Peng Liyuan

Letter to first lady Peng Liyuan urges support for gay rights

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 November, 2013, 5:20pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 5:18am

A group of parents of gay and lesbian children has delivered a letter to China’s first lady Peng Liyuan, calling for legislation against gay discrimination and for increased tolerance of homosexuality.

The letter, delivered by express mail, was signed for on Tuesday by a member of staff in People’s Liberation Army Academy of Arts, where Peng, a WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Tuberculosis and HIV/Aids, served as its rector. Earlier, China’s State Council AIDS Working Committee had announced that the agenda of this year’s World Aids Day (WAD) on December 1 would be “Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero Aids-related deaths”.

The group in the letter said that through their volunteer work with the gay and lesbian community and their own families, they had learnt that the gay male community had a higher rate of HIV infection than average.

“Among a multitude of factors, social prejudice and discrimination are important reasons,” they wrote. “As mothers, upon finding out that our children are LGBT, we have felt alarmed, at a loss, and even momentarily given up all hope.

“But what we think about the most still remains: will our children suffer discrimination within society?”

One of the five authors of the letter Dong Wanwan, 50, from Shenzhen city, said she admired Peng’s role as the Goodwill Ambassador, especially her recent appearance in a public interest film.

“She is full of loving kindness in the film, running with children under the sunshine. Like us, she is a mother and will share our concern of children’s health,” Dong said.

Dong’s own 23-year-old son came out of the closet four years ago. After several painful months she started researching homosexuality on the internet, and discovered the charity Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG China), which provides counselling to parents of gay children.

It is our ‘Chinese Dream’ to call for equal rights for our children
Dong Wanwan

After counselling she felt ready to admit the truth about her son to her family and colleagues, and eventually even became PFLAG China’s convener in Shenzhen. During her volunteer work she encountered cases where young gay people who had been infected with HIV lost their jobs or were abandoned by their families.

“Discrimination and misunderstanding will drive homosexuals toward more despair and risk. It is our ‘Chinese Dream’ to call for equal rights for our children,” she said.

More and more parents like Dong have come out and joined PFLAG China. The organisation was co-founded in 2008 by Hu Zhijun and Wu Youjian, the editor of Guangzhou Literature and Art in support of her gay son, with a counselling service in Guangzhou city. In 2011, Hu Zhijun succeeded as the charity’s executive director and expanded the organisation to cover 12 provinces and cities. More than 200 parents signed up as regular volunteers for a phone hotline service and to help stage counselling events. The organisation also expanded its work using social media including Sina Weibo, Renren, and QQ to reach out to more than 1,000 parents.

“There are an estimated 50 million homosexuals in China. Many of them and their families are still invisible,” Hu said. “Only when parents and the public can accept homosexuals, can their rights be secured. That’s why we need more advocacy.”