Mainland Chinese parents of gay children rally for LGBT rights at Hong Kong forum
When a housewife from Henan learned her son-in-law had not touched her daughter since the wedding, she knew her suspicions had turned out to be true.
"I told her before the wedding: 'You found a man who cooks and cleans and dresses himself? He must be gay.' I was right, of course."
Lan Yueliang, who now runs an online support group for wives of gay men in China (called tongqi), was one of the speakers who shared stories at the first annual Rainbow China Forum in Hong Kong last month. It was a rare gathering of over 200 gay rights advocates from across China.
Lan said that even though she was able to help her daughter get a divorce, many other tongqi - especially those living in rural areas - did not pursue divorce for fear of social stigma.
"The point is to stop shaming gay husbands," she said. "Parents need to support their children instead of forcing them to marry. No one benefits from such an awful situation."
In the past decade, gay-rights groups had started to proliferate in bigger mainland cities, whereas Macau's first such group was only established this year. In relatively gay-friendly Taiwan, on the other hand, legislators are now reviewing a same-sex marriage bill.
The forum attracted nearly a 100 mainland participants, with some from small towns and rural areas, who said that it was important for Chinese parents and family members to get involved in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights movement.
Social pressures to conform are so strong that sexologist Liu Dalin estimates that 90 per cent of gay and lesbian mainlanders will get married.
A speaker from Guangxi , who calls herself Moli Mama, was a representative for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays China (PFLAG China). "My daughter told me she was a lesbian nine years ago," she said. "I was so worried. I was afraid that she would be persecuted. I thought, how would I be able to help her? That's why I started to help organise events around the country for parents of gay children.
"Last year, 10 other parents and I came to Hong Kong to march in the Pride Parade. I think it means a lot for the children to see their parents marching for them."
This year, the Guangzhou-based group, which was founded in 2008, started to turn to more high-profile strategies to draw attention to gay rights.
In February, the group sent an open letter to the National People's Congress to ask lawmakers to legalise gay marriage.
"Our children are unable to legally form a family with their beloved partners, because of their sexual orientation, which has caused a great deal of inconvenience for them … It is incredible that gay children can legally marry members of the opposite sex even though they don't love them," the letter said.
In April, PFLAG China publicly requested a meeting with Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, the world's first openly gay head of state, during her visit to Beijing, sparking Chinese internet users to urge Sigurdardottir to speak with President Xi Jinping about human rights.
The Hong Kong-based organisers of the Rainbow China Forum said they would continue to hold yearly forums to encourage co-operation among activists in the region.
Huangzhong Liu, a 20-year-old gay forum participant from Wuhan , said: "In China, it is common for parents to hit children who say they're gay or show signs of being gay. This shows that this is not just a LGBT rights issue, it's a human rights issue."