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"Coming out" has made a retired Beijing history teacher, who prefers to stay anonymous, and his lover - a water delivery worker - the most controversial topic on China's social media.
Inspired by the “Big Love” gay rights campaign launched by openly gay Hong Kong singers Anthony Wong Yiu-ming, and Denise Ho Wan-sze this month, the couple decided to share their story on Weibo, China’s popular twitter-like service.
The couple, named “Two old men’s love” on Weibo, said they were deeply in love and plan to marry this month.
They posted intimate photos and videos of themselves, which drew thousands of comments.
In one photo, the couple are seen wearing wedding dresses.
Another video clip shows them singing the famous Chinese love song The Moon Represents My Heart. At one point, they were seen kissing each other passionately.
“We won’t part till we die,” wrote the couple on Weibo. “We will strive to be together no matter how hard and painful it is.”
The retired and divorced history teacher told SCMP.com he had met his lover when he delivered bottled water to him. They fell in love and began a relationship.
“Being together has been tough,” he admitted. “Few people support us, except a few of our older friends.”
He said even his own child stopped talking to him after he came out.
Like many retired couples, they spend their time together reading, playing board games and doing outdoor activities.
“We call each other ‘old baby’ and ‘little baby’” said the teacher.
While most netizens praised the couple for their courage and honesty, many others have condemned them.
“How sick you are,” commented a netizen. "What are you doing in that cheap wedding gown?"
"Shameless," said another.
“We are better than those heterosexuals who seek prostitutes and mistresses,” said the couple in their defence. “We are proud.”
The Weibo posts of “Two old men’s love” have been re-posted thousands of times by netizens including Anthony Wong, a major advocate of the “Big Love” campaign.”
The couple said they planned to broadcast their wedding online later this month and invited netizens to participate.
The “Big Love” gay rights campaign started by lawmakers and celebrities in Hong Kong aims to educate the public on a new law to stop discrimation against people on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Gay rights groups have called on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s administration to introduce the law. It has gained support from celebrities in the mainland and Taiwan.
“People may feel discouraged after the government refused to launch a public consultation,” said Dennis Ho in a video released last week, “But we won’t give up.”
Same-sex marriage - or civil unions - are not recognised in China and have no legal basis.