BEIJING - Li Baba could not believe it when, about 10 years ago, a psychologist told him that his son, then still in high school, is gay. " At that time, I thought homosexuality is what hooligans do. My son was a nice boy, how could this be possible?"
The psychologist referred him to a therapist in north China's Tianjin Municipality to "treat his son's homosexuality". After the treatment, Li Baba's son suffered prolonged depression, fits of agitation and other mental problems.
"Don't try to fix your child's homosexuality. It can't be changed. Treatment only cause more problems," said white-haired Li Baba. His wife, also in her sixties, wept in silence by the side, as the man told other parents of gays or lesbians about the story.
About two hundred people, who are gays or lesbians, along with their parents, gathered in a small conference room in a modest hotel in Beijing on Saturday and Sunday to call for family acceptance and support for gay people.
Out of privacy concern, parents at the gathering asked to be identified as their children's parents, like Li Baba, or Father of Li, Yang Mama, mother of Yang.
Lesbian Xiao Ying regrets that she came out of the closet too quickly when, at age 19, she told her mother. Her mother took her to doctors and kept a close watch on her so that she could not meet her lover.
Now, after nine years, her mother remains firm on the issue. "It only got worse when my mother converted from Buddhism to Christianity," said Xiao Ying.
"Live your life and I'll live mine," the single parent of Xiao Ying said when the daughter tried to invite her to the gay parents' gathering.
"I didn't hope to win her support from here, because it would be unrealistic. I only wanted her to get to know about the community," Xiao Ying said.
Gay people, whose families are often extreme in their rejection of homosexuality, are three times more likely to contract HIV and eight times more likely to attempt suicide compared to those who are well accepted by their families, Caitlin Ryan, a researcher with San Francisco State University, said on the basis of a 30-year research study in the United States.
Also, Wu Youjian, 63, organizer of the gathering, has heard many tragedies from her hotline, which seeks to help families accept their gay children's sexuality. She listens to their confusion, anger and regrets three nights a week.
Tears ran down Wu's cheeks as she recounted the many suicides of people she tried to help -- a senior military officer who dared not seek a boyfriend or even talk about his sexuality and committed suicide during this year's Spring Festival; a mother who did not know about her son's sexuality until she read his will; a man who took his own life after hearing about the suicide of his boyfriend. ...
Yang Mama now cooks for her son's boyfriend, washes the two men's clothes and even helps to take care of the boyfriend's paralysed father. But her support came only after three attempted suicides by Yang, who suffers from chronic depression.
"I'm not comfortable enough to express love in words. But I bought her a necklace," Yang showed gratitude to his mother for her attendance at the gathering. He spent 40,000 yuan (5,996 U.S. dollars), more than a year's savings, on the jewelry.
"Now, my greatest wish is for my son to find a nice boyfriend so they can take good care of each other," said Wang Mama, who took advantage of the gathering for match-making. "If they can have a child someway or another, it would be even better."
"With patience and good preparation, I believe all gay children can win the understanding of their families. After all, parents love their children," Wang Mama said.