According to some pollsters a majority of China’s young people are accepting of homosexuality. I’d guess a lot of middle-aged and older Chinese are too (as long as it’s not their relative who’s gay). Just imagine the joy of this scene as described in an article in The Global Times:
Marriages are common over the “Golden Week,” October’s National Day holiday. Normally they draw attention only from friends and family. But the wedding of Lu Zhong and Liu Wanqiang in Ningde, Fujian Province on October 2 drew crowds of onlookers with no personal interest in the couple. Lu and Liu are both men, and this was the first public gay wedding in China.
And the reaction of the crowds, numbering up to 1,000 people, seemed ecstatic. One cab driver told the South China Morning Post the scene was “grander than the Chinese New Year.”
Although not officially recognized, Lu and Liu’s loving union certainly wasn’t unpopular.
But however accepted gay love might be in real life, you won’t find it in Chinese TV. GLBT characters are essentially non-existent in Chinese dramas, despite the presence of a substantial number of GLBT writers and actors. Homosexuality is dismissed by anxious producers as unacceptable and threatening.
I have now seen at least ten different articles in different Chinese publications covering gay marriages, and every single one of them was positive. When, in 2008, I saw the photo of two just-married men in a passionate embrace outside Tiananmen Square splashed across the front page of China Daily, I wondered for a moment whether China would legalize gay marriage before the US does. (And maybe it would, if it were put to a popular vote. Good luck with that.)
The article even points out that there are a number of scenes in Hong Lou Meng that depict same-sex love, and that China has a “rich heritage of engagement with homosexuality.” We all know that, but we rarely read about it in Chinese mass media. (I have to admit, when I read Book One of Hong Lou Meng last year I was surprised at the casual references to same-sex love between both men and women in a book that is taught everywhere in China.)
So why do the censors suppress any reference to homosexuality in contemporary entertainment? Why are young people so broad-minded and the leaders so uptight? This is not to the country’s benefit, as the article says in closing:
If China wants to promote its soft power, then the tradition of benign tolerance and sexual flexibility exemplified in such works offers a chance to show the world sexual acceptance with Chinese characteristics.
This is actually a very perceptive piece that you should read in full. I’m happily surprised to see it in the GT.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.