Homosexuals in south China's Guangdong Province are striving to gain recognition.
On Monday, Zheng Yuantao and a dozen other gay men attended a speech in Guangzhou by Li Yinhe, a renowned researcher in homosexual studies, entitled "Emotion, sex and social reform."
Their appearance, as unashamedly homosexual men, attracted considerable public attention.
"I am a gay man," Zheng Yuantao told China Daily yesterday.
Zheng said he believes he has an obligation to be forthright about his sexuality, and is thought to be the first gay man in China to broadcast his sexual orientation.
"I announced my homosexuality to the public on last World AIDS Day (December 1) on a local television program," Zheng said.
After that, he was interviewed on a talk show in Tianjin, a city in north China.
"When all the boys in my class started to be interested in girls at junior high school," Zheng explains, "I found myself drawn to the boys."
He said he believes he is lucky to have grown up in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, where society has been deeply influenced by the province's more tolerant neighbor, Hong Kong.
At the age of 13, Zheng began to follow homosexual culture, watching movies such as Philadelphia and The Wedding Banquet.
He has never tried to hide his sexual orientation, he claims. And says he even once declared his love for a male monitor at high school.
"Even though he rejected me, I did not try to change," Zheng says.
Thanks to his parents' support, Zheng decided to bring his story out into the open.
In 2001, he started working as a voluntary editor for GayChinese.net.
"I came to know lots of friends who are also gay through the job, including my boyfriend," Zheng says.
Zheng graduated from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, majoring in English Literature.
He started to read gay-themed fiction and gender studies' texts. He was impressed by gay people in Western countries who fought for their rights.
According to Zheng, there are hundreds of thousands of homosexuals in Guangzhou. But most of them dare not come out and announce their homosexuality.
Zheng is now translating gay themed Western literature, an attempt to bring the finer points of gay culture to a wider audience.
On Monday, Li Yinhe told China Daily that her research suggests the biggest difference between Chinese male homosexuals and those in Western countries is that in China gay men are more likely to marry women.
According to Li, this is because Chinese men are under great pressure to get married, not only to continue the family line, but also to conform to expected norms.
(China Daily November 11, 2005)