'I was tired of fooling my parents'
Updated: 2013-07-02 03:12
Xiao Kai, a gay man from 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 is the only son of a 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, who lives in the provincial capital of Zhengzhou with his boyfriend.
Although 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's courage largely came from a support network called Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays China, a non-governmental organization that comprises nearly 150 families of lesbians and gays nationwide.
Founded in 2008, the organization works to support the relatives and friends of gays and lesbians, as well as helps gays and lesbians during the difficult "coming out" process.
The organization has set up a hotline to promote better understanding for those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community that is manned by the parents of lesbians and gays who wish to share their stories and experiences.
Wu Tao, an event organizer for the organization, said large-scale meetings will be held for families in 11 cities.
Xiao took his parents to a meeting in Zhengzhou, where parents shared their stories and experiences.
"As long as my family supports me, I can ignore all other humiliations or prejudices," he said, adding that relatives play a crucial role as a 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 said that nearly 90 percent of gay men are already married to or will eventually marry heterosexual women.
Chinese law does not specifically ban gay marriage. However, a high-profile official from the civil affairs department publicly announced the prohibition a few years ago, according to Zhang.
Zhang has called for an amendment to the existing law to allow same-sex marriage, as well as for more efforts to educate the public about the issue.
"NGOs have helped 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 past 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 the 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.