Homosexuality in China åŒæ€§æ‹åœ¨ä¸å›½ In China, where tradition reigns, homosexuality is no longer taboo. What is the view from those living in the country? åœ¨ä¼ ç»Ÿæ€æƒ³ä¸»å¯¼çš„ä¸å›½ï¼ŒåŒæ€§æ‹å·²ä¸å†æˆä¸ºä¸€ä¸ªç¦å¿Œçš„è¯é¢˜ã€‚çŽ°åœ¨ç”Ÿæ´»åœ¨ä¸å›½å¢ƒå†…çš„åŒæ€§æ‹äººç¾¤å¯¹è¿™ä¸€çŽ°è±¡åˆæœ‰ä»€ä¹ˆçœ‹æ³•å‘¢ï¼Ÿ Beijing's 'happy couples' launch campaign for same-sex marriages Hong Kong native Joe Lam knew he was different. As a 14-year-old, he began to wonder if he was gay, confused by his attraction to boys. But with no portrayals of gay people in the media, no discussion of gays and no Internet, he wasnâ€™t quite sure what he was. He only knew he was different. When he was 21, Lam traveled outside of Hong Kong for the first time. In London, he witnessed gay men holding hands on the street, something he had never seen before. Having been exposed to a different world, he returned to Hong Kong and immersed himself in a new life. He was soon living with his boyfriend and had come to terms with being gay. Yet he had still to confront one major obstacle â€“ he hadnâ€™t come out to his family, worried how his traditional Chinese family would react. For New Yearâ€™s dinner, he asked if he could bring his roommate. His mom said yes. â€œLetâ€™s be honest, heâ€™s my partner,â€ Lam told his mom. â€œOf course I know, Iâ€™m your mother,â€ his mom replied. Today, 35-year-old Lam is the publisher of Dim Sum Magazine, Hong Kongâ€™s first gay magazine, as well as festival director of the Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Though his parents struggled with the idea of him being gay at first, Lam said they have come to accept it. â€œMy mom said to me, as long as youâ€™re happy, Iâ€™m fine,â€ Lam said. While Hong Kong has long been ahead of China, Lamâ€™s story is an example of Chinaâ€™s changing attitudes towards homosexuality. In a country where homosexuality was once a taboo subject, increasing numbers of Chinese are becoming more tolerant of homosexuality Homosexual intercourse has been legal in Hong Kong since 1991. Prior to this, sodomy was illegal, instituted by British colonial rule. Until 2005, there was also an unequal age of consent in Hong Kong. While the age of consent for heterosexual sex was 16, it was set at 21 for sex between males. However, in 2005, it was found to violate the right to equality and was struck down. As for mainland China, well into the 1990s, homosexuality was considered both a crime and a mental illness in the Peopleâ€™s Republic. Gays were prosecuted under the â€œhooliganâ€ law while the Chinese Psychiatric Association labeled it a mental disease. In 1997, the Chinese government abolished the hooligan law, an act considered by most to be a decriminalization of homosexuality. In 2001, the Chinese Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list. The associationâ€™s evidence included a 1999 study that followed the lives of 51 Chinese gays and lesbians over the course of a year. The group found that only six of the subjects had emotional disorders. Since then, the Chinese gay community has rapidly expanded, with dozens of gay bars and hangout spots across the country, hundreds of Chinese gay websites, and many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) organizations. These groups help organize gay rights campaigns, HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, film festivals and pride parades. Public attitudes are also changing, with many people growing more accepting of gays. The vast majority of educated, young people in urban areas have no problem with homosexuality. â€œYouâ€™ve got 50 and 60-year-old men coming out, young teenagers coming out, everyone coming out,â€ says Kenneth Tan, a native Singaporean who has been living in Shanghai for the past seven years. â€œThere is a lot of energy in the scene right now because all these people are coming out for the first time in their life, in the life of the community and the history of modern China. There is a great sense of freshness to the scene.â€ Fudan University in Shanghai offered Chinaâ€™s first undergraduate gay studies course in 2003. A China chapter of PFLAG, an organization for parents, family and friends of lesbians and gays, was established in 2007. Gay publications have sprouted up as well as other â€œgayâ€ businesses, restaurants and shops frequented by mostly gay patrons. Tong Yu, known as Common Language in English, is a Beijing support and rights group for lesbian and bisexual women founded in 2005. Its founder, Xu Bin, says that at the time there were no lesbian groups and only about thirty gay groups. Now she estimates there are several hundred gay and lesbian groups throughout China. The Beijing LGBT Center, founded in 2008 by four LGBT groups including Common Language, even began issuing symbolic â€œmarriage certificatesâ€ to gay couples. Hong Kong hosted its first gay pride parade in December 2008, attracting approximately 1,000 people. The second parade was held in November 2009. 2009 also saw the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Lam, the festival director, said last year the festival drew 6,000 visitors, including people from China who came to see films banned on the mainland. Over the years, Lam has witnessed changes in the gay population. â€œWe used to see quite a few people who would wear big jackets trying to disguise themselves as they go into the cinema, but weâ€™re seeing less and less,â€ Lam says. The change is indicative of the growing gay community and the growing numbers of gays coming out in China. Tan, who serves as editor-at-large for the popular website Shanghaiist.com, has watched the Shanghai scene grow up. â€œWhen I first came here, the bars were hidden and had to be very quiet, and now itâ€™s like weâ€™ve got huge bars that cater to different segments of the population,â€ he said. â€œIf youâ€™re a middle-aged Chinese gentleman, you go here. If you like big burly men, go here. The scene has developed to the point that you see very measurable social stratification going on.â€ China had its first gay pride event in Shanghai in June 2009, consisting of plays, film screenings, discussions and parties scattered throughout one week. The event, called Shanghai Pride, attracted a few thousand people from all over China. While police did monitor the events and plans for a parade were called off, the fact they were able to hold the event is a testament to the progress China has made. In 2004, a different group tried to hold a similar event in Beijing, but was shut down. Tan thinks the fact that Shanghai is away from the political center of Beijing enabled them to hold the event. â€œPeople didnâ€™t think it was possible,â€ says Tan, who served as one of the masterminds behind the event. â€œWe had a small, humble start, but it was a good one. These individuals have been coming out for a while and this pride event gives them a reason to come out collectively as a community.â€ US-China Today: Homosexuality in China *************************************** China is a real fascinating country. They are very westernised. Homosexuality is no longer a taboo, but is welcomed and they have same sex marriage campaigning! Must be at the MacDonalds in miniskirts and jeans!