China's gays celebrate love on Valentine's Day

Updated: 2012-02-14 22:33


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BEIJING - Tiantian bought a bunch of red roses for Valentine's Day to give not to his partner, but to elderly people in a retirement home in the southern city of Guangzhou.

The gay couple marked the romantic day in the retirement community by helping the elderly clean rooms, wash clothes and trim their nails.

"We just want to make this day a little bit more meaningful," Tiantian said. "Of course, we will have a hearty candlelight dinner after this to celebrate the 10th year of our love."

On Tuesday evening, thousands of gay men and women flocked to Destination, a popular gay bar in Beijing, to celebrate Valentine's Day with drinks, dancing, and a "Dreams of Men"-themed art exhibition that was curated especially for the holiday.

Gay people in the increasingly open country, and the younger generation, in particular, have grown more accustomed to observing Valentine's Day, a holiday that originated in the West to celebrate love and romance.

"Love can exist between a boy and a girl, and so it does between a man and a man, and a woman and a woman, doesn't it?" said Li Yinhe, a renowned female sexologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

She said that on this day of love, the gay community also wants to, and should, express love for their partners.

"It's good to see that Chinese gays are more active nowadays. Society has been more and more inclusive, and they have begun to step into the sunshine from the dark," Li said.

Li's comment reflects a recent survey on marriage perspectives conducted by, a major Chinese dating website, which found that over 80 percent of respondents born after the 1980s bear no discriminatory beliefs regarding homosexuality.

However, most gay lovers prefer to get into the Valentine's spirit in a low-key manner.

A gift may not be necessary, and gay couples often opt to go to a gay bar or a less public place where their intimacy won't make them too "noticeable."

"After all, we are different. If we walk hand-in-hand or kiss in the street, people will see it as abnormal, some may stare at or even laugh at us," said a gay man surnamed Xie, who celebrated Valentine's Day by having a simple dinner at a local restaurant with his boyfriend.

Meanwhile, the holiday is more bitter than sweet for those gay men who have married women.

Mu Sen, a fashion stylist living in Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang Province, had a tiring day commuting from his "underground" boyfriend's house and his home.

He skipped work and drove a long way to his boyfriend's house to give him a gift and have lunch with him during the day. But, in the evening, he will make dinner to please his wife on this special day.

"My boyfriend wants me to stay with him the whole day as he values this festival a lot," he said, "but, you know, I am a husband and will soon be a father to my second child."

Li, who has been fighting for the recognition of homosexual marriages in China, called on gay men to avoid marrying women.

Li said that the situation for gays in China has indeed become much better, but pressures remain. These pressures can compel a gay man to choose to marry woman -- a so-called "normal marriage" -- but sometimes become a source of tragedy for the gay men and their wives.