Eight beautiful boys were due to take part in the first Mr Gay beauty contest in China today, but the event has been cancelled after police blocked the event. The reason given was that the event was unlicensed.
The winner was to go on to represent China at the global final in Oslo next month, which has never before featured a Chinese representative. "It's heart-breaking," said gay rights activist Xiao Gang, who was on the judging panel. "They've done this kind of thing before, not giving any explanation, just saying you have not applied. Of course, there is an element of homophobia to this. But there's nothing political about this event."
Police at the contest location, a Beijing bar, declined to comment and took down the details of foreign reporters present. The event's organisers, Gayographic, were hoping that the contest would herald a change in Chinese society's traditionally conservative attitude towards homosexuality.
"It's a disaster. I'm full of disappointment. I thought the government was becoming more and more tolerant," said Jiang Bo, 29, a contestant from Sichuan province in Southwestern China.
"They were making a big step. The whole world was thinking China was doing a very good thing. But now I think everybody will be disappointed."
Until 1997 homosexuality was a criminal offence in China, and after that, until 2001 it was deemed a psychiatric illness. Once it was decriminalised, the ‘rainbow community’ cautiously came out into the open. This was possible because traditional puritanical morals about sex in general were gradually disappearing. Now unmarried couples are cohabiting, open intimacy and sexual education are currently becoming more accepted in the larger cities.
Li Lian is a 30-year-old hairdresser and gay. He still wishes he would wake up one day as a heterosexual. “There are regular police raids in the park, in which men are arrested. I used to be fascinated by those men and afraid that I might be just like them.”
After a failed marriage – “I was married for three years, but was a virgin when I divorced.” – he told his parents that he was attracted to men. “Since then they have only had one question, whether ‘it’ is over? As if homosexuality is like a common cold.” Mr Li is a fictitious name and he refuses to be photographed: the habit of concealing his identity is deeply ingrained.
Parents sometimes suspect their child of ‘having fun’ with a member of the same sex. At best they won’t take it seriously. Marriage and procreation are sacred. As a result there are special websites to bring lesbian women and gay men into contact with each other. They can enter marriage with the objective of producing a child to satisfy their parents.
First Chinese same-sex marriage
Deeply in love, a picture of two Chinese men adorns the front page of English-language state paper, China Daily. They claim to be the first homosexual married couple in China. They don’t have a marriage certificate, as the law does not allow marriage between two people of the same sex. But that did not stop Zeng Anquan and Pan Wenjie from making their vows in public.