“I’m a retired teacher. He is migrant worker from rural China who delivers mineral water. We met and fell in love in this city. Nothing can undermine our love, not education, not background, not profession, and not even gender. We are determined to be together and never part.”
Thus goes the love manifesto made by an elderly gay couple on their Sina Weibo (China’s Twitter) account @两个老头的爱情, which literally translates into @love between elder men.
They are probably the least likely couple in today’s China. After all, this is a country where homosexuality has been classified as a mental illness until the year of 2011. Though younger generations are growingly more tolerant of homosexuality, and though it’s not uncommon to see young gay couples or celebrities come out the closet or openly advocate gay rights, the mainstream consensus is still to marry the opposite sex and bear children. Homosexuals are still seen as the “abnormal.” Especially among older generations of these two men’s age, it’s unthinkable to be gay.
According to the Report on Lives of Gay Men’s Wives in China, there are approximately 16 million women in China married to homosexual men, who, presumably, are under social pressure to live a “normal” life. One of these two elderly men, the teacher, is also married and has a son.
It’s extremely courageous for the two to come out of the closet at their stage of life, but what’s more courageous is that they decided to stand up against all obstacles and defend their love on China’s most popular social media platform, Sina Weibo (more like a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook).
Their Weibo account under the name “Love between two elderly men” has gained over 20,000 followers since early Jan. In the very first picture on their Weibo homepage, the couple was dressed like bride and groom and had a sign that read “Support homosexuals. Down with discrimination” attached.
The sign, to them, is more of a call for help. According to one of their Weibo posts, their families and friends called them shameless, nasty and sick. To promot their love online, the couple uploaded a short video clip in which they sang a classic Chinese love song together and kissed.
They hoped to “gain support and blessings from homosexual netizens.” But what they got is a mixture of best wishes and criticism. While most netizens wished them happiness, others thought they may over-do it. Like netizen 汉堡的爱时代 commented, “I’m not against homosexuality per se, but this is too much!”
To defend themselves, the couple responded, “What ‘s wrong with two elder men like us falling in love? It’s much better than those heterosexual couples who divorce or have affairs. Our love is true love and yours is not. To netizens who don’t understand love.”
To further show their determination to be together, on Jan 23, they announced that they will get married. The wedding was held on Jan, 30, and was live broadcast through 6.cn, a live video streaming website in China.
To no one’s surprise, the wedding didn’t went smoothly as planned. One of their Weibo posts described: “A what should have been a smooth and happy wedding was ruined by my animal son, who flipped tables and shooed away guests. Our fans on Sina Weibo, 6.cn and QQ were all disappointed that the live broadcasting had to stop. Why strangers can give us their blessings but my own son cannot? He is heartless. The child I myself raised is taking away my happiness.”
The incident also drew more opposing voices from netizens. Over 8000 netizens left comments to their wedding pictures, and many thought that the two should at least consider the feelings of their wives and children. Netizen 孙小凯Cytheria commented, “I’m not against homosexuality, but they [the couple] are being irresponsible. Openness about homosexuality is still a taboo topic in China. Think about what their families are facing with right now. They cannot think only about themselves. Who can accept your own father doing this? And in public? I cannot.”
But despite all unhappy moments, the couple seems to be merry and content. “Let’s forget about all the unhappiness…The two of us are very grateful to all the help and support,” they said in their last Weibo post.