When Piao Chunmei’s son told her he was gay, she reacted the way many Chinese parents do, sleepless and crying for days due to the lingering shame of same sex relationships in China.
But she eventually accepted her son and is now part of an expanding network of gays and their parents who help other families cope with the stress of coming out in a country which until 2001 classified homosexuality as a mental illness.
Deep-seated cultural expectations for each generation to produce a male heir – heightened by China’s “one-child policy”, which expanded to two in 2015 – added to the pressure to conform. But a new generation is more willing to take a stand on their sexuality, despite what their relatives may think.
Piao and her fellow volunteers bridge the generation gap.
“We don’t want to shut them in the closet where no one can see them,” said Piao, an effervescent 54-year-old who works for a Shanghai cosmetics equipment company.
But coming-out in family-oriented China remains traumatic, often tearing households apart or leading to suicides. The fears are so intense that advocacy groups estimate millions lead a double life — hiding their identity by marrying heterosexuals.
“Family is the most important part (of coming out) in terms of our emotions, but it’s the hardest area to break through,” said Duan Rongfeng, a 40-year-old gay Shanghai architect. Read more via HKFP