Gay Chinese to be wed in West Hollywood

Updated: 2015-02-27 11:25

By Lia Zhu in San Francisco(China Daily USA)

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On his Chinese New Year break, Matthew, who works at a nonprofit organization serving the gay community in the southwestern China city of Chengdu, was busy shopping for wedding suits and making plans for a trip to California in June.

The 23-year-old Chinese man, who gave only his first name, and his partner recently won a contest organized by Taobao, China's biggest online shopping website. The prize is a free week-long marriage vacation in West Hollywood, California.

"We regard the marriage as a witness to our love, though the certificate is no more than a useless piece of paper back in China," Matthew said in a telephone interview.

With similar thoughts, more than 400 gay couples in China entered the contest last month and nearly 1 million Taobao customers cast their votes. After two rounds of competition with contestants submitting photos and video clips, 10 couples were selected on Feb 14, Valentine's Day.

"It's a great idea to celebrate marriage," West Hollywood Mayor John D'Amico told China Daily on Wednesday.

"West Hollywood has always been at the forefront for equal rights for LGBT people," D'Amico said in the letter, using the acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

According to the schedule provided by Taobao project manager Su Yu, the 10 couples will be registered at West Hollywood city hall and then attend a group wedding hosted by the mayor.

The city has been well known among Chinese gay communities, according to Geng Le, CEO of China's major LGBT advocacy website, a co-organizer of the campaign.

Many people choose to get married in the US and other countries, where same-sex marriage is legal, as a symbolic gesture, he said.

China has a large group of LGBT people and about 5 percent of the population is homosexual, according to data he obtained.

"Their spending power is usually higher than the general market, since the family is supported by two men's incomes, with no financial burdens of bringing up children," Geng said in a telephone interview.

Another reason why marketers look for ways to reach gay people is that they are more loyal customers, Geng said.

"Underprivileged groups tend to feel more grateful to those who are friendly to them," he explained.

Liu Xing, another winner of the contest, agreed.

"If you are kind to me, I'll be kind to you. As a customer, the only thing I can do is to buy their products," said Liu, who works for a food company in Beijing.

People's changing attitudes towards LGBT people also contribute, Geng said.

A survey by market research firm YouGov found that close to 60 percent of Chinese people agree to some extent with the idea that homosexuality should be accepted by society.

Liu Xing said he feels less pressure from society since he has been open with his boyfriend for seven years. And he is not worried that more people will find out he is gay through the contest, including his parents.