Family felt the pain after son came out of the closet
As a gay man from a small and conservative town in northern China, 36-year-old Lucas Meng considers himself one of the lucky ones - he was able to come out to his immediate family at a relatively early age, and they offered their blessings on his homosexual relationship.
But as he has passed the average age for starting a family, Meng now feels pressure shifting onto his parents, who have become burdened with the task of fending off curiosity about Lucas, such as from relatives and neighbours, and even contending with people talking about him behind his back.
'I'm grateful that my parents are accepting of who I am, but I feel sorry for them for what they have to go through because of me,' said Meng, a corporate training specialist from Jincheng, Shanxi .
His decision to come out of the closet served to also lock his parents in the closet, according to some sociologists, and that decision poses a dilemma for many homosexuals.
Meng said he spent more than 10 years making peace with his own homosexuality, a process that was full of self-doubt, panic and thoughts of suicide - feelings shared by many gay people in China - before he tried to reach out to support groups for help. He came out when he was about 25.
He said he never considered a heterosexual marriage, and that he was reluctant to arrange a sham marriage with a lesbian to cover up his sexuality. That left him with little choice but to come out to his family.
Meng's father, who is affectionately known as Papa Meng among a small circle of mainland parents of homosexuals who have come out to their families, said that his first reaction to his son's coming out was to blame himself and his wife for their son's 'problem'. Then he sought medical advice, which included visits to doctors in hopes of finding a cure, to no avail. Eventually, they came to terms with their son's sexuality.
'At the end of the day, we brought him into this world, so we could only embrace him with love and acceptance,' he said.
But Papa Meng said that, because they come from a small, conservative town, he has often had to make excuses for his ageing, unwed son, who is their second child. Their other son is 40, married and has a child.
As accepting as he has become of his youngest son, Papa Meng said he sometimes wonders how different, and perhaps easier, life might be if Lucas was married.
Lucas's boyfriend of five years is too afraid to come out to his own family, and he plans on arranging a sham marriage with a lesbian next year. But the 29-year-old from Zhengzhou , Henan province, intends to divorce in two or three years.
'I would rather be known as a divorced man than a homosexual, and once I have married once, the pressure will be far less to marry again.'