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Expert sees hope for legalizing gay marriage
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On April 16, 2007, more than 200 gay men came to a hospital located in northern Beijing for free sexual health examinations, the first volunteer medical consultation focused on homosexuals in Beijing. Most of the examinees were aged in their 30s, and there were also some retired people and university students.

"About 90 percent of Chinese people believe that homosexuality will exercise no influence on job selections, which exceeds the number of 86 percent in America. This is a noticeable progress and it may mean more tolerance towards homosexuality in China,"said Professor Li Yinhe, a sociologist focusing on sexology with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Many experts believe that the tolerance of homosexuals has indicated progress in social civilization in China. There are about 30 million homosexuals in China, based on academic estimates. The higher a person's position in the social hierarchy, the more likely he or she will be tolerant; to accept homosexuality is very common among white collar-workers with a good income in China, said Li.

Love between people of the same sex was regarded as a crime 20 years ago and a mental illness as little as 10 years ago in China. Often, the social pressure for same sex couples does not come from the public, but rather their families, as most parents aren't ready to accept their children as homosexuals.

Qiao Qiao is the owner of a lesbian bar in Beijing. "I knew that I liked girls when I was a teenager, but I always constrained my emotions. I could not talk about sex with my parents and it was impossible to tell them I was a homosexual," Qiao said.

Qiao's mother unexpectedly found out her daughter was lesbian after she had a romantic fling with a woman she met in a bar. Her parents were surprised and could not understand, and even opposed to Qiao's love affairs at the beginning, but later they understood their daughter and showed their acceptance.

"I can understand the feelings of parents. Many of them believe that raising children is essential to support them in their old age, which is a Chinese tradition," said Mr. Sun, who works for a media company.

However, as advances are made in science and technology, more and more homosexual couples are choosing to have children. Qiao and her girlfriend have tried artificial insemination, and although they were not successful they will continue to try.

As a researcher on homosexuality, Li Yinhe is leading the call for legalizing gay marriage with many proposals and she is the interest representative for the minority of homosexuals in China.

"There are no extreme moral opponents against homosexuality in China, so it is easier for the same sex lovers in China to claim their rights than in the Western countries, and China is always making progress,”"said professor Li.

( by Yang Xi, November 14, 2007)

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