Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rights of Spring‏ (Part 2)

The need to carry on the fight for rights can also be said for the much more recent promotion (hardly a fight) of gay and lesbian rights. At least the word for homosexual appears in the media now, though very often in a negative way in connection with Aids. One recent popular film, "If You Are The One" even had a small but openly gay role, though it was tinged with rather camp behaviour, thereby reinforcing negative stereotypes of gays. Interestingly, one of the most popular skits in the traditional Chinese New Year's Eve TV show this year featured a young (straight) male waiter, acting in a very obviously effeminate, camp way. However, most Chinese viewers just see a funny character, and would not even have thought of the role as gay, just as they would see men dressing as females in traditional Beijing Opera as perfectly 'normal'. Being gay or lesbian is still unacceptable to most parents who want their children to marry and continue the family line. So strong is this family pressure that online advertisements appeared before Chinese New Year for hiring 'temporary partners' for single people in the cities who then take these pseudo-partners home to show to their parents. This forces many gays into sham marriages, leading to happy parents perhaps but tragically unhappy husbands and wives.

In refreshing contrast to this silence and invisibility, a few brave gays and lesbians dressed up recently as 'married couples' in order to publicise legalisation of gay marriage and the lack of gay rights in general. They gave out roses in the recently renovated Qianmen area close to Tiananmen Square, just behind Mao's mausoleum, where Mao was probably turning in his coffin. There was a certain amount of publicity in the local media, and also many puzzled locals who did not understand what all the fuss was about. This event caused a lot of debate on the internet (as did theTV skit above). On the China Central TV website, an online survey held just after the ' gay marriages' attracted over 82,000 respondents. The results showed 76% accepting gays and lesbians, 93% supporting legalisation of gay marriage and 93% with gay/lesbian friends. These of course represent the views of the up and coming younger generation in China, and not of mainstream society.

It seems that most gays would prefer to lead a quiet discreet life in the shadows and would never dream of taking part in such a publicity event. The government also seems to prefer this, since award winning gay films such as Lan Yu (set and filmed in Beijing) and Brokeback Mountain are still not allowed to be shown in public cinemas (of course pirate copies are available everywhere!). Most gays stay in the closet, and it is this 'invisibility' that reinforces the discrimination against gays and lesbians, and makes the growing Aids problem even more difficult to tackle. So the fight for gay rights carries on.

And for those of you who are men, gay or otherwise, did you know that there is an International Men's Day? Now there's something to celebrate, but not until November 19th.

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