Gay love, life and hope in urban China

Lingxiao Song interviews two generations of gay men living in Changchun, a city of 7.5 million in north-eastern China

Gay love, life and hope in urban China
19 September 2012

Living a gay life in Shanghai or Beijing isn’t too bad these days, with dozens of gay bars and clubs. But what if you are gay in one of China’s rapidly industrializing and hugely populated ‘third tier’ cities? Gay Star News talks to Zhi De and Shao about finding love in in Changchun in north-eastern China.

‘It’s not as difficult as it used to be,’ says Zhi, a 22-year-old college student from Changchun who came out in high school. ‘Being a gay is pretty much the same as being a heterosexual person, we have our own way of dating.’

Zhi loves his city and his life there. He says Changchun has everything a gay man needs to have fun and socialize. ‘Gay bars like Woodhouse and Mbar are really popular,’ he says. ‘Even though they are small. There are some gay massage spas.’

Twenty years ago, even 1o years ago, gay men in Changchun didn’t have any of this. ‘Some older gays told me they could only go to the darkest place in parks to meet people and have sex,’ says Zhi. ‘And there was no way for them to get together, because they always had to go back to their marriage and family.’

Most of the older generation of gay men in China married women due to family and societal pressures. Shao, a gay man in his 30s who is married with a child, says he hasn’t touched his wife since his son was born. His wife knows he’s gay, but stays with him anyway because she’s worried what her friends and family would think if they knew the truth. If she got divorce, it would be financially difficult to raise up her child as a single mother. From her perspective, getting divorce for marrying a homosexual man is too much disgrace to bear.

‘It’s a major situation with us gay people in China,’ says Shao. ‘Wives of gay men are pretty much like widows. Nobody can change the situation for us. It could only cause trouble (like losing my job) and hurt the ones I love (like my parents) if I came out.’

For Zhi the situation is different. ‘I came out to my parents when I was 18,’ he says. ‘For four years, they freaked out, got angry, and swore they would never talk to me again. They speak to me now.’

Zhi says he definitely won’t end up marrying a woman, and strongly condemns the gay men that do. ‘I’ve fought this far, it would be stupid to stop now. I’m not like those marriage fakers. They make everybody miserable just because they can’t be honest with people including themselves.’

Like Zhi, more and more young gay men who were born in the 90s, are starting to lead different lives from older generations. They are braver and more optimistic. Knowing the barriers are there, they still desire the real happiness, and pursue it.

‘Being gay is not easy anywhere in world,’ Zhi says. ‘Fifty years ago, American gays were miserable. Look at them now! It’s all because they fought for themselves before. China is developing well on everything. It would be silly to believe gay people are doomed.’ 



No thumbnail available

Now Israel is embracing LGBTI rights, whether you are religious or not

Israeli gay and trans rights activist Avi Soffer argues the new government has seen a big shift on promoting LGBTI equality in the country
No thumbnail available

Moscow City Court refuses to review Pride ban defying Council of Europe

Moscow's highest court refused to review a ban on Pride, defying rulings by the Council of Europe and European Court of Human Rights to lift it
No thumbnail available

Philadelphia councilwoman introduces a change to the city's hate crime law

'Philadelphia is known all over the world as a city that celebrates and values diversity and we will not allow a few thugs to tarnish that reputation'
No thumbnail available

Coronation Street star confirmed for London production of Broadway hit

Charlie Condou will take lead role in Southwark Playhouse production of Next Fall
No thumbnail available

Pensioner arrested for anti-gay hate crime

Elderly woman in US allegedly beat man and called him 'a faggot'
No thumbnail available

Rainbow gay sports contest gets ready to welcome athletes to Prague

GSN looks forward to the best beer, beautiful sights, fantastic clubbing and the chance to rub shoulders with gay Czech sportspeople in Prague
No thumbnail available

What the second LGBTI Pride feels like for Portuguese in Braga

Portugal’s third-largest city gears up for its second Gay Pride parade. Have things changed since last year?
No thumbnail available

Anti-gay marriage protestors strip off to invade France

Masked muscle men get into their trunks to storm the beach and demand freedom for an anti-gay activist
No thumbnail available

Lawmaker: discriminated Washington state gay people should grow their own food

A staff member of Washington Senator Mike Hewitt's office, who advanced a bill to legalize discrimination against LGBT people in Washington said that gays should simply fend for themselves
Rum-infused sorbet at Floridita or gin tipples at Carom? Pick your delicious poison in London

Rum-infused sorbet at Floridita or gin tipples at Carom? Pick your delicious poison in London

Gay Star Travel chases late summer vibes in London’s Soho, home to a Cuban salsa club nestled a floor above an Indian eatery