sexual orientation with the help of a support group that is helping many other gay Chinese come out to their friends and relatives.

Xiao Kai is the single son of a rural family from a village outside the city of Pingdingshan, where traditional beliefs dictating that men must continue their bloodlines prevail.

Although he initially tried to ease the pressure from his family to settle down by hiring a “fake” girlfriend, he eventually realized that he had to tell them the truth.

“I was tired of fooling my parents and hurting others,” said Xiao Kai, who lives in the provincial capital of Zhengzhou with his boyfriend.

Although he said his honesty was a shock to his parents, he said they finally accepted his orientation on the condition that he would not bring his boyfriend back to their village.

Xiao Kai’s courage largely came from a support network called Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) China, a non-governmental organization that comprises nearly 150 families of lesbians and gays nationwide.

Founded in 2008, PFLAG China works to support the relatives and friends of gays and lesbians, as well as helps gays and lesbians during the difficult “coming out” process.X The organization has set up a hotline to promote better understanding for those in the LGBT community that is manned by the parents of lesbians and gays who wish share their stories and experiences.

Wu Tao, a PFLAG China worker who organizes events for the families of gays and lesbians, said large-scale meetings will be held for the families in 11 cities.

Xiao Kai took his parents to a meeting in Zhengzhou, where parents sharing their stories and experiences.

“As long as my family supports me, I can neglect all other humiliations or prejudices,” he said, adding that relatives play a crucial role as social buffer.

Long-standing traditions regarding marriage and the continuation of one’s bloodline have resulted in many “fake” marriages, with gay men marrying straight women to deflect pressure from their relatives.

China has at least 10 million “gay wives,” according to sexologist Zhang Beichuan, who added that nearly 90 percent of gay men are already married to or will eventually marry heterosexual women.

The Chinese law has not specifically banned the homosexual marriage, however, a high-profile official from civil affair department has publicly announced the prohibition few years ago, according to Zhang.

Zhang has called for amending the existing marriage law in order to allow same-sex marriage, as well as for more efforts to educate the public about the issue.

“Non-governmental organizations like PFLAG have helped to provide care and opportunities for communication for families in need,” Zhang said.

“A Yi,” a 52-year-old gay man, married a straight woman to conceal his orientation from his parents.

“It was difficult to come out in the last three decades, as most of us had to pretend to be straight,” he said, adding that it took years for him to come to terms with his orientation.

China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and in 2001 removed it from an official list of mental disorders.

“Recently, I’ve seen same-sex couples walking down the street hand in hand. Many are no longer hiding from public,” A Yi said.

Zhang said gays and lesbians are gaining confidence, adding that the public also has a growing awareness of personal rights and tolerance.

 

 

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