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Support group helps Chinese gays come out

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-07-01 13:43

ZHENGZHOU - Xiao Kai, a gay man from Central China's 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 Kai is the single son of a rural 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 Kai, who lives in the provincial capital of Zhengzhou with his boyfriend.

Although he said 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 Kai's courage largely came from a support network called Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) China, a non-governmental organization that comprises nearly 150 families of lesbians and gays nationwide.

Founded in 2008, PFLAG China 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 LGBT community that is manned by the parents of lesbians and gays who wish share their stories and experiences.

Wu Tao, a PFLAG China worker who organizes events for the families of gays and lesbians, said large-scale meetings will be held for the families in 11 cities.

Xiao Kai took his parents to a meeting in Zhengzhou, where parents sharing their stories and experiences.

"As long as my family supports me, I can neglect all other humiliations or prejudices," he said, adding that relatives play a crucial role as  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 added that nearly 90 percent of gay men are already married to or will eventually marry heterosexual women.

The Chinese law has not specifically banned the homosexual marriage, however, a high-profile official from civil affair department has publicly announced the prohibition few years ago, according to Zhang.

Zhang has called for amending the existing marriage law in order to allow same-sex marriage, as well as for more efforts to educate the public about the issue.

"Non-governmental organizations like PFLAG have helped to 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 last 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 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.

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